Happy New Year!

It’s very nearly 2017 – literally if you live close to the International date line so a little #flashfiction to celebrate.

~#~#~#~

2017 peeked out.

“Woah, dude! So many people!” He turned back. 2016 was adjusting his clothes.

“Hey man, is that going to happen to me? Am I going to end up looking that fat?”

“Not if you are lucky, young man.  Big events certainly do add some weight to the year, but I must admit that most of this bulk is body armour”.

“Body armour?”

“Yes.  Traditionally the old year is chased off.  Mostly it is quite good humoured and people use pretend snowballs.  I had thought climate change might mean there was actually some snow at New Year this time, but sadly no.  Instead I’m expecting rocks.  This year has been very tough, and I think that people will be glad to see the back of me.  Oh well. So it goes.”

“But that is so unfair!  It’s not like we have any control over what happpens!”

“I hope your tenure is much happier than mine – good luck.”

2016 adjusted his clothes one last time, and strode out.

 

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Three coins in the Fountain

deseos-huelvaPrompt:
Write something that begins with a character throwing a coin into a fountain


“Plink” went the coin I’d just thrown over my left shoulder into the Trevi Fountain. As  did the second one, and the third. My parents had been massive Frank Sinatra fans, so I’d been force-fed all his early albums. Naturally, when I decided to visit Rome for my 40th birthday, I’d watched all the old films including “Three Coins in the Fountain” from which I’d learned the legend of the coins.

That done, I sighed whilst turning away, accepting that the outcome was in the lap of the gods. It was still early morning, because I’d been determined to beat crowds. Starting to stroll away, I was already pondering which pastry to have with my morning coffee at that pavement cafe I’d passed earlier when I heard a loud splash. Turning, I saw a uniformed man splashing about in the fountain. Walking closer, I realised he was collecting up all the coins. Gasping aloud, I dropped down onto the steps and felt the tears prick. I’d just thrown my coins into the fountain, how was the magic meant to work if they got picked straight up?

The emotions of the past year rose to the surface and flooded over. I felt better then, it was just too silly to have cried about some coins chucked in a fountain in the hope of some old legend coming true. Much more acceptable to cry about the difficult months that had led to my spending the weekend of my 40th birthday alone in Rome.

I stood up and started to hunt around in my handbag for a tissue, when I heard a quiet cough and felt a hand touch my elbow. I spun round, startled at being touched when I knew no-one. “I apologise” said a small bespectacled man holding out a clean handkerchief, “but I thought maybe you could use this?” He had such a kind face, I instantly regretted my reaction and hoped my voice demonstrated my genuine gratitude: “oh thank you, that’s really so kind of you.” He bowed and started to turn away, but I put out my hand and suggested: “may I buy you coffee and a pastry in return?” He smiled: “there is no need, but I would be happy to join you.”

Introducing ourselves, we walked together to the cafe. Over coffee and pastries, we got to know a little about one another. Carl had met his first wife throwing coins into the Trevi; this was his first time back in Rome after her death. He wasn’t my type and I felt safe in accepting his invitation to join him in sightseeing. We ended the trip firm friends.

Thereafter, every three months, we’d meet in a different European city for a long weekend of friendship, eating, drinking and sightseeing. When it came time for London, I persuaded Carl to stay a week, so he could meet my family and friends. The last evening, it became clear that Carl and Monica, my recently widowed sister, had eyes only for each other.

Six months later, back in Rome, back in front of the Trevi fountain, I made those same three wishes: to return to Rome, for a new romance and for marriage – but this time, for me. Then I walked back to the hotel to prepare for my role as bridesmaid to my sister. Waiting for me in reception was Werner, Carl’s best man. Spotting me he smiled and suggested: “coffee?”

Now he really was my type …

 

© 2016 Debra Carey

#second thoughts: Reading seasonally – does it improve the experience?

christmas-tree-at-windsor-castle-from-the-illustrated-london-news-christmas-supplement1848-croppedIn the past year, I’ve seen so many mentions that reading books at the “right” time of year can add hugely to it’s enjoyment, I felt I had to give it a try. It’s not something I’ve done before and, in particular, I was profoundly ashamed to recount in a blog this time last year that I’d never read seasonally at Christmas-time. Shameful because, as a reader, I’d had to admit my cosy Christmas memories are all visual – of films, of Hollywood’s idea of ‘The Holidays’. And I’m a reader, damn ‘n blast it, there should be books!

So last year, I asked for recommendations. There are so many wonderful Christmasy reads for children, yet most lists I’ve seen struggle to mention more than one or two adult novels. I read a couple of the recommendations last Christmas and picked up the seasonal reading again this November.

A Christmas Carol came first and was surprised how entranced I was, as I’ve long loathed anything written by Dickens. Whilst I wonder if there’s a person alive who doesn’t know the story, it was the simply luscious writing that did it for me. You see, I could see, smell, almost feel the sights Dickens was describing. The seasonality of the book is unmatched – both in its depiction of winter and of Christmas itself. As so many of our current Christmas traditions originated from this era, it provides a visual feast of imagination. A winner all round and a quick read to boot – which at a frantic and overfull time of year can only be appreciated.

This was followed by Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. I remember reading some Christie in my youth, although the big film adaptations are now probably more clear in my memory. Luckily, there hasn’t been a film adaptation made of this book, so the story was entirely new to me. I found it an entirely enjoyable read and was especially delighted that Ms Christie didn’t disappoint – for no, I didn’t guess ‘who dunnit’! Whilst there was some description of the season, this was a murder mystery which simply happened to coincide – I can’t say that the seasonality added anything to my enjoyment of the read but, more importantly, nor did its reading add anything to my anticipation or enjoyment of the Christmas season.

Christmas at Great Madden followed. A wonderfully old-fashioned read. Lots of snow, lots of Christmas ‘stuff’ taking place – people shopping and wrapping, an old house being decorated, presents being exchanged. It was a lovely gentle read – one I’m pleased to have experienced. But like the Poirot, it didn’t add to the anticipation of my favourite time of year and I’m sure I’d have happily enjoyed reading of cold weather and snow if sitting poolside in the tropics.

I started to read The Christmas Mystery – but it was November and so I stopped. Why? Because I think the idea of reading it as an advent calendar is utterly enchanting and I plan to re-start it come December 1st. This one I can see becoming a special seasonal read and I’m already planning to purchase a lovely hardback copy for my grandchild-to-be.

There have been others – fluffy romantic novels, or just amusing and lightweight – some well-written, some not so. But none of them made me feel Christmassy. So, what is it that I find lacking in reading stories set in winter/at Christmas? Why don’t they add to my seasonal anticipation, my build-up-to-Christmas joy? I’ve wondered if it’s the fact that I’m already so filled with anticipation that it couldn’t get any higher, but the films – whilst almost always light and fluffy – they hit the spot. So why not books of the same sort?

It is true that I generally set a higher standard for books. Also, in a film, a thin plot and clunky writing can always be disguised with gorgeous scenery, lots of songs and a good dance routine!

But, when I think of those two books which have come out tops for me in this session of seasonal reading, the difference is clear: they are about Christmas – the spirit of it, the very essence of it. I am not religious, but every year my nativity set comes out and takes pride of place. Despite taking pleasure in the gifting and be-ribboning, for me the real joy is about family getting together, sharing food, wine, company, stories, laughter and love.

So, for now, I’ll doff my metaphorical cap to Jostein Gaardner and the man Dickens for producing truly magical christmassy reads.

And last, but certainly not least, may those of us at Fiction Can Be Fun wish you A Merry Christmas and – in true Tiny Tim fashion – may God bless us, every one!

© 2016 Debra Carey

 

Old Friends

old_friends_berrics_header

Blogs cover all sorts of territory.  There are some that are very specific, some that are very general.  There are some that are very bad.  One that is very good is the Spectacled Bean.  This post describes a friend who has a very opinionated position on a particular subject.  We’ve probably all got a friend like that, and their opinions make us laugh and they aren’t really hurting anybody.  Ally and ‘Edward’ are nothing like the two characters below, but reading the post did remind me of this scrap that I wrote a few years ago, and I thought it was time that it got an airing.

*****

“Have you ever noticed how you’re never wrong?”

“I’m sorry?”

“It’s a simple enough question, but I’m guessing the answer is ‘no’.  Let me rephrase it as a statement.  You have an opinion on everything, and it’s always the definitive, brooks-no-questions, respects-no-rebuttals, final word.  You always have to have the last word in any conversation.  I’m not with you 24 hours a day, but you only ever seem to correcting people and that includes respected people within your own discipline let alone in areas that you’ve got no expertise in.”

“What on earth are you talking about?”

“We’ve been friends for how long?  Since we were children?  Twenty years?”

“More like since we were adolescents, and it’s been nineteen years.”

“Thank you for making my point for me:  anyway, so nineteen years.  And I’ve known what an idiot you can be for eighteen of them!  I should have said something, but I could never summon up the energy to try and break through to you.  You can be really hard work you know.  I think we’re still friends, but I don’t want to see you for a long while.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m married to Tom, and we have a family.  If you ever decide that you can respect every member of my family, then we can talk.”

 

© 2016 David Jesson

*****

It’s probably a bit of stretch to call this a short story – but what do you think?  What’s missing?  Does it stand on its own?

Project Gutenberg Writing Prompt Joker

The 1st of December is the birthday of Project Gutenberg, an online archive of out-of-copyright books that have been digitised and are made available to anyone who would like to read them.  Whilst there is some selectivity, this relates more to what particular people like to read in terms of genre and what is available for scanning than a particular desire to perform some kind of literary eugenics.

Hence, this month’s prompt was to take the title of a book recently logged and uploaded to Project Gutenberg and to use that as a starting point.  The pickings were surprisingly rich and it’s worth keeping this idea in mind if you’re ever short of an idea.

As well as our own stories arising from the prompt, we’re hosting someone else’s as well.  We’re very happy to do this, especially if you’d like to have a go but either don’t have a blog of your own to post to, or if you feel that the story wouldn’t fit with your normal posts.

Historical Characters in the Reign of Queen Anne

So there I was, walking quietly along the street and trying to avoid either being jostled by those walking faster than me and overtaking without due care and attention, or those coming the other way barrelling their way through the opposition. It’s not easy when you are shortish, lightish, and have no clue where you are.

Oh I knew I was in London alright, it was just that it was an unfamiliar part. I think I turned left instead of right when I came out of the subway, partly because of the press of the crowd and partly because of the disorientating din of the traffic. Anyway, here I am trying to find myself and the best way to get to my destination. Where can I find a bit of space, a bit of quiet so that I can think?

There’s a bench by the river, and I navigate towards it, carefully checking that I am not going to be mown down by a flying cyclist or one of the athletic people running along the path. I find an old newspaper and remove the latest evidence of pigeons and sit to contemplate the infinite variety of Old Father Thames. That, in case you missed it, was irony. There’s not much variety about the Thames these days, not one tenth of the boats that I remember as a boy. In those days it was exciting, hanging over the bridge looking at the names of the ships and the ports they came from, looking at the sheer range of cargoes being unloaded at every dock and jetty. Nowadays it’s just a few pleasure boats, the River Police and RNLI; the entrepreneurial ‘river bus’, and tugs taking lines of barges laden with the city’s detritus downriver to the sea.

I’ve sat here too long! That policeman, no, Community Officer has just came back from the other end of his beat and is too obviously not trying to notice me. I can almost hear his thoughts; “Strange bloke over there. Been sitting there a long time. Looks worried – is he going to jump?” Unhurriedly I get up and walk away.

The streets are quieter now so it is no problem to amble slowly along and take notice of things. There’s a small group of market stalls over there and I take a detour to have a look. Mostly street food or coffee; one old man selling stamps, another full of tools which have seen better days. Oh! A bookstall, now that’s interesting! Some quite nice items there amongst the tattered paperbacks and coverless folios. I pick up a few, just to kill time when underneath I find a copy of Mrs Oliphant’s Historical Characters in the Reign of Queen Anne. I freeze. I look around, nobody is watching.

Carefully I open the book to a page I know well. And there I am – and how I wish I could get back to my own time!

491 Words

© Alan Jesson, 2016

 

Précis writing for beginners

Only one word was required to summarise Tom’s stance, behaviour, attitude and philosophy at this moment: mooching.  They were in his least favourite shop, his father’s frequent and inevitable haunt on any trip to Town.  It was half-term and these trips had become almost ritualised.  The family would reconvene outside the cinema in three quarters of an hour: it was Tom’s turn to choose the film they would watch.  If he’d been as savvy as his older brother Jonno, he might have tempered his desire to watch the latest big blockbuster and gone with his second choice which started in just five minutes time.  If he’d been less annoying to Jonno and his oldest brother, the oh-so-cool Toph, he might have been allowed to go with them.  But he was nine, and sometimes that on its own is enough to be annoying, especially to cool 15 year olds.  He could have gone with his mother, to help her with her errands.  But as has been established, he was nine, and his dignity forbade it.  It was unlikely, but what would happen if he was seen by one of his school friends?  No, it did not bear thinking about, and so, instead, he was reduced to accompanying his father to a second-hand book shop.

When he was seven, he had loved this shop.  It was an Aladdin’s cave of books, with mingled scents of old books and wooden shelves, hidden nooks and strange dead-ends.  The layout never seemed to be the same two visits running.  His Father would say that “a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read”, with the sly twinkle in his eye which meant it was a joke, but it was one that Tom had never got.  Now though, he was older and sophisticated.  He couldn’t understand what his Father saw in the shop, nor the inevitable purchase of a venerable leather-bound volume.

Tom mooched round the shop.  His mood the last few days had been very low.  He had received his first ever ‘C’ at school, and in the one subject that he felt truly comfortable with.  The master had handed back the homework with the murmured comment that a synopsis shouldn’t be longer than the document it was summarising.  He’d felt so ashamed, that he wanted the ground to open up beneath him.  Something welled up inside him: he felt fizzy and didn’t know what to do.  He could not see his Father.  He walked determinedly, ostensibly to find him, but with the purpose of knocking over a rickety bookcase (with a seemingly casual glancing blow) firmly fixed in his mind.

He could never quite remember what happened, even in abstract.  One moment he was going to create a mess and the next he was apologising for jostling an elderly gentleman with a crinkled face and flowing white hair.  The jostle had caused the mess he’d wanted but now he felt acute embarrassment.  He hurriedly tidied up the landslide of books that had slipped off an antique bureau.  The last was just the sort of book his Father would like. It had hard, green cloth covers embossed in black.  He blinked and read the title again. He stared at the book and felt a world of possibilities opening up once more.

“What have you got there kiddo?”

“Can I buy it Dad?  I don’t have any money on me, but I’ll pay you back”.

His Father looked at him, quickly summing up the change in mood, the lightening of the boy’s face and the suppressed eagerness.  “Précis writing for beginners” he read, “well if you’re sure?”.

© David Jesson, 2016

(606 words – ‘I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.‘ – Mark Twain)

 

The Flying Girl and Her Chum

One morning, on her birthday, a box arrived, a very big box at that. Glenna signed for it, whilst wondering who’d sent her something from the Popcorn Store. For even in America, a box this size would contain a too huge amount of popcorn. Opening the box, she tore a hole in the plastic inner bag and that’s when she got the surprise of her life – she was greeted by the sound of a very loud and unmistakable belch. “Oops, sorry” called out a voice from within, “I really shouldn’t have drunk that Diet Coke before packing myself into the box with all this popcorn.” Glenna peered carefully in, but drew back sharply as a young man carefully uncurled himself and stepped out.

He held his hand out and said “Elden is me. You wished for a companion I think.” “Yes, but …” stammered Glenna, “how’d you know?” Elden shrugged, “is this your place?” he asked, looking with interest around Glenna’s small flat. “Mmm” Glenna nodded, still in shock, watching as Elden walked around, opening doors and having a good nose around. “Where will I sleep?” he asked “There is one small bed, and only armchairs, no sofa.” “You’re staying here?” managed Glenna. “Of course. If I am to be your Chum, where else would I go? For you must fly and I will keep you safe.”

You see, Glenna was special, for she had wings. But she’d learned at the Home that such things weren’t normal. She’d grown used to living in the shadows and to hiding them away. But oh, how she missed flying and to make it worse, she was terribly lonely – for how could she share her wings with anyone normal? Now here was Elden and he knew. And he wasn’t freaked out. And he was cute. Also, if she was not mistaken, those were pointy ears. “Are you an elf?” she asked. He nodded; that’s when Glenna found herself saying: “we’ll go shopping to buy a bed for you, there’s room for another one in the bedroom.”

Grabbing a bag, a spring in her step for the first time ever, she said: “Come on then. Put my beanie on to cover your ears and let’s go shopping …”

383 words

© Debra Carey, 2016

Writing Prompt – Project Gutenberg Birthday Joker

book-birthday

Project Gutenberg was unleashed on the world on the 1st December, 1971.  The aim of the project is to help people access books that they might not otherwise be able to get hold of.  This can get a bit tricky because of copyright issues, but in some ways it becomes easier, because there are some fantastic books that are now out of copyright which would get lost forever if it weren’t for PG.

So head on over by clicking on the link: try not to get distracted by the 50,000 or so books on the site!  Take a look at the Recent Books section and pick one that you like the look of – the title of the book is the title/prompt of your story.

Word limit = 500 words (and because I’m mean, that includes the title).

 

As always, either write a piece on your blog and pop a link to it in the comments below, or e-mail us with your piece and we’ll post it for you. Deadline for your story : 9th December, 2 pm GMT.