Sarah Ann Hall

Reporting on writing in progress or, more probably, not; practising flash fiction.

Posts Tagged ‘love

OLWG#57, 58 & 59 – Missed Connection

with one comment

Hmm, well the least said about why I haven’t been keeping up with the New Unofficial On-Line Writer’s Guild prompts the better in terms of testing anyone’s boredom threshold. Herewith a story hopefully seamlessly incorporating the last three weeks’ prompts.

Thank you Thom for hosting as ever.

 

Missed Connection

It’s Friday again. Time to visit Nanna and make sure she eats. She will tell me she had corn flakes for breakfast smothered in strawberry yogurt. It’s what she always has. Always had. But I know the cereal packet will weigh exactly the same as last week and there will be the eight-pack of yogurts I left in the fridge last Friday untouched.

I no longer bite my tongue when Nanna tells me she eats her breakfast and prepares her lunch everyday. She has been telling herself, and us, these stories for years now. I will make her beans on toast; nutritious and filling, easy to swallow and digest, and tasty. Something we can share.

I find her watching The Walking Dead. Nanna used to hate watching the TV in the day, seeing it as a form of depravity, something the lower and non-working classes did to fill their time. All she has is time now, and a Sky box with buttons she doesn’t understand, so the telly blares daylong and she watches some really weird, age-inappropriate stuff. But it stops her wandering, and us wondering.

‘The dead don’t care much for fast food,’ she tells me as I stand in the doorway to the sitting room to let her know I am there. It does no good to surprise her, although by the time I have lunch ready I will probably have to introduce myself again.

Nanna remembers the dress she wore in 1936 when she sat on her father’s shoulders to watch the King and Queen pass by. Is it a sign, before the rot sets in, when people choose to show what a good memory they have for recalling way back then? She always used to tell that story, long before it was obvious she was leaving us.

‘Put that away,’ I hear her call out as I check the cupboards to make sure there are beans to eat. You never know when Nanna might have a lucid moment and regain who she once was. It doesn’t last long, but she has been known to prepare a meal, put it in the oven and forget, only for it to be found again when the smell and flies start to multiply. As for her admonishment, she might be telling the zombies not to eat their forebears or moaning that the adverts have come on. She never liked programmes being interrupted by ads.

The worst of it is, that when it started few could see it, and once it was obvious to all, she made excuses, had explanations, couldn’t, wouldn’t admit and seek help. It was hard to say she wasn’t lying to us, and much easier to talk about the stories we tell ourselves. The stories we use to make sense of the lives we lead. But how come Nanna couldn’t see she wasn’t coping when she called the fire brigade because the smoke alarm wouldn’t stop beeping? Surely even she could see that was inappropriate? Nope. And until she did something dangerous or talked complete gibberish to her GP, there was no one to help. She was convinced she could cope and convinced all those professionals she came into contact with the same. It was only the family and neighbours who saw, and screamed silently for things to be better.

‘The time got away from me,’ she said of burnt dinners, cold cups of tea, washing left flapping on the line for days and in need of re-washing.

The TV blares, zombies and humans screaming as I put the beans on to cook to mush. We both like them this way, not just reheated, but boiled until the beans collapse and the sauce reduces, a nice russet pulp. Yeah, I can only have beans like this when I visit Nanna. Everyone else complains, and so I don’t mind the weekly ritual. A full plate of beans on toast will keep her going until tomorrow when Sylvia comes.

I move to the sitting room door and say, ‘The beans are on Nanna. I’ll just do the toast and then come and get you.’

‘It’s going to be cooler this weekend,’ she says, not moving her eyes from the TV. It’s one of her stock responses, a space filler for when she knows she should say something but doesn’t know what. Or that’s what it’s become. It used to be a space filler whenever there was silence in a room. It was as if silence woke her and Nanna had to say something, anything, to maintain her connection with the world. And so began the nonsense conversations that were put down to her sense of humour and not recognised until much later as an early sign of her deteriorating neurones making surreal connections.

I toast the bread to mid-brown. There’s nothing nice about over or underdone toast. Nanna likes it perfectly cooked in the middle. It’s cooked, the beans are pulp, and I go to call Nanna from the sitting room. I have to switch the TV off, break that connection, to get her to move, but she stands happily enough and follows me to the kitchen table. Her legs are strong, and her arms. She could do for herself physically if only her mind was fitter.

‘A young man with a bad haircut came by,’ she says, fork loaded with beans and paused at her lips. ‘He looked a bit like you.’ She sucks the fork clean then examines my face, tilting her head to see me better, ‘Only he was younger and better looking.’ That was me then, last week, or a month ago, or three years. These days take their toll, and I only do one.

Carers come in to get Nanna up and put her to bed. That’s all they do, the washing, the personal care that family do not want to do. Nanna would hate to think any of her children or grandchildren were wiping her backside and so none of us do. But we feed her and shop for her and talk to her and love the woman she was. We are all tired. A day with her is enough for anyone. Mum has had it worse; being the closest child she takes on more. Her brother and sister really want to help, but mum is a bit of a control freak and says she’s fine. ‘Did you really think it through?’ Aunt Janet sometimes asks, ‘Did you think what a burden it is for you all?’ Because Janet is 50-miles away she does not do a daily run. No, those are for Mum, Dad, Josie my elder sister, Mum again, me, Sylvia my cousin and Janet’s daughter, and Patrick, some other relative of Nanna’s whose relationship to her escapes me. He’s a good egg that’s all I know, as patient as a saint, always cheerful, and not seeming to suffer as much as the rest of us do. He’s not ageing like the guy with the bad haircut.

Nanna and I eat quietly. I would like to fill her in on my week but I don’t have the energy to explain for the umpteenth time what work it is I do. It frustrates me when she can’t grasp what I’m talking about. I need to start making up stories for myself to tell her, stories about how I spend my days, with stock answers for her repetitive questions. She won’t remember the answers or be able to tell me when I say the opposite of what I said last time. Why haven’t I considered it before? My taste-buds are suddenly tasting smoky beans. No, I didn’t add barbeque sauce, but still they have taken on that soothing comforting tang.

‘I can’t find it anywhere,’ Nanna says, halfway through her lunch. She is very particular: eats one slice, cleans up all the loose beans, and leaves a second full covered slice with no beans on the plate.

‘What’s that, Nanna?’

‘I can’t find the hole in your soul.’

‘No. Oh well, maybe we can look for it after lunch. We’ve got strawberry yogurt for dessert. How does that sound?’

‘Very nice. I had a strawberry yogurt on my corn flakes this morning.’

‘I know, Nanna. But two strawberry yogurts in a day won’t hurt.’

 


 

This week’s prompts are:

  1. the dead don’t care much for fast food
  2. the time got away from me
  3. the hole in your soul

 

Last week’s were:

  1. a young guy with a bad haircut
  2. did you really think it through
  3. put that away

 

And the week before that were:

  1. cooler this weekend
  2. I can’t find it anywhere
  3. the silence woke her

 

Go ahead and dive in, set your imagination free!
Write something
Ready, Set, Go – you have 25 minutes, but if that is not possible, take as long as you need.

Have fun

 

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Written by Sarah Ann

July 18, 2018 at 8:33 pm

#FridayFictioneers – 6/7/18 – We Must Remember

with 31 comments

Every Wednesday Rochelle Wisoff-Fields publishes a photo prompt to inspire writers to write 100-words of flash fiction or poetry.

At any point during the following week, the Friday Fictioneers post their 100-word tales. Read the other stories by clicking below.

Thank you to Rochelle and J Hardy Carroll for this week’s photo.

I’m not sure my story works – please let me know.

 

© J Hardy Carroll

 

We Must Remember

(Genre: speculative fiction; 100-words)

It stands as a memorial. The site of the last spontaneous combustion.

As the sun spots grew and the flares flew closer to earth, the instant ignitions became numerous and scary. No one knew who or when or why. Lovers were burned, children orphaned, families lost. The world’s population pulled together, unable to find anything or anyone to blame.

And then it all stopped. Days, weeks, a year went by and no one smouldered. People started to breathe, fall out, and fight again.

The last scorch mark stands protected as evidence that everyone can get on. When they want to.

 

 

OLWG#54 – You’ll Dance on My Grave

with 4 comments

Here is my response to this week’s New Unofficial On-Line Writer’s Guild prompt. That’s two weeks running I have managed to post on the Thursday after the Sunday the post went up. This has largely been because of last minute work cancellations, but who cares. I will have partially met one of my Project 10K goals for the month. 🙂

Thanks to Thom for another set of thought-provoking and challenging prompts this week.

 

You’ll Dance on My Grave

It’s five years since the funeral and I am dancing on my wife’s grave. I can’t actually believe I am doing this. I am not at all pixillated. True, I’ve taken a little Dutch courage, but I am not doing this because I’m tired and emotional.

I am emotional. I am swinging from wondering what the hell I am doing to knowing I am carrying out her wishes. As she lay in that damned hospital bed she told me, clear as a bell, to have a good life, to find another wife, ‘And if you haven’t after five years, you’re not the man I thought you were, and I want you to dance on my grave.’

‘I couldn’t do that,’ I half smiled ‘That would be so disrespectful.’

‘Yes, so you’d better find yourself another woman after I go.’

I didn’t argue. I agreed so she thought I’d do as she wished regarding the getting another woman thing. Angie was the love of my life so why she thought I’d want anyone else I don’t know. I am not well equipped in the gathering of female company.

The problem was, Angie didn’t let it go. She had cancer a long time and prepared her own sending off. She left messages for those she loved to be read at the wake, which was almost everyone there, and her plan and forfeit for me were shared. Many were drunk by that point in the proceedings, the pain of Angie’s passing had to be numbed by something, and her ideas for me caused great merriment. Some wondered if they had heard right when their sore heads stopped throbbing, but there was a print out of all the messages in the care of Angie’s best friend, and there is no doubt whether what Angie wanted is truth or just the way I remember it.

There was never a malicious streak in Angie so I know she did not want me to be seen and arrested for sacrilegious acts. Still, I have come to the grave after dark, to reduce my chances of being caught in the act, because that it what it feels like. I am doing something wrong. I feel slightly sick and my dancing has been lacklustre. In fact, why don’t I just stop and sit with her.

‘I have danced gently and quickly on your grave, love.’

I come to see Angie whenever I need to talk things through. Of course she can’t hear and provides no answers, but I feel her presence. I am glad she was happy to be buried so I can visit her. She wasn’t bothered by what happened to her body.

‘I’ll be dead. Whether I go up in smoke and heat a swimming pool or rot in the ground, it’s up to you. You’re the one having to deal with it.’

Sometimes her rationality and pragmatism got to me. At others her inability to shilly-shally was an immeasurable blessing. I imagine if she could see me now she’d be wagging her finger in mock anger saying, ‘How is it you haven’t found someone to look after you?’

I don’t need anyone to look after me. I was a happy and competent bachelor before Angie came along and swept me off my feet. I was a very happy husband to her. I am a competent widow. I can’t really comment on my mood. I miss her everyday, but I am getting on. I go to work and clean the house. There was nothing I couldn’t do before we married and Angie’s illness was of long duration so I was prepared for after. Her last weeks were spent in the hospital so the major thing that changed on her death was the amount of time I suddenly had. There were no more after work commutes to the hospital, no more hours spent sitting by her bed. It hit me hard, the spare time, empty time, time to chase thoughts around my head and come back to the beginning with the whys and what-ifs and chase them round again. The lack of her voice, never seeing her twinkly eyes, and the time are still the hardest things to bear.

My friends have helped me with the time. Ben, Mitch and I meet up every Friday like we didn’t before to bemoan the state of the world. Their wives are grateful; it clears the air for the weekend. It’s weird to think Angie’s death has helped ease the passage of two other marriages, but it has. Ben and Mitch looking after me has helped plug the fissures in their relationships as they don’t take their shit home anymore and leave it at my door. It’s not all doom and gloom. We discuss philosophical questions sometimes too, like whether it is more or less important to keep promises made to the dying than the living? The living will know whether or not you keep them, the dying never can. I never promised Angie but had to keep it anyway. I have failed to find a new wife so have danced on the grave of the old one, the only one. I hope she’s happy to know I followed through, and to know my candle still burns only for her.

‘Five years is a lifetime and no time at all, Angie my love. Maybe another woman will come along, but I am not looking and she will have to work bloody hard to catch my eye and outshine you.’

I stand and rest my hand on her head stone, bend down to kiss the cold marble that is my last link to her. Ben and Mitch are waiting by the gate to take me home. They offered to come in with me, to bear witness, but there are some things between man and wife than no one else should ever see. I have fulfilled my forfeit and professed my undying love. Now it’s time for a drink.

 


 

This week’s prompts are:

  1. keep the promise anyway
  2. another drink
  3. is it the truth or just the way I remember it

 

Go ahead and dive in, set your imagination free!
Write something
Ready, Set, Go – you have 25 minutes, but if that is not possible, take as long as you need.

Have fun

Written by Sarah Ann

June 14, 2018 at 2:51 pm

OLWG#52 – micropoetry

with 5 comments

I am behind with my responses to the New Unofficial On-Line Writer’s Guild Prompts and so have returned to micropoetry in an attempt to get on top of my disorganisation.

Thanks and congratulations to TNKerr on posting these prompts for a whole year.

 

tanka

kids line up in rows

sit at desks in the classroom

what’s one more or less

when measles contagion hits

or a gunman visits school

 

 

American sentence

Love me. For me. Forever. Everything else is complicated.

 

 

Shadorma

Birthday cake,

Sandwiches and crisps.

Finger food

Nibbled at.

We say goodbye in circles,

Hugs until next time.

 


This week’s prompts are:

  1. what’s one more or less
  2. everything else is complicated
  3. we say goodbye in circles

 

Go ahead and dive in, set your imagination free!
Write something
Ready, Set, Go – you have 25 minutes, but if that is not possible, take as long as you need.

Have fun

 

Written by Sarah Ann

June 3, 2018 at 2:40 pm

OLWG#51 – First Date

with 4 comments

I am very late with the OLWG #51 prompts. The first of which was the one that grabbed me, and I’ve not been able to incorporate the others. I’ve also re-used a character, seeing her from another’s point of view.

Thanks and apologies for lateness to Thom.

 

First Date

‘You are not what I expected,’ I said as I opened the door, which was a stupid thing to say, and rude. What had I been expecting? I’d had no idea when I made the call and didn’t care what she might look like. It wasn’t important. I didn’t speak to her at the time, but a manager who arranged all the appointments and explained all the rules. Still I didn’t expect the gorgeous creature with raven curls at my door, coils like old bed springs arrayed around her head. She didn’t need to do this sort of work. And that was the second stupid thing to have thought within three seconds. What did I know? It was even more stupid to ask her, as I followed her down the hall into the main body of my apartment, ‘What brought you to this line of work?’

She smiled, as if she was asked that all the time, and said, ‘I like people.’

There was to be nothing more I realised. She was guarded, wearing armour to work. Who could blame her? Who knew whom she would meet when she knocked on a door? All the lonely people, as the Beatles sang, who need to pay for companionship. And that is all it is. I love cooking, but eating alone is no fun. Cooking for one isn’t great either. I can’t get the proportions right and end up over-eating.

One thing I love about food is the conversation when you try something new. I can feel the textures and new flavours, but I only have one tongue and set of taste-buds. I want to know what others think and feel and taste. And so I have been using companion escorts since my wife died unexpectedly.

We have friends, I have friends, but we end up having the same conversations, always about my wife. As much as I still love her I don’t want to spend all my leisure time talking about her. And it seems to me my friends are bored of food conversations. They don’t say so, but whenever I try to engage them on the flavour of a new herb combination their eyes glaze, so it’s time for me to chop and change eating companions. Change who they are, not chop them up. Oh dear. I realise her beauty still has me rattled and unnerved and I talk nonsense when even thinking about her. That night I felt jumbled thoughts spill from lips and watched her eyes spin. She must have thought I was. Hell who knew what she thought.

I invited her to sit and ran to the kitchen, focusing on the food in order to calm my racing heart and still my brain. Cook the onions low, fry the spices and chillies high. Stages and order. Cooking is precise and calming, for me at least. I love the bashing of bread and the whisking of eggs, the physical involvement, but that night I needed cerebral, planning and tight guidelines in order to concentrate on what I was cooking and not who I was cooking for.

Afterwards I remembered being in the kitchen and the process of cooking. I remembered carrying the finished dishes through to the table and the smile on her face as she tasted and enjoyed. Conversation flowed easily. We had a lovely time together. But I can’t remember a thing about the food. Whether or not the smoked paprika made a difference to the lamb tagine escapes me. If the raspberry ice cream was better for being mixed with a fork rather than made in an ice cream maker, it completely passed me by. I was captivated and enraptured by her and not my latest tryouts from the weekend supplement. Which is why I’ll be on the phone later to ask for another appointment with Marie. I’m trying something new again. I can’t serve her the same. This time I’ll be more prepared for her beauty and hopefully able to taste my food. I’ll try the tagine and ice cream next time I meet with friends. I’ll enjoy their familiarity, and savour food while they talk about my wife.

 


This week’s prompts are:

  1. You are not what I expected
  2. some myths are prophecy
  3. Tell them what?

 

Go ahead and dive in, set your imagination free!
Write something
Ready, Set, Go – you have 25 minutes, but if that is not possible, take as long as you need.

Have fun

 

Written by Sarah Ann

June 2, 2018 at 5:33 pm

#FridayFictioneers – 1/6/18 – Marital Bliss

with 38 comments

Every Wednesday Rochelle Wisoff-Fields publishes a photo prompt to inspire writers to write 100-words of flash fiction or poetry.

At any point during the following week, the Friday Fictioneers post their 100-word tales. Read the other stories by clicking below.

I’ve used this title before, and probably in a similar vein. Oh well, the story has a chance of being vaguely original. Or maybe not.

Thank you to Rochelle for hosting and Connie for this week’s wonderful photo.

 

© Connie Gayer

 

Marital Bliss

(Genre: revenge fiction; 100-words)

My sister and brother-in-law’s relationship is tempestuous. They are quick to flare and rapidly make up. Mel occasionally throws things, John learnt to duck early; both patch dents in walls.

Their latest argument was over something as petty as tea, its origins lost. In heat John mentioned divorce; Mel flung her wedding ring into the garden saying he was welcome to it. Next morning John hired a metal detector and has been searching ever since.

‘When are you going to tell him you retrieved it immediately?’ I ask.

‘When’s he dug over the whole patch, and it’s ready for planting.’

 

 

Written by Sarah Ann

May 31, 2018 at 9:04 pm

OLWG#50 – Sage Advice

with 8 comments

It always surprises me where a prompt or character can take a panster like me. If I could plan ahead, I’d be more in control of my stories, I’d know when the finish was near, and might even write a decent ending or two.

The below is more backstory than story, and doesn’t really end, but then nothing ever truly ends. Or is that what I tell myself in order not to try harder? And it includes only two of the prompts, so I’m telling myself off.

Thank you to TNKerr for this week’s thought provoking On-Line Writer’s Guild Prompts.

 

Sage Advice

Like every other night of the week, Edward sits alone, looking out at the streetlights, watching his neighbours come and go. Halloween passed with no contact; another Christmas approaches. Too much water has flowed, the blood ties to family diluted to cordial. It hurts that he is shunned and cut off, and doesn’t matter the woman his family dumped him over is also gone. He can’t say he wasn’t warned.

‘She’s one of them,’ his mother had hissed the day he took Maria to meet his parents.

Maria and Dad were in the sitting room, chatting over canapés, while Edward helped Mother with lunch in the kitchen.

‘You have to get rid of her,’ she said with a pinched look, ‘for the sake of the children.

‘Mother, we’ve just started dating. We haven’t even spoken of marriage let alone children.’

‘It won’t work. It can’t work,’ she said, thrusting cutlery at him and pushing him towards the dining room. ‘Mark my words.’

Ed had listened without taking it on board. He knew their country’s history ran deep within his mother’s veins, but the civil war was 200 and more years ago. The petty squabbling of the kingdoms was ancient history to most of the population, unfortunately not to those brought up with a rose-tinted view of the past, albeit a fatalistic one. Mother and Dad might have let go of the traditional monikers of mama and papa, but there was no forgetting Edward was a mainlander and Maria from offshore. Stereotypes and superstitions still ruled his parents’ hearts.

‘What goes around comes around,’ had been one of Edward’s grandmother’s favourite sayings. His mother’s mother that was. On his father’s side things were more open and accepting. ‘Your journey is your own,’ his nona had said the day he told her he wasn’t going to be a doctor. ‘Your parents, your mother, will wail and spit, but you have to make your own way. You are the one living your life.’

Edward had disappointed his parents, his mother, with his choice of career, choosing teaching as something more worthy. His mother had always envisaged a high flying doctor in private practice – the discipline wasn’t important to her. A son who chose to teach the masses was something of a slap. And when he brought home an islander as a prospective daughter-in-law, his mother could see only disaster, and everything she had taught and hoped for being thrown back in her face.

Edward had met Maria at school. They were teachers to the same year group; him Maths, her English. It was easy and convenient and they liked each other from the off. His mother was right in one way; it would have been impossible for them to have children. Their progeny would have hated their parents when they were permanently teased about having teachers at home to help them with their homework, never being credited for achieving anything alone. But it wasn’t to be. Their relationship was fun for a year after the ‘meeting the parents’ lunch, before it fizzled out, both of them deciding they weren’t the other’s soulmate. They remained solid friends, more especially since Maria had moved away to take up a promotion.

Edward’s refusal to give up Maria was the last straw for his mother. There were no more invites to lunch. There was a small, perfunctory Christmas card containing entreaties to return to her bosom. By his birthday, the card was signed, Mama and Papa, with no love or luke warm best wishes annotated, as they clung to a more disciplined and understandable past.

Edward stands, moving away from the window, the street empty at last. His family is lost to him, but he still has Maria’s warmth and friendship. For every loss there is a gain and, as his nona always told him, it is better to spend time with those who love and accept unquestioningly, than to try to live up to the expectations of those who will never be happy.

 


This week’s prompts are:

  1. She’s one of them
  2. your journey is your own
  3. Double jeopardy

 

Go ahead and dive in, set your imagination free!
Write something
Ready, Set, Go – you have 25 minutes, but if that is not possible, take as long as you need.

Have fun

Written by Sarah Ann

May 18, 2018 at 5:00 pm

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