Tuesday, 22 November 2011

F3 - Cycle 57 - '57 Ways To Leave Your Lover'

F3 (Flash Fiction Friday) has, apparently, had 57 different flash fiction challenges! I haven't been able to contribute to all of them but I couldn't miss this week's cue: a tale involving ketchup, courtesy of the association of the number '57' with a well known producer of said, rosey-toned condiment!

Anyway, the challenge was for a 1,000-word (max.) tale where ketchup was involved. Clocking in at exactly 1,000 (following some judicious pruning!) here's my offering for you to savour! And if you'd like to comment, that would be most appreciated :-)

57 Ways To Leave Your Lover

It started with a silly argument, as most great conflicts often do. A simple slight, a perceived lack of value, an unkind word; but really – had this all come to pass over a bottle of ketchup?

Myra looked at the empty side of the bed. It lay cold and uninviting, the covers still in place where she had smoothed them back, the pillow still plump and pristine, devoid of the rumpled hollow where his head should have lain.

Sitting up, knees drawn forward she rested back against the headboard, cradling the cup of warmth in her hand and sipped at her early morning tea. Dawn was still far off and night lingered, unending and sleepless. Her head ached, not a crashing pain but the tension of an oppressive compression as if her skull was trapped in a vice that insidious demons were slowly but surely tightening with each turn of the screw.

She closed her eyes and thought back to a few hours earlier, when her world was so different; blemished and a little out of kilter maybe, but going according to plan.

Daniel had been singing in the shower, off key as always but he knew all the words; Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan would be proud of this ‘modern major general’! She’d encouraged him to find something to do outside the home although she’d been a little surprised when he’d joined the local operatic society.

Downstairs, Myra had cooked his breakfast, a ‘full English’; a weekend treat, even though weekends didn’t really exist for them anymore. A week ‘end’ implied the end of a week of work, a time for rest and relaxation. Since Daniel had lost his job months ago, the days had rolled one into the other. Myra’s part-time job at the dental practice had helped but there was a big discrepancy between her meagre earnings and the bills that fell through the letter box with alarming frequency.

The usual morning pleasantries as he’d sat down at the kitchen table gave no hint of the furore which was to follow. She'd finished ladling out sausages, bacon and eggs on to the plate and set it down before him.

“Where’s the ketchup?” he'd asked, a little curtly, without even a simple word of thanks for the fact that Myra had risen early and cooked him a wonderful breakfast. She'd picked up the bottle, not six inches from his plate and set it in front of him.

Daniel had picked it up with his fingertips and peered at it as if examining something crude and distasteful.

“What is this?” he'd said slowly.

“Ketchup”, she'd replied.

“No, this is tomato sauce. Where’s the ketchup?”

She'd looked at the offending article he’d replaced on the table, then pushed away as if to distance himself from something unpleasant. The chubby plastic bottle with its white flip-top stood desultory and disregarded. True, it bore a different label from his favoured variety and it wasn’t the usual slender glass receptacle with its customary white screw cap but the contents were the same, mostly. It was red and it tasted of tomatoes at any rate. It was also a lot cheaper and in their current financial state it represented a valued economic cut to the weekly food bill.

The tantrum that ensued had taken Myra quite by surprise. As Daniel had leapt to his feet, knocking his chair to the ground, she’d watched in disbelief as he swept aside his plate, accompanied by a tirade about her rubbing in the fact that he could no longer provide the standard of living they had once enjoyed and oh, how much she must enjoy seeing him reduced to seeking state benefits.

As he stormed out of the room she’d watched the congealed mess of egg yolk slowly making it’s way down the wall accompanied by greasy smears left by the bacon and sausages until it reached the mess of broken crockery lying on the floor.

She’d still been considering what had just happened when she’d heard the defiant stomping footsteps coming down the stairs and the echoing slam of the front door which announced Daniel’s departure.

That had been yesterday morning. Now, the house was curiously still and quiet; peaceful in a way that had not been the norm for quite a while. Myra had to confess, as the warmth of the tea bathed her belly in a sea of contentment, that she was really rather relieved he’d gone.

After months of speculation, she’d discovered the real reason for Daniel’s extra evenings out ‘rehearsing’ with the chorale society. Her name was Deanna and she sang soprano. Although Daniel was not the world’s best singer he was blessed with an impressive skill on the piano and spent hours as repetiteur, while the society rehearsed and refined their performance for the forthcoming production of ‘The Pirates of Penzance’.

For Myra, it had explained a lot of things, including the frequent times she’d ‘interrupted’ him answering yet another call about a last minute 'rehearsal' and the distance that had grown into a no-man’s-land between them in bed. This had apparently not been anything to do with his diminishing role as provider, as he’d intimated.

Now, as she surveyed the half empty wardrobe devoid of the bag full of clothes Daniel had taken, Myra was only a little disconsolate to realise that the ‘special’ breakfast over which she’d taken great pains had ended up in the garbage bin. She would have liked to have seen Daniel doubled up in agony on the toilet as the massive dose of laxatives she’d stirred into his coffee would have eventually taken effect. It had been only number one on her list of acts of retribution for his betrayal.

How odd that a simple matter of budget cutting, instead, would rid her of Daniel’s treachery. There must be 57 ways to leave your lover, she hummed to herself, smirking that Paul Simon would now be forever linked in her imagination to a bottle of sauce.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Bedside Books

We have so many books (SO MANY BOOKS!) in our house that it makes going to the library a liability. Yet, I will still frequent said book repository because, as the saying goes: 'use it, or lose it' and I still have former colleagues and acquaintances there clinging onto their jobs by the skin of their teeth, thanks to budget cuts!

However, there are still a good many un-read books awaiting my attention at home - the picture above gives a selection on my bedside table (this was culled recently and all the 'read' ones returned to their homes on the bookshelves.....
....just a few of the books....and bottles of beer! There's bookcases and shelves in every
room but this makes good use of the 'dead space' on the turn of the stairs)

But, back to the title of this post - currently I'm reading Simon Kernick's 'The Last 10 Seconds' and reacquainting myself with some of the recurring character's in Mr Kernick's books, in this case DI Tina Boyd. I'm only a few chapters in but I'm already relaxing back into Kernick's style of writing and enjoying that 'come hither' twist with which he frequently ends his scenes - it's a struggle to close the book and put out the light!

Stacked up at the back are the next in the pile - top, Pam Jennoff's 'The Officer's Lover'; John Nichol's 'Exclusion Zone' and Peter James' 'Not Dead Enough'.

I've read some of Pam Jennoff's other books and loved the time frame (WW2 and following) but this one 'The Officers's Lover' (also known as 'Almost Home') is set more in the Cold War era - we'll see how that goes.

Former RAF pilot John Nichol's 'Exclusion Zone' has bite and grit and his real-life insight as a former POW carries a lot of punch. I've read this before but I'm looking forward to it again.

Peter James' 'Not Dead Enough' will be a delight - renewing my acquaintance with DS Roy Grace. I've read others in this series (all have the word 'Dead' in the title!) but not in sequence. (I don't always have the discipline to read chronologically and if I see a newer title I'll buy it and stuff the sequential reading. Keeps you on your toes when plot lines straddle books, but then there's that 'Oh, NOW I understand' moment when regressive reading pulls everything into focus!)

So, there you have it.....oh, yes, that one poking out from underneath 'The Last 10 Seconds'? Well, that's me paying lip-service to 'chick-lit' - Gil McNeil's 'Needles & Pearls', the sequel to 'Diva's Don't knit'. I picked both books up in a secondhand bookshop in Hay-On-Wye and have to confess I thought it would be mindless reading, the equivalent of a cosy cup of hot chocolate before bed - but, I found myself wanting to know what happened to Jo McKenzie and her eclectic happenings when she takes on a wool shop and moves her now fatherless sons to the seaside....

Friday, 11 November 2011

Lest We Forget

Every Friday, Lily Childs launches a weekly writing challenge using three words she selects at random; participants are invited to create prose or poetry up to a wordcount of 100.

This time last year the word-prompts were: Admonish, Percussion, and Belong. They inspired a piece of free verse that focuses more on WW1, but I hope you'll forgive me reprising it here, on this special day, as a tribute to ALL the fallen.



Admonished by those who thought themselves their betters.

Seeking a last breath of freedom from their squalid trench they rose,

Sacrificing themselves to shrill whistles and cries

And then the staccato percussion that charted their rapid demise as over the top they went,
Pouring like ants from a nest,

Seeing a new horizon, briefly, before lead and shrapnel marked their bodies,
In daubs of crimson.

Now, here, in fields to which only the valiant can belong,
Remain those daubs of poppy-red
Fluttering in the breeze.

Remembrances to the long-ago dead.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Three 'R's - not!

Recalling the old adage of basic education being the three 'R's (Reading, (W)riting & (A)rithmetic) I have to say that I can't live without the first two - and for the third - God bless the inventor of the calculator!

Lately, life has been topsy-turvy and any notion of regular reading and writing has gone out of my head. Also the length seems to have been coming in bite-size chunks, taken as and when a lull in the hostilities of everyday life allows!

NaNoWriMo arrived at breakneck speed and passed me by - alas, maybe next year I will get my act together!

Even the weekly 'Thursday@3' slot has lain vacant for a few weeks, despite my best intentions. That is not to say I haven't been writing - just that it's all in my head rather on paper or a screen at the moment.

One thing I've come across recently is Every Day Fiction which delivers flash fiction to your email address - bite-sized chunks to go with a cup of coffee or to peruse over your lunch break. I've enjoyed the work of new/unfamiliar authors and there's a delight in not knowing exactly what you'll find in the daily mail-out!

So, perhaps this will sustain me until (maybe even 'if'?) the muse strikes again!