The Perversity of the Inanimate

Never underestimate the innate hostility of inanimate objects. An observation not to be toyed with by those in search of an easy, and painless, life. All I can say is thank goodness that animate objects are so much more better behaved.

Walking through a furnished room can be akin to crossing a minefield or negotiating an obstacle course. Chair legs will leap upon your ankles with joyous glee. Tables have four corners, each of which is always on the lookout for that unwary passing hip.

Plumbing can be particularly vicious. Stepping into the shower and turning it on results in an unwanted drenching in freezing water before it behaves itself and settles at a comfortable temperature. Conversely, one turns on the hot tap only to find it running cold then, by the time you’ve picked up the soap, it decides to scald your hand.

Clothing can be troublesome. That first glove one attempts to put on is inevitably the wrong one whilst pullovers have the uncanny ability to rotate themselves through one-hundred and eighty degrees as you put them on, resulting in you putting them on the wrong way round.

The kitchen can be a challenging place at times. Enamel mugs will burn you out of spite. At breakfast, a dropped slice of toast will always land butter-side down. Seemingly at odds with the way that dropped objects usually end up a surprising distance from where they are first dropped or in the place most inaccessible for retrieval. That recalcitrant cutlery drawer that stubbornly sticks, only to let go suddenly, leading to knives and forks being scattered all over.

And what is it with lost or misplaced inanimate objects? How come you only ever find them in the last place that you think of looking?

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 143 with reference to the prompt line: Enamel mugs will burn you out of spite.

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The Walker

The Walker

As I made my way out of the forest, the undergrowth grew sparse. Without warning, I found myself on a rise looking over a village. Rows and rows of buildings were laid out in front of me. At first glance the village appeared to be deserted. Then I saw her. A woman walked into view from the right of the buildings. She was dressed in what I took to be traditional clothing. She was wearing a conical hat and a long, slit-sided oriental gown over loose trousers. The contrast of the bright red gown and golden trousers against the drab buildings was startling.

There was nobody else in sight. I stood, transfixed, as she wove her way amongst the buildings. It was as if I was watching a ritual; I felt as though I was intruding but couldn’t drag my eyes away from the spectacle. She entered the village from the right, turned right and walked the length of the path between the buildings before turning left at the end. Moments later she came back into sight walking towards me, parallel to the way she’d gone. She turned again and went back along the far side of the building she’d just passed before reappearing, coming back towards me. I realised she was walking a figure of eight pattern around the village. I was mesmerised.

She seemed to walk for hours, weaving back and forth between the buildings. Striding along the paths she moved with an effortless elegance that caught the eye. There was a rhythm to her movement as she endlessly appeared only to disappear moments later. Up one path, round the end of the building, back down another. Again and again, turn and turn about she measured out the paths with her endless pacing.

And then she stopped. She stopped dead and turned around so she was facing in the opposite direction. She stood, head bowed and unmoving for about five minutes before setting off again. Now she was walking the paths in reverse order. Weaving her course she made her way around the village. I continued to watch her endless pacing. She seemed so serene in her movements, from what I could see of her face she was expressionless. As the light waned, she formed a patch of bright colour standing out against the dull background. I wish I’d checked my watch earlier and timed her movements. I suspected she had dedicated the same period to walking her route in both directions.

Although I had been standing watching the woman’s perambulations for the best part of an afternoon, it came as a shock when she stopped. She stood facing me for a moment, the first time she’d acknowledged my presence, before walking off out of view to my right, back the way she had come. The spell broken, I walked down into the village. I wondered how often she performed her ritual and what it meant. Even though night was falling I decided to press on. I felt uneasy at the prospect of spending the night alone in the deserted village, especially after what I’d just witnessed.

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Written in response to the Creative Writing Ink November 29th writing prompt competition.

Kidnapped

Leather bag

By the tree, the note had said. By the large willow tree in the centre of the park. At twelve o’clock, midday. No cops, no tracking devices, and no funny business. I prepared the bag. It was a large brown bag smelling strongly of leather. Too good a quality really to be abandoned to kidnappers but what did that matter at a time like this?

It had taken time to get the money together, now it lay in front of me in a pile. Banded together, fifty at a time, each stack represented one thousand pounds. Twenty stacks in all, making a grand total of twenty-thousand pounds. It easily fitted into the bag. Thank goodness the ransom had been for an attainable amount. I placed the cash in the bag; it seemed remarkable that so much money took up so little room. I zipped up the bag and tightened the straps to make sure all was secure. Holding it one-handed, one could be forgiven for thinking it was empty. The money probably weighed less than the bag.

I made my way to the drop off point at the appointed time and laid the bag down, next to the willow tree, and retreated to a distance. I sought cover in the undergrowth surrounding the clearing, a place from which I could keep an eye on the bag. My companion, eyes bright, watched too. We didn’t have long to wait before the bag was collected by a nondescript woman. As she walked off, we gave it a few minutes then followed her unseen.

At the park entrance the woman approached a car and there, sitting in the back seat, was the subject of the ransom. My companion stirred, eager to enter the fray. There were two of them, the women and a man. As she neared the car he got out of the driver’s seat and went to meet her. The woman placed the bag on the bonnet of the car and struggled with the straps holding it closed. Together they peered into the bag, then looking at each other they smiled. At that moment I released my companions collar and he was off like a shot, covering the distance in seconds. Startled at the sight of a large, angry Alsatian in full flight they fled the scene leaving car, money, and victim behind.

My ploy, of using the leather bag, had paid off. My dog had been able to follow its scent, leading us to the kidnappers unseen. I opened the rear door, releasing the victim. She sniffed at my hand then turned her attention to my companion, her mate. I gathered up the bag, complete with its contents, then the three of us walked off to the bank, ready to redeposit the ransom.

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Written in response to the Creative Writing Ink November 22nd writing prompt competition.

I’m With the Band

Here we are again. Stopping for more tea in the middle of the night at yet another run-down café. Tea and toilet every two hours as we wend our way down the length of the country in a Transit that won’t go above fifty. If you ask me, not that anyone ever does, we’d make a damn sight better time if we didn’t continuously fuel our need for toilet breaks with all that tea.

Join a band, they said, for a life of glamour and excitement. It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing or play an instrument, you can always be a roadie. You even get your own uniform, jeans, tour shirt, and denim jacket. It sounded a great idea at the time, and I soon joined the company of an up-and-coming new band. This was a band that was going places. That was true, unfortunately the places that they were going tended to be in the north of England, which meant a life continually commuting the length of the A1.

Timing, in music and in life, is everything. I quit to look after another band at just the wrong time. The week after I’d left, Melody Maker announced that my former band had signed to a major record label and were going to make it big.

I’m pretty senior now, but I’m stuck in the groove of shepherding new, small-time bands, all dreaming of getting a record deal. They’re all the same these days: rehashing the riffs from decades past, rarely coming up with something new. Music fashions may come and go but Metal seems to be always on the road.

Still, I reckon there’re a few years left in this old roadie. Not sure I can say the same for the Transit though.

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 142 with reference to the prompt: Roadie; Greasy Spoon Café; Soliloquy.

A Nice Cup of Tea

Cup and saucer

I was standing close to the bars of the cell when the guard handed me a cup of tea. The cup and saucer were of the finest china and the tea smelled tantalising. There was only one problem, both cup and saucer were too wide to pass between the bars. What was going on? Was this some form of diabolical torture aimed at people of British extraction? I rotated the saucer and pulled it through the bars. I figured that I could now pour the tea from the cup, between the bars, into the waiting saucer and then drink the tea. It would take time but at least I could enjoy my tea. The idea worked tolerably well except for the cooling effect. When I finished I handed the cup and saucer back to the guard without comment.

The following day I was offered coffee. Although welcome, this offered a new challenge as it was served in a mug with no saucer. I discovered that it was quite possible to drink from the mug by pressing my face tight up against the bars. I wish I’d thought of this when served yesterday’s cup of tea. Instead of being clever I could have sacrificed my dignity and drunk it through the bars and enjoyed a hot cup of tea.
And so it went on. Tea, served in the best china, one day, coffee in a mug, the next. I soon learnt to dispose of the saucer in order to enjoy my tea hot. After a few days of drinking my morning beverage through the bars, I became used to the routine and began to relish it. Then one day disaster struck. My tea was served in a mug. I remonstrated with the guard about this outrageous behaviour. Tea was only ever acceptable when served in a china cup.

Routine recommenced. Tea in china, coffee in a mug. It was an odd routine on behalf of my jailers, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner I was allowed a drink in my cell with my meal. I supposed it must have saved them the trouble of opening up the cell door but still it was inconvenient. I would have much rather enjoyed drinking my morning beverage, or elevenses as I liked to think of it, sitting on my bunk while reading a book.

It was only after my release that I learned that the whole ordeal had been a form of psychological warfare. The initial incident with the cup and saucer had been a mistake but someone in authority had thought that it offered a way of further demeaning their British prisoner. They just hadn’t considered the pragmatic nature of the Britisher abroad. We might be accepting of foreigners and their funny ways but there were limits when it came to serving and drinking the national beverage. It wasn’t important that tea served in a foreign jail was of poor quality, what mattered was that it should always be served correctly in a china cup.

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Written in response to the Creative Writing Ink November 15th writing prompt competition.

Love on Two Wheels

As I am often heard to say, ‘Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.’ Nor for my future as a bicycle engineer. The more people employing this most perfect form of transportation, the better, both for mankind itself and for my profession, not to mention my pocket. I find it encouraging the number of young women nowadays who choose to adopt the freedom of the bicycle and the way that this is reflected in rational dress and the modern bifurcated fashions that many of them now wear.

Recently I have noticed an increase in the number of suburban female bicyclists availing themselves of my services and I find this pleasing if confusing. There is one particular young lady that has come to my attention, both for the regularity of her visits and for her unusual familiarity.

One day I was troubled to find my admirer, if I may describe her as such, dressed in a pair of the new-fangled bloomers, or knickerbockers as they are sometimes called. I do believe that she is chasing me in search of romantic involvement. I am much for the emancipation of women but this brought a blush to my cheek. She was even forward enough to suggest that I should accompany her for a ride.

Shyly, I accepted her offer and found it to be an enjoyable experience. One thing led to another and before long we became betrothed. To celebrate the occasion, and not wanting to spend more than a minute apart, I set to in my workshop and created the bicycle of our dreams. It was a tandem machine of cunning design, a wedding present to us both.

And now, together, we pedal the leafy lanes as one.

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 141 with reference to the prompt: Bicycle Engineer; Suburbs; Romance. (On the anniversary of the birth of H. G. Wells)

Roses Are Red

Roses

After an interminable number of photographs: bride and groom; group shots; with family and without; the entire wedding party; the reception was in full swing. Cake eaten, speeches made, it was time for the dancing. The band had set up beside the swimming pool and the guests made their way to the dance floor. But first there was one more ritual in a ritual filled day, the tossing of the bouquet.

It seemed the bride didn’t know her own strength. What should have been a gentle toss became a mighty throw. With her back to the crowd of wedding guests she hurled the bouquet over her shoulder, high into the air. Splash! What had originally been a presentation bouquet now lay floating in the pool. The roses floated there, bright in the sunshine, their red colour contrasting with the blue of the water. Slowly they drifted apart, separating into two loose bunches. There was a lighthearted struggle as a group of female guests vied for the pool-net to fish the remains of the bouquet from the pool. The bouquet had started out with twelve red roses but two hadn’t made it as far as the water. Unnoticed, one guest bent to pick up the two roses that lay at the side of the pool. She lifted the flowers to her nose and savoured their perfume, a faint smile flitted across her face. She stood up and walked over to the best man. He bent towards her in greeting and she whispered into his ear, ‘Here’s to this time next year.’ Her lips brushed his cheek. He reddened. She walked away, he returned to his wife.

She mused about whether it was unlucky to gather only part of the bouquet, a part picked up off of the ground, at that. No matter, if everything went as planned, she’d be married in a year’s time. Gaining the bouquet, or at least a part of it, had been a bonus. That small action in itself reassured her she was on the right path.

He watched her from across the patio. Was she making a genuine play for him? He glanced at his wife, cold and unforgiving, with rarely a kind word to say to him. After two loveless years he could be forgiven for yearning after something more. He looked back at the pool. The tussling over the pool net was long over. A small group of women stood giggling over a soggy handful of roses, the remaining flowers floated out of their reach. He strode over to the pool and took up the net, with his superior reach he was able to snag the rest of the flowers.

With the balance of the roses dripping from his hand he, made his way to the woman who had approached him earlier. Offering her the remains of the sodden bouquet it was his turn to whisper in her ear, ‘Why wait until next year?’

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Written in response to the Creative Writing Ink November 6th writing prompt competition