(900 words) Can you imagine a world without colour? Dull, monotonous, and depressing are words that come to mind. I’d been a councillor for the past ten years, though my husband, Eric, hadn’t approved. “Why concern yourself with other people’s problems, don’t you have enough of your own, and what about me and the kids?” Well, actually, I did have problems, Eric had problems, our kids Sonny and Kara had problems, but they were nothing, and I mean nothing, compared to the problems of people I dealt with through my social services work. How can you compare not having enough space for a pool table to someone with cancer, their kids addicted to heroin, being evicted from their grotty flat and being confined to a wheelchair? Now, that was a problem!
(900 words) - “You’ve got thirty seconds to explain to me what you’re doing here,” Rebecca Anniston said, staring in disbelief at the man in the sample lab. It was a secure area, no one should be here, let alone a scruffy, bearded man with a long multi-coloured scarf around his neck. “Or I’ll call security.” She pulled a paging device from her pocket. “Now steady on, lass, steady on.” The man’s face lit up with a beam. “Maybe I’m here to help you.”
(900 words) “You got a minute, Eunice?” It was Beryl, the boss’s secretary. “Sure.” Eunice relaxed, looking at the clock and noting it was only ten minutes till lunchtime. “What’s on your mind, hun?” Beryl was a sweetie, no mistake, and Eunice always had time for her. Beryl smoothed her olive-green linen skirt down over her hips and took a seat. She looked around to make sure no one in the sparsely populated office was within earshot. “Look, it’s Vashti.” Eunice felt shocked. Vashti seemed a quiet, kind type. “Why, what’s up?” Beryl blushed. “Look, nothing’s wrong, it’s just … it’s just…” “C’mon, spit it out, hun.” “Well, it’s just … it’s just,” Beryl lowered her voice, “Vashti’s building something in our backyard, something … huge.”
(900 words) The day my life changed was the day the lives of everyone changed. Finally, there was irrefutable, cast-iron evidence of extra-terrestrial civilisation. Evidence that couldn’t be fobbed off by governments as weather balloons, Venus, hallucination or just being plain drunk. But for me it was different. There I’d been, watching the whole shebang from my weightless viewpoint, floating around the International Space Station or ISS. “Hey, Jabez, there it is. I’ve got it on the viewing screen!” astronaut Vladimir Chekhov exclaimed. “Wow. Let’s have a look.” There, on our wall-to-wall cinema was a tiny pinprick of light, still tens of thousands of miles away but, without doubt, on its way to good ‘ol Planet Earth.
(900 words) Resemblance to a schoolmaster gone for the moment, Dad would appear, jaunty, as if holding a big secret, which in a way I suppose he was. “Listen, children” – he never called us ‘kids,’ they were for goats, apparently. “We’re going to grandma’s next week.” My sister, Helen, brother Steven, and I would … Continue reading Learning the Alphabet: A Memoir
My wife, Coral, had become rather ‘tubby,’ to put it kindly, fat to put it less so, since the birth of our first child, Crispin, so I was pleased that after the Christmas festivities were over she began to take herself in hand. She’d leave little Crispin asleep with me or the babysitter to take an occasional walk, spurred on by the GetFit watch her mother had given her for Christmas.
She wore khaki shorts and short ankle socks with brown leather boots, the old-fashioned kind. I noticed her breasts were small and hard from the petite lumps they made in the drab grey and olive-green T-shirts she wore. She walked with long strides of her slim, tanned legs, reminding me of a giraffe. There was something mysterious about her. “She has stars in her eyes, Phil,” said Tom, “and she has a sadness about her, I don’t know why, she doesn’t say much.”
“Where’s Tom and Sally?” I asked her.
Ilka kept her eye on the path, looking straight ahead. “Sally’s got diarrhoea. Tom’s staying with her at the Gite d'Etape. A couple of guys from the mule team will pick them up later.” She spoke softly, with an accent I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps Swedish or Norwegian?
“I’m sorry to hear that. Food hygiene is rubbish here, isn’t it?”
Ilka didn’t reply. She just kept walking with those long, tanned strides. I walked alongside, hoping she wouldn’t mind.
The door opened and Sue came in, carrying a basket of eggs. She pecked me on the cheek, put the eggs on a worn oak table and plumped herself down in an old armchair. “Well, I just had an interesting chat with Mavis in the shop.”
“Yes, she said she was surprised not to have seen us at the service on Sunday.”
“Why? We’re not religious.”
“Yes, I told her that but she said the rest of the village was there and we were 'conspicuous by our absence'.”
“Bloody hell, so now I’ve got to go praying to keep in with Clay Hill, have I?”
Sue sighed. “Look, darling, it’ll only be once a week. Sing a few hymns, smile at people and we’ll be out in an hour. Anyway, Reverend Phillips has invited us to dinner tomorrow night.”
“I’m playing darts with Tom tomorrow.”
“Not anymore you’re not.”
The room blurred into focus and I could see a short, fat, brown nurse looking at me curiously.
“Is it that bad?” I asked.
She tried to smile but failed. “Many burns patients make good recovery from facial disfigurement,” she said.
She patted my hand. “We’ll look after you, don’t worry.”
It was easy to ignore a down-and-out, someone who represents a world you don’t want to know about, when you were streaming past with other cinema-goers. Not so easy now the streets hereabouts were empty and there were just the two of us and the poor soul under the bridge, sitting staring into space in the chill October air. I walked over to the canal that ran beside the path and gazed into the black water, wondering if anything was alive in that strange, dark, oil-polluted world. Far off, the clock in the town square struck the chime for a quarter to eleven.
Suddenly I heard a scream.
“Word of advice, young lady.”
Shannon Morris pulled a face. “What, Dad?”
“When Granddad tells you it’s time for bed, it’s time for bed, d’you understand?”
“Oh God, they go to bed so early. Granddad thinks half past nine is late!”
“Look, they’re good enough to look after you for two weeks. Feed you, wash your clothes, drive you into town; the least you can do is show them some respect. D’you hear me, young lady. Hey …”
But she was already heading for her bedroom.
“Death, I am not keen on, overmuchly,” said Donut Dave, turning a funny shade of yellow.
“Well, I’m only passin’ on what I heard last night at Max’s,” I said. “Seems Big Cyril and da boys is out lookin’ for you. On account of you visitin’ Missy Cymbeline Banks, Cyril’s best gal.”
“Sure, I seen her, but only to measure her up for a trombone, says she wants to learn in secret like, give Cyril and the boys a big surprise at the club one night.”
Donut was a hot jazz piano player, so I guessed there was some truth in his story. “Well, the way I hear it, Cyril’s gotta surprise in mind for you, he’s gonna be measurin’ you up – for a pair of concrete pyjamas!”
There was a knock on the door and Donut looked around frantically for somewhere to hide.