To begin, energy, matter and Time expanded into nothing which did not exist. A uniform universe acquired a history, mutating parameters, a wobble in the maths made gravity greedy for stuff, which coalesced like lumps in custard. Stars, planets, suns, moons. Air, water, earth, oceans and trees, love and me. Born and dying in my time passing, the future already knows my end; my agency is in doubt. I am a completely random, absolutely unique, perfect imperfection. I cried when my mother told me I was a mistake. Now I understand the universal joke I laugh with all my heart.
First word she’d scratched on slate. Shaping her days and dreams, she loved sound, colour and stone better than her name. ‘Yes love – our Cornish sea be turquoise.’
Daddy held Anna’s hand tightly on clifftop walks. Her enthusiasm made her careless, he said. ‘So does yours,’ she told him, at his funeral, on her fifth birthday. ‘You an’ Sharkey an’ your stupid fishin’ in the turquoise in the storm.’
Years later, Sharkey’s lad proposed. ‘Nah,’ she said. But then she saw his ring.
The dog barked, and tried to nose them off their route.
He forced them down a narrow path. A woman lay unconscious and twisted. The dog ran round her several times. She had a broken leg and was bleeding heavily. Anna dressed her wounds to stem the bleeding. David climbed to get a mobile signal. He returned and they waited.
She stirred and started talking. The dog watched. The team arrived.
‘What dog?’ she asked.
‘I have no dog.’
They looked. Now they could only see sheep. The dog had gone.
He drove slowly, conscious of the dodgy wheel on the livestock trailer, not wanting to give the police an excuse to stop him again.
The holiday traffic was heavy, on the brow of the hill a deer and her fawn were crossing the road.
He heard the impatient anger of a foot on an accelerator behind him – the BMW raced past but did not stop.
He gently cradled the crushed body, its velvet head against his stubbled cheek – the mother turned, hummering. The fawn struggled, helpless to answer her call. He drew the penknife from his pocket. It only took a minute.
I saw a man, and so did the other driver, but the court went with the camera footage.
It showed me run the red light, and the other car swerving off the road. No sign of the figure in a fluorescent jacket waving me through them roadworks. Just darkness.
I hear they’ve still not fixed that there tarmac, and a car’s fetched up in the lake. Another lad’s in court, but this time it’s manslaughter. The same insurance company and their same useless dashboard camera, mind. And of course there’s no film of a workman in a fluorescent jacket.
Sitting at the kitchen table to write, a resonant first line just wouldn’t come. Nearby was a vase of red tulips and during yesterday their buds had opened slowly to display brazen stamens. The stems now curved softly to overhang the vase rim in an evolving gestural eloquence of movement. Sidelit by the early morning sun it was as if he were seeing tulips for the very first time. Wondering briefly if this was inscape, epiphany, or simply prevarication he reached for his camera, framed the scene, clicked the shutter and moved toward the darkroom to develop the image.
Wow! The pens of eighteen inspired writers all but set fire to their papers in Mungrisdale this morning. Some of their work will be posted here over the next couple of weeks.
A huge welcome for those who have taken the big – and important – step of joining us for the first time. You thought you were looking for something from Mungrisdale Writers. Everyone else gained a huge amount from you! Welcome aboard.
Thanks, as ever, to those who kindly sent apologies. You were missed.
Heartfelt thanks, of course, for the inspirational Angela Locke, whose timely meditations call forth works from us that are nothing short of miracles at times. We’ve had such fun today (who could forget Trevor’s ‘Lily’?) – and been deeply moved, too.
And thanks to our chair Cathy Johnson who set us an interesting piece of homework for presentation at our next meeting on the 23rd March. Cathy proposed
In 100 words write a short scene in which a woman becomes invisible, briefly, for no explained reason … no one can see or hear her … she is not a ghost (prose or poetry)
Well done to the (stupendously splendid) Mungrisdale Writers who have their 100 words flash fiction homework already in the bag in time for tomorrow’s meeting – Thursday 9th March at 10.30am. And commiserations for those who have been trying to coax their 100 words onto paper for the last fortnight, and all to no avail!
Hang in there. Maybe there’s a bit of last minute help to hand. Local artist Ros White met up with our Chair Cathy Johnson this week and hopes to join MW forthwith. Ros can be assured of a warm welcome. In the meantime it struck me that some of Ros’s gorgeous work (click the image above to go to her website) might serve as inspiration for those of us who only ever seem to get down to homework when the clock’s ticking louder than usual …
Snow fell like confetti, drifting towards the windscreen where it melted instantly. The surrounding countryside was being transformed from a barren winter landscape into a white wonderland. As light began to fade large flakes fluttered silently in the yellow beam of the head lamps.
The sweep of the wipers had a mesmerising effect and Rhona’s eyelids grew heavy. ‘Damn it, stay awake, you idiot! You’ve come too far to turn back now. You’ve got a long way to go before you can embrace the luxury of sleep.’ The words spoken aloud brought her fully alert. For the time being at least, she would have to keep going.
It was almost dark when a figure slipped out from behind the trees and stood in the middle of the road, arms waving erratically. Heart pounding with fright Rhona braked slowly, anxious not to send the little car into a skid. As she drew to a halt, the figure ran towards the passenger door and pulling it open collapsed onto the seat, bringing with them an arctic blast amidst a flurry of snowflakes. Rhona couldn’t tell if her hitch hiker was male or female, head and features buried amongst a swathe of scarves. It wasn’t until they unwound the scarves that she could discern the face, white and pinched looking up into hers. Rhona was not a religious person but despite this she closed her eyes and began to pray.
‘You didn’t expect to see me again, did you?’ The voice sounded ethereal, floating eerily around the interior of the car. ‘Why were you in such a hurry to leave? Was it me? Something I said? I thought you had more strength of character than you displayed back there, Rhona. Look at me. Tell me you made a mistake and want to make amends. Well, did you, do you?’
When she was able to speak, Rhona’s voice was barely above a whisper. ‘You were dead. You are dead.’
The new electric bell rattled the beeswaxed oak panelling all the way downstairs. I knew it was you. Always did. Hot already. 10 o’clock. Adults and children alike paddled gratefully in the fountain in the Square. You were just up. Dinner guests hadn’t left until past midnight. Monsieur Herbin shuffled past your gallery with a pair of baguettes under his right arm and Madame Léonie leaning on his left.
Light blue cotton dress sort-of-a-day, you said, and I knew you’d choose the apple blossom scent, scanning the room for a missing sandal, morning air beckoning you to tall wide-open windows. You could smell the coffee below. ‘Love some,’ you said, ‘and isn’t the lavender gorgeous? And the pine?’ And – for the thousandth time – ‘Can we walk in the forest?’ Ah, mignon, I’ve always adored you. Of course we could walk in the forest.
Wild strawberries and bilberries on the forest floor are still your favourite breakfast, just as later they’re supper for the wild boar – some of whom have long been your friends, though you’re always respectfully cautious of each other.
And even when you’re a bit fraught the forest birds call you out of yourself: Black, Middle Spotted, Great Spotted, Lesser Spotted, and Green Woodpeckers, Bonelli’s Warblers, Short-toed Treecreepers, Nightjars and Hobbys. ‘He doesn’t really love me,’ you’d say, a tear in one eye whilst the other was pressed to the viewfinder of your treasured little camera.
‘Rubbish,’ I’d retort, ‘all men are the same. Just not very good at showing it.’ ‘There, got him!’ you said. ‘Pierre, or the woodpecker?’ I laughed. ‘Silly! – the Middle Spotted: captured in my little Kodak Box.’ And I loved to hear you laugh like that – indulging the ever-so-slightly imperious tone you’ve always used with me.
‘He doesn’t though, you know: Pierre, I mean. He doesn’t. We argued again. And I’m not even sure I love him. Not really.’ ‘But I adore you, you old softie,’ I’d say. And we’d hug, tightly. And you’d grin, and dab your bright brown eyes, flicking tousled sleek black hair, running on ahead. And I’d jog along after you, always slightly out of breath, tripping now and then over roots and branches, loving every shining hair on your beloved and beautiful head.
And you married the handsome Pierre twenty-five years ago today. Your fine English grandpere captured the two of you, in eight black and white frames, with your own birdwatcher’s Box Brownie. Coffee, of course, and fresh baguettes, ham, cheese, wild berries and ice-cream for the wedding breakfast. And all these years on I love you still.
‘Do you remember?’ you ask. ‘You mean my first walk in this forest? Oh yes, my darling, of course I remember. Half a century ago. Monsieur et Madame – ‘Come, let us walk a little along the forest path’, they said: ‘we have woodpeckers, and treecreepers, and little Anna loves to skip on ahead in here.’ I loved you already, my Anna. And just before we got to the first bend of the dark brown forest stream beneath the warm-scented lime green canopy, they asked me if I’d come. And I said, ‘Mais oui! Oui, oui, oui! Certainement, Monsieur, Dame.’
And they smiled, at each other, and at me. The Monsieur adjusted his pocket handkerchief. Madame twirled her little parasol. And there, and then, mignon, they appointed me your own delighted ever-loving Nanny.
I do love you, old Max, though now you’ll never know just how much. Danny knew, and my cousin Jack, he called me his little scorpion. ‘Underneath that carapace’ he would say, ‘lies a dark, soft centre, but sting first little scorpion and prevent being stung.’
Oh Max, your face when I told you I was pregnant. What was it? Shock? Joy? Panic? Love? Loathing? Certainly the latter when I said the baby wasn’t yours. I had to sting first you see. And then the gun was in your hand. ‘Kill me’ I screamed inside my head, ‘before this cancer devours me’.
We’re on my boat drifting far out at sea. You’ve removed the bilge cocks, the water will come in fast. Silence, then the slap of oars as you row away. Blood seeps from my body. I touch the flesh where your bullet penetrated my skin. I do love you, old Max. If I had a headstone my epitaph would be, I LOVED MAXIM.