SACRED MOMENT

A bench in the garden.

July and shirt sleeve warm,

The sun just sunk.

Not Eden nor Gethsemane.

Deep shadows cast by orange sodium light.

No demons, no terrors lurked,

But temptation? Oh yes. Temptation.

It was a meeting and a parting of the ways.

North Road met Western Avenue.

A ring intersected at the cardinal points,

A sigil.

From Tamium, or was it Bovium?

Nothing is certain.

At its centre this sacred grove.

I’d poured libation and sacrificed my love

And on the edge,

Souls rolled East and West below me.

Above me, North and South.

We had come, we had seen,

And 80 of 120 conquered.

My passport made,

East, West, North and South.

Places, people, things, fights,

Joys, loves, losses, triumphs and disasters

And treat them all the same?

A way carved by others,

Follow and all would be mine,

More learning, more tests, more joining,

Embracing a well ploughed furrow,

A path already trod,

That would guide, steer, nurture

To the grave.

A sports car roared overhead

A lorry growled East to England

To port and ship and foreign fields

Or Home Counties supermarket.

The posted way?

Or East and West and North and South?

Choices called.

Destinations? No.

All roads end the same.

I rose, watched tarmac unroll

To where we all will end

But the journey would be mine.

SET THE WORLD ON FIRE Pt 4

The room was as anonymous as the hotel. We showered and my pre-breakfast idea finally got an airing. Charlie seemed very enthusiastic, but I confess my heart wasn’t really in it. Call me an old romantic but the previous eight hours hadn’t really been my idea of foreplay.

In what for me was normally a period when that euphoric post coital glow left me feeling without a care in the world, all I could think about was how to broach the subject of what was in the back pack.

As usual she was way ahead of me. She raised her head from my chest.

‘You want to know what it is?’

‘Well…do I want to know why we abandoned everything to raid a burned out warehouse two hundred miles from home and get something out of my mother’s wrecked sideboard I never knew was there? Er let me think.’

She nipped my chest with her sharp little teeth, making me yelp. She leaped off the bed to rummage in the back pack.

The leather bag still stank of burning but the box looked okay.

‘You ready?’

I nodded. She opened the box and placed the contents on the small bedside table.

It was black, but not through the effects of the fire. It was polished stone, covered in carvings. It stood almost a foot high but somehow looked bigger in the room. Charlie handled it almost reverently.

‘What is it?’ I looked from it to her. ‘Can I touch it?’

She nodded. ‘Just be careful. It’s very old.’

It felt heavier than it looked. I didn’t know what kind of stone it was made from. I peered at the carvings. On the top half were exquisite pictures of what looked like a temple and stylised lions and someone with a curled beard in a chariot, riding over people on foot. The lower half was covered in pointy lines in a geometric pattern. I wasn’t any wiser.

‘What is it? How did it get in my mother’s sideboard?’

‘It’s a sort of Kudurru.’ She said, as if that explained everything.

‘I’m a simple soul.’ I said ‘I’m not the one with the degrees in archaeology and ancient languages. What’s a whatever you just said?’

She took it back from me and put it back on the bedside table.

‘It’s sort of Babylonian title deed. They kept the stone ones like this in the temple and gave a clay copy to the landowner to mark his boundary.’

I must have looked less than impressed.

‘But this one’s more than that.’ She said.

I nodded as if I knew what the hell she was talking about.

‘That,’ she pointed to the pictures, ‘is the defeat of the Elamites by Nebuchadnezzar I, about 3,000 years ago.’

Now I had heard of him. I wasn’t sure why. He didn’t come up in serious crime briefings very often.

‘And this, says their land is now his, his title document.’ She pointed to the lower design. ‘This is cuneiform script.’ She traced her finger around the stone, ‘and this bit tells you how he did it. This bit wouldn’t be on the clay versions.’

‘So it’s worth a fair bit?’

Her eyes blazed at me. ‘Worth?’ She snorted. ‘Everything.’

‘A million? Cos whatever, it isn’t worth getting…’

She laughed.

‘You don’t get it. This isn’t just another artefact, just a title deed or a military manual, or a history book, this is a gateway to power. This tells you how he really did it. ’

She gazed at me and for the first time I realised that I was a bit afraid of her.

‘This is about power. Real power. How to summon it like he did. Whoever owns this stone can wield it for real power in this world.’

I really didn’t want to ask the next question.

‘So who does own it Charlie?’

‘I do.’ She smiled at me. ‘We do.’

‘And where did “we” get it?’

She looked at me and the craziness I had seen had gone.

‘You know where, you saw me get it.’

I shook my head. ‘No, I mean before it was there.’ I had a fair idea where it had come from before it made its way into my mother’s sideboard. ‘This is from the Minassian case isn’t it?’

She smiled some more.

‘Never catalogued. Recognised it at once. More than that slob did. He’s not going to need it where he’s going is he?’ She got off the bed and started dressing.

‘But Charlie…’

‘What? Come on get dressed, we’ll go home now.’

‘Who does it really belong to?’

She looked at me like I was the densest pupil in a remedial class.

‘Me of course.’ She smiled at me. ‘Us darling.’

‘What was the fire about? Who knows about this?’

She finished dressing and put the stone back in the box in the bag.

‘Might be anything. Could be a gang war. Could be somebody burning evidence. You know what gets left in these storage facilities. Who knows what went up in flames in there?’

I raised my eyebrows.

‘I doubt Minassian knows. He never mentioned it, and it was in a box marked “assorted stele”. It was still full of them when it was catalogued by the evidence team.’ She shrugged. ‘There are a few loose ends. You don’t need to worry about it sweetie. Trust me. And the stone. Look at the Minassian case. I’m being promoted for that and it won’t stop there. With practice following the text I could be commissioner in ten years. Maybe politics? Maybe PM in twenty years. Sky’s the limit Sweets. We’re rolling now.’

She pulled a black automatic pistol in a pancake holster from the bag, tucked it into her jeans belt and pulled her top down over it. She swung the bag onto her shoulder and reached a hand out to me

‘Come on darling. Time to go.’

SET THE WORLD ON FIRE Pt3

I thought it would be pitch black inside, but of course the roof had gone and the sky gave plenty of light. We weren’t in the main space yet. It was what had been some sort of office. The door into the main warehouse was a little more solid than the exterior one had been, but across the room an internal window offered easy access to the main part of the building.

It was madness inside. Collapsed roofing lay like a Satanic maze of blackened timber and steel framing, twisted and stinking. The floor was a mulch of soot and ash still soaked from the fire brigade’s efforts and subsequent rains. Nails, screws, roof ties, shards of glass lay in a frenzy of caltrops and punji traps. I tried to peer through the debris to see if the floor was solid or disguised deadly pitfalls.

‘This is crazy love. Look, we gave it our best shot. We can’t go in there, it’s a death trap.’

‘ Row C, block 5 section 1.’ She muttered in reply, and seconds later she stood before a giant steel pillar that had once supported the roof. I was still picking my way between hazards as she scraped a gloved hand through the carbon and revealed a peeling letter “B”. Before I could reach her, she was off to the next steel trunk. This one had caught more heat and the letter wasn’t as clear, but just visible through the encrusted filth was the curve of a ‘C’.

She was off among the sections of shelving and boxes and for a minute I lost sight of her as I navigated my way across the floor. There were ominous creaks and cracking sounds across the building but the fire had been a couple of weeks ago and I was hoping any major post conflagration collapses had already happened. No doubt a completely unfounded assumption but hope is a wonderful thing. At least the floor was concrete so I wasn’t going to end up ten feet below ground impaled on a tie rod.

I turned the corner by pillar “C” and about twenty metres away recognised the remains of my mother’s pride and joy. It was a Victorian thing of solid wood and although it was beyond recovery as a piece of practical furniture, it was surprisingly still recognisable as the awful sideboard of memory. Which was odd, as I thought it was supposed to be inside one of the steel containers. But there it was, half in the storage unit and half in the sludge and filth, And up to her shoulder in the compartment that had held the bottle drawer, which now lay discarded to the side, was Charlie.

‘What are you doing?’

She ignored me and pulled at something from inside the remains of the drawer.

It was a small bag. It hadn’t burst into flames but it looked charred. Charlie slid a box out. It was about twelve by six by six inches. She opened the lid and looked inside. By the time I had made my way here it was back in the bag and being tucked inside the backpack she had brought with her.

‘What is it? Is that what we’ve come for?’

She nodded. ‘We’d better go before anyone comes.’

‘Why does it matter? It’s our stuff isn’t it? You said we were entitled.’

‘I just don’t want to get into it here. Let’s go.

***

We were filthy after our foray into the warehouse. I was desperate to get the stink off me. ‘Let’s go and book into a hotel and get a shower. We can’t drive home like this.’ I said.

‘We can’t turn up anywhere in this state. And we can’t wreck the upholstery. Change first.’

I was about to ask how when she pulled a bin bag from her back pack.

We stood at the end of the tarmac lane and changed our outer clothes and shoes for the ones Charlie had brought.

‘Wallet out? Nothing else in the pockets?’

I shook my head, rapidly disoriented by the sudden turn of events.

She dumped the contaminated clothes and shoes in the bag and we went back to the car.

‘Look, what’s going on love?’

She said nothing, but drove a couple of blocks down the industrial estate we were in. She stopped the car, got out, motor running and dumped the bin bag in a skip.

Before I could protest she was back behind the wheel and driving.

‘Not like they’d be any use after being covered in that crap is it? She said, though I hadn’t asked

I shook my head. ‘I suppose not’.

SET THE WORLD ON FIRE Pt 2

The M5, M6 interchange had been insane as usual, but at least we didn’t hit it at rush hour so it only took us about fifteen minutes to crawl through rather than the half an hour plus I’d expected. Before we set out I’d asked all the questions you would, the main one being of course, “Why?”, but I hadn’t got any sensible answers. I’d insisted on ringing the insurers before we set out. They hadn’t been as much of a deterrent as I had hoped.  They didn’t think the site was open, but they didn’t see any harm asking at the place itself. It has been a suspected crime scene, but the police had released it back to the owners. They and the fire brigade had done all the forensics they needed. The assessors and adjustors had been over the place and the insurance company didn’t think there would be any point in looking at a scene of smoky carnage, but they didn’t have any objection to us trying.

I suspected the intention was rather more than just looking but I kept that bit to myself and ended the call.

‘They think it was arson. Probably some sort of insurance scam.’

‘I thought so. The arson I mean.’

She accelerated smoothly through the traffic, avoiding the crush to get off at the Wolverhampton turn off.

‘What are we going to do when we get there?’ I asked again. Even I was getting bored with this line of questioning, but I was even more frustrated by the lack of a convincing answer.

‘I just want to have a look, okay?’ she said for the umpteenth time.

I slumped down into my seat again.

‘Hell of a way to spend a day off.’

***

It looked a lot worse in the ashes than it had sounded in the letter. The complex had been part of an old set of warehouses from the late nineteenth century, repurposed successively over the years as light engineering works, wholesale fabric outlets, dodgy import export stores and latterly units catering for the mass expansion of the ownership of things. Things too numerous, too cumbersome, too unwanted to fit in modern homes, but not unwanted enough to be binned forever, just yet. A limbo for consumer capital acquisition.

A large car park next to the skeletal remains of the main building had been jammed with containers, part of a self store facility. The entrance to the whole compound was through a wire link fence locked with a thick chain and a massive padlock. The remains of blue and white police tape fluttered from the posts either side of the gate.

There were no obvious signs of life and even if there were people inside, which seemed unlikely given the padlocked gate, no way of attracting their attention. There was a security camera on a pole but it lay in the prone position, filming the sky. Except it wasn’t. The cable at the bottom had been ripped from the ground when the pole had been knocked over. By a fire engine, police vehicle or whoever had set the fire wasn’t clear.

‘Shall we go home now?’ I asked.

Ten minutes later I was trying to slide through a broken bit of fencing on a disintegrating tarmacked track between the main building and an even more dilapidated version next door.

‘Come on, hurry up.’ Charlie snapped.

‘I’m trying. My shoulders are wider than yours.’ I said, managing to unsnag myself from a bit of trailing wire. ‘We’re bound to be on cctv somewhere you know?’

‘Keep your face down then. You know how crap the quality of these things is. They’ve just had a major fire. All that smoke? All that heat? All that water? Even if they are working they aren’t going to give a clear picture.  Just don’t go staring into them, looking for them.’

I knew that but I still didn’t understand what we were doing. Love makes you do mad things but driving two hundred miles and breaking into a burnt out warehouse had never crossed my mind as a sign of devotion until now.

We shuffled through the trampled nettles and willow herb and after about twenty metres came to what had once been a small doorway, boarded up after a change of use, but now rotted through and burnt. The hinges and lock were sound but as I saw when she pushed through the flimsy planking, no longer attached to anything sound enough to pose a bar to entry.

SET THE WORLD ON FIRE

I haven’t posted much actual new creative writing on here for a couple of weeks or so, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been going on in the background. Honest. Although at times I feel my writing experience from the outside must look like the reverse of the old swan analogy; I look dementedly busy but there’s stuff all actually happening underneath.

However I thought I’d show some working as my maths teacher said I should and so over the next few days I’ll be posting a new short story, ‘Set The Word on Fire ‘in serial form.

Unlike ‘Pendragon’ when I was trying to write it episode by episode as I posted, this is to all intents and purposes already written – with possibly a few tweaks along the way, but there is a beginning middle and an end down in electrons.

So here we are with Part 1:

SET THE WORLD ON FIRE

Part 1

‘Morning love. I brought you a drink.’

The covers erupted and the tousled hair emerged from the snowy drifts of duvet.

‘Mmm. Thanks. God! What time is it?’

‘It’s okay you aren’t going in today remember? Holiday? ’

The look of mild panic disappeared, replaced by a smile.

‘Oh yeah. I forgot.’ she looked at the clock. ‘You should have woken me earlier.’

I put the tea on the bedside table and sat on the bed next to her.

‘I thought you deserved the lie in. You needed it after that case.’

Her eyes clouded for a second at the thought of the Minassian case, over three years in the investigation, preparation and trial.

‘Hey, you won remember?’ I leaned over and kissed her forehead where the worry lines had started to form. They disappeared and light flickered back in her eyes.

‘Oh yes. Hooray for me.’

‘I thought you’d have taken a bit of leave right after the decision.’

‘Few things to tidy up.’ She said sipping tea.

‘So, the day to ourselves.’ I let my hand slide over the curve of her hip beneath the covers. ‘Whatever will we do all day?’

‘Gardening?  Have a think where we are going to put the stuff when we get it out of store?’ She took another sip of tea. ‘Not what you’re thinking anyway.’

I pouted.

She put the tea down and let her hand rest high up on my thigh. ‘Not until I’ve had a shower and breakfast anyway.’

***

Breakfast was a longer affair than I would have wished it to be and the post which arrived during the meal rather put the lid on my lascivious plans for the day. The post had started arriving earlier again since a reorganisation of the delivery routes. We had been on the end of one of their rural circuits and mail arrived in the early afternoon when we had bought the place. It wasn’t really a problem as the days of needing urgent responses to business post has largely disappeared with digital communications. Someone had shaken things up at Royal Mail however and we were now getting mid morning deliveries.

On the bright side, our schedule got cleared really quickly. The down side was somewhere in Manchester a huge warehouse full of storage units had gone up in flames and removed the need to think about where to put our belongings in the new house.

One of Charlie’s hands held the letter and the other was clamped over her mouth which had opened wide in shock. I came round the table, held her by the shoulders and kissed her head. We read the letter from the storage company.

The bad news was the place was wrecked. What had survived the flames had been ruined by the smoke and then drenched beyond recovery by the fire brigade stopping the fire spreading to neighbouring industrial units.

The company was pleased however to inform us that our insurance was valid and that an assessor had made a valuation based upon our estimate of the listed goods. The company was pleased to pay a claim amounting to the estimate in full. If we were happy to accept this we could sign the enclosed form, and payment would be made within fourteen days.

That seemed suspiciously easy to me. I was used to insurance companies arguing, challenging, dragging their feet and paying up, if ever, years down the track. I said as much to Charlie.

She didn’t reply. I could understand her shock but the hand clasped over her mouth seemed unusually dramatic for her. She was in control of her life and her emotions and when surprises did occur, she took them in her stride. Take the Minassian case. A simple charge of exporting ancient artworks without the correct licence had spiralled in a matter of days to cross Europe trafficking, then illegal importing to Europe, looting of protected sites in the Middle East and Caucasus region and possible war crimes. Each escalation had elicited a sigh and fresh paperwork. Even the pictures and testimony of murder, rape and slaughter from warzones to the back streets of Italy hadn’t caused any display of emotion as overt as the one I saw now.

The things in store were not the most important things in our lives. That’s why they had been in store. Sure both of us had things in there from our childhoods, but they weren’t, or so I had imagined, things whose loss would be world shattering. Maybe I was wrong.

‘Never mind sweetheart, we’ll get what we need with the insurance. And now we don’t have to try and fit my parents’ hideous sideboard in somewhere.’ I said trying to make light of it. I tried giving her a reassuring hug, but her shoulders were rigid and it was like squeezing a clothes horse.

She touched my hand. ‘How long will it take us to get to Manchester?’

 

Photo credit: <a href=”https://visualhunt.co/a4/f1e1a1″>Pedro Moura Pinheiro</a> on <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/re6/534c46dc”>Visual hunt</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”&gt; CC BY-NC-SA</a>

HEALTH PLANNING – VIRUS

Some years ago I wrote a piece about conversations in government circles regarding an imaginary viral outbreak elsewhere in the world and the possible concerns about the spread to this country. It was loosely based on the then media panic about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Of course that outbreak was contained.

I posted the story, called Virus, here in August 2014.

Current media talk about Coronavirus, or actually Sars-CoV-2, made me think about revisiting the idea. (If you are thinking the new official name is Covid-19, that’s the disease caused by the virus Sars-CoV-2. Aren’t naming conventions fun?).

Having looked at it, I think it will stand as is. The figures were alarmist for Ebola and can’t be read across (this is creative writing folks not an executive brief for a Health Minister) for Covid-19 in any way (so far!).

I won’t post the story here in its entirety again, but you can see it in Writing/Short Fiction by following the tabs  and scrolling down or clicking here to read the original Blog Post.

Happy reading  – and remember ‘don’t have nightmares!

BETTER GET ON WITH IT (ORIGINAL DRAFT)

I have as I think I said recently,  been trawling through some old electronic files. These normally turn up a combination of ideas that were abandoned, and quite rightly in many instances, first x number of drafts of things I eventually liked and were used or are still being peddled, and occasionally weird finds like this.

This is my original version of an idea written for an exercise someone suggested. As I said when I posted the finished version here I don’t normally like that type of thing, as for me it feels artificial, but I can do it if needed.

What surprised me here was that the version I found and offer here is hardly recognisable – certainly not in tone – as the same basic story.

I put it here as a sort of amusement and possibly as an encouragement or a warning. Which, and about what you’ll have to decide.

If you want to compare with the original go to Flash Fiction and read the Better Get On With It in that section

 

 

Under the cover of fading twilight Piers Lomond narrowed his eyes against the drizzle coming up river from the west. North and south banks sprouted orange lights that twinkled in the rain. Piers knew that in the darkness of night they would blossom into glowing displays marking the warmth of humanity behind them. They were trying to tell him something. He didn’t want to listen.

The lights were like dames, clamouring for attention, sparkling in the darkness, leading you on and then snapping off when you needed them, when they found someone else to impress.

Out west was another world, a glitzier ball of light, the biggest, the brightest in the heavens, but now it was sinking into the waves that marked the horizon. Even that was lost in the darkness of the coming storm.

Lomond shook his head flicking water like a dog shaking its fur. It wasn’t going to bother him. He wasn’t planning on being around for no storm.

If he had any regrets it was the rain he guessed. He’d imagined beams of sunlight through fluffy clouds when it finally happened. Even the end was going to be grey and downbeat like a slow Sunday in Pontypool.  Out west was the land of eternal youth. He guessed that boat had sailed. He laughed. He didn’t need no boat where he was going. Below the bridge the second biggest tidal reach in the world turned and began dumping millions of gallons of water into the Irish sea. The biggest was in the Bay of Fundy almost two thousand miles due west of where he stood. Everything bigger and better was out west. He snorted , well he was coming to join them. Onwards and upwards he guessed. He stared down at the black troughed waves, not yet blown into white caps. Well onwards at any rate.

He turned and leaned back on the safety rail, wishing he had a cigarette. He wasn’t sure why. He didn’t smoke but it seemed like something you should do at a time like this. He stared north and west up river. All he could see was the carriageways crossing the bridge. He shook his head. He couldn’t even get to stand on the right side of a bridge for a dramatic gesture. He wondered who was writing the scene. Some schmo out of writing school he guessed, too lazy to go back and change the beginning so this scene would work better. He shrugged into the belted raincoat and turned up the collar against the rain that was dripping from the brim of his fedora down his neck. He hadn’t noticed he was wearing a raincoat and hat before now. It seemed a strange thing to be dressed in under the circumstances but he was feeling less comfortable about the whole deal by the sentence.

Somewhere up there, he nodded across the four lanes of motorway He needed a better agent. And quick.

DISTANCE RUNNING

This started life as the beginning of a novel. Then I realised it was the same novel for which I already have about six starts, several middles, and a couple of different endings, none of them joined together. You only need one beginning, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t shoehorn it in anywhere else. So I kept the basic idea and structure and tried to turn it into a short story but that was going nowhere. I’d started too discursively and I was caught in a halfway house type of thing where I either needed a lot more time to develop character, plot etc. or there wasn’t enough information fast enough to make a short story work. Harsh editing ended up with this very short piece of short fiction that says something more than I had thought possible when I started .

Waste not want not.

 

DISTANCE RUNNING

The old railway sleepers were wet from overnight rain. Slap, squelch, every step, trainers fighting for grip. Cheap steps, but they were slippery beggars. He pumped his arms. Careful now; no repeat of the fall last year. Old wet wood soaked in diesel fuel, lubricating oil and the contents of British Rail toilets. But without them the hill would be almost impossible to run up.

Another couple of minutes and the steps ended, a track crossing his path. Thighs burning, Will turned left and the climb became less steep. He burst out of the trees and a long vista opened before him, down the valley to the spires and roofs of the distant town. He felt himself slowing as he stared. Try as he might his pace always dropped here. It was cruel to put such a view after that first dramatic climb. It was almost impossible not to slow down and peer through the haze at his distant Shangri La. She was down there, in those streets, somewhere among the warm yellow glow. A few miles away. Could run it in under an hour. Might as well be the other side of the world.

He glanced at the stop watch on his wrist. Damn! Three seconds slower. Supposed to get better. He kicked on. Lost time to make up. Only a few seconds. Might as well be the end of time.

ANOTHER VICTIM OF AUSTERITY

This was written in response to an exercise set by a member of a writers group I belong to. I confess I am not usually that asiduous in completing these types of tasks as I probably should be as I have quite a lot of my own ideas awating attention. Julie has brought such a fresh approach to the group with her writing however, that I wanted to do this. I also felt it I was worth an attempt because it seemed so simple at first, and yet the more I thought about it the more perspectives it offered.

The brief was to write a short piece about a crime connected with something in the room we meet in. Here’s my attempt.

 

‘Hello Delyth, what you doing?’

‘Trying to move these shelves a bit.’

‘Why’s that then?’

‘We’re going to have to clear this room before the redesign.’

‘I know that, but that’s not for weeks yet.’

‘Pinner wants the shelves out before then.’

‘They haven’t moved for years – aren’t they screwed in or something?’ Bob said.

‘No.’

‘Well, don’t you need a note or something to start doing that?’

‘Are you going to stand there criticising or are you going to help?’

Bob stood in the doorway and watched as Delyth, a small bird like woman with grey hair and over large glasses, tugged ineffectually at the edge of a bookcase full of children’s stories.

‘I don’t think I should Delyth. Not with my back.’ he wandered into the room a little despite himself. ‘You know what Pinner said, we aren’t covered for that sort of thing anymore. If you need to move anything bigger than a chair you need to get a qualified kinetic handler in.’

‘Stuff Pinner. I only need it moved a few inches.’

Bob considered this. It seemed a bit unreasonable to phone someone to book a mover to come round to shift a set of shelves a couple of inches, and then presumably put them back. But his sciatica had only just subsided after the last bout of agony, and he didn’t want to tweak the nerve again. Then a thought occurred to him.

‘Why do you just want to move it a few inches if you’re getting ready for the redesign?’

Delyth gave up her fruitless assault on the shelves.

‘I… never mind.’ She started pulling books off the shelves and stacking them on the table. ‘Give me a hand with these then. They aren’t heavy enough to damage your back, and they’re smaller than a chair.’

Bob conceded the point and shuffled round the table. He began to follow Delyth’s lead, taking small groups of books from the shelves and placing them neatly on the table.

‘What are we doing?’ he asked.

‘Moving books.’

‘But why?’

‘To make the book case lighter, then I can move it.’ Delyth said through gritted teeth.

The logic was impeccable but didn’t explain why Delyth suddenly wanted to move the shelves a couple of inches. He moved a set of Harry Potters in Welsh and felt the need to clarify.

‘But if he’s arranged to move them out before the move, why are we doing this now?’

‘There we are.’ Delyth ignored the question. ‘That’ll be a lot lighter.’

Bob pushed at the shelving. ‘Yeah, it is.’

‘You can go then if you like. I can manage now.’ Delyth said turning and managing a smile at Bob. ‘Thanks’.

‘No. It’s okay Delyth. I’ll help.’

And with that he took one end of the shelving and waited while Delyth stood there hands on hips.

‘Come on Delyth, before Pinner comes and fires us both for breaking health and safety orders.’

Delyth’s smile returned

‘Couldn’t have that could we.’ she said.

They lifted and slid the shelves forward.

‘That’ll do thanks Bob. You can go now.’

Bob stood up.

‘I’ll help put the books back will I?’ he said.

‘No need. Off you go.’

Bob shrugged and as he did so bumped the shelving with his shoulder. There was a thump as something hit the floor and then another.

‘What was that?’ he said.

‘Just a book. Off you go Bob.’

But Bob was already behind the shelving.

‘There’s something down here. Two. Two packages. Looks like they were sellotaped to the back of the shelves. Thin but wide and long mind.’

‘Bob…’

‘Don’t worry Delyth I can get them.’

With that Bob dragged the packages out from behind the shelving.

‘This one’s weird. Actually they’re both weird.’ And with that Bob ripped open the brown wrapping paper.

Delyth hadn’t wanted to hurt Bob, but hitting him with a copy of “Harri Potter y Maen ar Athronydd” seemed a decent way for him to go. She picked up the two packages and the £50 notes that had fluttered loose from the one he had ripped open, before pushing the shelving over to make sure the sharp heavy edge hit him neatly on the neck with a satisfying crunch. She scattered the books from the table about his body before putting the packages in her large shopping bag. She walked out of the room and wondered whether she should ring to tell Pinner there had been an accident before she left on her half day. Best not. He’d like the ‘I told you’ so moment of discovery. Not to mention filling in the health and safety forms.

Besides she needed to put the £100,000 somewhere safe from Council cuts.

 

You can find this and other pieces of flash fiction here

WESTLEY WRITERS CHAPTER 3 (CONTINUED)

 

As promised the last bit of chapter 3 of Westley Writers.

The whole thing so far can be read here

WESTLEY WRITERS

CHAPTER 3

(PART 2)

 

They stood in the car park for a few moments, saying things about stories read that had not seemed appropriate in the meeting itself or exchanging tangential thoughts about writing in general and then June and Ashby departed.

‘Drink Jules?’

Straker looked at his watch.

‘Go on then, just a quick one.’

Stephanie drove them out to the Dragon. There was a fire in the grate and the place was about half full. Not bad for mid-week. Half the pubs around the village had closed in the last ten years. Straker was pleased to see no-one he knew.

‘What will it be Jules?’

‘An orange juice thanks.’

‘Nothing stronger? You’re not driving are you?

‘No, but I’d like to keep my wits about me thanks.’

‘Jules! I’m not going to leap on you. Not without a bit more positive feedback anyway.’

‘It’s the positive feedback I want to control. So an orange juice please.’

Stephanie beamed at the barman and ordered the drinks. Julian carried them to a table tucked away in an alcove.

‘What did you really think of my piece?’ Stephanie asked as they settled down.

‘Good.’ he said. ‘No seriously. I can understand what John was saying about it needing work to remember which level of the narrative we were in but he was right at the end as well. You need to read it as a piece, not in segments strung out over weeks to do that easily. You should email a chapter to him and he’d pick it up easily enough.’

‘Do you pick it up?’

Straker looked at her over the rim of his orange juice. There was no obvious flirting going on. It might have been a straightforward question.

‘I did. I remember the last few excerpts you’ve read and I like the dream in dream reality.’ He smiled. ‘Not at all like the protagonist waking at the end of an entire series of soap opera.’

‘Bastard.’

‘Joke.’ It’s not. It’s really engrossing’

‘Hmm. Thanks, I think.’ Stephanie took a sip of cranberry juice. She was driving after all. ‘I liked yours. A bit biographical wasn’t it?’

Straker grimaced.

‘You noticed did you?’

‘Don’t worry. Your life’s been a bit more complicated than most. It makes a good novel, or two.’

‘I’ll take that as a compliment’

‘You should.’ Stephanie took a sip of her drink and continued, ‘So the boy, William. He’s Crispin?’

‘Not an exact copy but there are facets of him in there.’

Stephanie nodded before proceeding.

‘And how is he?’

‘Crispin? Speaking again.’

‘Bad divorce was it?’

‘They never actually got married.’ Straker sighed, ‘Which was behind most of the problems.’

‘No commitment?’

Starker laughed.

‘Well, I took that as read but no, it was more all the legal complications about the kids and the house and, well just about everything.’

‘But it was fairly amicable?’

‘As far as these things ever can be I suppose. I thought given they both wanted to go their own ways it would have been simpler. Lots of buggering about with signing off saying you had considered the cat’s mental welfare and taken its best interests into consideration, that sort of crap.’

‘Jules! I’m shocked. You used to be such a progressive thinker. All Guardian and Left Bank Show sort of thing.’

‘I still am really but, well you know, some of it’s yoghurt knitting Tofu spinners.’

‘I bet you read the Telegraph and go “harrumph” every morning.’

‘Do not.’ Straker looked a little uncomfortable. ‘Well, I do read it, but only for the rugger and the cricket. The Guardian’s not interested in rugger, unless it’s women’s. And I’m sorry Steph but I can’t take that seriously. I know it’s a fault but there it is.’

‘Short sighted Jules. I always enjoyed scrumming down with you.’

‘Steph…’

‘Don’t worry Jules.’

‘Look, you know I still fancy you but I’m married…’

‘So am I.’

‘Yes, but you seem to regard Benedict as an optional extra or something.’

‘Listen Jules, my relationship with Ben is my business. But you and me, we were always something else. God knows why we didn’t…’

‘Steph, no offense but you’d be having this discussion with someone else and I’d be sat at home, or wherever Benedict is tonight if we had stayed together’

Steph slid a gloved hand along his thigh.

‘Don’t think so, Jules. Not bored yet.’

‘But having me on tap for twenty years would have been different. It’s the rarity value, the forbidden nature that make you still want what we had.’

‘I don’t remember you being this logical in Pembroke.’

Straker swallowed hard.

‘Well I wasn’t, and Pembroke was a mistake.’

‘Felt like the best thing that’s happened to me in years. I thought you enjoyed it too?’

‘Steph it was gorgeous, just like you. But the guilt nearly killed me.’

‘But why?’

‘Because I’m married and I owe Emily a lot.’

‘I notice you didn’t say you loved her.’

Straker finished his drink and stood up.

‘I need to get back Steph. Could we go please?’

Stephanie finished her drink, got her car keys out of her handbag, rose and then paused at the table.

‘What if I said “No”? What if I said I wouldn’t drive you home until you’d given me a kiss in the car?’

‘I can still walk three miles you know Steph.’

‘Good to know.’  And with that she walked out of the bar.