Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Thursday Short #9

Grice, Searle, Leech, Brown and Levinson identified the co-operative principles of dialogue. The principle describes how effective communication in conversation is achieved in common social situations.

Well, in today's, Thursday Short, I break all of them.

Based on an event that took place, coming home on a bus in which the driver stopped the bus and appeared to be having some sort of breakdown, I describe what could have happened the morning he left home before driving the bus.

Untitled
By Fran Clark

Every morning, at 6.30am, the alarm rings. Lily gets out of bed and heads for the shower and George sleeps on for an extra ten minutes. He hits the snooze button, slips his feet into his slippers and goes downstairs to make freshly-brewed coffee and toast.
When Lily comes to the kitchen to join George they usually talk about their plans for the day, decide who is doing dinner and what they will eat when they see the other that evening at 7pm.
“George, what are you doing? Where's breakfast? Why are you holding a golf club?”
“Do you know, it's absolutely impossible to get rid of a dog. I left the front door open and told him to run, get lost. He went to the lamp post, had a slash and now he's sniffing around outside.”
“But, breakfast, George. Look, I'll make it. You let Bonzo back in and go up and take a shower.”
“I'm a cat person. I always wanted a cat. I don't even like dogs.”
“Maybe you should have today off, George. Would you like me to bring you something up? I can call the depot and say you're not well.”
“Lily, you can call the depot and tell them I've got the two bob bits for all I care. I'm playing golf today and I won't be talked down.”
“Darling, I have no intention of talking you down. Are you sure you're alright?”
“How can we ever be sure of anything? Life is just a bowl of cherries. Unfortunately someone ate all the flesh off mine and all I'm left with are the stones.” He laughed and shook his head. “Yep. Just. The. Fuck. Ing. Stones.” With each word he swiped the air with his golf club. The last swipe caught the edge of a vase which came crashing to the floor.
“George, your mother gave us that!”
“My mother is a two-faced, bitch. Lies get you no-where and what the hell is all that scratching at the door?”
“It's Bonzo. Shall I let him in?”
“Today, I'll build a dog flap. I'll need to take the front door off its hinges. May get a bit draughty in here but a little fresh air never hurt anyone.”
“Ok, that's fine, dear. You were excellent when the sink was blocked so you'll be great at carving a great big square into the woodwork. Bonzo is such a big dog.”
“Look, forget the dog flap. Let's just get rid of the dog. I better get dressed. I've got a bus to drive.”
“Well, if you're sure, George. But I think maybe you should take the day off.”
“Will you just shut your big fat trap for once in your life?” George leant the golf club up against the table as Lily stared at him, open-mouthed. “No. I'll be fine. The travellers on the 195 will be in good hands today. I think today will be a good one. The best.”

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Thursday Short #8

Difficult to decide what the Thursday Short should be today but I've gone for this one.
Look for ward to your comments.

When He Sleeps
Fran Clark
Benny was dead. He was sprawled out across the sofa, one arm outstretched, eyes not fully closed. Cathy sat on the footstool watching for the rise and fall of his chest, hoping he would begin to snore in that loud and ferocious way so that she could exhale. Her mother, Terry, crouched in a corner crying silently into shaking hands that were impossible to control.
   “Is he asleep?” Cathy had asked this of her mother several times but Terry could not speak. Heavy rain pelted the window of their third floor flat leaving a distorted image of a black sky with speckles of orange reflected from the street lights below. The paramedics and the police walked soggy footprints into the flat. They questioned Terry who hugged Cathy close to her and stroked her hair.
   “Was he your husband?”
   “Boyfriend.”
   “And he'd been drinking?”
   “Yes.”
   “He hit you?”
   “Yes.”
   “So you thought you'd punish him?”
   “It's not like that.”
   “Mrs Theresa Banks, I'm arresting you on suspicion of murder, you do not have to say anything...”
   Cathy was only sixteen. She had school the next day.
*
Cathy lit another cigarette. She inhaled deeply and watched the cloud of greyish white waft around her face. She half closed her eyes and turned to see the barman from the The Latin Corner hovering by the window again. There were only two people drinking inside but it was brightly lit and it looked warm in there. In the forecourt, where Cathy sat, there were four long tables and eight benches alongside them. It was damp and grey and the barman had been out twice to ask what she wanted to drink and each time Cathy had said, 'I'm waiting for someone.'
   “Don't you want to wait inside? It's freezing out here,” he'd said, but Cathy had shaken her head, blowing cigarette smoke over her shoulder. The barman watched her now, a tall slim woman with one or two dreadlocks escaping from a green knitted hat, as she pulled her collar tighter and tapped the empty cigarette packet on the table,
   The traffic was loud along the Camden Road. Buses, cars and taxis had passengers neatly packaged away but not one person on foot. For years she had waited for this moment. Her mother, Terry, home again. Out. No more visits with a table between them but a chance to rebuild their lives. At least that is what she hoped would happen, but Terry had changed. She was thinner, paler, lines patterned her face and her red hair had turned a dirty blonde colour. But it was not only a physical change. They'd had less and less to talk about and Cathy worried that as her release date drew closer her mother might be having second thoughts about staying with her. She felt guilty that her mother was the one who had been locked away for so long when it was the pair of them that had wanted him dead.
   Benny was her mother's first boyfriend after Cathy's father died. She never trusted him and she hated his eyes. They bulged from his mahogany face, the whites slightly yellow and always stern. He had a broad nose and wide lips, his face taking on the look of a grotesque mask and Cathy never trusted him. He wasn't dissimilar in colour or height to her father but they were not the same. One of the first things Benny did was shove a photograph of Cathy holding hands with her mother and father into a drawer. She loved that photograph it was the only one in which Terry wore her red hair loose to her shoulders and her father's afro reminded her of a lollipop. She was six in that photo.
   Cathy could hear Benny through the walls at night, snoring after a bout of drinking or a drunken rage. As angry as he sounded in his sleep it was still a comfort to know he was doing just that – sleeping. Very often Terry would crawl into bed with Cathy. Sometimes her lip was split sometimes her eye was too battered to open the next morning. Terry never fell asleep she would just shiver under the cover as Cathy wrapped her arm around her until morning.
   “Settle down, Cathy, Love.” She would say to her daughter when she crept into her room. “When he's asleep he can't hurt us.”
    One night the sound of Benny's hand across Terry's face made Cathy jump. Something had broken or snapped. She was sitting next to her on the sofa when it happened. Terry's hand was against her red cheek instantly, her eyes darting from Cathy to Benny who hovered above her with his fist clenched.
“Benny – no. No more!” Terry cried, but he never listened to pleas. Not from her and not from Cathy. This time Cathy threw herself across Terry but Benny grabbed her by the back of the neck like a rag doll and tossed her across the room. Her head hit the corner of the radiator and she cried out as she saw Benny's fist land again in the same place on her mother's face. It was not a human sound her mother made before she slumped backwards on the sofa. Her neck bent to one side and she was not moving. Cathy ran to her mother.
   “You bastard, you've killed her. I'm calling the police this time.”
   “Keep out of my business or you'll make things worse for her.” He left the flat as Cathy cried. She dialled 999 and asked for an ambulance.
   The doctor prescribed strong pain killers in draught form because Terry's jaw was broken and she could hardly open her mouth to speak.
   “Don't look so sad Cathy, these pain killers knock me out. I can sleep off the pain.”
   Cathy held Terry's hand as she slept, staring hard at the bottle of pain killer. Then she rested her head on her mother's lap and fell asleep too.
   A car horn sounded on the Camden Road and Cathy looked across at the low red brick building. Terry had told her not to wait at the gate it would be too upsetting. Cathy arranged the place to meet but the time was ticking away and she wondered if her mother had walked away, changed her mind about meeting her. It had tormented Cathy that Terry might not want to see her, that she might not forgive her and that she wanted those years back.
   The barman placed a coffee in front of Cathy.
   “On the house,” he said and walked away. It was becoming dark, it would rain soon and she would be forced to go inside. She yawned and suddenly there was Terry walking slowly towards her and then waiting to cross the road. Cathy leapt up and waved.
   “I thought you weren't going to meet me,” Cathy said, there were tears in her eyes now.
   “Why would you think that, love?”
   “Because, because you might resent me. I can never pay you back for what you did for me.”
   “It was all I could do to say sorry for the years I stole from you as a child. I should have been stronger for you. I'm sorry, Cathy.”
   The barman watched them hugging each other for a full minute before disappearing along the Camden Road.
When He Sleeps was written in response to a Burnett Archive account by Lillian Westall called The Good Old Days Vol no. 1:746

Thursday, 3 July 2014

The Thursday Short #7

For today's Thursday Short I thought I would give you a lipogram. This is a story with certain letters of the alphabet not used at all. So now it's time for you guess which ones.

Untitled
By Fran Clark

Henry Mills sat in his taxi, fingers gripping the steering wheel, back teeth clenched. The changing traffic lights reflected against the shiny black paint and lit up his cabin. He blinked each time they changed. Green, amber, red – again and again, as he stuttered his way up Fleet Street. He didn't even have a fare and it was five pm. By five-fifteen his nerves were especially frayed. His arteries pulsated in time with his diesel engine as it idled at City Thames link. His veins bulged like the underpass way back at Piccadilly Circus. The dreaded traffic lights were always against him, as were the cyclists. Their risk taking, weaving between all that heated metal and reckless driving, left him breathless.
He had had a terrible time falling asleep last night. Blinding headlights and sirens screeching plagued his dreams. He kicked at his blankets and talked in his sleep. He was tired and stiff at 6am when he left his flat. He had dark circles under his eyes and yawned all day.
Suddenly a well-dressed man waved a creased newspaper at him. Finally, a fare. The man sat heavily in the back seat and sighed like air escaping a tyre.
This particular rainy evening heralded Henry's last time tackling the grey and grimy city streets. New and quieter passengers awaited in the sleepy suburbs. It meant less cash in his wallet when his shift ended but at least he'd have his sanity back. He stuck his fingers up at St Paul's Cathedral as he inched past. Never again he mused.
In the back seat his fare read the newspaper and hadn't realised that Henry sat biting his nails in the creeping traffic. Minutes later Henry's neck flushed pink and then scarlet until it finally became a vivid red. This went unseen by the sighing man with his Daily Telegraph held high. An astute passenger might have detected the steam rising in Henry's cabin. A smarter passenger might well have seen that just ten metres later, Henry's cheek rested against the steering wheel and his eyelids fluttered. Very little air reached Henry's lungs. He was fading away and his last views were traffic and rain. Henry heard the clicking metre, increasing his wages while the man in the back turned the pages and became increasingly captivated by the finance pages. He squinted in the failing light at the fine print.
Behind the taxi, traffic was at a standstill. Ahead drivers pulled away and left the taxi sitting in the middle lane as cars queued up and beeped their anger at the shiny cab.
A few minutes later, Henry's passenger heard tapping. Surprised, he jumped and let the newspaper fall as a red faced lady peered in at Henry. The passenger then saw his driver slumped at the wheel. They had passed the Festival Gardens and the taxi had stalled.
The lady pulled at the handle, panic rising. She reached inside the cabin and gave Henry a shake. He slid sideways and fell against her. She shrieked and stared, lips slightly parted, at the passenger.
“We need an ambulance.” She breathed. The passenger was already dialling as the rain became heavier still.
Nearly thirty minutes passed. The passenger, still in the back, saw flashing blue lights as an ambulance zig-zagged its way up Fleet Street. When it drew nearer he gathered his newspaper and, using it as an umbrella against the blustery rain, slid away, heading east. He caught the Central Line at St Paul's. Newspaper print dyed his fingers as, sitting in a busy carriage, he watched his shaking hands.
Français : Piccadilly Circus


Tuesday, 1 July 2014

I've Been Nominated!

Yes, a little while ago I was nominated to receive the Liebster Award

It has taken a while to thank the wonderful Samantha for the award, but I gladly accept and am delighted to be able to pass it on to a blogger with a difference.

Just quickly, though, take a look at my award:


Pretty nifty, don't you think?

But, firstly Samantha is a published short story writer who is hoping to make that transition to novel writing. You must pop over to her blog and check out this talented writer and follow her writing journey. I promise it will be worth it as Samantha has a new short story collection for you to discover. You can click over to find out more about Samantha here

Now part of handing over the award is to ask the person receiving the award some questions. Here are Samantha's questions to me and my answers:

  1. What is one mod-con that you cannot imagine living without?

    I would have to say my laptop. I write all the time and my handwriting is a disgrace. I start off neat but then it just looks like I've been drinking while I write. Granted that sometimes I do but that's just between me and you:) Also, being on line is how I stay in touch with everything and practically everyone I know. Who can live without a laptop?

    2) What is you pet peeve?

    Without a doubt it has to be the way a lot of Brits have decided to pronounce the the eighth letter of the alphabet. It is written like this: aitch. But some people insist on making a 'h' sound before it. People are actually pronouncing it inaccurately on television. You can tell I'm peeved.

    3) Who are the 3 people you most admire?

    One has to be my son. He has just turned 14 and he swims for the local team. He gets up at 4.30am three mornings a week to train before school. In all he has about 7-8 swimming sessions, keeps on top of his school work and has recently made it to the Nationals. (Which is a big deal in the swimming world). Another is the late Nelson Mandela. I admire his choices, what he stood for and the way he touched the lives of so many people. Last but not least is my mother for the sacrifices she made in her life, how she stays true to her faith and the fact that her stories influenced my début novel,
    Holding Paradise.

    4) What is the first record you purchased with your own money?

    If I remember rightly, it was
    Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Elkie Brooks. I think I was 11 or twelve, not sure. But don't go looking up the date it was released as I am known to lie about my age.

    5) If you could only take two books on holiday with you, which two would you choose and why?

    The first would be Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. One of my favourites and I have only read it once but it stays in my memory as being so beautiful. I don't know why I haven't read it again but that would be an opportunity to re-read it. I think I would choose the winner of the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction 2014, Eimear McBride's A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing to see how hard I have to try to get that prize one day! I can dream can't I?

    6) What is your favourite quote, and by whom?

    This is a really hard one as there are so many to choose from. But I like the one that says. “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” by Benjamin Franklin. I think I should make that my mantra.

    7) Why do you write?

    I write because over the years it has become part of my identity. I would be lost without being able to write and I've got so much more to say, how could I cope if I couldn't write it all down?

    8) In your opinion what is your best blog post? (Please provide link)

    Hmm, difficult. Maybe it is this one http://franclark.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/the-thursday-short-1.html This is my latest feature and I had to get up the courage to do this and keep it going on a weekly basis. I really hope it will generate interest and one day other writers might want to feature their short stories on my blog. That would be great.

    9) What are you scared of?

    I have a list. Cats, dogs, water, bees, wasps, horror movies. But I'm really scared that I can't continue my current lifestyle. Being able to write and make music keeps me happy. I'd be scared of losing that.

    10) You've got 3 wishes - what are they? (Just to note - I'm afraid I can't grant them!)
    One is to write a book that people will remember for years to come. Another is to produce an album that people will remember for years to come. And the third is to remember that I'm trying to lose weight and I must lay off the naughty snacks between meals:)
Now the rules of the award says that you may choose the number of bloggers you nominate but for me, I chose just one and if you follow her blog you'll soon find out why.
I nominate Luccia Gray, the author of the Eyre Hall Trilogy. Luccia is what I call the contstant blogger and she never tires of posting on a regular basis, popping over to other blogs and being kind enough to support and comment on the posts of others.
She claims that there are more than one of her and I'm beginning to think that is true.
Congratulations on winning the Liebster Award Luccia and here are my questions for you:
  1. What subject do you most like to blog about?
  2. Other than writing do you have any other artistic talents?
  3. Is there a part of the world you would like to write about?
  4. How would you describe The Eyre Hall Trilogy to someone you met at a party?
  5. Have you ever taken any courses in writing and how helpful do you think they are to writers?
  6. At what stage in your life did you start to call yourself a writer?
  7. What do you do for relaxation?
  8. What are you working on at the moment (Doesn't have to be book related)?
  9. What would you best like to be known for?
  10. I wish that my life was like a black and white musical, a la Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - any secret or strange desires of your own?
 Congrats and thanks once again to both of these writers and I look forward to Luccia's post!