It was twelve minutes past one the day Sadie ran out of words. A Monday she recalled, just after lunch. She’d retreated to the arbour to the east of the garden, the sunlight drizzling in through the vine leaves, the insipid summer heat dissipated by the shade.
Lunch itself had been an unremarkable affair, the legs of the iron-wrought table playing a tuneless melody as the wrap was assembled. Tortilla, lettuce, avocado, parmesan, a couple of drooping slabs of tomato. They angered her, those tomatoes which had lost their lustre, their brightness. What right did they have to give up?
The conversation turned to the usual, the usual, the usual. When would it end? Mid-sentence, his, not hers, Sadie stood up, the chair scraping harshly against the rough patio stones. A surprised ‘where are you going’ drifted after her, the words floating on the hot haze, trying to follow her to the cooling seat.
It was there, as her body sunk into the pebbledash pattern cushion that she ran out of words. She tried to call out an answer to the question still hanging in the air. Like a guppy her lips puckered and pursed, air expelled with the tiniest of breaths, barely audible. Was there a hint of a whimper on the exhalations? Was there a hint of life even?
Sadie tried, again and again, her lips increasingly an inanimate part of her body, lifeless, detached. They moved like her daughter’s play dough, malleable enough, formed into the required shape, yet failed to fulfil their purpose. She tried another formation, a big round ‘O’, the attempt foiled by utter silence. Her eyes copied the shape, a wild, agog expression fastening upon her face; a rigidity trickling down her body.
Was this it? The day that had haunted her since childhood. The day she ran out of words.
Memories play a pivotal role in all our lives, and in one piece of writing, I let my consciousness take a back-seat as I explored my own past. I’m delighted to share ‘I Remember’ as it is featured on Sally Cronin’s inspired ‘Posts from Your Archives’ series. I’ve turned comments off here and look forward to seeing you on Sally’s blog!
Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives in 2020 and if you would like to participate with two of your posts from 2019, you will find all the details in this post:New series of Posts from Your Archives 2020
This is the first post by author Annika Perry and I am sure as you read, memories of your own from your childhood and teenage years will resurface and be enjoyed…
I remember the splash of the waves against the side of my grandfather’s wooden boat, my brother standing proudly by the mast.
I remember sitting in the back, snuggled like a chick under my mother’s arms, the sea salt and my long blond ponytail lashing my cheeks.
I remember being passed to land like a bag of sugar, an exulted terrified scream then the freedom of the warm rocks beneath my feet. Away…
It was a grisly sight first thing that morning. The garrotted dove lay lifeless on the lawn, a storm of feathers upon the dull green grass. Bright red blood seeped out of the neck wound, the purity of white blemished by death.
Near to its kill, the raptor looked on with an expression of huffed up pride and indignation. Not one to usually brave suburban gardens, this enclosed haven with its regular visitors of peace proved too irresistible for the falcon. What could go wrong?
Earlier, replete after eating fallen sunflower seeds, the doves ambled leisurely, without care, along their promenade route, bidding each other a quiet good morrow. Then the raptor struck. It was almost too easy. Yet, he had not taken into account the witness. Loud urgent slams on the glass followed. These he nonchalantly ignored. The raptor loomed over the stricken dove and gripped its corpse tightly in its talons.
Crash! A door was violently flung open. An angry shout. Then a pneumatic drill of curses. The raptor would never relent. Until a sudden flurry of towels as the human windmill careered towards him.
Anna hadn’t noticed the time slipping away as she worked in the library. Engrossed in her study of anatomy, books covered every surface of the desk, some lying on top of each other at an angle, others closed with scraps of paper marking various sections.
the alarm rang, and a flurry of activity stirred Anna from her studies.
minutes until closing everyone. Ten minutes. Please bring any books to the desk
if you need to check them out.’ The librarian headed to another room repeating
had the three hours gone? Quickly Anna slammed the books shut and dashed around
the library returning a couple to the shelves. The remaining three she lifted
into the crook of her arm and after putting her papers and ink pen into her
satchel she headed for the desk.
you are, dear. Better fasten up your coat, it’s a blustery night out there,’
said the librarian, recognising the diligent student from the past few weeks.
‘You’ll take the tram back, won’t you? Don’t get caught out in the rain.’
Anna nodded briefly, whispered a quiet ‘thank you’ before grabbing her books. She found it hard to talk to strangers and the warmth and kindness of the librarian only made her miss home more. There she never had a moment to herself apart from her brief solitary outings on the rocks, here loneliness engulfed her.
‘Goodbye. Have a good weekend,’ called the librarian.
too,’ replied Anna with clarity and determination. ‘I wish you a lovely weekend
too.’ There, she could do it. Everything would be fine.
The librarian had not been exaggerating about the weather as outside the wind whipped around Anna, sweeping her coat around her legs and rain spiked at her face. Undecided she stopped at the corner. To the left was the tram stop but she barely had any money and perhaps the girls might invite her out to a cafe with them tomorrow afternoon. She didn’t want to back out through lack of funds. To her right lay the shortcut to the school; only a kilometre, all along the streets. With a determined spin Anna turned and marched off down the road.
lights were further apart than she recalled and as the temperature dropped mist
formed on the ground and drifted around her ankles as she walked. Her feet
scuffed the pavement and with a stumble she corrected herself, the books precariously
balanced in her arms.
‘Not long now,’ Anna said to herself as she started to hum one of her mother’s lullabies. The fog became denser, the lights from the lamps dissipating until only distant balls of yellow hung ominously in the air. Where was everyone? Shouldn’t they all be going out to the cafes and bars? Of course, she realised, that was the opposite direction. Here there were only a few houses in the distance and to the left a park; she’d forgotten about that. She tried to peer through the murk into the park, to the lake she knew lay in the middle but saw nothing. Just blackness.
Anna walked faster, her shoes trilling along on the pavement, her breathing faster. Behind her she heard some steps. Loud and heavy. No, this was silly, she was imagining it. The steps sounded closer now and with a shock she started to run, the books flying in her wake, her satchel dropped to the ground.
Suddenly an arm violently grabbed her around the waist and started to pull her towards the park. Anna screamed and instinctively reached out to the black iron wrought railings at the park entrance. She must never let go.
man had both arms around her waist, tugging, squeezing hard as he tried to drag
her from the railings. Anna screamed and screamed. She couldn’t stop. Her shrieks pierced the air. His
hands were over one of hers, trying to prise her fingers from their grip. She
held on – just. All the time screeching for help. A feral animalistic wordless
cry of sheer terror.
His fingers clawed at her fingertips and with another scream she finally let go. Her other hand remained clutched to the railing. The man released his hold for a fraction, Anna hoped for a second, he would leave her. In vain as she saw his arm rise and he threw a sharp punch in her stomach. Silence collapsed around them. Anna fell forward, her head slumping onto her knees, the man’s arms quickly around her and lifting her up. Like a rag doll she hung for a moment in his grasp. Limp. Lost.
going on here? Let her go!’ The voice came from across the street and more
shouts joined this first one. Footsteps echoed in the silence of the fog. ‘Let
her go! Let her GO!’ On their command Anna was dropped to the ground like
discarded rubbish and with a thud she hit the ground, landing on her side and
rolling into a ball.
you alright?’ Tightly curled up, she lay unmoving.
did he go?’
go and call the police, you stay with her.’
disembodied voices hung around her. Anna felt a lady sit on the ground next to
her, talking, saying something; the words remote and distant. Indecipherable. A
jacket was bunched as a pillow beneath her head.
‘Mamma, Mamma,’ moaned Anna
’She’s trying to speak. I can’t make it out. Can anyone give me their coats? Any blankets, anything. She’s shaking terribly. God, look, this is bad, I can’t stop her shaking.’
found her bag. And some books were scattered just a bit away from here.’
‘What’s your name? Where do you live? Listen, we need to call someone.’
voice was becoming more emphatic, increasingly desperate.
recognise the uniform. It’s Hellsson School – I’ll give them a call. I’ll be
back in a moment.’
Hellsson School? Why did that sound familiar, wondered Anna. She was sure she’d heard of it before. Who were all these strangers and why wasn’t she lying in bed? With that thought she closed her eyes and found welcome oblivion.
I was inspired to write J for … Jameson after reading an entry in Mslexia magazine for their regular ‘L is For…’ competition where a piece of creative non-fiction writing is inspired by a single alphabet prompt. Although my story is fundamentally non-fiction, elements within are tweaked to fiction and as a result I doubt I will be submitting this one but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the challenge, particularly the exacting and creative re-write and edit to be within the 300 words limit.
It’s been a wonderfully inspiring morning! Whilst preparing breakfasts, packed lunch, loading the washing machine I had the joy and honour of listening to the winning entries of this year’s BBC 500 Words short-story writing competition for children. The finale of the contest, which saw over a staggering 135,000 entries, was held at Hampton Court Palace and the Honorary judge was Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall.
The ability and inventiveness of the children in their stories is astonishing. Their creativity, lyricism and themes were both heart-warming and funny. The Gold Winners in the 5-9 age category and the 10-13 age category were both stories I’d read from the short-list; both enthralling, very different but brilliantly written stories. These youngsters have so much to teach us all. Below is the winning entry for the 10 – 13 age group. Enjoy.
Dancing on the Streets by Sadhbh Inman
Tai ya tai hi
Tai ya tai hi…
On a noisy, dusty road, a child’s bare brown feet are hardly noticed as she weaves in and out of the traffic, dodging cattle and halting at taxis. She presses her nose against the windows of vehicles carrying crowds of tourists. “Tissues ma’am, tissues sir, only ten rupees for a box”. Sita is small for a seven year old, but then seven year olds from the slums in Ahmedabad are often smaller than other children.
Tai ya tai hi
Tai ya tai hi…
The Bharata Natyam rhythm encourages her to dance, from car to lorry, lorry to rickshaw. On Sita’s tiny face a smile begins to form. She is so engrossed in the rhythm that she never misses a beat. A lady in a rickshaw spots her quick-footed movements and starts rummaging through her purse to find twenty rupees, “ten rupees for the tissues and ten for your dancing”.
Tai ya tai hi
Tai ya tai hi…
Sita is delighted about receiving that much money, and dances off to the tailor’s to get her Bharata Natyam dress made and her dream fulfilled. The tailor’s fingers work quickly with the silky, emerald fabric. The gleaming needle punctures the soft cotton cloth, creating neat rows of stitches. Sita watches as the dress is completed. Sita takes the dress, her eyes wide with excitement, her mouth open in anticipation. “That’s one hundred rupees child” the tailor says kindly. Sita carefully unfolds the notes she has been saving for over a year and with a hopeful sigh, hands them over.
“I’ll have that!” a voice booms. Sita stands, her back to the stranger. She strongly smells rum. “Oh! It can’t be” she murmurs. A dark shadow and fiery breath indicate his presence…”Uncle!” His eyes narrow menacingly, sending a shiver down Sita’s spine. “I’ll have that!” he booms again. Uncle takes the money off Sita. He turns around and slams the door behind him.
Sita knows it will be the end of her happiness. It feels like a part of her body is gone, fatally gone forever. Sita also knows that she should have given the money to Uncle, but it didn’t seem fair that he sent her to get money, to make him a rich man.
Tai ya tai hi
Tai ya tai hi…
On a noisy, dusty road, a child’s bare brown feet are hardly noticed as she weaves in and out of the traffic, dodging cattle and halting at taxis.
“Tissues ma’am, tissues sir …only ten rupees for a box”.
The 500 Words short-story writing competition for children contest started eight years ago and was originally created by Chris Evans, a Radio 2 presenter, and supported by the BBC, as well as this year by Oxford University Press and a multitude of volunteer readers. It is a competition that fosters not only the love of reading, but as evident here, the absolute joy of imagination and writing! To listen and read to all or some of the top 50 entries in both categories click here.
This was Jensen’s tenth hat in as many weeks. The first, a cranberry felt Fedora lasted only a few days, before being replaced by a grey knit Beanie. He’d learnt a new word that time … Beanie and it had looked as inane as he’d imagined, even after he’d cut off the wobbly black bobble. His two ears refused to be tethered beneath its soft surface. Like two aircraft landing light beacons his ears poked out from beneath every imaginable hat.
Jensen had high hopes for the dark blue navy trilby with a feather tucked into its suave red band. His expectations were of course in vain. The tweed flat cap was anything but fashionable on his pathetic head. It rested neatly on the top, “a perfect fit”, the shop-keeper declared. What he did not say, did not need to mention were the ears, coming up and over the cap, stroking its sides. Nothing would hide these atrocities.
“Buggerlugs!” they’d yelled at him at school. All those years ago. He’d tried to laugh along … at first. He’d even tried to take the daily abuse as a joke but failed as the non-stop flicking of his ears dragged on relentlessly for three long years. Every month his grotesque ears seemed to sprout further from his head. The fourth year offered respite as a new and younger pupil started school, a new ‘Buggerlugs’ for his tormentors to feed off.
Jensen thought it was all over these last thirty years, that the school days were filed away in a remote recess in his brain, never to be accessed again. Until the luncheon at The Ivy eleven weeks ago. With his usual Moss Bros striped shirt and his long grey trousers he’d walked proudly into the coveted restaurant. The bar at the centre gleamed and glistened, the stained glass windows lent a mystical reverential aura to the meeting with his agent. Relaxed they’d chatted away until he spotted Slater. Two years his senior at school, an expert at delivering taunts and injury, Slater now sat at the next table. Jensen continued to sip his whisky, taking in the grown man that had been his persecutor. Dapper in a navy striped suit, Slater’s hands swung back and forth as his procrastinated with vigour and brashness. Slowly sinking into his chair, drink clutched tightly in both hands, Jensen hoped Slater would not spot him. No such luck, as with a curt nod, his adversary mouthed a greeting. Surely it couldn’t be! He couldn’t have said it! “Buggerlugs!”
Eleven weeks since the fateful meeting and the eleventh hat. Jameson whisky had become Jensen’s best friend and his head was reduced to a fug of memories. With shaking hands he reached for his most recent acquisition. So many had been discarded in disgust as they proved mediocre for their main purpose – to hide his blasted ears! A baseball cap was quickly disregarded, the beautiful cream coloured Panama hat had been sent flying across the room. The straw hat held such promise of summer days on the canal, however once in place it not only accentuated his ears but his shiny forehead too.
This last purchase was perfect, Jensen was sure of it! The tweed deer-stalker, as worn by the infamous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, had adjustable earflaps … no need for his ears to be visible in public ever again! It was the only answer he felt, apart from taping down the abominations on the side of his head. He’d tried that once when young but the beggars refused to be tamed and flamboyantly sprung up and out for inspection.
“Sir looks fine in this,” insisted the shop-keeper.
Jensen checked in the mirror again. What a lying…
“Jensen? It’s you, isn’t it?”
Slater, shifting warily from one foot to the next, stopped in front of Jensen. Slater was no longer so dapper, his shirt partially out his trousers, his hands clenched nervously.
“I never forget what we did to you. I tried to tell you there, at The Ivy, when you rushed out. So Sorry! For Sorry! I deeply regret our, my behaviour…”
Jensen smiled, then waved imperiously as if swatting away an annoying bug. With a small push and shove with his shoulder against Slater, Jensen walked to the shop counter. With a ‘harrumph’ he sent his latest hat flying onto the wooden surface, calling out at the same time to the shop-keeper.
“I’ll no longer need this one. Nor the others. I’ll return them promptly and expect an immediate refund. No more hats for me!”
I consider myself lucky to have known Christy Birmingham since my early days on WordPress and have followed her blog ‘When Women Inspire’ with keen interest. As the title suggests, Christy’s aim of her blog is ‘to showcasing the efforts of women around the world to change the world in positive ways’. Wow!! She succeeds brilliantly and her posts are always inspiring, informative and thought-provoking.
Imagine then my delight to be invited to write a guest post about the inspiration behind my book ‘The Storyteller Speaks’! I’d hardly emailed her my enthusiastic yes and thank you before I started to write the post…read on to find out more.
For this time I’ve turned off comments here and look forward to continuing the chat over on Christy’s blog.
Please join me in welcoming author Annika Perry to the blog today. I have known her for years now and always enjoy her uplifting blog posts. Now she has published a collection of poems, short stories, and flash fiction pieces into “The Storyteller Speaks: Powerful Stories to Win Your Heart”!
Upon hearing this news, I immediately asked Annika to come over to chat about the inspiration behind writing this book. She kindly accepted. And, you know what? Her taking the step to publish her writing has helped inspire me to keep going with my own short story collection. What a wonderful boomerang effect! Now, without further ado, here is Annika Perry on being inspired to write.
I’ve been thrilled to take part in Sally’s ‘Posts from Your Archives’ and it’s been a delight to both make new friends here on WP and say hello to existing ones. Thank you so much Sally for all your hardwork and the opportunities here on your blog.
This final of my four instalments features one of my shorter stories which is also included in my short story anthology out soon. Enjoy!
Today is the last in the posts from the archives of Annika Perry and a short story that is very emotive and also I am sure will resonate with parents of those who love the thrill of riding two wheel racing machines.
The Bike by Annika Perry
Death came to his eyes that day. The advert had gone into the paper on Thursday and since then three calls, two visits and now a sale. He’d never expected this to happen. Why couldn’t he see this? Since he was three he’d lived on two wheels. Scooters, bikes, mountain bikes, motorbikes and trial bikes. The one selling today he’d only got last year.
For two long summers he’d worked at the hotel saving up; hospital corner after hospital corner on the beds, scraping his knuckles endlessly on the dark wood frame, loo after loo scrubbed, room after room vacuumed. He’d had a…
It’s never taken me so long to send an email before.
I’m not referring to writing the message; its composition came easily enough. The actual act of pressing ‘send’ seemed impossible. My cursor hovered over the paper airplane icon; pausing I sat back and scanned the document once more. I stood up and paced around the room.
The momentous moment had arrived and my first manuscript was just a click away from the publisher. I was savouring the experience while being equally terrified of the reality. Many bloggers have used the analogy of giving birth with reference to writing a book; I can identify with this emotion to a certain extent…sending away my first book to an outsider felt like I was releasing my baby into the wider world. With another few tours of the room, I returned to my seat and pressed the button. No turning back!
After weeks of intense editing on my anthology of short stories my head seemed to burn with heat and a flu-like fever of concentration reverberated around my mind whilst the rest of my body struggled against the cold. A day or two of complete relaxation was in order to restore the equilibrium.
The editing process had been unexpectedly and contradictorily tougher and easier than anticipated.
Hour after hour of close computer and document work took its toll on my eyes and head resulting in migraine-style headaches.
However, several useful editing tools were a fantastic help in bringing my manuscript to completion.
Grammarly, a proof-reading program recommended by Jacqui Murray at Worddreams (thank you, Jacqui!), was a most invaluable editing aid. After initially reading through each story a few times, amending the plot etc where needed, correcting typos and punctuation I then used Grammarly to check for any missed errors. Surprisingly it picked up quite a few; these included spacing gaps between words, spellings and punctuation. I did have to be cautious with my changes though as the spellings were corrected to American style and it had a predilection for commas which I disagree with – see what my editor says!
Natural Reader proved another excellent editing tool. Once again Jacqui recommended this on her blog and I was initially sceptical but decided to trust her positive experience with it. Despite the mechanical unemotional aura to the voice (although there are various choices) it made a huge impact having each story read aloud to me. Although I’d been reading some out to myself, listening actively to each word through Natural Reader allowed me to pick up on silly mistakes including one where I had put the wrong name for a situation in a story. Yikes!
As well as a dictionary by one’s side (or the website permanently on display) it is essential for writers to consider Thesaurus as one’s best friend. My original paperback copy from childhood is gradually falling apart so I now use its services online, consulting, searching for words to improve and sharpen my writing and this was even truer during these last editing weeks.
Finally, never underestimate the value and effectiveness of good old-fashion pen and paper – or in my case pencils! With a few sharpened pencils in my arsenal, I printed out the stories when I thought they were ready and took them downstairs where I’d commandeered the dining room table (my desk by this time was overflowing with papers!). Here the final editing took place and with the change of room, my creative spirit was rejuvenated and the final changes were made. Some of these were minor, a word or two; in other cases, a whole paragraph was rewritten and paragraph spacing was slightly adjusted in the more complex ones. Furthermore, I was inspired to change the title of two stories.
The stories for my anthology were now ready to be sent away to my editor; however, there were several more important elements to the book to complete before the full manuscript was whole. In my next post, I will describe how I tackled the all-important blurb, tag-line and about the author page.
Thank you very much for following my exciting journey to publication of this anthology of short stories.The book is due out beginning December and I will reveal the book title and cover soon.
“I love short stories because I believe they are the way we live. They are what our friends tell us, in their pain and joy, their passion and rage, their yearning and their cry against injustice.” Andre Dubus