Take my hand!

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The Prompt
Take my hand!
”Why?”
”I’m trying to ask you to marry me, so take my damn hand.”

 

“That’s not quite how I expected this scenario to go down but, sure, whatever. Go ahead!”
“Is it your aim to be the most maddening woman ever in creation?”
“Noooo. But you know I bloody hate being told what to do like that.”
“OK, but … I was nervous dammit. People do get nervous sometimes.”
“Right. I’ll – erm – shut up for a bit then.”
“So, will you?”
“Again – that’s not quite … “
“Oh for goodness sake woman, the moment’s gone. Will you or won’t you?”
“Put like that, then … s’pose so!”

 

© Debra Carey, 2017


PS: I’d just started when I realised this could work nicely as a drabble – and it turned out to be so.

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#Secondthoughts: Isaac Asimov

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I have a confession to make…but we’ll come back to that later.

One of the aims for these #Secondthoughts posts is to allow us to go back and review ideas, beliefs, writing, perhaps provide more information, give it a new spin or…it’s a pretty broad # really.  Some of these ideas may not, in fact be out own, but what we’re presenting is our response to them.  (Quick advert – if you’d like to have a go at doing one of these, please do drop us a line to discuss).

Let’s start with a question: what’s the link between Isaac Asimov and Michael Caine?

It’s hard to think of any way in which these two could possibly be connected apart from the fact that of course they are both white males.  I suspect that if you dig deep enough and/or have a particular point that you want to make then you could come up with just about anything.  (I saw a fascinating example of contextual bias the other day where someone had to rap out a tune with their knuckles having tried to predict how many people in the audience would know what the tune was.  I was the only person to take a punt – I guessed “the Raider’s March” for what turned out to be “All you need is love”.  So it goes).  The connection that I see is that both have had illustrious careers in their own professions, have never or rarely been out of work and have been honoured multiple times for real stand out performances.  They’ve also been involved in some real howlers, one way or another, and one can easily point to aspects of their craft where they are obviously weak.

Asimov cropped up in another #secondthoughts piece the other month, and this and another prompt pointed me towards writing this.  I think it is fair to say that Asimov was a real visionary when it came to big ideas.  It is not uncommon for writers to coin new words, and indeed to talk about things in such a way that make it difficult to grant patents.  Asimov is no exception and coined several terms that are now in the dictionary. He also developed ideas that have become the bedrock of many concepts: whilst robots have turned up before Asimov, his influence on this facet of sci-fi is immense, for example.

Asimov was a Master when it came to building a world, but also, perhaps surprisingly, a master of leaving the little details in place that would then become pivotal later on this was important for his mystery/detective stories such as Caves of Steel, which is decidedly science fiction, but also the more realistic A Whiff of Death.  What he was incredibly – notoriously in fact – bad at was people.  For someone who wrote so much, he never really cracked the human element.  Much of the time this didn’t really matter, particularly in the ridiculous number of short stories that he churned out.  Sometimes it was cringingly bad.  But to be fair, this was something that he acknowledged, to the extent that he noted that some people thought it was a problem, but not a problem that he was going to address by changing his style or anything.  What he was also a sucker for was a really bad pun – a classic example is the short short story of the criminal, Stein, who tries to escape the statute of limitations by jumping forward in time.  We’ll skip the legal arguments and cut to the judge finding in favour of the defendant because “a niche in time saves Stein.” Ho hum.

Which brings us to my confession.  I had been reading the Union Club Mysteries, a collection of short stories in which Griswold, a gnarly old bird explains to his associates at the Union Club how he was able to solve the mystery that had stumped the police, the FBI, the CIA or whoever it happened to be this time.  He would always explain the set-up, including a more or less explicit cryptic clue and then finish by saying that he did something or told someone else to do something on the basis of the deduction but there would be some kind of apparent magic-step.  Griswold would start to go to sleep and his friends would wake him up, demanding an explanation.  I thought that this would make quite a good structure, and so my recent response to the “How to identify a time-traveller” is an extremely heavy-handed parody of Asimov’s Union Club, ending with a joke that I think he would have approved of.  Sometimes, you don’t need to go beyond the essentials with characterisation.

 

© David Jesson, 2017

Superheroes

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Isabel slumped in the booth, weary and dejected, and waited for the others to arrive.  She looked up at the screen to the side of the bar.  It was depressing viewing.  The latest Trump gaffe.  The latest Brexit disaster.  North Korea.  The NHS. Climate change.  Everything felt like the world was going downhill fast.  If not a nuclear or zombie apocalypse then perhaps the world was just going to get thin, like in some of the places in the King’s Dark Tower.

One  by one, the others slid in to the booth.  As usual Mikey had a soft drink and was the first to lay down the marker that he couldn’t stay long, but everyone understood, because he had to get home and tag with Mary who’d had the kids all day and had to work tomorrow.

Cassie looked exhausted, and in reality she might well be the first to head off.  A punishing schedule of shift work on ICU, with the constant battle to save people who were not in a good way, was etched into her posture.  Of all the people round the table, she probably had the most right to complain, especially given the unfair disparity between nurses and doctors, but she never did.

Seb, the teacher, regaled them with the latest changes to the curriculum.  The need to get the kids through the exams whilst actually equipping them with the skills they needed was becoming harder and  harder.  Seb did a perfect imitation of his irritating brother, the university lecturer, who was constantly complaining about the lack of practical skills that the undergraduates had these days.  (As ever, this was of course accompanied by a recitation of what had been required in the ‘good old days’).  It was amazing that Seb still found time for these catch-ups – they’d all seen the marking that he had to do pretty much every evening.

Isabel loved these catch-ups.  However down-in-the-dumps she was at the start, she was always re-invigorated by the end of the evening.  Tonight was no exception and she started thinking about the march at the weekend, and the banner that she’d make.

© David Jesson, 2017

Superhero Fiction – in a flash

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The Adventures of Gripley and Wingnut: Chapter One – Bearly Begun

Time: 10.07 ante meridian
Place: Imperial Bank of Hy Brasil, The Clockwork Quarter, Iron District, Greater Londinium

Alarms clanged in deafening discord, indicating that someone – or something – was up to no good inside the splendid edifice that was the Imperial Bank of Hy Brasil. A gaudily garbed concierge turned from greeting the Dowager Duchess of Dallengridge and started to (try to) draw his sidearm (which, though unimportant in the present narrative, is a Jones and Surly ‘Armisticer’, a weapon more impressive to look at than accurate to fire). His motion in this regard is arrested as the brickwork around the impressive 10′ high doors bursts outwards and a flying brick beans the poor man, sending his splendid hat with the glossy black peak and golden fretting flying.

The Concierge fell backwards into the The Dowager Duchess, who dominoed, stumbling back into the seat of her Chesney-Donovan limosine, which probably saved both of their lives. In the disintegrating doorway stood a mechanical monstrosity: a 20′ biped in the shape of a bear. In Greater Londinium this was not such an unusual sight, although the lightning that dripped from the claws of the unfeeling uber-ursid was not. On the contrivances’ back was strange, saddle-like postilion. A figure sat in the seat and was clearly controlling the creation.

Across the other side of the city, a young man was admiring himself, or perhaps more specifically his uniform-clad self in the mirror. Properly, he was the Honourable Rufus Reginald Raclaw Rhys Regulus Radclyffe-Reed, but everyone, including his mother, grandmother, and great aunt Hortensia, called him Wingnut. His overly-large ears were the only blight on his otherwise very ordinary outstanding good looks. The uniform, at first glance, looked as though it should be that of a Lancer, but even those with no interest in military minutiae would realise very quickly that this was no uniform of any army on earth, not even the Greater West Indian Coalition, which was renowned for its garishly bright uniform.

His watch crackled into life and the face of his best friend, Athena Gripley flickered into view. “Admiring yourself in the mirror again? Well stop it, get the car and pick me up from the mews behind Polonius House – our first incident just turned up!”

The car was a technological marvel. Gripley had perfected a design she had inherited from her uncle. Together Gripley and Wingnut had solved the tricky problem of making an alcohol of just the right instability to provide a hotter flame than could usually, be produced in steam-engine. Together with cutting edge metallurgy, they had produced a horse-less carriage twice as powerful as anything that was available, even a Bader-Gibson Special, and at one fifth the mass. In the hands of any other driver than Wingnut, any journey would end in disaster, probably very soon after it had begun. He seemed to have some sort of second sight when driving and with his inhumanly fast reflexes it took him three minutes to make the rendezvous and another two to make it to the Imperial Bank of Hy Brasil.

*****

“We’ll have to think about where we stash the car”, Gripley said, as she rummaged around in the insides of the mechanical bear.

“If you hadn’t insisted on taking the bear with us, they wouldn’t have been able to tail us for so long. The constabulary were very insistent that the bear was evidence.”
“And I’m not sure that telling them we were ‘the Dynamo Duo’ was a good idea”. Her voice was distinctly muffled as she reached in to pull out the internal workings.
“It sounded right when I said it, and we needed to give them some sort of name. And it was miles better than the name that chappie with the black cloak with the yellow lightening bolt was raving about…what was it…Discharge?”

 

© David Jesson, 2017

 

Oxy-what?

Amanda returned from the Ladies. It’d seemed obligatory that one retired for a moment when having dinner with a suitor, and it gave her a moment to check she didn’t have spinach – or whatever that greenery on her plate had been – stuck in her teeth. He looked up as she walked across the room and, despite the brooding good looks she always fell for, she really liked his rather goofy smile. She was grinning in return – this date was going really well – when she was intercepted by the Maitre d’ who was holding up a phone. “No, no, no, no, no … this was her night off. She’d planned it for months – literally months – and it had cost her a lot of favours.”

She tried to swerve the Maitre d’ but apparently he was determined “please …” his voice had a rather odd note to it. Sighing heavily, Amanda took the handset and held it to her ear “Amanda Brogue” she fairly barked into it, only to be completely floored when the voice in her ear said “please hold for the President of the United States”. Unable to help herself, Amanda stood up a little straighter whilst puzzlement replaced irritation. The current POTUS – hell each and every one of the POTUSes still alive – were simply too old to need her … and then there he was. “Jeff Banks here Ms Brogue. I’m sorry to disturb you but you’re needed at The White House …now.” Amanda started to make her excuses before she realised that he’d gone, and that she was talking to the annoymous voice again, giving her instructions on how to gain entry.

Returning to her companion who by now was looking at her decidedly quizically “I have to go, I’m sorry. More sorry than you will ever realise. But this is one client I can’t say no to.” “Yeah Amanda, sure, let me get the check and I’ll give you a ride.”Accepting, Amanda realised she was going to have to explain this one and being dropped off at the West Gate of the White House would – hopefully – make it clear she wasn’t brushing him off. When he pulled up, his eyebrows were raised, but at least he asked “can I call you tomorrow?” Amanda was not only delighted to hear the request but rapidly assented to it. Looking back, she noted him watching her walk through the Gate, now accompanied by a man in a black suit, talking into an earpiece.

Turned out Jeff Banks was a new grandfather. His beloved only daughter had recently given birth and her mother had insisted that she stay with them in The White House while her husband – a US marine – was on deployment overseas. It also turned out that Jeff Banks’s granddaughter wasn’t a good sleeper. This meant that her mother didn’t sleep and her grandmother didn’t either, so neither did Jeff Banks … and a serving President losing sleep over a baby, rather than – say – a diplomatic incident, wasn’t a good idea.

Amanda did her thing before being ushered into the Oval Office for the President to thank her in person. His Chief of Staff walked her out “we’ll need you on standby 24/7 until further notice.” Amanda tried to explain about her schedule, her regular clients, her on-call arrangements, but she was brushed aside “when we call you, you stop what you’re doing and you come straight here. Tell your other clients that they’ll have to defer to the President. It’s not just your duty, but theirs also.”

Texting Todd when she got home, Amanda was pleasantly surprised when her phone trilled. “I’m way too curious to wait …” said his voice in her ear. “Well … I have this skill. I make crying babies settle …” “Huh?” “Yeah, I know. Apparently Jeff Banks has a new granddaughter … and I’m now on the team to make sure he gets his sleep and doesn’t hit the red button ‘cos of over-tiredness.” Both laughed at the very idea. Over the course of the next few days, they talked more. Todd worked in ER and once he understood that Amanda always worked nights, he realised he could become very popular by volunteering to cover the night shift too. It would be a strange relationship but … there was something special about this one.

It took a while before Todd realised just how special though … Amanda’s oxycotin levels were exceptionally high. It did mean men fell in love with her rapidly – whole swathes of men – but also that crying babies were soothed, quickly either falling asleep or simply gurgling quietly to themselves.

As Amanda always worked nights, all those men falling in love with her never stuck around. They liked to take her out on dates, to have romantic evenings at home, and nights in together. The occasional daytime date was acceptable – just when it was nothing but daytime dates – well, that wasn’t normal. And most men like their dates to be normal.

A few key – well, rich – clients, kept Amanda able to pay her rent and her bills, but most of her work was – what was that term the lawyers use – oh yes pro bono. And of course, Amanda had a big client list – a never ending, ever replenishing list of clients.

There was also the flying thing of course … which is how she managed to see so many clients every night.

I mean, come on, even a top of the line Ferrari wouldn’t enable her to cover the whole of the US that fast …

 

© Debra Carey, 2017

FF Prompt – Superhero

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If you’ll forgive the shameless self-promotion (which to be honest you’re probably used to by now!) in honour of The Secret Science of Superheroes (out this month), which includes a chapter by David, we thought this might be a good prompt …

So you need to come up with a superhero (e.g. the Chocolateer), explore an aspect of their superpowers (total telekinetic mastery of cocoa based products) and save the world (or at least a corner of it).  Bonus points for mad, spurious, dubious or secret science …

Deadline for submission is 2pm on Friday, 11th August 2017.

Word limit: anything from 100 upwards

Go!


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