The Clock Strikes Twelve

I’m a novice to flash fiction, but have been fascinated with it for the past few months. I’m still not sure I understand the principles. Be gentle with my experiments.

I need to count each chime with my chin up, looking straight ahead, because if I look to the right… the monster might sneak in. The corner of the left of the eye down and under. My greatest fear: missing a chime. All twelve to surround, all twelve to protect.

Then I can wash my hands. Just like my mother taught me as a child, with plenty of suds, not forgetting to scrub between the fingers, above the wrist. You never know where I have been, where you have been. What toil and soil we may have seen. Rinse three times, not a sud to linger. I catch a glimpse of the back of your head in the mirror and I long to touch and unfurl that sweet tendril, the one still moist from earthly exertion. The one that keeps you from being an angel divine.

But then I would have to wash my hands again. Perhaps even wash my mouth out with soap. Oh, the synapses that fire too soon, extend so much further than you could ever want.

We sit down to eat. I dare not touch much, but I can examine each morsel passing your lips. How the red chard leaf ondulates with your tongue, how the beans fall from your fork, how you cut and spear artichoke hearts, not just mine. You lick your lips before and after you drink; your glass glistens with pearl droplets. I count each one, but then you trail your thumb down from rim to bottom. You leave marks too light for memory, too deep for forgetfulness.

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Not Roses, Obviously

I shouldn’t have come here really. I had no intention of walking this far. Haven’t got a clue how I’m going to get back home before dark, either. But isn’t this picture-postcard cottage worth the long trek and so much more? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a place as quaint and welcoming as this one. The faded red brick, the white paintwork, the upper windows twinkling in the sunset. The bottom two windows seem to be hugging the front door, while those climbing flowers embrace them all.

What do they call those flowers? Not roses, obviously. I do know those.  But I’ve never been very good with more complicated plant names. Aren’t they just the most gorgeous shade of lilac? And don’t they fill the whole earth with the scent of early summer and the promise of things to come?

I can’t wait.

I measure out three steps to one side of the gate, three to the other. Counting calms me down, gives me something to do. I remind myself to stand tall. I have to slow down, keep my distance, remember to breathe. I close my eyes and try to take in all the sounds, the warmth, the aroma of this perfect evening.

So what if I am not wanted here…

Flee the Fire

So no, if you scratch me, I will not bleed. If you stab my heart, your knife will splinter on sheer flint. The calamine-soaked bandages sticking to the pus of my burn wounds neither hurt nor soothe me. I’ve been burning since the night I forgot to check on Freddie. Hell is the only place for me and I dare not leave it any time soon.

The forest fires in Canada may no longer be in the news, but they are still raging (although some rain is making the firefighters’ work slightly easier). That will be a post for another day, about the shortlasting visbility of news stories…

Flash Fiction: Understatement

A fun little Sunday read for you. I’m thinking of starting a once-a-month Lazy Sunday read series with flash fiction. Just for the sake of writing something different.

A great crime writer had once shared tips for the perfect murder at a conference.  All Camille had done was tweak a few details. There were no coastal walks in her area, so she had to improvise with glaciers. He was too vain to use hardcore winter gear, not vain enough to never go out on winter walks. She had carefully drained the batteries of both his mobile phones.  He never checked. No hardship disabling the avalanche tracker on his ski-jacket – he had never given her sufficient credit for a scientific mind.

It was not science she detested, only his relentless droning about it.

‘With his height and weight, you were very lucky not to get pulled in after him, Madame.’ The Salvamont rescue team told her.

Luck had nothing to do with it, but Camille nodded, gulping the hot, sweet liquid gratefully.

‘He always told me I was hopeless at knots… little did I think…’

Glacier crevice, from camping.de
Glacier crevice, from camping.de

 

Flash Fiction: 55 Word Challenge

A quick little challenge for you: can you write a piece of Flash Fiction in just 55 words?  That’s what G-Man is challenging us to do each Friday over here.   I was planning a different blog post for today, an interview with a famous French crime writer, but that will come later on, as I could not resist this.

She’d forgotten the milk again. Never mind, dry cereal strengthens the teeth.  She watched their little jaws chewing, but the thought of eating any herself made her feel nauseous.

After walking them to school, she felt the familiar waves of blackness engulf her.  She opened the second bottle of vodka and thanked her lucky stars.

 

Gone fishing…

… for pesky adverbs, overemphatic descriptions and stilted dialogues, that is.  I am going away on holiday and will not have access to email, Twitter, Facebook or WordPress.  In short, none of the comforts and distractions of present-day life.  So I can dedicate myself whole-heartedly to the children, the beach and editing my first draft.

Or so I thought.  Then, slowly, slowly, other (professional) obligations started creeping up on me, including a few things that I had promised to do before the holidays but never got around to doing.  And some enjoyable tasks, such as reading my friend Cristian Mihai’s first novel Jazz, and then preparing to grill him in an interview.

So now it looks like I’ll be lucky to get any rest over the next few weeks…

However, you will get a rest.  From me.  And my very prolific (and no, I do not mean proficient) blogging.

Should you be suffering from withdrawal symptoms, however, here are a few that I made earlier:

1) Book review – the one that started it all

‘The Expats’ by Chris Pavone

2) Poetry – two of my personal favourites

Things I Have Lost

Then and Now

3) Flash fiction

Harness

4) Random musing and waffling

Developing the Creative Habit

The Angel and Edna (Part 1)

And if it’s popularity that you are after, this seems to be my most popular blog post of all time.

Thank you for bringing so much joy and understanding to my life, my dear readers. Have a wonderful holiday if you can and hear/read you all again in three weeks’ time!

Gone fishing in the sea…

Kindred Spirits

One of the pleasures of dedicating myself to writing (once more) is that I am rediscovering old friends whom I haven’t seen in years, and whose creative talents have matured like good wine.  Our lives have taken such different paths, we are scattered all over the world, we may struggle with small talk and yet…

Our love of words unites us: in some ways, we are perhaps closer now, sharing the best of of our thoughts, than we were when we were living together side by side.

Let me introduce you to just three of these.  First, Paul Doru Mugur, a friend from high school, the only one who kept pushing me (sometimes ruthlessly) to write.  Here is a beautiful and rich essay of his about time, published in an online journal which he co-edits. He also translates Romanian poetry into English, has published several volumes of short stories and poetry, and is generally very active in the arts world – all while holding down a demanding job as a physician in New York.

Secondly, I have a niece who used to pull my hair as a baby, but whom I have barely seen since. She is now all grown-up, has just graduated from university, writes searing prose in Romanian and occasionally in English.  We barely speak to each other at the big family reunions, but have grown close through our online love of writing.  A facet of ourselves well-hidden from the rest of the family.  Here is a poem in English, but I think her real talent lies in flash fiction or polemical pieces.  Here is a lovely example called Tutus and Cigarettes.

Finally, a friend from university who writes like an angel.  Her blog House of Happy has made me just that: profoundly happy.  I think she has a direct window into my heart and head at times. Here is one of my favourite recent entries. I wanted to reblog it, but our different platforms means I will cut and paste instead (oddly appropriate for this poem):

The Game

Get some paper
Chop it up into small squares (a hundred freckles-wide by exactly four snails)
Retrieve bits of your life and write down trigger-words on the shell-and-freckle paper: trigger words are those words that drag behind them large, live memories, the type you can still see, feel, count, smell (but not always spell…); the kind that roll off the shelf, jump out of the bottle and burn your eyes.
Put them all in a hat, shake well.
Watch them settle inside, now still but still whispering their burnished secrets, a lake of life inside a hat.
Go fishing.
Clutch the trigger word you caught tightly inside your fist.
(eat it up if you must – chew well, swallow carefully; this may be helpful but remains entirely optional)
In any case, hold that word, smell it, consume it or, better still, let it consume you.
Then write about it. Write as if your next breath depended on it.
Prose, verse, a picture, anything that would help you understand
why your heart still roars
although your life, bruised burden
and time itself
stand still.

Oh, all right then, here is a terrible picture from those days, to counteract all these lovely words!  And no, I’m not sharing which one of the wild-haired people was me!