Tuesday, 28 January 2014


Thomas Leuthard  Foter.com  CC by 

On each walk from slumber to drudgery I pass you.   Free behind glass, learning, lost in the new.   How many worlds would I glimpse if you looked up, our eyes met?   Save me.

(A writing prompt from Trifecta - 33 words based on the photograph above)

Monday, 20 January 2014

Before the Dawn

Clean drinking water commanded a high price in those last days before the dust covered the last outposts.   Jayva moved through the  dark bar with experienced grace, cylinder of water hung over one shoulder, its black nozzle cupped tenderly in her hand.   The patrons, sullen and closed in as family secrets, barely looked up as she worked, just holding up a cup, or glass, or can for her to fill in exchange for a pair of coins.

One man, skin tanned leathery, but with pale blue eyes smiled as she filled his cup.  Smiles were rare and she didn’t have one to spare in return.    The next man who took a drink tried to take more and she pushed him away, swearing at him.

I loathe this planet she thought yet again.   A decade since she’d arrived and learned that dreams could dry out as easily as flesh.

The man was persistent and stood, showing a stubby ceramic knife.  Jayva backed up a step, then another.  She knew nobody would help.  Why would they?  She collided with someone standing behind her.  Nights in the dust could turn bad in a moment.

“Remember your place, sir,” the leather-tanned man’s voice was calm, polite, almost quaint in its formality.  He placed one hand on Jayva’s shoulder and stared at the other man.  That man saw the butterfly tattoo on the back of the leathery hand, flinched, sat down quietly.

Jayva turned, nodding gratitude.  She saw the inked butterfly.

“The founder’s sign,” she said.   He smiled again.

“Are you a believer?” he asked. 

“Only in dust.”

“Perhaps that fellow’s a believer though, in the Holy Founder, and his Nine.”

“Legends,” Jayva said.

“Legends can be useful.   I rarely have to raise my voice, let alone my fists when I show this.”

She nodded and filled his cup again, not asking for coins.

“I believe in dust and heat,” she said, “not in angels and deathless knights.”

He savoured the cool water.  “Very wise,” he said.


In response to prompts from Studio30Plus: Loathe & Planet
and Trifecta:  Quaint (in the sense of Pleasingly or strikingly old-fashioned or unfamiliar)
and Write on Edge: "Sometimes legends make reality and become more useful than the facts"

Saturday, 18 January 2014


“I’m such a fan of hers,” Samantha said, peering round the corner of the alcove where she and Lucas were lurking.   The dour Scotsman seemed distracted, rummaging in the pockets of his overcoat and scowling.

“Eh?” he said, “Whose?”

“Miss Goddard’s,” she replied, “I’m such a fan.  You’re not planning to do anything unpleasant are you?”
Lucas looked hurt and pulled something absolutely hideous from his pocket.  It writhed unpleasantly, a rainbow shimmer of carapace and mandibles, and the dim light of the alcove bent around it as though unwilling to touch it.   The creature was only a few inches long and hard to look at.  It made Samantha’s head hurt.    “When would I ever do something unpleasant?” Lucas asked her.

“Whenever you want to,” she replied
“Whenever I need to,” he said, “Anyway it won’t hurt anybody, not what you’d call hurt.  Not actual hurt.  Anyway we need to get it done.”
Samantha sighed and held out her hand.   Lucas dropped the creature onto her palm and she felt it land a few seconds after she saw it resting on her flesh.   She grimaced at the touch, and also at the impossibility of the thing.   She wondered if there was any point asking the enigmatic Scot what the creature-

“It’s a tikworm,” Lucas said, the moment before she opened her mouth to ask the question.
“Time parasite?” Samantha asked and then wondered why she’d asked.

“It’s a time parasite,” Lucas said and then he grinned wickedly.  “You’re already noticing things getting out of order.   Well don’t worry, nothing’s permanent unless-”

“Why would I let it bite me?” Samantha asked before he finished the sentence.  She hesitated as her mind caught up and put things in the right order.  “Damn that’s annoying.  So what do I do with it.”

Lucas looked out into the small restaurant where New York’s finest sea-food was being consumed with gusto by a generous population of diners.
“See that fellow with your Miss Goddard?”

Samantha nodded.  She’d wondered who he was, certainly no movie star like the woman he was dining with.   The man was a bit unkempt in her opinion, hair too long, gestures just a little bit too expansive and clumsy.   “Not her husband,” Samantha commented.

“They’re just about finishing up their meal,” Lucas said, “Go over there and let the tikworm have a good bite.  Of him, not her.   I wouldn’t like to mess with Charlie Chaplin’s wife, can you imagine the hilarity of his revenge, eh?   Pursuing me halfway across the world with his bandy legged walk and an angry twirl of his cane.  Eating my boots.”

Samantha looked at Lucas incredulously.  “You want me to-   Won’t they notice?”

“Trust me,” Lucas said.   She’d done that countless times in countless contexts, a thousand thousand realities, a thousand thousand of her, and each of them with only the vaguest notion of what the others were up to.   None of them entirely trusted Lucas though, but all of them trusted him just enough.

“Alright, alright.”   She palmed the tikworm and set off across the Oyster Bar toward the table where Miss Goddard and the stranger were chatting.  The man was dabbing at his moustache with a napkin.

“An absolutely fine time,” he was saying as Samantha drew close, “I really must thank you again for taking the time to…”  He stopped as Samantha stopped by their table.  He and Miss Goddard looked up at her questioningly.
“I’m such a fan of yours,” Samantha said to the actress, “I wondered could you possibly…”

“I’d be glad to,” said Miss Goddard with a smile, reaching into her purse.  Samantha wondered if requests for autographs were so common that the star had simply anticipated the request or whether the tikworm’s effects were being felt.   Still, this was the ideal opportunity.   While Goddard was looking in her purse and her companion was watching her search for a pen, Samantha reached out and pressed the hideous little invertebrate against the man’s neck just above his collar.  Mandibles closed.  The man opened his mouth to object.  Samantha remembered the smell of the rain that morning as she stepped out of her home, thought of the scent of her mother on the day that Samantha was born, heard the quiet voices of the nurses in the care home decades afterwards.  And then the tikworm was back in her hand, concealed again and Miss Goddard had already signed the autograph.

“Thank you,” Samantha said gratefully.  She accepted the treasure and turned to leave the table.

“Strangest thing,” the man said to Miss Goddard as Samantha walked away, “We’ve been here for an hour, a simply wonderful hour, but it feels as though almost no time at all has passed.”

Samantha returned to Lucas as quickly as she dared and handed over the now bloated tikworm.

“Beautiful,” he said as he held it up and watched it wriggle and twist, and bend light around it.

“Mind telling me why?” she asked him.

“Soon this wee beastie is going to change into a butterfly,” he said, “Well… sort of a butterfly.   And it’s just fed on an hour of that man’s time.  A whole hour that’s going to grow and blossom and shine inside the little creature.”

“And that’s useful to… us?” she asked.  She wasn’t really sure who “us” was, except that she was always on Lucas’ side, and that there was a dreadful war spilling out across all of reality that Lucas was helping to fight.

“An hour of Albert Einstein’s time?” Lucas said, still admiring the vile larva in his hand, “Oh aye.  Useful enough as it is.  But wait till this little chap spreads its wings for the first time.    And starts to soar.”

A response to a prompt from Studio30Plus based on the words "Time" and "Parasite"- in this case both.
For Professor Einstein's version of the encounter click here.
For more about Lucas and his antics click on the "Lucksmith" tag below

Monday, 13 January 2014

Reflections on a life

A33-word response to the following snippet: The first time I saw. . . 
Here's the catch: all of your 33 words must be one syllable each 
(a writing prompt from Trifecta)

The first time I saw him I thought he was Death.  He looked the part.  Gaunt, pale, more skull than face.   I reached out to fend him off… Smooth glass.  Then I knew, and I laughed too long.


“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

~ L. P. Hartley: The Go-Between

(A writing prompt from Write on Edge)

I travelled when I was younger and smiled more often, as part of my job carrying the message of my company’s utter excellence and trustworthiness to far flung marketplaces and offices.    Back then when I was first starting out I had a lot to learn and learned it well and with delight.

It was the differences that made the job interesting.   Not the little differences in dress and speech, for I picked up new languages with ease or at least those parts of them relating to my job and to socialising.    I could get by well enough to understand what was being said and to make myself understood in turn.    The differences that counted were the differences in customs and culture which could make or break a whole encounter.

In Japan for instance it is considered impolite to issue a flat “no” to a question, so if you need to make sure the people you’re presenting to understand your pitch then never ask if people understand a point…  they’ll say they do to avoid giving offence and the whole thing can break down.   Ask what things need clarifying instead, then you’ll learn what’s needed.   And while it’s important to give a small gift to your host it’s absolutely improper to expect it to be opened there and then as it puts so much pressure on the receiver to look happy at what may be a substandard offering.   Instead make sure the gift is beautifully wrapped so it can be cooed over gratefully then taken away for unwrapping behind safely closed doors.

Every country has its own particular ways.  They’re getting homogenised now to an extent but they still linger on and it’s wise to learn the nuances.   The Dutch expect punctuality and avoid small talk until after the business is done, while the Egyptians would consider talking business without getting to know their contact as abrupt beyond belief.   Little things to learn, and I enjoyed the learning.

They say the past is a different country too.   So true.   I can smile at the strange costumes worn by the inhabitants and laugh as I recall the language they speak there, so unfamiliar now to my ear through lack of use.   But it is in considering the customs of that country that I find the most difficulty.    There, a young man with an easy smile and a gift for languages will cast aside the only gift worth receiving and by careless and ill-chosen words drive away the giver, dimming with cold disregard the shining light in her eyes until finally, reluctantly, she grows tired of giving and gives no more.   There a young man will not know until it is too late that he is walking into an empty room of old age and isolation and  cruel realisation that even behind closed doors the gift is no longer there to unwrap.

It’s a strange custom and a strange country.   If it wasn't that bottles grow empty I’d never visit there again.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Once upon a laptop tapping

A writing prompt from Trifecta
3.   (adverb) Used to show that something is not important

I had been trying to write.   To write poetry in fact which is an infection that flares up every now and again.   It wasn’t flowing though, I couldn’t get the rhythm right and it wasn’t helped by the pernicious temptation to browse the Internet in between thoughts.   Even that was interrupted by an irritating repetitive scratching at the door.

Roused I was from browsing languor, roused from torpor into anger

I got up and let Edgar in.   He gave me the look of self-satisfied contempt that comes so easily to his kind.
“What on earth are you looking at now?” he said in tones of mock outrage as he saw my monitor.  I hastily closed the browser down, almost knocking over my glass in the process.

Guilt and shame made me a fumbler, racing swift to shut down Tumblr

“Inspiration,” I said, “I’m writing poetry.”
Think cats can’t laugh? It’s all in the ears.  Edgar hopped up on the desk, nudging my mouse a few times.  He likes his little visual jokes.

There he sat the feline critic making mock and oh so clever

“You won’t get inspiration from looking at those pictures,” Edgar said, “not for poetry anyway.  Not for poetry you’d want anyone to see.  You only write poetry when you’re miserable.  Are you miserable?”
He was curious (naturally) but not concerned.  His enquiry was entirely academic.
“Not particularly,” I replied, “but I’m sure you can help with that.”
Edgar thrashed his tail and narrowed his eyes.

Angry now at being challenged angry now but still so clever

“I’m sure I can.  I’ll consider that a life goal, shall I?” he said.
I sighed.  Edgar in a bad mood was not a comfortable housemate.
“Sorry Edgar,” I said, “You just caught me at a bad moment.   Why don’t I open up a can of tuna for you?”
He swished his tail as he jumped down from the desk and sauntered from the room.

Quoth the feline, “meh, whatever.”

(Edgar also appears here)