The Skeleton Danced at Midnight

Write a new piece using at least five of the nouns from Bradbury’s sample list, above: The lake. The night. The crickets. The ravine. The attic. The basement. The trapdoor. The baby. The crowd. The night train. The fog horn. The scythe. The carnival. The carousel. The dwarf. The mirror maze. The skeleton.  Challenge the The Daily Post – http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/bradbury-list-twist/

The skeleton danced at midnight with the melody of the carousel reverberating through his hollow bones.  He yearned to touch the carnival animals gain and jest with the dwarves.  His life with skin and flesh had been full of colour, light and music and how had he had loved it!

The crowds spun through the circus screaming with laughter and candy-floss induced mania.  It was a sugar-spun world.  The fat lady solemnly ate her way through fifteen courses; the bearded lady combed her hair and the iron man lifted trucks to practice his art.  Animals preened in their cages and the big top shone like a beacon in the night sky.

The carousel had been his creation with the pretty horses with their painted tails flying.  How he loved their graceful motion.  Up and down and round and round.  They never stopped their flight until that fateful day when he lost his footing and fell under the painted horses’ hooves.  He lost his flesh to the carousel but honoured it with his bones.

Fifty Word Inspiration

For this week’s challenge, use one of the fifty-word stories below as inspiration for a post.

I have chosen the following from the Daily Post challenge – http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/fifty-word-inspiration/

Decade is a period of ten years.
Century is a period of one hundred years.
Millennium is a period of one thousand years.
“Together forever” lasts a fortnight.

That is, statistically.
That is, in about 90% of cases.

That is also why romantic mathematicians are so hard to come by!

(“On the Importance of Not Being Literal” by Standing Ovation, Seated)

***

A mathematician once said that “together forever” lasts a fortnight and after a passionate two week fling Tess had to agree.  Visions of bridal gowns and corsages danced across her mind.  She could get a job here and give up her boring office existence for sun, sand and sangria.  Life could be a beach….couldn’t it?

“Ladies and gentlemen we have completed our pre-flight checks…” intoned the nasal air steward.  Tess rubbed the sand between her toes and smiled ruefully.  Her “forever” had finished.

(It’s not 50 words, but it’s close!)

 

Another Short Story

A faded, grey shadow of a girl stood in front of the check in desk. He looked up from the racing pages with a start. “Didn’t see you there. Can I help?” She didn’t speak, just continued staring through vacant eyes. He couldn’t see any spark inside her. The greyness was all consuming. The fluorescent sign flickered bright pink and yellow across her face. “Vacant”. The sign was right about her. Definitely nobody home. He tried again. “You want something?” Her lips moved but no sound came out. He didn’t know but it had been days since she had been allowed to use her voice. Nobody had wanted to hear what she had to say. Nobody had noticed her. They had left her in the background. The greyness had consumed her entire life. She’d left and nobody had noticed. Nobody had asked her opinion about anything for years. She didn’t know how to respond. She mouthed the words. Her throat constricted with the sudden movement. She felt like she was going to be sick. The words were stuck. She needed to get them out. This was the first step. Wrong – she had left. That had been the first step. She needed to find her voice now.

“I need a room.” It came out as a hoarse whisper. It was barely audible across the desk.

“What’s that?”

“A room.” She swallowed. Saliva was lubricating her throat. She cleared it and swallowed. “I need a room. Please.” She was determined that her new life would be full of pleasant manners and kindness now. No more demands, name calling or swearing. She was starting afresh.

A Short Story

Who else might turn up in a hotel like this one? And what would their story be? Stories in under 500 words. 

Taylor felt sorry for the man. He’d turned up at 9.45 looking haggard, worn and like he’d been through hell and back. He’d joked that his motel wasn’t an emergency room – maybe he ought to try a mile down the road. Obviously not the right thing to say. Not a joker. He mumbled something intelligible. Taylor put the key on the counter. There was only one reason people came here. Need. It wasn’t a bad place, but it wasn’t the sort of place you had to have ID. “Down the hall, third left.” The guy didn’t look up. Taylor sighed and got off his stool. “Follow me.” There was no point in trying to attempt conversation. The man followed like a child. Taylor wasn’t interested – the man would be gone by tomorrow. He showed him along the dark corridor and into his room. “Bed. Bath. £45 cash.” The man took a leather, monogrammed wallet out of his suit pocket and gave him the cash. Money, or lack of it, was obviously not the reason he was here.

He held the key out to him. “Out by 10.” His glimpse into the man’s life through his wallet made him take a second look. Leather soled shoes, grey pinstripe 3 piece suit, no tie, clean shaven, neat hair. Not the average punter. He backed out of the room but the man didn’t notice. Just stood there staring at his over-polished black leather shoes. The door shut between them and Taylor immediately felt the air change. He paused against the door frame. The man oozed with despair and it was contaminating everything. He needed some fresh air. He stomped back downstairs and went out the back for a fag.

***

Julian registered the door closing with a jerk. He’d registered taking 50 quid out of his wallet for this shit hole of a room. He’d registered the neon sign advertising rooms in its fluorescent flashing blue. He could have gone to his apartment or a decent hotel at least but huge warning signs had flashed up in his head. He needed to distance himself. He couldn’t go where anyone would find him. This had seemed like the perfect option. He’d walked as far as his leather shoes could take him. The tie had been the first thing to go. He’d put it in his pocket. It might come in handy later. The décor lived up to the neon sign’s promise. It was a vacant room. No character. No colour. That was what he was looking for. He’d stepped away from the most colourful day of his life for this? The answer was a resounding yes. He was free. 

My take on Virginia Woolf’s suicide

Virginia's garden

Virginia’s garden – Rodmell

She sat down to write. Nothing new there. It was a daily ritual. She never knew what would come out of her pen or typewriter these days. But this, she knew exactly what to say. Everything was clear. She knew what to do. Write the letter and leave it. Walk to the river. Find something heavy to weigh herself down just in case panic made her want to survive. Walk into the river. Drown. Simple. Everything resolved in one easy move. No more voices. No more headaches. No more noise. Just quiet death. He would understand. He always understood. He looked at her with such compassion. She wished she could feel better. For him.

***

Her coat was wrapped around her ankles and it clung to them like a persistent child. She felt the cold penetrating her shoes, her stockings, her calves and up her legs. It was like icy tentacles shooting through her veins. Still she stepped deeper. There was no turning back this time. As she stepped in to the fast flowing muddy water her coat released its grip on her ankles and floated out like a balloon. The stones in her pockets felt like lead weights dragging her body deeper into the river. She was cold to her chest now and had to keep breathing steadily to stay fixed on her goal. Gravity stepped in and was pulling her down. Her plan was working. The tide felt strong but each muddy step felt like an iron anchor sinking into the mud bottom. Each step grew harder as she tried to pick her feet up and take another step deeper.

The shock of water on her face made her falter. It slapped some sense of reality back for one second and as she opened her mouth the water rushed in. Her head was pulled backwards as the river pulled at her hair. The cold ran through her insides too now. It wouldn’t be long.

***

The armchair sagged under the weight of years. It lay waiting. The window opened over the lush garden while the door shut it out. Spring blossoms nodded around the window behind the glass. A light drizzle spattered on the window. It was damp and cold inside. The electric fire glowed fluorescent against the tiled fireplace. It barely penetrated into the room. The books shivered on their book case and were huddled together for warmth. Paintings hung limply on the dark, damp walls.

He’d taken to being in her rooms, waiting for news. He knew she was gone but the cold comfort from her room cheered him.

***

He knew she was dead. He’d known on the first day. It was now the fifth day. He waited. For the telephone call, or the knock at the door. Everyday he walked to the river tracing the steps he thought she had taken.

They had found her walking stick abandoned on the bank. He roamed the canal path for another sign but there was none. He knew he wouldn’t find anything. She had planned this. It hadn’t been a clumsy mistake when she’d come home soaked to the skin the other day. She had tried then, but something had gone wrong. This time she had been better prepared. It had been definite. She didn’t plan to return. Her letter had told him as much. He didn’t need to take the letter out – he had memorised it in the first few moments of reading it.

***

It was three weeks before they found her. She had been abused by the tide and by the elements. The local boys had mistaken her for floating driftwood and thrown stones at her lifeless corpse.

I fully admit that I am not a Virginia Woolf scholar. This is entirely made up from my basic knowledge of her death.

The boy and his bass

This was a piece that I wrote after a gig – it struck me that musicians have a special relationship with their instruments.

He held her in a loving embrace.  She was taller than him by a good few inches and leant back into his shoulder nestling into his neck.  They curled elegantly around each other.  He tweaked and played with her, stroked her neck, slapped her side.  The crowd were transfixed.  They felt like they had stumbled upon an intimate moment.  The rest of the band was oblivious – they each had their own love affairs going on.   The beat picked up and the slapping continued.  The audience roared its approval.

Double bass

Double bass (Photo credit: jDyhre)

As the set carried on the music rocked and rolled and rocked again to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.  The boy leant in close to his double bass in the slow numbers and murmured into her neck and flung her out with a spin when the beat quickened.The finale saw a majestic pirouette then as quickly as the boy had been to stroke and caress his bass, he let her go and lay her down on the sticky pub floor.  The boy’s girlfriend came up to help clear up.  She held the double bass’s cover up to throw over its’ head.  The boy took it from her hands, kissed his girl on the cheek and said, “I’ll do that,” and lovingly tucked his bass away.  His girl stepped aside and just stared at them.  Her eyes gleamed in the stage lights.  As the boy zipped up the bass’s case his girlfriend glared.  She felt jealousy bubbling up inside her.The boy put his arms around her and whispered in her ear.  “Thanks for coming tonight.”  She smiled and declenched a fraction – there were some things she could do which his double bass couldn’t.  Her smile froze.  He let go of her and picked up his bass to carry in both arms.  She frowned again. The three of them left together.

A free extract from “The Girl from the Sea”

This a short, tempting extract from my book which is published on Amazon to read on your Kindle.  You can escape into a youthful adventure, which will take you on a dramatic journey filled with kidnapping, danger, excitement, friendship and…murder.  If you like what you read please click here and purchase your own copy! 

“They opened a door to a cabin and shoved her inside.  It was dark, and cold and as her eyes accustomed themselves to the darkness she could see the unconscious man was already there, asleep on the bunk.  The door was slammed in Frankie’s face as they all went back on deck to make ready to sail.  She realised that her plan had been taken out of her hands.  Her dream of going to sea was turning quickly into a nightmare.

The noises of the boat being prepared for sea rang in her head.  Frankie rubbed her arms from where she had been grabbed and looked over at her roommate.  “Sir,” she whispered.  “Sir?”  No response.  She edged closer to him only to turn away repulsed.  The smell was overpowering – sweat, alcohol, and something unidentifiable to her.  She held the bile down that rose in her throat.  She reached a trembling hand out to shake his shoulder.  “Sir?  Can you help me?”  With her shake the man rolled towards her and she retched in horror.   His eyes had rolled back in his head and his mouth was fixed in a silent scream.  He had an ebony handled knife sticking out of his side between his ribs.  She identified the smell as rotting death.

She heard screaming inside her own head but realised that no sound was coming out of her.  She felt the boat swaying beneath her and blacked out.”

Front cover

 

Earliest Memories

Who knows what your earliest memory is?  I have flashbacks of all sorts of things but they are jumbled up and confused.  How accurate can they be?  We rely on what other people have old us, photographs, bits of songs or books and if you have a slightly over-active imagination like mine it gets worse.

I remember being a teddy bear in the primary school play.  My sister was still at primary school with me – and also in the play, so I can’t have been more than 7.  We were four bears in bear suits singing the Teddy Bear’s Picnic.  It was put on in Newick Village Hall and Sam did an amazing routine with a light sabre – she was a wizard.  I remember that my sister was a messenger.  God knows what the play was!

I remember ballet lessons with my friend Nicola when we were very small – good toes naughty toes and galloping madly up and down the hall.  Miss Wendy was our teacher and Mrs Stone was the pianist.  This was before tape recorders were common.  Nicola moved when we were 8 I think so ballet must have been aged 5 or so.

I remember Dad coming home from work.  Mum would put us in our pyjamas and dressing gowns and we would drive to Haywards Heath station to pick him up.  I knew he worked in London but had no idea what he did.  When Dad did bath time he would play silly games – hiding us under the towel and saying “Where’s Christopher Robin?” and pulling the towel off.  Fits of giggles!  I am guessing that we were very young then.

Me and Catherine were always put in the bath together and we made cocktails out of all the lotions and potions around the bath topped off with bubble foam.  It was a bit more crowded when our friends came to stay and all four of us girls were put in the bath together.  I was probably made to stay at the tap end, being the youngest.

I remember my sister falling onto the green ceramic soap dish attached to the wall while we were in the bath and gashing her arm open.  She still has the scar.  She must have been taken to hospital but I don’t remember that part.  In fact I don’t remember very much else about that.

I have very vague recollections of Mum being horrified about turning 30 – she was very depressed.  I was only 3 though so I don’t know how accurate that would be.  She tells me that it is true – she didn’t want to be 30 at all, but then who does?

I also remember getting lost all over the place.  I remember I got lost on a cross channel ferry and got bought back by the purser with balloons for everyone.  I got lost in John Lewis on Oxford Street.  Ali and I went to the loo and I somehow got lost and picked up by the store detective.  I was taken to a very odd room and an announcement was made over the tannoy.  My poor mother – how embarrassing!

I also got lost in the Eastbourne Arndale Centre playing on the toy dinosaurs that they used to have and went back into the wrong shop.  Nobody there – I don’t remember how I was found then.

I remember weeping in Uckfield Picture House when we were taken to see The Fox & The Hound, Bambi and ET.  I remember that we used to collect the stickers and sticker albums for all these things.

I remember the sweet shop at the top of the estate after school when Mum gave us 10p to buy sweets.  Penny sweets, Dipdabs, quarters of cola cubes.  All in huge jars behind the counter like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

These are just some of my childhood memories – what are yours?

Shared in The Daily Post’s “Memoir Madness”- http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/memoir-madness/

Childhood Memories

My childhood was relatively average.  I had a normal upbringing with loving parents and an older sister, four grandparents, two dogs and a house with a garden in suburban England.  I had little concept of the world outside and was lucky enough to grow up in a safe, warm and protected environment.  I went to ballet lessons, Brownies then Guides, drama classes and did averagely at school.

My friends from primary school were the same as me – mostly girls, no one’s parents were divorced and we all shared the school run and went to tea at each other’s houses.  The Mums shared out the duties.  We were all happy.  Some parents were a bit stricter than others; some let us have fishfingers and chips; some sat us down to traditional tea with egg & cress sandwiches and glasses of squash or milk.  Mum was always there when we got home from school.

My secondary school friends were still similar to me but the odd difference was starting to creep in.  The odd divorced parent started to appear on the scene.  It was an all girls school and I remember it fondly now, although at the time I’m sure it was torturous, evil and a waste of time.  We were lucky enough to be taught all kinds of subjects – a variety of languages, arts & crafts, music, drama.  The list goes on…We were privileged and protected until one day or rather one year we all learned to drive!  Freedom.

We all grew up in the beautiful British countryside which meant that we all lived miles apart from each other.  Rural bus services went once a week if you were lucky!  We spent 16 years relying on parents for lifts everywhere.  (My older sister suddenly became my friend, because she could drive 3 years before me, although she did have to put up with me tagging along everywhere!)  Being able to drive meant we could escape to the pub, into town, each others’ houses.  Life was good.  We were learing independence.

Feeling confident and sparky we were suddenly plunged into confusion – boys appeared into our lives for the first time.  Up until now boys had only been distant older or evil younger brothers of friends.  You may think that 16 is quite old to meet boys but remember the protection from the world – all girls school, home in a country town.  Boys just simply didn’t exist until the world opened up. [to be continued]

The Girl from the Sea by me

This is a bit of shameless promotion – please have a look at my story and download.  If you enjoy it please feel free to comment on the amazon pages to help promote. “The Girl from the Sea” is about a young girl who witnesses a murder, gets kidnapped, nearly drowned and survives, making some good friends along the way.  Set in any coastal village about 150 – 200 years ago (although the time is not specified deliberately).

The inspiration came from the kind of books that I read as a young girl – Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys and also from spending a holiday in West Wales which became the setting in my minds: jagged cliffs, hidden bays and lots of rock pools to explore in.  I hope you enjoy.