The Raspberry Sousaphone

Squeak was bored. All the signs of restlessness were there: the shuffling bottom, the flollaping, the taking off of shoes… I freely admit that the majority of my attention was elsewhere, but it is difficult to explain to a three year old that you can’t focus solely on them. It was a cold day, but a warm room, and I’d rolled my sleeves up. I became aware of a certain dampness in the wrist region. Squeak was licking me. Ew. Before I could say anything, he started blowing raspberries up and down my arm. He was actually quite musical – clearly the lessons were playing off. And he’d obviously been paying attention to me: he managed to capture my favourite hum, the Liberty Bell, quite well for such a limited instrument.


© David Jesson, 2018

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Hi! Good to see you – thanks for dropping by. This could be a meta piece (but it isn’t), and it’s obviously not the usual #secondthoughts that you’ve come to love on the third Sunday of the month. If you’d care to come back tomorrow, it still won’t be #secondthoughts, but all will be explained. Sort of. The poor life choices that led to this point are not open for discussion, for example, but the specifics of why we’ve delayed a post when we’ve maintained our schedule so far will be implicitly made clear. When I say ‘specifics’ and ‘explained’, what I mean is… Hmmm… Do you know what, let’s just agree to reconvene tomorrow, ok?

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.

Dreamcatchers

 

dreamcatcher

Writing prompt:
Every so often a dream catcher must be emptied of the dreams it has caught. Who does it and what do they see?

My first reaction on reading this was ‘oh no, a bit of hippy dippy nonsense’. But, I let my mind drift and here’s what I came up with:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Everyone dreams” my Freudian tutor was saying, “if they say they don’t, they’re lying, or there’s something wrong with them.” “I don’t, but it’s just a vitamin deficiency, nothing dubious” I interjected, then realised I was getting those looks, you know the ones, where people are thinking ‘delusional’.

I realised the amateur mistake I’d made and hastily revised my statement: “well, OK, of course I do dream, I just never remember them. I haven’t done for years.” My tutor gave me an unfathomable look and wrote something down in her notebook.

Some weeks later, as class ended, a woman came in to speak to the tutor. Whilst chatting, I became aware that both were looking at me and nodding. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling so, despite being pretty desperate to go to the loo, I decided to walk with Therese to the station. Once there I raced down to my platform, catching the early train. It would mean a longer wait at changeover, but that would give me time to find the loo.

Opening my book, I was soon engrossed in Freud, scribbling in the margins and highlighting passages. Reaching my changeover station, I quickly packed up and hopped off, seeking a platform attendant to direct me on my now hugely urgent visit. Relieved, I emerged onto the platform to await my train, only to realise that the woman who’d been talking to my tutor was there and she’d spotted me.

Feeling more than a touch uneasy but drawing re-assurance from the crowded platform, I headed on down to wait or my train. She approached me, asking: “are you going through to Leatherhead from here?” I sighed, realising she’d done her homework and knowing that I’d have to trust my tutor wasn’t selling me into the slave trade, I agreed that I was. She offered me her hand and introduced herself: “Sarah Jane Compton, Sleep Specialist.”

We hopped on the train and she spoke to me about my dream recall, or rather, the lack of it. She was particularly interested in the vitamin deficiency thing and I told her it had been discovered during the years when I was seeing a nutritionist regularly. That we’d even tested it out. When I supplemented for a minimum of 4 weeks, my dream recall returned. But as the lack of it was doing me no harm and I didn’t naturally consume those food stuffs high in it (one of the B vitamins, I don’t recall which now), I simply didn’t bother anymore.

Sarah Jane was making notes as we talked, then our conversation moved more generally onto psychology (which I was studying) and my plans for the future. At that time, I had no fixed plan. I knew that the subject was one of great fascination for me, but I had yet to chose my specialism. Sarah Jane asked if I would be willing to participate in a sleep study – nothing arduous – they would simply measure my brain activity over a couple of nights and interview me on waking and later in the day. She stressed how helpful it would be and I agreed, subject to it taking place out of term time.

Some weeks later, I attended Sarah Jane’s sleep study where I was also invited to sit in on a few therapy groups. It rapidly became clear that the groups were for those whose sleep was disturbed. In some cases, it could clearly be traced to known trauma and the normal therapeutic options were providing succour and improvement. In other cases, there was no known reason for the deeply disturbing dreams being experienced. Children, in particular, were terrified of sleeping which was having a deterimental impact on their lives. One of the administrators had cautiously suggested trying dream catchers and – much to everyone’s surprise – they were experiencing a remarkably high level of success with them.

Whilst I was finding this entirely fascinating, I couldn’t help but wonder what part Sarah Jane saw me playing, when suddenly she came out with it. The dream catchers stopped being effective after a time and whilst they’d experimented with changing them for new ones, the children – in particular – took an overly long period of time to settle down with the replacements. Someone suggested that what was needed was for the dream catchers to be emptied. A few had volunteered, but as this involved viewing the contents, it had proven hugely distressing for some time afterwards and all ended up having to go into therapy because of what they’d seen. Sarah Jane wondered if I’d try. She was hoping that my lack of dream recall would make me immune to the dream catcher’s contents.

Unsurprisingly, I agreed. I did start to suffer from disturbed sleep myself. I’d wake up with a start, or wake up crying, or shouting out. Of course, I’d have absolutely no idea, no recall of why I felt the emotion, simply that I was feeling it – whether that be a terrible fear, absolute horror or terrible grief.

As this whole concept had originated from outside the box thinking, I decided to take a punt and suggest that – maybe – we should experiment with using dream catchers on those who lived happy lives and dreamed of pleasing things, you know, in the hope they’d provide a suitable balance? So, if you have happy dreams that you’re willing to share, do give us a call …

 

 

© 2016 Debra Carey

The Garden

floating-plants-experienced-together

The gardens are a testament to an unspoken social understanding of what is important. Sure, there are some things that are essential, and they get subsumed into the normality of living.  As naturally as we breathed we serviced the A/C units which kept our air pure.  As we ate, we made sure that the hydroponics units were up to scratch and operating in ‘the window’.

There were all sorts of frivolities that we could have frittered our (limited) spare time away on but, no, most of it was given over to getting the garden up and running.

We’d justify ourselves to Administrator Atkins with comments about how we were simply accelerating the terraforming process, or how we would be reducing the burden on the CO2 scrubbers.  Because of who we were, we’d justify it to ourselves, by saying that matter should be doing something!  No matter what, every atom can do something to fight entropy even if only in the short term.

But really it comes down to the fact that flowers, whether in spite or because of their impermanent nature, are beautiful.

 

© 2016 David Jesson

Just a Man

The prompt:
He is just a man.
He will fail.
You will make sure of that.

 

small man

“Good morning Miranda”, said Gerry, “how are you feeling about our first session?” Miranda smiled, “a little nervous, but pretty excited. I’ve spent so much time talking this through with my group of girlfriends and getting absolutely nowhere with it. So, yes, nervous and excited.”

“I’m wondering” said Gerry, “if there’s something in particular that made you decide to seek professional help with this issue? Something more than the fact it’s been the subject of multiple conversations.” Raising her eyebrows at the unexpectedly on target question, Miranda responded: “I wasn’t planning to mention this quite so early,” she said quietly, “but my last boyfriend sent me this lengthy dissection of our relationship and what he perceived as my unreasonable expectations. I ended it that same day, but it’s been niggling away at me, probably because it’s written down and I can go over it, again and again, and torture myself with it.”

Gerry was nodding and making ‘I’m listening’ sounds, so Miranda found herself continuing: “I thought we could look at the problem overall before addressing the very specific points he raised.” “But the email upset you?” asked Gerry. “Not so much upset me, more came as a surprise. I thought we were doing fine. Well, apart from the usual niggles single people have when they’re transitioning into a couple, but I hadn’t spotted anything more … and I usually do.” “You usually do?” echoed Gerry in a slightly questioning tone. “Yes” agreed Miranda, “I’ve always been the one to examine the relationship, to check its temperature, where it’s going, whether I’m happy, whether I want more … or less. But that’s pretty normal isn’t it? The woman doing the relationship stuff whilst the bloke just putters along.” She laughed ruefully, “apart from the commitment-phobes, of course, who never let you get that far!”

“So, you ended the relationship when the e-mail arrived” said Gerry, “even though it was going fine. Why do you think that was?” Miranda recoiled as if struck, she’d never considered there was any other option open to her and she said as much. Keeping his voice very gentle, Gerry asked “you didn’t feel you could have a discussion about it?” “No,” said Miranda, “I didn’t feel he deserved me as he’d taken the coward’s way, sending an e-mail rather than talking to me in person.” Gerry’s facial expression seemed to say ‘fair point’.

Miranda noticed that each session with Gerry contained more of these unexpected and on-target questions. Despite feeling she’d addressed them well, she’d found herself thinking about the questions, over and over, and wondering if her responses were just a bit too pat, a bit too clever, a bit too deflecting? She decided to share her thoughts with Gerry, only to be rewarded with a broad smile and a suggestion that they discuss her ruminations in more depth.

These discussions began to feature in Miranda’s dreams, which provided interesting fodder for her weekly discussions with Gerry. When Gerry was away for two weeks, Miranda continued noting down her dreams. The night before her next session with Gerry, Miranda had a most memorable dream: She was in a big white room where twelve men and women ranged down one side, sat on ornate gold seats. Miranda approached each in turn only to find herself being asked, “why are you still single?” Miranda became more distressed with each question, finally blurting out to the last one: “You’re the wise ones, the all seeing ones, if you don’t know, how will I ever find out?” “You’ll have to ask Her” said the last one indicating a woman sitting on a far off cloud.

As Miranda got nearer, she recognised the woman as her mother. “Do get on with it Miranda” she heard her mother say impatiently. “But, but … I don’t understand”, blubbered Miranda, “what’s going on Mummy?” “Oh for goodness sake Miranda, you’re not a little girl, call me Mum, or mother, even Brenda?” Miranda shuddered at the thought of calling her mother ‘Brenda’ but took out a hanky and blew her nose. “Mum” she asked, “why am I still single? Why can’t I find a man to settle down with?”

Brenda snorted: “don’t be ridiculous Miranda, it doesn’t matter who you go out with. He is just a man. He will fail. You will make sure he does” and with that Miranda’s mother waved her away. Miranda stood there, her mouth gaping: “But Mum …” “Oh for goodness sake Miranda, what on earth do you think I was doing all those years whilst you were growing up?” Miranda looked how she felt – genuinely bewildered. Sighing heavily, Brenda continued: “I was training you to make sure the male species suffered, the way your father made me suffer. And I can see that I’ve done a good job. Now, hurry along, there’s a good girl. Just keep up the good work and do stop wasting money with that dreadful (Brenda spat out the next word) Man, Gerry, who asks you all those impertinent questions.”

 

© 2016 Debra Carey

Spaceman Crusoe

Finding yourself in the middle of nowhere is a dispiriting experience.  Add to this the embarrassment of being an astronaut reduced to the level of pre-stone-age man and you begin to understand how I felt.  Thankfully there was no one to witness my embarrassment but, on the other hand, neither was there a soul I could turn to for help.

I watched my craft, which from the perspective of the shore seemed to be rather more stable than it had appeared twenty minutes previously when I had thought that it was going to sink beneath the waves.

Great.  Spaceman Crusoe reporting for duty.

As I say, twenty minutes earlier, the situation hadn’t seemed so stable.  Old man Wyss had an easier time of it – he had a family for slave labour.  But I suppose he had to worry about his dependents relying on him to make everything better.  I’d also been lucky in that I’d been able to grab a few items before I jumped ship.  My grand prize was an antique – a real, genuine book, made from compressed fibrous material.  I’d been worried that it was going to get wet, but snug inside my bag, double wrapped in some spare clothes with some other odds and ends I’d managed to save, it had made it to the shore safe and sound.  I wouldn’t be this overjoyed about any book, but this was the classic ‘Survival’.  Who knew, maybe I’d live long enough to be rescued.