A Lesson Learned – FFfAW

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

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Maria at Doodles and Scribbles. Thank you, Maria!

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And this is my story:

A Lesson Learned

Maisie scuttled down the back stairs towards the Hall’s large kitchens, her heart thumping. To be late on her first day could lose her the job before it even started.

The kitchen went quiet as she entered. Mrs Bridges glowered, pointing at the clock that registered nine minutes past six. ‘I’m sorry I’m late,’ Maisie croaked, ‘but my alarm–’

‘Hold your tongue, girl, or you’ll be out that door!’ Cook’s ample bosom heaved. ‘Start making amends by scrubbing down the shelves and restacking them.’

Maisie gazed at the huge shelves along two of the walls, all packed solid with foodstuffs, condiments and spices. It would take hours to do what Cook ordered…

The smell of the Middleton family breakfast cooking, followed by listening to the domestic staff enjoying theirs, was agony. But Maisie continued to scrub and stack until satisfied everything was done.

Mrs Bridges grinned as she inspected Maisie’s work. ‘You’re not short on elbow grease, I’ll give you that, girl. Lesson learned?’

Maise nodded.

‘Good. Now… bacon and eggs do for you?’

 Word Count: 175

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Nighttime Adventure – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a piece of fiction from the given photo prompt in around 75-150 words – give or take 25 words. If you’d like to join in with the challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Joy Pixley. Thank you, Joy!

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And this is my story:

Nighttime Adventure

Urging him to silence, Edeline clasped Robert’s small hand as they crept down the dimly-lit stairs. It had been easy to persuade the boy to join her on a nighttime adventure. Even little princes loved adventures.

She smiled to herself, imagining Jerald’s face when he realised his son was gone. She’d been careful with her plans, so no one could have guessed. And tonight, when they snored like hogs after too much banqueting wine, those plans would be fulfilled.

‘See, our transport awaits,’ she said, as they left the palace grounds. Excited, Robert sped ahead… just as King Jerald stepped out of the carriage and guards seized Edeline’s arms.

‘No sister, you will not be holding my son to ransom! I’ve known of your lover’s desire for my throne for some time and I’ve paid trusted retainers to become my eyes and ears. Besides, Robert chatters incessantly to our loyal old nurse…

‘Enjoy your adventure in my dungeon with your lover,’ he added, hoisting Robert onto his shoulders. ‘The rats will keep you company’.

Word Count: 174

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A Secret Shared – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a piece of fiction from the given photo prompt in around 75-150 words – give or take 25 words. If you’d like to join in with the challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Jade.M. Wong

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And this is my story:

A Secret Shared

The emir’s eyes narrowed against the dazzling glow of the diamond proffered on the palm held out before him; a jewel of such majesty it would stand preeminent in his collection. Muhammad’s wealth was as renowned as the might of his emirate.

And wealth had bought him that power.

Muhammad’s control was absolute: his executions struck terror in men’s hearts. Many attempted to gain his favour; only a few succeeded.

He pointed a long-nailed finger at the low-born cradling the diamond and curled it slowly back. ‘You found this gem in a cave, you say?’ he whispered, shielding his words from attendants’ ears.

‘Deep inside the cliffs, Eminence,’ Aasif whispered back, nodding. ‘Legends say countless more adorn the tunnels beyond, but my torch was burning low, so I ventured no further.’

Muhammad licked his greedy lips. ‘This cave’s whereabouts…?

Aasif duly replied and Muhammad gestured to his guards before whispering, ‘Reflect on the folly of sharing secrets with strangers before your execution at dawn. But be assured, Aasif, this secret is safe with me.’

Word Count: 174

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Golden-hued Days of Autumn – FFfAW

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

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Phylor.

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And this is my story:

Golden-hued Days of Autumn

The shed at the bottom of the garden was Marigold’s very favourite place, her retreat when others got her down. They simply didn’t understand her and her brother, Perkin, was forever on her case.

‘Why can’t you be like the rest of us and enjoy being who we are?’ he’d yelled, the last time they’d disagreed. ‘You always have to be different!’

Their intolerance upset Marigold because she really didn’t know why she was different. It wasn’t because she revered the beautiful Earth – all her people did that. So it must be because she’d enjoyed the company of mortals over the years.

The mellowing of summer’s radiance into the golden-hued days of autumn always left Marigold in pensive mood. It was hard to watch her human friends gradually age and die, whilst she and her kind enjoyed lives of eternal summertime.

She flapped her faery wings, hoping she’d meet them again one day. But until that time, she’d flutter round the garden and help the next generation of humans appreciate the glorious world around them.  

Word Count: 175

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Softie – FFfAW

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

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Louise at thestorytellersabode:

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And this is my story:

Softie

Twelve-year-old Charlie braced himself against the biting February wind, scouring the beach as he walked. Dad would wallop him if he didn’t find any coal washed up on the morning’s tide. Mum needed whatever he fetched to supplement the spindly sticks they collected.

The shiny object suddenly caught Charlie’s eye, just nestling amongst the colourful pebbles.

‘You’ve found it!’ a girlish voice squealed as he picked it up. ‘Mum was heartbroken when she lost it yesterday. She’s had it for twenty years. See, the date she got it’s on the back: nineteen fourteen. And you found it…’

Charlie scrutinised the expensive-looking watch. Dad’d be pleased to have it to sell – but furious if he learnt Charlie’d just given it away.

‘Finders keepers,’ he retorted. ‘That makes it mine!’

The girl’s tears flowed and he thrust her the watch. Dad had always called him ‘Softie’…

Eighty-two-year-old Alice laid the flowers on Charlie’s grave, fingering her mother’s watch. Memories of the day she’d met her Softie were never too far away, and she’d meet him again, very soon.

*

Word Count: 176

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My story about collecting lumps of coal on the beach may seem far-fetched to many people, but that’s just what many poor families had to do in earlier times. I was basing the story on my dad’s early life in the seaside town of Southport in Lancashire (a very sandy beach, with sand dunes – and not the pebbly beach in Louise’s photo, which I’ll leave her to talk about). He was born in 1922, and times were hard.

The coal would mostly have been carried down in the rivers from the Lancashire coalfield and out into the Irish Sea. The incoming tide would then wash some of it up onto the beach – where poor families made good use of it.

How Charlie and Alice met in this story was not how my mum and dad (Millie and Thomas) met. At the time when my dad was collecting coal on the beach, my mum was happily growing up eighteen miles away, in Liverpool – until the heavy bombing of that city during WW2 took her to Southport. My home town.

*****

Plenty of Open Space – FFfAW

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

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Louise at thestorytellersabode:

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And this is my story:

Plenty of Open Space

Bernie could never have enjoyed a life of affluence on what they paid him as a gardener, and he’d wanted much more in life than working on some lord’s estate. Looking back, he could see he’d set his sights too high. Tending gardens had been a peaceful job after all, and the fresh air and open space had been good for the soul.

Temptation had just got the better of him and he’d fallen in with the wrong crowd. The robbery had cost him ten years of his life, as well as the girl he’d planned to marry. He’d been on his own after that all right, with no hope of any job after his release.

‘Gov’nor wants t’ see you,’ the prison officer had said, throwing back the cell door. ‘He’s an offer for you…’

Bernie hoed round the flower beds, his memories of his years ‘inside’ fading. He was gardener at the Gov’s big house now, with a regular income and plenty of open space.

But his girl had long since gone.

*

Word Count: 175

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Refuge – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks that we write a piece of fiction from the photo prompt provided in around 100-150 words – give or take 25 words. If you’d like to join in with this challenge, follow the link above to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

This week’s prompt was kindly provided by T.J. Paris:

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And this is my story:

Refuge

Sure-footed as a cat, Edana led the villagers up the craggy slope, the pale glow from her lantern their only light in the darkness. Homesteads smouldered across the valley below, the legacy of ravaging armies bound for the citadel. And once the sun coloured the eastern skies, the slaughter would continue.

But the chieftain’s daughter had vowed to keep her people safe…

Screened by a rockfall, the entrance to her secret cave beckoned. Tielenth had promised to withdraw to the maze of tunnels behind and would only appear if she called. Whilst he was Edana’s protector, her people would flee from his terrible presence. For Tielenth was the Lord of Fire and could scour them from the Earth with his fiery breath.

Edana drew comfort in knowing that, should she ask, the great dragon would not hesitate in taking flight and annihilating the savage foe.

As she entered the cave the draught from the swishing tail as it vanished into the tunnels extinguished the tiny lantern flame.

It would be a long, dark night.

*

Word Count: 174

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A Really Good Listener – Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

Flash Fiction for for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a piece of fiction from the photo prompt provided in around 100-150 words – give or take 25 words. It encourages us to comment, constructively, on other entries, so supporting each other’s writing. If you’d like to join in with this challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

This is the prompt, kindly provided by my daughter, Louise, at thestorytellersabode:

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And this is my story:

A Really Good Listener

‘You know, Stanley, it’s no fun living with a man who takes me for granted and never listens to a word I say. He’s really selfish, when I think about it.’

Glum-faced, Melanie leaned against the gate beside her friend, considering how miserable she’d been since Jack moved into her flat. ‘He never wants to go anywhere, even at weekends, says he’s too tired after working all week. Cobblers to that! I work all week, too, and have all the housework to do. Jack doesn’t even help with that. He just sits in front of the telly, waiting for his meals. And don’t get me started about the washing up.’

Feeling more positive than she’d done for months, Melanie made to leave. ‘Thanks for being a good listener, Stanley. This little chat’s helped me make my mind up. Jack can pack his bags tonight.’

Stanley the Scarecrow watched Melanie stomp off down the lane. Yes, he was a good listener. He’d be a good talker, too, if someone had thought to give him a mouth.

Word Count: 175

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That Goddam Portal – Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

Flash Fiction for for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a piece of fiction from the photo prompt provided in around 100-150 words – give or take 25 words. It encourages us to comment, constructively, on other entries, so supporting each other’s writing. If you’d like to join in with this challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

I must apologise for my late entry this week, PJ. (I’ve been very busy eating my Easter eggs. 😀 )

This is the prompt, kindly provided by Uday on his blog, Udayology.

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. . . and this is my story:

That Goddam Portal

‘Two minutes, guys, and yer butts are through that goddam portal!’

Sam Blake surveyed his white-faced crew. ‘If y’ain’t quick enough, yer’ ll be left to face them mean critters following us.’

Billy Briggs, the newest and smallest crewman, glanced at his nodding mates: fifteen of them, all desperate to leave this hostile world. The thought of staying here was too terrible to contemplate.

‘Quit that pushin’ and a shovin’, Billy,’ Commander Blake hissed. ‘No one moves till I give the signal.’

The loud whistle sent the group hurtling for the circular doors. Unaccustomed to the procedure, Billy was thrust aside, only managing to stumble to the portal as it swung shut in his face. He turned, horror-struck at the words he heard:

‘Thought yer’d run off with them skiving kids, did yer m’ lad? There’s yer bedroom ter clean, and yer pa wants ‘is car washin’.  Get back t’ yer chores . . .  Now!’

Billy silently cursed. Next time, he’d be first through that goddam portal!

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Word Count: 169

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A Hundred Year Wait – Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

Flash Fiction for for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a piece of fiction from the photo prompt provided in around 100-150 words – give or take 25 words. It encourages us to comment, constructively, on other entries, so supporting each other’s writing. If you’d like to join in with this challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

This is the prompt, kindly provided by Ady . . .

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. . . and this is my story:

A Hundred Year Wait

Light-headed and disoriented, Albert drifted through the park he’d once known so well, struggling to understand why he was here at all. The colourful bench confused him further, posturing shamelessly where the old one had once reigned. He’d sat here so often with his pretty young wife . . .

‘Don’t go!’ Mary begged, grasping his hand. ‘We’ll run away… go to Scotland. They’d never find us there!’  But they would have done, and he’d have been shot at dawn . . .

The shrill whistle pierced Alfred to the core. He clasped his bayoneted rifle, scrambling ‘over the top’ of the trench’s parapet into No Man’s Land below. Enemy shells exploded; a volley of machine gun fire rang out: men fell to the quagmire’s embrace.

Albert sank into the comforting mud, knowing he’d never see Mary again. The Somme Offensive had claimed him: July 1st, 1916 . . .

A shadowy shape materialised on the bench. ‘Sit with me,’ Mary urged, beckoning. ‘I’ve waited a hundred years to see you, my love. I knew you’d return today.’

*

Word Count: 175

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Note about WW1:

July 28th, 2016 marks one hundred and two years since the start of the war that was once dubbed ‘the war to end all wars’. Unfortunately, too may wars since then has long since proven that to be false. In Britain, the war was originally known as ‘The Great War’, but is now variously called  ‘The First World War’ or simply ‘World War One’ (or WW1).

War started in 1914, and word soon spread that it would ‘all be over by Christmas’. Such optimism was soon found to be erroneous: it lasted four long years.

The Battle of the Somme – also known as the Somme Offensive  was fought by British and French troups against the German Empire on either side of the River Somme, in France. It lasted from July 1st – November 18th, 1916, and was one of the longest battles of the First World War. More that a million men were wounded or killed. It has become known as one of the ‘bloodiest battles in human history’. On the first day alone, (July1st) 58, 786 British, 49,859 French and 103,000 German soldiers died.

There are too many aspests of trench warfare for me to talk about here – and this is not a post to explain why trenches were dug and used as they were.  Anyone interested can easily look this up for themselves. All I can say is that I agree with Wikipedia’s estimation of it:

Trench warfare is associated with mass slaughter in appalling conditions‘.

No Man’s Land was the name given to the land between the trenches of the opposing forces. It soon became a desolate area: all trees and other vegetation were destroyed by the  constant bombardment:

A French trench in NE France. Author: Bain News service. Public Domain.
A French trench in NE France. Author: Bain News service. Public Domain.

The shell fire of both sides left the area riddled with craters which, after periods of heavy rain, became filled with water. The land came to resemble a quagmire – a stretch of thick, muddy land that resembled a bog:

Stretcher bearers at the Battle of Passchendale. August 1917. Author: John Warwick Brooke. Public Domain.
Stretcher bearers at the Battle of Passchendale. August 1917. Author: John Warwick Brooke. Public Domain.