Experimental Writing: Part 10

This is the latest installment in a story that I’ve been writing over the course of the year.  There is a prologue which was used to shape the story, which starts here, but which you can easily miss out.  The story proper starts here.

“A map?”  Owain exploded.  “We don’t need a map.  I know these hills like their the back of my hand, isn’t it.”

“Is it?” Meredith asked, confused by the idiom.

“Definitely,” Esther chipped in.  “Owain’s been back and forth over the Brecon’s on foot, by bike, and in the Landy.  Llyn-y-Fan Fach’s a favourite place to visit.”

“OK…but we need to keep off the main road, whilst getting there as quickly as possible.”

“Easy – and you can keep your map!”

Owain guided the 4×4 along narrow country lanes, back on to the main roads, more side roads, cut through fields across rivers.  Inexorably they closed in on Meredith’s target.  As he drove, the alien told them why they were heading to an obscure, beautiful lake in the Welsh countryside.

“Up there, out there amongst the stars, there are uncountable numbers of alien species.  Some you would call civilizations.  Some are not.  Some are as chimpanzees are to you.  Some are just different, and they wouldn’t give a squirld for what you call civilization.  I guess that doesn’t really matter.  I guess the key thing is that no-one has really noticed that you’re here, and there’s nothing important enough in this part of space to attract people to come and look at you…except…”

“Except what?”  Esther asked, eyes sparkling with excitement and interest.

“Except that something got lost.  It happens more often than you’d think.  Wars can start sometimes – or end.  Sometimes no one notices, and sometimes it doesn’t matter either way.  In this instance…well…  Thousands of years ago, a piece of alien technology got mislaid and no-one noticed.  No one even really knows how it went missing.  No one noticed it had gone missing for quite some time.  And then they did realise, and then they went looking.  It took them a while, because somehow it ended up in this cul-de-sac of the galaxy, where nothing interesting happens, and so know had bothered to look before now.  They picked up on some of the signals that you’ve been throwing out into space and discerned that against all probability you guys were here after all.

“I’m not sure, how I feel about that,” Esther said, frowning slightly.  “It doesn’t paint us in a very flattering light does it?”

“I wouldn’t worry about it too much.  Anyway, the aliens hired me to retrieve their tech for them.  They can’t come down to the surface of a planet like this.  It was supposed to be…covert…but someone seems to know that I’m coming.  I’m not sure what that’s about.  But I need to start making some preparations.”

“OK…but do you know anything about where we’re heading?”

“This Llyn y fan fach place?  No, nothing.  Well, not beyond what I’ve been able to glean from your Internet.”

“Huh.  Well there is a legend that three brothers lived around there.  They were famous herbalists, and physicians, and they were supposed to be born of woman who lived in the lake and rose from the water.”

“Well, well, well…that’s interesting. But that’s not the whole story is it?”

“Well some say it’s a version of the story of the Lady of the Lake from the tales of Arthur, but the one we know dates back around a thousand years, and was first written down in one of the most ancient books of Wales.   Supposedly there was a farmer who spotted this beautiful woman down by the lake.  He proposed marriage and she agreed, but said that if he struck her three times, she would leave and go back to the water.  They had a happy life for several years and had three sons.  But over that time there were three occasions where she became hysterical.  The story says he tapped her, whatever that means, and on the third time she ran back to the lake.

“And there’s the lake now, look you” said Owain.  “We’re here!”.

 

© David Jesson, 2019

During 2019, I’m undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of the story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.

Part 10.  Part 10!  Nearly all the way through.  Slightly shorter one this month, and no poll, because I know what I want to fit into those two episodes.  However, if you’ve got any special requests do make sure to let me know!

See you next month!

 

#Secondthoughts: Remakes

Do you ever read that a film is about to be remade and say to yourself “WHYYYYYY???” When there are so many great original films coming out every year, it can seem like a remake is a bit of a cop out, even if it’s some time since the original came out.  Sometimes remakes or alternative versions come along quite quickly as with the recent versions of the Jungle Book.  And then there’s Game of Thrones: season 8 hadn’t even finished before people were calling for a remake because they didn’t like how it was treated.

Bear with me.  I know this a site about writing rather than films.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Swallows and Amazons recently, in part because I’d really like to see the new version.  It wasn’t possible to go and see the film at the cinema when it came out, and I’ve not had an opportunity to watch it at home yet.  I’ve read some mixed reviews about the new version, but I’m still interested in watching the film.  It sounds like it is quite different to the 1975 version, with some additional elements added to the scripts.  I rewatched the the 1975 one recently and in some ways it is as good as I remember and in some ways it is very bad.  One of things that I really like about it is that it is one of the most faithful book adaptations that I’ve ever seen, although it is a little rushed towards the end.  (There is an abriged audiobook version read by Bernard Cribbens who does an excellent job of reading an eviscerated plot).  The child actors, as with the adaptations of Coot Club and the Big Six, are not experienced – for many this was their first experience of acting, and there is a lack of preciousness: this makes for a lack of smoothness in some respects but makes it all a little more natural in others.

Let’s ignore the whole book first or film first question, and indeed the whole issue of adapting a book in the first place.  Why make a remake?  Do you revisit the source material or just look at the first go?  I’ve been mulling this over recently, and I think that there is a good reason to revisit a story, even if the first go is considered to be a classic.  For example “The Front Page” (yes, I know, never actually a book), was remade as “His Girl Friday”, in part to get the Dream Team of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell to play the main roles.  There have also been pairings of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, and Kathleen Turner and Burt Reynolds, not to mention some less famous versions that were made for TV.  (None of these versions stink, as far as I can remember, but Grant and Russell are probably my favourites).

So we might get a remake in order to get great actors to play the roles – this needs to be done with care, because it’s easy to think that a particular cast will be dynamite – but then for it to turn out that the excitement is in the wrong place… Another reason for a remake is to try and get a version that is more faithful to the original, or perhaps the adaptor thinks they can do a better job than the original author – that they can get to the fundamental truth that the author intended better than the author.

And then of course there is new equipment, new techniques, newly accessible sites, and new insight.  In terms of the quality of the special effects if nothing else, the Colin Farrell version of Total Recall has the edge on Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s.  On the other hand, it can be easy to spend too much money on a new adaptation to really try and make it sing, when actually the older effects are part of the charm – Ray Harryhausen’s films for example, especially Jason and the Argonauts.

It’s tricky.  There are are some stories that really are difficult to adapt for a variety of reasons, and there are some which end up being better than the source material, although that can be a matter of opinion too.   So whenever a new version comes out, it’s probably a good excuse to go back and read the original first.

I’m off to re-read some books – Swallows and Amazons Forever!

 

Cally’s wedding

He was but 10 years old when first he met Cally. She’d stopped to help him back on his bike after her older brothers had knocked him down. Some time later, she taught him how to fly under the radar. It was the best course of action for folks like him, for his family were church folk and hers most decidedly were not. Her lessons worked darn well and Cally’s brothers soon found other targets. The rest of his schooldays, James split his time between his studies and teaching those targets the life lessons he’d learned from Cally.

Cally had always been kind to folks, so James felt genuine surprise when she started dating one of her oldest brother’s friends – someone most folks regarded as not a nice guy – yet Cally seemed smitten. Like her brothers, Cally left school as soon as it was legal, to start working in the family business. In contrast, James stayed the full course, studying hard till he graduated. But having planned his escape, James skipped the graduation ceremony, spending the next few years working in the third world.

But he’d made a promise to join the seminary, one he’d returned to fulfil. Now he was home, freshly ordained, come back to support his father. Although remarkable for his age, his old Dad had been struggling with the size of parish allocated to him, yet always turned down offers of assistance, in the fervent hope James would – one day – fill that role. He’d been kept busy too, so busy there’d been no time to catch up with old friends. Then, just as he was finding his feet, his father had a fall. Despite attempts to brush it off as just a broken wrist, complete bed rest was prescribed,  and that’s when James discovered what busy really meant. With his mother caring for her husband full-time, James carried both their workloads alongside his own, which explained why he hadn’t realised Cally was getting married in his church … until he recognised her walking up the aisle that is.

Shock gave way to relief – she wasn’t marrying that guy; the one she’d been so smitten with all those years ago. He suspected she wasn’t marrying any friend of her brothers either, for none were church goers, not even for weddings and funerals.


“My goodness, it’s that boy – the minister’s son. I thought he was away doing good deeds in Africa or such like.” Cally knew her mind should be on Brett, the handsome man by her side, her husband-to-be, but she’d not been able to think straight since the hen night.

Thing is, Brett had made this huge thing about their waiting till after the wedding, yet it turned out he’d been keeping company with at least two of her bridesmaids. It was their drunken confessions that fateful night which had left Cally questioning everything. She hadn’t known what to do. Her entire family had been up in arms when she’d chosen Brett. They’d expected her to marry one of the boys – for her brothers had a lot of friends and there was no doubting she could’ve had her pick of them.

But Cally had wanted something different. She’d dated a few of the boys but, if she was honest, she found it hard to tell them apart. Nice enough, some were even real nice looking, but none got her motor running. There was no drive, no ambition, no plans, hell no sign of much in the way of brains. Not one of them read other than sports magazines. They liked to hang out with their pals, expecting their girl to be satisfied with listening to their joshing, then drive them home. Surely there had to be more to life than that?

Then she met Brett. When her aunt got married for the second time, she’d insisted they go away for a hen weekend somewhere fancy to change her luck. They’d shared fun and a lot of laughs, till a problem with flights left them stranded for an extra day. It was at the airport she’d run into Brett – there with his friends, all hungover after a stag weekend. Brett had been attentive, good mannered, and keen as mustard. They’d started dating immediately she got home and Cally had been sure she’d found “the one”. Until her hen night that is.

Since that night, she’d gone through the motions and not one living soul had spotted anything wrong. She’d made her bridesmaids swear not to breathe a word, and it seems the guilt had kept them quiet.

Cally’d intended to make a decision by now, but here she was, standing in front of the minister – James – that was his name, she remembered now. They’d done their rehearsal with the old minister during the week, but she’d heard something about him falling off his bicycle. She was following the cues and responding automatically, but this couldn’t go on.


It was a blessing that her duties had pretty much ended when Cally had handed over her bouquet, for Becky’s mind had been in a whirl ever since she’d decided to tell her friend what her husband-to-be was truly like. He wasn’t the good guy he’d pretended to be – all said and done, he was no better than any of the boys Cally had known all her life. Sure he’d better manners and a glossier veneer, but he was still a dog underneath it all.

He’d caught Becky out by charming her into helping him chose a wedding gift for Cally. To thank her, he’d invited her out to dinner, then got her drunk before trying it on in the car while driving her home. Yes, she should’ve said no, but she’d been smitten from the very first time she’d seen him – and that was well before Cally’d met him. She’d pretty much decided to fake illness in order to avoid the wedding, when another bridesmaid confessed to being in the same boat. A few discrete questions later and the truth came out – Brett had been quite the lad while wooing Cally.

She’d really believed Cally would call it all off immediately, expecting it to happen at any moment. Unsure where she stood with Cally now, she’d tried to stay close by, in case Cally needed support when the news broke. Now she now wondered if Cally was actually going to go through with the wedding after all.

Brett was gazing into Cally’s eyes and repeating his vows – oh lord, what a rat! If only she’d been brave enough to shout out when the minister had asked “is there anyone here present …?” for now it was time for Cally’s vows. As the minister spoke to Cally, Becky realised why he’d looked vaguely familiar. Momentarily distracted by recognising James, she realised that he was having to repeat “will you take this man …?” while giving Cally a most concerned look. Cally was just standing there – in complete silence – when she should have been saying “I do.” Handing the bouquet to another bridesmaid, Becky stepped forward. Taking Cally’s hand in hers, Becky addressed James quietly “Is there somewhere we can go to get away from the crowd?”

Brett flushed red in the face and tried to grab Cally’s hand from Becky. A picture of calm, James looked Cally in the eye and asked “would you like to get away from here?” At her mute nod, he stepped between her and Brett, leading her away from the altar to a side room. Holding his arm out for Becky to join Cally, he closed the door firmly behind them. In the quiet of the side room, Becky could hear James speaking to the congregation, asking that they disperse quietly in respect of the bride’s wishes. There were raised voices – Brett’s prime among them – but James remained calm, repeating his request, until everyone finally complied.


In the time it took for the church to empty, James remembered those lessons he’d learned at Cally’s hand all those years ago. Now he was finally in the position to repay her kindness – and he was grateful.


© Debra Carey, 2019

#FlashFiction: A case of unintended consequences

We called them the dickie birds.  Thick as thieves they were at school.  Today people would say they were BFFs, but then that’s just another example of the Fall of Mankind as far as I’m concerned…where was I?  Oh yes.  Peter and Paul, the dickie birds – what?  You know, two little dickie birds…no?  Two little dickie birds, sitting on a wall, one named Peter, one named Paul.  There’s more but I’ll be drummed out of the golf club before I sing anymore.  You can just look it up.  Listen, stop distracting me.  Peter and Paul, both of them had brains the size of planets…no I’m not interested in your diodes.  What diodes?  What are you blithering on about?  Look, stop interrupting.  If you haven’t got anything sensible to say…

Right.  Peter and Paul.  Great friends.  Oxbridge bound both of them, although that’s not saying much when you think about it.  Anyone who went anywhere else was thought a bit of a duffer really.  One chap went to Imperial.  Nearly had to return his school tie.  And then there was what’s his name…went to a redbrick.  We don’t talk him.

Not sure what went wrong, but back then they had this plan of changing the world.  They tried to come up with a new model of taxation.  Do you know Income Tax was brought in originally to pay for the war against Napoleon?  Oh! You did? Hrmph. Well, there are lots of examples like that.  Lots of things that don’t really make sense.  Lots of times when you hand over money, you’re paying for something completely different, like a road of a hospital.  But what about all the things that you end up paying for that have nothing to do with you.  Robbing Peter to, heh, pay Paul, so to speak.

Anyway.  They had a plan to make things more equitable.  Problem was, one would suggest something and then the other would say something like “are you MAD, if you do that, then what about the consequence for the widget industry”.  Completely beyond me of course.  This went back forth for the whole of the Summer Term when we were in the lower sixth.  When we came back after the Hols, the two weren’t speaking.  Tricky to be in a school together, especially when you’re studying the same subjects.  Still Peter was a Dry Bob, and Paul was a Wet Bob, so they had plenty of opportunities to avoid each other.  After school, we went our separate ways.  I headed to Sandhurst actually, but we’re talking about the dickie birds.  One went to Oxford and the other Cambridge, both studied Economics, both got Firsts.

Peter followed an academic path after that.  By all accounts completely brilliant, although poor as a church mouse by all accounts, at least until he won a Nobel Prize.  Not a lottery win of course, but still, not to be sniffed at.  Paul went into the City, made a packet like they all do, got into politics.  Bit of a wunderkind, was in the Cabinet in record time.  He was angling to be the next Chancellor, except  he made a bit of a faux pas.  Don’t really understand what he did but apparently he pushed for cutting some tax or another back and as a direct result three hospitals had to close.  Didn’t play well with the voters, I can tell you.

© David Jesson, 2019


 

“Just look at it! What am I going to do?”

Julienne dabbed at her eyes with her lacy edged handkerchief while Aurora looked in horror at the piles of stuff covering every single surface.

“It’s William you see, he didn’t have a practical bone in his body, just leaving his books everywhere, always losing pens and notebooks, his pipe still burning, put down on all old surface. The burn marks on our furniture …”

Julienne’s voice rose steadily both in pitch and volume, until it finished in a strangled sob. Being the practical sort, Aurora had patted Julienne’s hand, before settling her into an armchair. Not quite the straightforward task she’d first envisaged, having had to first clear away several newspapers and – oh – a number of women’s periodicals, together with a pair of large wooden knitting needles with a few rows messily completed and trailing a ball of fluffy wool which had shed all over the armchair’s upholstery. Making a note she’d have to thoroughly de-fluff the armchair later, Aurora made Julienne a cup of tea and wasted a good few minutes rummaging in the kitchen for the biscuits which Julienne had requested in that little voice she used sometimes.

Aurora worked steadily, sorting the clutter in the living room into piles on the dining room table – she’d find out where everything went in one go rather than bothering Julienne with constant questions. Julienne had always been fragile, Mother Francine had said so when first placing her into Aurora’s charge all those years ago. Aurora was tall and strapping, ungainly Mother Francine had called her, while Julienne was petite and blonde, with the palest watery blue eyes. She had a way of looking up at you through long lashes, which only enhanced the impression of helplessness. She’d proven completely incapable of ever the least task, with Aurora having to work for two – lucky she was so strong and capable as Mother Francine was heard to comment.

But the the young men all adored Julienne, so there was never any need for her to learn how to do things. She only had to select carefully to ensure she picked a man with prospects, who would ensure she’d have a life of comfort and staff. And so transpired. William was lively, clever and awfully ambitious. He seemed to have the right connections and Julienne was wafted away to his family estate on a cloud of white lace – her wedding gown having been crafted entirely from the lace the nuns were famed for.

Aurora went on to become a governess, travelling the world with her charges. She was paid well and, having few indulgences and even fewer costs, had been able to return home with sufficient funds to buy a little place in the country to call her own. While signing the papers to buy a small cottage on the edge of a large estate, she was surprised to discover the estate belonged to William – or rather, now to his widow – her old friend Julienne. Aurora’s cottage was one of many on the estate being sold to clear William’s debts – which were quite substantial according to her solicitor’s clerk. Kind, generous-hearted Aurora had, of course, hurried to the big house to offer Julienne her sympathies.

It had taken her the remaining weeks of her leave to get everything straight. The staff had all left – due to unpaid wages – and Julienne seemed to have no idea at all where anything went. Luckily Aurora was competent and experienced in the ways of a well-run household, so simply made decisions on her behalf. She took pride in her work, but was disconcerted to find, as each room was made straight, it took only a matter of days – hours sometimes – for it to return to a cluttered mess. The kitchen was the worst, for there was a never-ending stream of cups & saucers strewn across the counters. Julienne never seemed to drink more than once before taking out a fresh one. Aurora tried to have her set a tea tray and use a teapot, but after finding four trays of complete tea sets left in the kitchen one evening, she began to realise that the problem may not have been just William after all.

She’d sat down and tried to explain to Julienne the changes which would have to make in her straitened circumstances, but Julienne either buried her face in those absurd little lace hankies, or looked mournfully up through those lashes, a tear theatrically escaping from the corner of an eye.

“I simply cannot stay here and take care of you Julienne – no, it’s no good you doing that, I cannot. I have obligations and a family to care for in Hong Kong, and I shall be leaving at the end of the month. You are going to have to make other plans.”

Near hysterics having followed, Aurora had been forced to use her most stern governess voice – the one she saved for frivolous parents when they upset the routine of her young charges. Not that Julienne didn’t tried her best, pulling out every trick in her substantive arsenal, but Aurora had been firm, instructing her “to save those tricks for catching yourself a new rich husband – and you’d better be quick about it.”

Before leaving England, Aurora instructed her solicitor to find a buyer for her little cottage. She’d not live in it now and would select somewhere else on her next home leave. It would be best for both of them if she were living not quite so close to her old friend.

© Debra Carey, 2019


 

The uber-talented Stuart Nager has already written & published his great response to this prompt on his site – do visit, there’s loads of excellent writing to be found there.

#FlashFiction Prompt: A case of the law of unintended consequences

Need I say more? Will 500 words suffice or will you exceed the 1,500 limit?
Write your tale, let’s see where it takes you.

 

Word count: 500 – 1,500 (ish)
Deadline: 2pm GMT on Friday 11th October 2019

Don’t forgot, if you miss the deadline, you can always post your story to our #TortoiseFlashFiction page


Post your story on your site and link to it here in the comments below, or drop us a line via the contact us page and we’ll post it for you.