The Photograph Part 1: The Prelude

She waited, poised and smiling, filling her lungs to a regular rhythm that would convey an air of confidence to the judgemental audience before her. At the piano, Edward’s fingers hovered over the keys and their daughter, Dottie, had a look of determination on her face as she prepared to turn the pages of music.

Jemima had always loved to sing. Music was in her very soul and as the dulcet tones issued from deep inside, she was transported to a different plane: a place where all that mattered was the meaning of the words she sang. And tonight, it was a love song of such sadness, Jemima’s tears threatened to flow.

At the rear of the room her beloved watched, waiting for the concert to end. He and Jemima had loved each other for years, but the time had never been right to forsake their marriages and growing children. Now they would delay no longer. Beyond the gates a carriage waited to whisk them away, to a place where no one would find them.

Jemima would miss her darling Dottie, and her guilt at causing her pain would stay with her forever. But Dottie knew naught of her Papa’s true nature: a jealous and vindictive bully who had watched Jemima’s every move, chastising her with his fists if she failed to comply to his wishes.

After twenty years of cruel abuse, it was time to leave.

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This piece of flash fiction forms the first part of a two-part story. Part 2 – which I’ve since titled The Outcome – was published back in May here.  Yes, I know I’ve done this the wrong way round, but I hadn’t written Part 1 then. It was done as an afterthought. (I seem to have a lot of afterthoughts. Lol )

White-Rimed January Morn – Flash Fiction

It was a white-rimed January morn when the witchfinders came. Restrained by Puritan soldiers, Will could do naught but watch as they hanged his lovely young wife from the solitary oak. All Martha had done was to heal folk’s ailments with her fragrant herbs; helped mothers during difficult births.

He’d buried her after they’d gone, his tears mingling with the loosened earth. Denied the right to consecrated ground by the pompous priest, Martha slept beneath the herb garden she’d loved so much. Village folk crowded round, commiserations from some, tears flowing from many.

But amongst them a traitor lurked. Will was certain of it: how else would the soldiers have known where to pounce? Easily earned blood-money was stashed away from prying eyes somewhere in this village, and Will would not rest till he’d sniffed it out. The traitor would pay dearly for his betrayal. An ‘accident’ could easily be arranged…

For its part in the deed, Will reduced the oak to a stump, the traitorous John Arnold buried deep beside it. Though rotting now, the stump was still there, twenty years on. At his side, Martha smiled: she returned to comfort him every year on the first white-rimed January morn.

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Chamomile

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This is the second short piece of ‘flash’ I’ve written about the plight of women unfortunate enough to attract the attention of those obsessed with the need to rid the world of  ‘witches’. I won’t go into the ideas revolving around witchcraft here. Suffice it to say that in many cultures in the past strong, independent women have often been viewed with suspicion. Any single or widowed woman able to run a household on her own, or skilled in herblore and its medicinal applications, would soon come to the attention of the witchfinders.  If she also happened to have a black cat, her fate would be sealed.

In some cases  grotesque forms of torture were used to make the woman confess to her sins (including the ‘ducking stool’) after which, she would be burnt alive at ‘the stake’ or hanged.

In my post from a few years ago, I added much more detail. Anyone interested in the topic can find it here.

 

The Hat – Flash Fiction

The Hat

 The Hat

It was Sunday when Minnie found the hat, just sitting there amongst the daisies and dandelions as though it was part of the parkland scenery. She stared at it, unsure whether she should move it at all, but the hat piqued her interest so she stooped to retrieve it.

On the grass beneath not a single flower grew, which Minnie thought to be rather odd – although it gave a modicum of credence to the idea that the hat was part of the park. The flowers must have been there for a few weeks, at least. But being a sensible girl of sixteen, Minnie dismissed the thought.

Yet still, she wondered… It was a pretty sunhat, and must have drawn the attention of more than a few ladies as they passed by, twirling their fancy parasols. She placed it firmly on her head, loving the feel of its comforting closeness.

I could do anything with this hat on, she told herself. I am invincible. I could swim to the bottom of the sea, or fly down from one of those tall hotel buildings and soar along the Promenade over all of those day-trippers. That would give them something to talk about.

‘What a good idea. Why don’t you try it out?’ a voice inside her head suggested.

Minnie took the lift up to the rooftop restaurant of The Savoy, the tallest hotel in the seaside town, ordered a glass of freshly made lemonade and seated herself on the balcony. The view of the Promenade was splendid and she thought about what she would do once she’d finished her drink.

‘Your hat looks perfectly lovely,’ an elderly lady remarked coming to stand beside Minnie’s table, her parasol in hand. ‘The odd thing is,’ she continued, adjusting her fine silk gown before sitting down, quite uninvited, ‘it looks identical to one a young woman was wearing in here just a few days ago.’

Minnie shrugged. ‘I know nothing about that. I found this one in the park and decided to try it on. Then I came up here for a nice cold drink.’ She paused, absently gazing down at the embroidered tablecloth and wishing this interfering busybody would go away so she could get on with her plans.

But the lady simply smiled and kept up her annoying prattle. ‘The reason I mention this, my dear, is because that particular young lady seemed intent upon doing a very foolish thing. If I hadn’t reached the balcony in time, she would have jumped right off. She really thought she could fly – and I don’t need to tell you how that would have ended.’

Minnie stared at this lady, who was still shaking her head and tutting at such a terrible thought. She looked very sweet, though rather la-di-da to an ordinary working girl from Blackpool. Yet Minnie had the feeling that this old lady could see right into her head. She glanced at the balcony wall. ‘Yes, that would have been a very nasty way to die,’ she said, removing the hat from her head and laying it on the tabletop. ‘I wonder what possessed the girl to do such a thing?’

The old lady flashed that infuriatingly honeyed smile again. ‘I think you know the answer to that as well as I do, my dear. And between you and me, I shall have strong words with my granddaughter for leaving the hat lying around. Cassandra really must test her magic elsewhere in future.’ She heaved a deep sigh, a small frown creasing her already wrinkled brow. ‘But you know what some witches are like… too fond of making mischief and practising their powers on people. She’s not a bad witch, just a little immature, and she must remember to try out her spells on her mice before inflicting them on people. I spent years perfecting my own but, like most young people, Cassandra wants everything done today.

‘I’ll take the hat back to her now, shall I?’ she asked, proffering a white-gloved hand.

Having no answers to any of this, Minnie handed the lady the lovely sunhat and watched as she turned to walk away and disappear into thin air.

Minnie strolled casually over to the balcony wall, admiring the view in the warm, May sunshine and smiling at the thought that the old fusspot had no idea of the hat’s true powers. Having it perched on her head for a mere few moments had been enough to make Minnie’s confidence soar.

‘Go on then,’ the voice in her head urged. ‘You haven’t come all the way up here for nothing.’

‘No, I haven’t,’ Minnie replied, heaving herself up and teetering on the wall’s upper edge. ‘It’s a good day for flying.’

*****

Picture prompt of the hat is courtesy of Pixabay

This post was partly inspired by the image above, but also from my many visits to Blackpool over the years. I can’t say Blackpool is my favourite seaside resort in the UK. Having been ‘born and bred’ in Southport, a little further south on the Lancashire coast than Blackpool, naturally I’m somewhat biased. But when all’s said and done, Blackpool does have that famous tower… This nice, colourful image is also from Pixabay:

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I wrote a blog post about Blackpool four years ago here but our visit at that time was on a grey day in late February. Needless to say, the seaside town was keeping itself well under wraps at the time.

The Photograph Part 2: The Outcome

singer

Dearest Papa,

I hope this letter finds you well and you continue to enjoy teaching the piano to your eager pupils. Yes, praise for your skills and patience in this pursuit has spread far beyond Mayfield.

As you see, I have sent you a photograph, which I found whilst inspecting the contents of an old chest that had been stored, forgotten, in my attic these past ten years. I hesitated to send it for some weeks for fear of causing unwanted memories to surface, but my darling Arthur assured me that your memory of my mother’s death would have diminished after almost fifteen years, and the photo of the three of us may bring you joy.

I remember that evening so well, Papa. Mother sang like a nightingale; your piano playing enthralled and the applause from the audience made me proud to be your daughter. Later that night Mother broke your heart.

You never believed I didn’t know what Mother intended to do, but it was true. None of us knew she had a lover. My heart was broken two-fold when we found her letter after she’d fled. To see you so distraught caused me far more grief than Mother’s absence.

Rest assured, Papa, my lips remain sealed regarding your journey to Brighton on the day Mother was stabbed in her apartment. Even Arthur knows nothing of that. Mother’s murderer was never found and her lover simply disappeared. Though the man was never located, the police drew the obvious conclusion…

I chose to believe that the knife concealed in your dresser was simply an unwanted gift. I’ll take that belief to my grave. As you will, doubtless, take your secret to yours.

Your loving daughter,

Dottie

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I must thank my daughter, Louise, over at An Enchanted Place for the use of her photo, which is one of many taken on a lovely day out we all had to Warwick Castle a few years ago. (I scrounged a photo from Lou because her pics are SO much better than mine!)

I am currently in the middle of putting together another 85 stories for A Second Dash of Flash and hope to publish it later this year. This is one of the stories I’ve already written for the book – which, like Book One, A Dash of Flash, is an eclectic mix of stories of varying lengths and genres. It will make a nice change from writing historical fiction for novels for a while.

Part 1 of this story (originally just titled The Photograph) can now be read here. It was written as an afterthought, some weeks after this one: the reason for the additional information to the title.

Boiling Point – FFfAW

Boiling Point

Zak’s temper boiled and finally erupted. He stomped round the room, fists striking at empty space. How could she! After the months of fun they’d had, he’d never imagined she’d betray him. All he’d asked was her support of his work – and her discretion.

Jodie claimed she was good at keeping secrets, and she’d more than benefitted from their affair. The costly gifts he’d showered on her after successful operations always made her smile – and very compliant…

His rage was rising again and he cursed. If he ever set eyes on Jodie again he wouldn’t be responsible for his actions.

‘Sit down,’ one of the burly officers snapped as they entered. ‘Chief Inspector Roberts is on the way. And don’t try any sweet talk. Roberts isn’t known for being nice.’

‘Morning Zak,’ Roberts said as she swept in, a polythene bag full of jewellery in her hand.

‘Jodie…!’ he croaked. ‘You’re a stinkin’ cop… You bitch! ’

Jodie smirked. ‘That’s me. Now, just for the tape, remind me of where this little lot came from…’

Word Count: 175

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This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers The prompt was kindly provided by artycaptures. It’s the first flash fiction I’ve done for a while – in fact, it’s the first thing I’ve posted at all for a few weeks – so I thought it was time to change things.

FFfAW is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:

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Book Promotion: A Dash of Flash is Free on Amazon!

Just to let you know that the eBook version of my flash fiction / very short stories book, A Dash of Flash, will be free on Amazon until Sunday, July 16.

Many of the 85 stories have been published on my blog but several were written just for the book. Almost two-thirds of the stories are accompanied by colourful images, although they are not the prompts provided by the challenges.

Honest reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads would be SO MUCH appreciated. I’d also love to hear what you think! These are snippets from the reviews I’ve had so far:

a unique collection of short stories…something for everyone

so many delightful characters and plot situations all in the small space called flash fiction. This book is a joy to read, the stories brief, interesting, and cleverly composed

 I loved the variety of stories. This, together with the ultra-short length of the stories, really keep your attention.

Links to my book on Amazon are in the side bar to the right ————–> then up a bit –^

Paint Me Green!


Paint Me Green!

Sidney waited for the groundsman to put him down and stared at the figure ahead of him. ‘Glud…’ he croaked, confused and a little scared. ‘Where are we? ’

Glud turned and Sidney hooted. ‘Oh boy, you should see the size of your eyes! They never looked like that before they painted you.’

The green man bristled. ‘Well you should see the size of your teeth! And weren’t you listening to those blokes who painted us? They were making us look interesting so someone would buy us for their garden.’

‘Why would they do that?’

‘We’re garden ornaments, Sidney. Don’t you Earthlings know anything?  I’m green with big eyes ’cos I’m an alien, and they’re always popular. I think you’re a squirrel.’

‘Oh no! That means I’ll have to eat nuts. Yuk!’

‘We’ll soon find out. Smile nicely and these folks approaching might buy us.’

‘Don’t leave me!’ Sidney squeaked as Glud was carried away by a nice-looking family. ‘Paint me green and I’d look like an alien, too. Aliens can have big teeth…’

 

Word Count: 175


This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. I thought I’d have a bit of fun with this great prompt, which was kindly provided by anymark66

FFfAW is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:

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The Fiery Breath of Dragons – FFfAW

The Fiery Breath of Dragons

They came before the land had wakened, as Groshan had known they would. Three mighty dragons, their fiery breaths patterning the pre-dawn sky with a brilliance as great as the Sun-god’s rise.

From the entrance to his cave-world, deep in the mountain, the overlord seethed as the dragons swooped over his city below, their terrible flames reducing it to smouldering ash. If not for his vision, the townsfolk would have shared that fate.

Having no other choice, Groshan had led his people to a place in the mountain’s veiled depths, with its black and bottomless pool: the source of his wisdom and power. His age-old enemy would not win this time, despite his dragons.

‘Come back to the caves, Husband. This will soon end and Styras will think he’s destroyed us. We’ll leave by night and build a new city far away.’

Groshan turned to Ailis. ‘Our son will guide you all to the lands across the sea. I will follow, once Styras lies dead at my feet and my powers are no longer needed.’

 

Word Count: 175

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This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, a little late this week and hastily written.

This week’s prompt was kindly provided by Footy and Foodie.

FFfAW is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or  take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:

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The Pathway Home – FFfAW

The Pathway Home

It had been a sacred place for as long as anyone could remember. The stones pulsed with an awesome, deep-rooted power. Some said the gods had blessed them; others believed the stones were cursed. Only Grainne knew the truth.

She knelt on the large flat stone, her heartbeat in unison with its rhythmic throb. Around her the forest trees shivered, anticipating something extraordinary…something their boughs would remember for generations to come.

‘Arawn,’ she whispered, pressing her brow to the cool, grey stone. ‘I’ve endured two hundred years in the world of humankind. Let me return…’

The stones rumbled but Grainne did not move. ‘I won’t go till you let me through! I never meant to hurt you. I still love you!’

The rocks groaned and shifted, creating a fissure in the earth below. Grainne dropped from the stone and into the widening gap.

‘Return to me, beloved,’ the god of the otherworld murmured. ‘You’ve paid the price for turning your back on our ways. Our people want their queen back…

And so do I.’

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Word Count: 175

Note: After reading a couple of comments that made me smile, I’ve decided to fish out my judge’s wig and reconsider Grainne’s case…

On this occasion, I’ve decided to show lenience and reduce her sentence to 200 years. Even an immortal would probably go bonkers living with the dreaded humans for 2,000 years! 😀

This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or  take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

This week’s prompt was kindly provided by Pamela S. Canepa

To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:

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Time to Leave – FFfAW

Time to Leave

Amber sensed his presence before she opened the door. The air had that familiar chill and she sighed, knowing it was time to leave. The old man had come to replace her and change people’s lives for a while. They’d basked in her warmth and colour for long enough.

He entered the hut with an icy blast and she donned her russet cloak. ‘I am ready to go, Old Man,’ she said, tossing her auburn curls. ‘I’ll return when folks weary of the next summer’s heat and long for mellowing days.’

The old man smiled, tiny cracks patterning his glacial face, and swept through the room, turning all to white with his icy breath. Amber smiled in return, knowing he would delight folks with his tricks. Who else but he could order the snowflakes to fall, creating a paradise of white? Who else could style playgrounds of ice over lakes and ponds?

Old Man Winter raised icicle fingers and bowed his silvery head. ‘Your task was done well, kind Autumnus. Rest now, until next year.’

Word Count: 175

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This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or  take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

This week’s prompt was kindly provided by Ioniangraphics.

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To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:

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