My Stuff: Indies Unlimited, An Inhospitable Shore

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Sep 292014

Here’s my entry to the Indies Unlimited contest ‘An Inhospitable Shore’. The prompt was this photo of a cactus-strewn beach or the written prompt below:

Photo Credit: K.S. Brooks via Indies Unlimited.

Photo Credit: K.S. Brooks via Indies Unlimited.

Maybe the ones who went down with the ship were the lucky ones. I drifted on flotsam for days, only to wash up here, on a small cactus-strewn island.

Even in my weakened condition, it didn’t take long to walk its breadth. There was no water. This is how I would die.

I collapsed onto the coarse warm sand and closed my eyes against the midday sun. I awoke to a sound coming from the scrubby growth…

The Cactus Gardener

Someone has been here before me. It’s taken me days to realize it. Why has it taken so long? The damn cacti! As I picked another needle from my shredded lips I saw it. But I must find higher ground to make sense of it. I must climb the ridge. Just a little drink of sea water first. I know I shouldn’t, but a little sip is all I need. My tongue and mouth have melded and I must separate them.

The sun is at its spiteful zenith but I can’t wait till dark. I can’t risk a wrong step on the ridge. The ridge is like the jaws of a terrible night-beast and the rocks are its canines. I don’t want to be eaten. I must climb now.

First my feet, then my hands and knees, then my buttocks: the rocks have reduced them to pulp. Perhaps when I’ve left this island the next poor soul to land here can follow my fleshy breadcrumbs across the jaws of the beast.

At last I reach the summit. I look down on the beach below. It shimmers in the heat. My head swims and my stomach lurches bringing salt water to my mouth. I fall to the ground. But I was right! The cacti. They are not random. They form patterns, directions, and words. Praise the cactus gardener for I am saved! They will guide me from the island. But not yet. First I must rest.

My Stuff: Flash Frenzy Round 37

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Sep 282014

Here’s my entry to Flash Frenzy Round 37.

Lesson Learned?

The seventh step on the staircase to my father’s study had a squeak. I used to think he had made it himself so he knew when someone was coming. The staircase was carpeted in red that had worn to threads in the centre. On the wall above the stairs hung a painting of my grandfather, and a painting of his father, and another painting of his father. I swear their eyes used to follow me as I climbed.

‘Come,’ his voice would boom before I had raised my fist to knock. His study was dark, yellowed by a weak lamp. Gossamers of smoke hung in the air but the smell of damp and rot was stronger: our house, once great, crumbled while my father sat in his study smoking his pipe and drinking Irish whiskey from a cup.

‘What is it Charles?’ he’d say.

I’d take a deep breath, look him in his basset-hound eyes, and like a sinner in the confessional box, account for the day’s transgressions. Then he’d take down the hickory switch from the wall, flex it in his hands, and absolve me of my sins.

“Who do you think I am?” he’d say, as the switch wheezed through the air. “I am your father. I am not someone else.”

I know who you are. You are a small man living off the legends of bigger men. You are someone who thinks a beating makes up for being a poor father. I swear on the blood you now draw that I will never become you.

A knock at the door disturbs my thoughts. My pipe lies on my desk in shards. Blood is pooling from a gash on my hand: ten years in the grave and the old man can still make me bleed.

My son comes into my study. He stands in the doorway looking down at his shoes.

‘What is it Charles?’ I say.

‘Disrespecting my mother, sir.’

I take down the hickory switch from the wall. How long till the boy learns his lesson?


I was awarded runner up for this! The judge (Karl A. Russell) said:

The description of the rot at the heart of a once great lineage is masterful, sketching in details that somehow resolved into a picture perfect depiction of that hated study, and the realisation that the cycle of violence rolls on untrammelled makes this a chastening read.

My Stuff: Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 42

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Sep 262014

Here’s my entry to the Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 42 contest. The photo prompt was this photo of a girl by the water in Japan. The Dragon’s Bidding was to include a death.

Photo Credit: Shuji Moriwaki via CC.

Photo Credit: Shuji Moriwaki via CC.

Vera, Meet My Sister

I left her standing on obstinate rock, her face turned against the silver swell.

‘Go now,’ she said. ‘I’ll greet her when she comes.’

She stood facing north while I fled south, away from danger, away from the storm.

Like one soul in two bodies, that’s what they said, each their own person but together complete.

“Do you know what the other is thinking?” our school friends asked.

“Yes,” we replied together, and they laughed.

A childish joke, but it was true. I’d felt her pain like it was mine: her birth pains (twins again!) or when she drank too much wine. I’d shared her sadness, her love, her hope. When news of the storm came, I shared her disappointment that my fear was only for me. She was always the selfless one.

Now it is time for me to take cover underground. The storm has found land. I will endure, even though I am no longer whole.

My Stuff: Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 41

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Sep 232014

Here’s my entry to the Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 41 contest. The photo prompt was this view of the Krak de Chevaliers in Syria. The Dragon’s Bidding was to include a marriage proposal.

Photo Credit: Jon Martin via CC.

From the Window

They met in the Baron Hotel again, in the beautiful suite with the view of the castle. They lay entwined on ruffled sheets, the breeze from the window cooling their sweat-slicked bodies and carrying the sounds of the market below. He ran his fingers over her copper skin, never seen by another man let alone touched.

“Marry me,” he said.


“Come back to England with me and marry me.”

“Please stop. You know I can’t shame my family.”

He turned away, the illusion was broken. He felt her rise from the bed and begin to dress: to hide her beauty from the world.

“Will I see you next week?” she asked from the doorway.

“Yes, I’ll look for you from the window.”

Now he waits in the Baron Hotel, in the detestable suite with the view of the castle. Will she ever come out?