Archive for January, 2010

Fifty word fiction: No Action

The rope hung heavy in her mind. It was only instinct to run away. The hospital was one action, as was a cup of tea. The shop clerk did not see anything was wrong. Sarah was a little concerned, however, that her husband would not be returning from work again.

Chris Player

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An unexpected Confession

…1…2…3…4, the voice of the predator trailed off into the distance. The pitter-patter of footsteps dispersed and ran for a hiding place trying to vanish into the shadows and holes that the building had to offer.

Bruno rushed through the hallways, his soft brown curls bouncing around him. He turned briefly to look behind and make sure no one followed his tracks; he already knew where he was going to hide. Past the play room, down the old wooden steps, out the blue door, through the crumbling stone arch, a swift left turn and the doors to the chapel stood right there in front of him. However, he was not safe yet. He pushed on the heavy oak door and squeezed through the gap he created nimbly jumping out of the doors way as it swung back to a closed position.

Instead of walking straight out he turned purposefully to his left and started to climb the stone structure that stood before him. Right round the back and quite high up there was a small perch that seemed almost too perfect for any other purpose than ‘hide and seek’. He started to clamber up and placed his hands on the wood, beginning to pull himself onto his mighty throne. He struggled at first, but the knowledge that he was so close to assured victory helped him up those few extra inches before.  He stood up and looked around and knew there and then it was impenetrable.

As soon as he had done this, the main door to the chapel creaked open and the single sound of scuffed footsteps echoed throughout. It was definitely not the sound of a search party.

Bruno immediately doubted his invulnerability and curled up into a little ball as tight as he could go to try and make himself even less visible. After what seemed like a small eternity of silence Bruno risked loosening his grip on his legs and ventured a peek over the top of his perch to see who or what was there.

There was a man sitting in a pew, several rows back. He had dark greasy grey-brown hair which was swept backwards. He wore a suit jacket which had various marks and debris from the day’s toil. His scruffy figure leant forward and his fingers were interlocked before him. The man was silent and Bruno was almost certain that the man new he was being ‘observed’, the man started to speak startling Bruno, making him resume his previous scrunched up position, out of sight and out of harm.

“Lord, I need your help. I need your guidance in these times of great need. I can not keep suppressing my overpowering feelings of guilt. However if I don’t… I am in fear what would happen if I don’t.”

Bruno did not risk a look this time but instead let his thoughts wonder to who this man was and who he was talking to as there was no other person in the chapel. The dust fell around Bruno, still disturbed from the great climb. He smiled before the man started again, his depressing monotone filling the surrounding air.

“There are too many bad people in this world. I never thought I would be one of them but I guess that’s how we all started out. I mean no one wants to be the villain… I didn’t mean to do it but it just ended up my fault. I wasn’t drunk or on drugs. Just clean, just me. If only I had bothered to tie my shoe laces before I got in the car or had another cup of coffee before I went, then he wouldn’t have been there, he would have been several minutes gone and it never would have happened. If only… if only.” There was a long pause, and the man stayed solemnly still.

Bruno however, was much more confused than before by this man’s comments and nearly toppled off his perch, lost in all the puzzling questions that were arising. ‘Why was he talking about driving? And what were these drugs thingies? Who was this man who could have been long gone?’ None of it made any sense. It was all just gogoldygoop.

However the man continued regardless of his unknown critic.

“I sit here in front of you, asking for your forgiveness. Everyone else has tried to comfort me but I have not been convinced, their words seem so transparent and do not lift me from my woe, my guilt. It’s all the ‘wrong time wrong place’ philosophy that I keep telling myself. It may have been called an accident but I was the one behind the wheel. I try to make myself believe I’m fine, but since then, since that moment I have not been able to look in the mirror no matter how hard I try.”

He took a deep breath in deep thought and put his hands into his pockets. He appeared to find something that he had not seen before and stared at what was in his hand. The man started shaking, he was crying and Bruno felt pity upon him, he wanted to comfort the man but knew it was imperative that he stayed where he was.

Outside the clouds were clearing and rays of sunshine filtered through the windows. A solid beam of light fell directly before the altar. Almost as soon as the light had fallen through the window the man looked up between sobs and saw this ray of sunshine. In what seemed like more of a moment of coincidence and desperation than he stood up and hobbled towards it, his distraught nature shown through each pained step.

He loomed above the altar and looked down upon it in a hopeless manner and stayed there for several moments. He stopped crying and straightened up before turning, instead of sorrow on his face he carried a gentle smile with old tears still running down his cheeks. He tidied up his jacket and prepared to walk out. After a few seconds he strolled down the aisle with a strange confidence. Just before he reached the door he paused and whispered ‘thank you’ and turned and left, leaving Bruno alone in the chapel.

He waited a few minutes until the coast was completely clear before slipping down from his fortress, mixed thoughts running through his head. He ran up to the altar where the man had stood and saw an opened copy of the Bible lying there. The light fell in such a way that only one short sentence could be read:

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you.”

Bruno smiled, turned and skipped innocently out of the chapel wondering whether it was his turn to search.

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What does Snow mean to you?

For us English the snow is a rare chance to chuck precipitation at one another and have an unscheduled holiday, no matter how old you are. It is a rare occurence and for most years previous to the last one inthis country i had only seen a light sprinkling. The past two years have climaxed in about six or seven inches at a time for a couple of weeks. Whilst this may seem a lot to those who are lucky enough to live at a ski resort it does have a certain power to lift the spirits. Whilst there are fun and games there is also hard work that arrives with the snow: clearing the way for the cars on the driveway and salting the road outside. Whilst it is taxing it is worth the reward, and it is only half an hour of toiling or so.

The snow also gives an opportunity to help out our fellow man, as my parents willfull proved by helping out our neighbough who does not have the equiment or strength to shovel and brush the snow. In a strange way a natural phenomenom brings us together as we are transported back into melancholy colours and we come away from electricity and technology except to warm against the fire and come together by watching a film.

What snow means to me is a sense of togetherness, although our cars may not work and we know we are isolated, everyone is in the same position and therefore we are not alone. It is the only time the melancholy puts a smile on my face.

What does it mean to you?

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Un-employment

“And finally, why do you think that you should get this job?”

I did not care much for the man’s answer, I knew it would be forced and heavily rehearsed. It was difficult to look at him without feeling slightly nauseous; he had a pinstripe suit which harbored a clean white shirt with a black silk tie. Overall he gave off a space aged look. He showed himself to be well groomed and on his nose there was a pair of heavy rimmed rectangular framed glasses perfectly balanced, that fitted in with his sharp jaw line and pronounced cheek bones. It made me uneasy to look at.

When he walked in to my office he brought a fresh quality to the air around him, and looked at me. When I met his eyes he smiled and that was when I decided I did not like this guy. I know he did not mean to but he let his guard slip, and I could have sworn I saw some pity there. It made me sneer at him behind my mask of potential employer, I kept thinking; ‘So you think you’re so much better than me do you!’

As expected his answers were so full of himself, “India” this and “helping the poor” that, just added to the bad taste at the back of my throat. The only other person to interview was some sweaty old woman, she had come bundling in, she had said that she was not completely sure what the job was, but I assume she was joking. In fact, she was because I laughed.

The man brought me back to the room when he finished talking. I caught the end of what he was saying and it had something to do with his time spent with underprivileged inner-city children, and how this experience helped with his perseverance and ability to communicate with other people. I nodded and pretended to note something down. I then smiled and pulled a handkerchief from my pocket mopping my brow, pausing a few seconds.

“Ok, thank you very much for your time; we will give you a call in the future.”

He stood up as did I, we shook hands, and he looked straight into my eye just as before. I quickly looked down to my desk, fully recoiling back into my chair. I tried to disguise the wince on my face with a smile but it came across crooked. I caught myself in the reflection of my kid’s photo and let my head fall when he stepped out of the room. A sobbing sigh was next to come from me before I straightened up.

The company did not seem like they needed more employees. I thought of this man being at work here. He wouldn’t fit in, if I did not employ him I would be doing him a favor, he would probably only quit after a few weeks to go on another of his trips abroad. The woman was the logical choice as she would fit in and be loyal to her work.

I picked up the phone and punched in the numbers.

“Mrs. Jacobs?”

“Yes?”

“This is Devon plastics. I would like to inform you that we have decided to award you the position of assistant manager.”

“Oh… thanks.”

“For the job interview that you came to on Wednesday.”

“ok.”

“You start on Monday?”

“Monday’s not good for me.”

“Tuesday?”

I heard a grumble before the phone went dead; I placed it on the hook. I was expecting a better response, maybe I made a mistake. I picked the phone up and waited a few seconds before dialing.

“Mrs. Jacobs, yes it’s me again from Dorset plastics, I’m sorry there has been a mix up. Due to cut backs we can not hire you, I am sorry for the inconvenience.”

I heard a sigh down the phone.

“Ok.”

Then she hung up.

I smiled pleased with my work and started to look for the man’s details. They were not there.

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Crying Fire

I took a step back after turning the key in the lock. The idea of a spending a week alone in your house would be daunting, if not depressing, to most. Even though my parents had only been absent for five minutes, the feeling of blissful independence had already surged back to me. The next time I would see them would be as they would take me to the airport to go skiing and that would just be a two hour car journey.

I placed the key in the draw and headed to the kitchen. I filled the cast iron kettle half full and placed it on the hot plate, before preparing a mug that could only be described as oversized on the counter next to it. The fridge was my next destination; for the milk, this would help pass some of the minutes before the familiar steam whistled indicating the water was ready. As I walked back I grabbed the rich tea biscuits for a complete teat time experience. I was far enough into my routine for the final steps to be done on autopilot and before I realised it I had a steaming cup of relaxation ready. Blue Peter would have been proud.

The next stop ion my routine was one that only happened at a specific time of year, and due to my travels next week, the timing was necessary. I placed the cup on the Aga, covering it with a small plate ensuring minimum heat loss and skipped up the stairs, too excited to maintain my supposed maturity that I should have acquired having left school. As I opened my wardrobe I felt the corners of my mouth curl upwards. I selected the wire hanger which held my skiing jacket and coat and laid them carefully on the ground. Before I got ahead of myself I donned my thermal underwear, having quickly lost my boring jeans and t-shirt. The zip on my jacket had already been half unzipped when I had previously succumbed to temptation earlier that week. This was one activity that did not warrant autopilot.

As soon as I had my jacket and trousers on, my goggles and socks were soon found. I could almost feel the smooth snow under the skis and boots that I was yet to rent. I took in the fabric and excitement that the clothes brought, I was ready for what was next; in this case it would be the sofa.

I sank into the forgiving leather already feeling the technology of well put together suits as I felt familiar perspiration start to form. When I thought I had reached full comfort my stomach in typical fashion reminded me that I had not. I placed some bread in the old fashioned iron gauze excuse for a toaster and subjected it to the heat of the Aga hot plate, closing the lid for full effect.

Once again I sank into the leather and started to sip at my tea which had quickly cooled to a drinkable temperature. Sweat had fully formed and I felt a slight dampness under my underarms, but a shrug of the shoulders was all the interest I could muster, no one was here to nag or order me about. This was the definition of freedom, and what better way to begin than a couple of hours of me time.

“Every man is an island,” I smugly said to the empty room in my best Marlon Brando impression. The adverts and programmes began to merge into one, so I closed my eyes and let my eyelids and heavy breathing take over.

It was not long before I was awoken by sweat trickling down my cheeks. Expecting to simply peel off a layer to combat this predicament was a foolish one, as my eyes opened and met smoke filled air that had the distinct smell of toast.

Instinct made me stand and go to the door, which was locked. I ran to the draw nearly sliding past on my dangerously sock covered feet. I scrambled back through the smoke to the door and fell out coughing in fits. The fresh air was like nectar although it did not completely banish the tickling throat that ensued.

The next step was calling the fire department, so I searched for my phone in my trousers before remembering its whereabouts, and it was not in my skiing trousers. The phone was not hard to find, even with the masses of adrenaline pumping around my system. As I was running out I heard every fire official that had ever come to any of my schools who had said never to enter a burning building at any time. I smiled thinking how I showed them up. Then I remembered my situation. I dialled 999 and they were on their way.

I cursed and ran inside as I realised that the cat was still locked in, opening the door to the cat’s room and seeing the outline of one haring outside. The room had cleared slightly in a short period of time with the door open, although the stench of burnt bread remained strong. Looking left I expected to see flames licking the kitchen soon to spread to the rest of the house. The room was a tangible grey, but there was no searing heat and no flaring orange. I ventured in.

When I got to the Aga I lifted the hot plate lid; two charcoaled slices of what used to be bread crisp from the exposure to the heat, but there was no fire. I started opening all the windows when I heard the sirens closing in. I panicked and began closing the windows I had previously opened. I moved the papers over by the Aga along with the cardboard and paper recycling. They had come and there would need to be a fire otherwise I would get in trouble. I chucked a match in and ran outside as the fire engines arrived. I was immediately attended to and asked if I was the only one inside, I nodded, stricken by the pure idiocy of what I had just done.

“The fire was found relatively early so nothing was damaged apart from a small amount of paintwork. Are your parents about?” A brisk Yorkshire accent asked me.

I shook my head unable to muster the strength to answer to what I had just done; it would take a lot for my parents to trust me again. I was scared, the firemen were about to leave and they had not told me the origin of the fire. Was it because it was so supposedly obvious? I hadn’t said in the phone call. Then the last fireman came out of the house and was striding towards me, as he came closer I could see; there was a single match in his hand.

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Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Whenever we see success in sport the needling question at the back of our minds is always: ‘Were drugs involved?’ Christine Ohuruogu took the gold medal in Beijing, and the first question that was asked to her freshly smiling face was about her past trouble with drugs test. It is not fair to chastise athletes with something they have not even been proved to have done. In court the defendant is said to be innocent unless proven guilty, and this concept is being surpassed in a quick momentary judgement.

Usain Bolt. One man who has changed the face of sport ever since he first stepped on the athletics track and started breaking records. He is the fastest man ever and yet his lifestyle consists of chicken nuggets and practical jokes. He is the ideal of what we wish of ourselves: athletic, strong, but laidback and relaxed. It is not uncommon to hear a commentator muse on the idea if there will ever be anyone as quick again. Scientists have even tried to calculate the probabilities of natural selection ever reaching this pinnacle. Although they forget the products of the unnatural; steroids. If they were introduced it would lead to a new era of the super sportsman. I am referring to the idea that we take a leaf out of bodybuilding; we have two categories; the steroid and the clean category. It would allow for mankind to reach the unreachable. Athletes would no longer take steroids just in case the man in the lane either side of him might be as well, but they would take them out of choice to further our need to explore the limit of mankind. Clean athletes would be just as respected, if not more and may even prove to out-perform the athletes who take the steroids. In fact it is not clear whether anyone with steroids could catch Usain Bolt. Athletes could also be further educated about their effect and less harm could come to them as a result.

With all of the positive aspects for the progress of sport, and Man’s lust for the best, there is always the negative which would be much closer to the health of the athletes; as an overdose of steroids due to competitive pressure could only be a result with steroids being legal in sport. Psychologically also, as athletes could be pushed to steroids and not perform with the enhancers leaving them somewhere imbetween, and as often for athletes training is their lives, this introduction would lose athletes in the cracks. There would also be the question of whether every sport should have two teams that play the same competition but in slightly different conditions. This could lead to an overload of sport to the fans of the game and a decrease in quality, just as happened with the many forms of cricket that have exploded onto the scene since tweny twenty’s arrival. Fans could turn there heads away from that aspect of the game or just ignore certain aspects of it altogether leaving a few purists behind and a general hummum of people who just come the day after the wins and the glory days, which would lead to a lingering death if it turns out to be a novelty and the steroid fuelled league would disappear, and be replaced by a fear of it ever happening again and we would no longer ask the question: ‘Were drugs involved,’ as we would know.

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You ‘dislike’ this.

Facebook has been made so it can not be removed out of our lives unless we choose not to have a social one. I am eighteen, have just left school and have several times thought of quitting facebook thinking of the positives, followed very quickly by the negatives. It seems to have become as necessary as the mobile phone and as hard to ignore as a cigarette. Even on holiday I catch myself reaching for the laptop or if I do not have the equipment, itching to see what has been changed in the cyber-social networking world. Every time it has been very little or nothing that has ever been worth the frantic need to revisit my page, and often it has been after I have badgered my Dad for time with the blue and white screen to fuel this addiction. The amount of time I have wasted looking at my own photos or thinking of something witty to write as my status, or as a comment to someone else’s; then decided not to as it would not be funny in the first place would have probably left me with better A levels.

However, this is not the worst thing that is visiting facebook. The most soul destroying aspect is when your parents decide to join; like my own. Of course the inevitable questions that follow on how every possible option works just leaves hope as a distant and vague thought that you once had whilst watching ‘Pursuit of Happiness.’ Parents on facebook must be rejected as friends as they are not, they are you’re parents and that is it. There should be an ‘add as child,’ button next to the friend which gives them less communication than before. This is not the biggest travesty, as soon they become addicted too, and for all the wrong reasons; many a time I have walked in on my parents playing facebook scrabble, and worse, they have been talking about it in the open. It just leaves me to one resort; hiding my head in my hands.

Contradictary to everything I have just said I credit the concept, staying in touch with friends for free, stalking has never been so easy, but I think I would hate it just a little bit less if I could just walk away for a few days and not have an invitation from seven people who I once played pool with to join farmville.

Maybe in the future there will be no facebook, maybe we will resort to talking to each other again and have cut out the middle man. Athough I am not sure I would wish to see its replacement..

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