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Sitting in pathology I glance up and recognise a face across the room. My heart moves. I call her name; we stand and embrace, observed by twenty so onlookers. I love her; she was part of my family. She was with us on Christmas day nine years ago. My son moved on, decided she was not part of his life anymore, forgetting that she was part of my life too. We held hands, exchanged news and shared photos of two weddings. Her baby is due in October. She is smiling. A cameo is shared by strangers. They are also smiling
Red Riding Hood was really a psychopath. She knew she would be called when her bleeding started. A red shawl was sent to her as a sign and she ran off into the woods with a sharp hunting knife eagerly awaiting her initiation. A werewolf in the guise of a woodcutter appeared on the path.She happily followed him to Grandma's where the hag was waiting with an aphrodisiac for the fool. He bedded the maid and she stabbed him in the back and watched him bleed. All that was left was a wolf's pelt. She celebrated with the witch.
JOMO: the Joy Of Missing Out.What an interesting thought. Why fear missing out (FOMO)? I am going to take time to work on the joy . I have no inclination to do many of the things that others seek. I’m not crazy about holidays, i’d rather be at home. I don’t go shopping or down to the pub on Saturday nights. I find cities exhausting with the crowds and noise but go to them anyway because it is a must to see a certain exhibition or show. I am going to indulge in enjoying solitude in peace.
Astonishing, dazzling, luminously beautiful, stunning. What wonderful comments to have displayed on the front of your book. I am beginning to fear that I am too late to acquire the skills to write modern fiction, nor to have the experiences that younger writers have of the twenty first century in the workplace and of technology . However I will not be deterred from trying. Fictive Dream is a site that accepts short stories from anyone, but after reading some of them, I felt even less confident. Writing here gives us a writing habit which is great and maybe astonishing and surprising.
The screen was whipped round before I could sit down. "Have you seen this?" he said." You'll want to take a photo" Why would I want to take a photograph of an ex ray which shows my dysfunctional bowel? I took it and have not deleted it yet. On more than one occasion I been made to feel that i have won a gold star for the sheer audacity that my body has to be the most extreme example of some kind of disorder. The alternative to excitement would be compassion for the years of diagnosed discomfort I have suffered.
I am going to quote from part of a poem that reached me by Patricia Goedlicke (1976) The shape of loneliness is a hole By definition to be filled At the outer edges of the hole The lizard of jealousy sits Licking his cold lips For the shape of loneliness is a hole With teeth on either side In the middle of everyone’s body Though it looks like a throat it is not Though it looks like a mouth it is not Nothing lives in it but hot air Gulps of it, rushing through passages Occasionally a sigh hurtles though it.
I know I am still full of rage. It fires up quickly and without warning. A tightness in my throat, a pain in my chest. I am angry because I am sad. Sometimes it really feels like sadness, other times not. Creativity is a route along the way and must be pursued without fear. Anger and sadness can sit on the page and not offend. Fear of the creative is natural, and it is natural to pause. There is young talent out here and I am old. I am also wise and aware and must be bold in not hiding.
My daughter came to today, excited for us to meet her new partner. I had prepared lunch with love. They came. We sat in the garden and talked about their holiday, theatre and books. We took a stroll in the old town. They held hands. They only stayed a few hours, keen to be on to the next adventure, a reunion of the Samba band where they had met last year in Rio. I could not have envisaged this thirty years ago, my little girl empowered by her life and work and acknowledging her sexuality. Two beautiful women drove off.
A meeting of friends We met to celebrate the life of a friend and colleague. Ten of us. Her life shortened, by an earl onset dementia had had no relationship with the real world for over twenty years. She died alone. An estranged half sister muddled together a funeral. An insult. A plan ripped up so that our friend was buried in a field with no words spoken. We know this because one special person of the ten of us had pursued the nursing home and was given a venue. It was one of the hardest days of her life.
The Humans have upset the Weather. The Weather is very angry because everything is topsy turvy and it can’t get it’s rhythms right anymore. So today the Weather was so angry it sent down a very strong wind in the middle of summer while the trees are all green and the fruit and vegetables are ripening. It set out to destroy as many gardens as it could and blow the apples off the trees before they are ripe. It didn’t care if the Humans got hurt in any way. It’s pissed off. Damnation to you Humans.
Write about the thing you are most afraid of. Don’t play safe round all the comfortable issues. This is advice from one of my writing websites. It is so true and it is time I started doing it. My greatest fear is that my children do not respect me. I am afraid that they do not understand the pain I have been through in my life . I do not want to tell them because that what my mother did to me. The fear of the non respect cycle coming round again is terrifying. I doubt my fear is justified.
She sleeps most of the time, deprived of her liberty by the wastage of her limbs. Unable to chew or to swallow solid food, a carer feeds her a pureed meal with a thickened drink. He wipes her mouth gently and removes her bib. She lays, propped up, eyes half open, TV on. Images trigger random memories and flood her brain with colour. Her straight, white, hair lays thinly, against the pillow, ancient skin drawn over the bones of her face. Recognition registers on this face, as a childlike smile. “I’m going home. Is Mother alright? Where are the children?”
The unblinking stare of the ancient woman is disconcerting. She spoke two words today. “Hello”, and “Bye”. Too weak to smile although I detected an attempt to replicate the baby smile she could manage a year ago. I knew she recognised me. Was she thinking how old I looked when she only saw toddlers and young children in her daydreams? Her skin has deteriorated, thinner and more taut across her facial bones; not wrinkled but plagued with eczema. There is skin hanging from her lips. A half finished carton of chocolate yoghurt sits on her table and a thickened coffee.
She hasn’t let go of her forty year old sons. Their problems are forefront in her mind. She texts them well into the night when they are in trouble. As I listen, I contemplate the grief I have inflicted on myself over not seeing much of my adult children and realise that are independent and free. They may have health issues or other issues but they do not concern us with them. They are affectionate when they are in touch and I really must congratulate myself on letting them go. Be careful what you wish for. Sound advice. Follow it.
A farm, a home, a business, all snatched away by a dubious court proceeding. Hiding in a cupboard from the bailiffs, they knew they had to face it. Face what? He has a terminal diagnosis and has been betrayed by a best friend. She is a loving companion. They spend their last pennies on a cheap tent and lightweight sleeping bags and decide to walk. Just walk. Three hundred and sixty miles of the South West Coastal path, wild camping . A story of courage, hardship, and hunger, of becoming one with nature. A story of love triumphing over everything.
They walked the path because she could not accept that he was dying. She thought if they walked and put one step in front of the other they would survive. He spoke to her of death, of how she was to keep his ashes, of how their children were to mix their ashes and sprinkle them on this coastal path where they had struggled; this place where they had become one with nature and had shared everything and pain and joy had merged. She relented, accepted and sank into his arms knowing he would die but not yet, not tonight.
If you don’t face your emotions it will show in your writing. The thing I am afraid of is writing about me and my family and how we came to carry so much sadness. After four years I have re-read my father’s letters to my mother written just before and after they were married. At this time he was a captain in British Airways. This involved being away from home for weeks at a time. Communication was very slow and unreliable. It was in the period just after World War Two. He had spent three years piloting a Lancaster Bomber.
My father writes to my mother expressing his love for her and also his great sadness at their seemingly insoluble problem. How can they be happy when he spends so much of his time away? Mother could never cope with difficulties on her own and these letters reveal the tears and anguish she expressed every time her husband had to leave home. I can feel his distress as he tries to think of a way out. He begs her to have patience and to try to live one day at a time. It does not end happily ever after.
We walked along a headland. Strange figures passed the other way dressed for a carnival. Men in high visibility yellow jackets were present warning us of aliens over the cliff. We returned home to find the place full of these grotesque figures. I struggled through the throng and tried to say that I was the owner of this house. They informed me that they always met here on this particular day for their ritual. Our dreams have messages. Sometimes they seem obvious. This one continued with the familiar theme of surprises and unexplored spaces of my home, of my psyche.
The unsaid is not absent. It gives rise to illness. It is the psychological pain you feel as the doctor palpates your stomach and collects symptoms which you know do not start in the body. To say it is to feel it and if it is not said it ferments and goes bad. If only we could see that it is alright to feel and think those things. The thoughts arise, we cannot stop them. That does not make us a bad person. If stirred the dark side will appear. We must learn to be honest and true to ourselves.
“My life is of writing is rooted in the fragment”. I write in fragments, in the hope that I may have the courage to sew these fragments together to tell a story. In the time when my parents met there was no social media, no mobile phones, only pen and ink to write down experiences of separation, of love and of challenge. My father left me many words crafted in ink on paper so that I could meet him as a young man. The fiction will come in reading between the lines to imagine the replies I do not have.
I had a disturbing dream last night which exposes my darker side. It upset me, so I decided to write it as fiction, and use it as a prompt for a story. This worked quite well but did not make me feel much better, but on reflection, where do dark stories come but from the creative process in our minds? I cannot focus on my project, it is still too difficult, but if I write every day I think that the fragments that I spoke of yesterday may prove fruitful and if not I still will have written every day!
She always opened a tin of peaches on Christmas day. The contents sat there in its glass patterned bowl; slices of slithery processed, sugary, half tennis balls swimming in their viscous sauce “Just in case” she used to say. Of course they reappeared on Boxing Day when they might get consumed after the first course of cold turkey had been ceremoniously carved and laid carefully on each plate next to the cold bread sauce and jacket potatoes. I remember not being allowed to take too much butter for them. Memories of wartime rations were still fresh. Repeated rituals always remembered.
He has written his funeral plan he revealed in a casual conversation over tea and biscuits. We had played tennis and none of us are in our prime. We laughed and asked him what he wanted. His tennis racket on top of the coffin and he would like the ladies to wear hats. “What sort of hats?" "Black pill boxes with the veils" he said and although we all smiled I could not help wondering if he was really serious. It raised so many images for me. Widow in mourning, former mistresses and lovers barely peeping from behind black veils?
“He did it for me” she said. “I couldn’t cope without him. The baby was crying. I couldn’t dry the nappies. I wasn’t used to this sort of life. I cried every time he had to go away even before the baby was born. We fell in love and I knew that this man would look after me, but he didn’t. He just kept going away until the traumas had made such a mess of me that he had to give it up” He gave up the one thing that made him feel free. He gave up flying forever.
Money has been spent on research that shows cats recognise their names but choose not to respond! 78 felines were studied in a series of experiments. They were exposed to words of similar length and cadence to their names. Some cats twitched their ears when their names were called. None came running towards their owners. I have to admit I found this story extremely funny, imagining lab researchers taking notes. Could it be that Monty knows his name but chose not to respond on this occasion and Tiddles was shaking off a fly in his ear when his turn came?
On September 4th 1957 Elizabeth Eckford was confronted by a mass of angry white faces while approaching her new school. She had expected eight other black children there. She had no telephone and could not be warned. “I can’t go on”. She sought some help from a member of the Arkansas National Guard who pointed her back towards the spitting crowd. He hated her too. “I’ll go on” They spat on her, crowded her, and threatened her with a lynching. “I’ve only ever tried to be good. Why do they hate me so much? She was afraid "I’ll turn back”.
Indolence; it’s in my DNA. It makes me feel better about myself knowing that a genetic predisposition makes me averse to heavy labour, housework, shopping and other unpleasant pastimes. Since I’ve discovered that my mother’s family were straight out of the British Raj it has explained so many things about my life . I am the first generation to be hurled into the real world to mix with real people and to discover the diverse differences in the human make up. I have always felt uneasy, not sure of myself and wondered who I really am. Research has reassured me!
The neighbours brought the dead cat round. It was mangled. My wife and daughter started crying while I had to do the decent thing and bury it. It was a stinking hot summer’s day and the soil was hard and dry. The sweat was pouring off me as I repeatedly pounded the soil with my spade. I finally dug a hole deep enough and had started to manoeuvre the poor broken animal into it when through the snivels I heard my daughter cry “Dad, he’s home, Monty has come home” How I cursed. I had just buried somebody else’s cat.
There is hope however many dark holes you trip into during a lifetime. Even if the darkness seems impenetrable there are always lighter shades of dark to find. As you try to climb out you may slip back The darkness of your depression is searching for a way to turn on the light. When you recognise your potential for growth and creativity the dark hole is no longer bottomless but filled with the colour of new life and inspiration. Starting as a seed, the new knowledge grows and if recognised is rescued from the darkness and planted in fertile soil.
My mother took me work with her when I was young. The lady knew our situation and was kind to us. One day my dad turned up and asked to speak to her husband. He asked him if he had any contacts who could get him work. A few years later Dad took me out in the van to do “jobs”. These jobs were done at night and involved loading the van with TVs, CD players and anything else he fancied helping himself to. My heart nearly stopped when one night we parked at the home of my mother’s employer.
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