Here's the latest, the vignette that later became my attempt at an entry for a Janet Reid flash fiction contest, and was inspired by a Dave McKean illustration in the collected Sandman editions (Neil Gaiman):
Riding home in a taxi late at night and we're stopped at an intersection and I look up from where I'm slumped against the window—it's comforting to slump when you've only had three drinks and are playing at melancholy, without actually being drunk— to see a courtyard with a tree all strung with Christmas lights, in front of a stone-facade classic New York building and there's a light on in an upstairs window; not an apartment light but an office one, all blazing fluorescent white that mutes the holiday warmth of the bare-limbed winter tree, and my breath mists the window as the lights change and we roll forward and all I can hear is his voice, at the end of the party, excited about new opportunities far away and suggesting that while he's gone we should explore other people, but it's actually the cabbie, asking, you okay miss? and I say no, stop the car, please, and he brakes with a jarring thud and I pay him and stumble out, and kneel by the tree and the yellow lights and the fluorescent glare shine off the snow but even if I'm drunker than I thought they don't blind me from the truth that I am free
Here's a new piece, written as mostly stream-of-consciousness in the point of view of George from Larksong, my NaNo 2013 project. Alice is the girl he loves (the other person mentioned, Elsie, is the cook/maid). This mini exercise evolved from the November Exercise on the Forum and then from a Twitter #1k1hr with fellow writer Claire Gregory.
A bird stopped to watch him, curious.
It was the mynah – but then, where was its mate?
He’d reach for the crutches and probably scare off the bird. But there was no way he could catch it while in this wheelchair.
Good thing he had the seed bag. Maybe call Elsie?
Here, little bird... Come closer, that's it, trust me... You’re supposed to be tame. There you are, look, a trail of seed, right into the cage, in you – slam! Ha! Got ya.
Now, how long do I have to sit here to wait for your mate? Stop squawking, will you? You’ve lived your whole life in captivity. You’ve no idea what it’s like to go from movement – freedom – health, to being confined to this horrid chair.
That night of the party – no, I won’t think of it. What were those girls playing at? Ready to leave a crippled man once they were done playacting. I guess they'd always been flighty. Took Alice to show me. And now she’s gone, too. Damn Walter.
No – not all his fault. Mine, too.
But look, I had to tell them about Alice or they’d never have stopped laughing about the birds. All this fuss over miserable birds.
This one’s kind of pretty, though, have to admit. Green and lake-blue. Sweet. Alice had a name for it. How d'you even tell if it's male or female? It -- he? -- keeps looking at me. Inquisitive, aren't you? Oh, you'd like more seed... Have to go inside for that.
Right. Check the brake. Remove the brace and hook good leg under. Push off with arms and grab for the first crutch. Snug under the arm. Grab the second -- no get the cage first. Damn, it's too low on the ground. Leave it -- leave it for Elsie. She'd better bring the chair in, too.
Cast comes off in five days. Grab that second crutch and swing. Get in the house. Five more days. Can't wait to see the look on Alice's face when I tell her I've saved the aviary. And when she sees me as a whole man.
Here's a short piece set in May 1914, written as part of a dialogue challenge on Twitter:
Hi, I'm Elena. You must be Kerry. So pleased to meet you. Isn't this a swell party?
Very pleased to meet you, Elena. I heard someone say the McKerrows always throw a smashing party.
I thought it was going to be a dud, you know, so far from the city. I mean, who opens up the cottage this early in the year? My dear, the blackflies, they're after me something fierce! And isn't that aviary a bit de trop? What an odd place this is for the McKerrows to rent. But do you know what I heard?
Er, no, what?
Don't look so shocked, Kerry-boy! I'm not a gossip! Did you see that girl on the lawn, the one with that puff-sleeved gown? That style went out two seasons ago!
I'm afraid I don't --
No, of course you don't! A man doesn't follow the fashions, but believe you me, it's quite passé, and -- where was I?
Something about the girl on the lawn? She does look rather attractive, even if her gown isn't quite the thing.
Hmm, well, if you say so. I'm not sure how she comes to be standing next to George McKerrow. Why, Kerry-boy, she's no more than the governess! And, I hear --
Oh, is that who she is? Someone was speaking of her when I first came in. Quite a capable girl, Alice is, they said. I hear she arranged this party.
She did? That explains the location, then. They say she's been playing nursemaid to George. Look at that, with her hand on his chair, and him stealing glances at her fingers. You'd think he wanted to kiss her palm or some other outrageous gesture. Work-rough her skin must be. That reminds me, did you hear about George's cousin Charles? Went and married a farm girl out West! What's that?
A broken phonograph, I said. I must apologise, I'm having trouble following. I don't know the McKerrows all that well, you see.
Don't you? How did you come to be invited tonight?
It was the girl on the lawn, actually. I met them this afternoon, walking in the woods --
Her and George. They had a spot of trouble with his chair and I mended it. They were so pleased, and their excitement was contagious, like a firing spark plug, and they --
Please excuse me, Kerry-boy! Someone's come in that I absolutely must speak to!
[to himself] Boy, she was a head of steam, and no mistake. I wonder what that group of girls by the lakeshore are like...
Vignette about Charles II and Queen Catherine
Love letter to the Earl of Rochester
Compuserve Forum September 2013 X (click on the link to see the word prompts):
Alice made a pact with herself that night. No matter how much George might drive her mad, devilling her, trying to incite an argument, she would not give in.
To be sure, it was a simple matter to make such vows in the privacy of her own room.
But when the night was over, she had to face him across the breakfast table once more. And the endless chirps and screeches of the birds could not drown out his barbed words. His voice rose over Polly's repeated cries of "nitwit! nitwit! cra -- acker!" and her blood boiled.
Alice headed outside with a stack of toast on a napkin. She'd wait for the family to leave before feeding the birds.
Through the window she caught a snatch of conversation. "--shabbily run as a cheap boardinghouse."
How dare he criticise her grandmother's house?
It was Alice's own cursed pretence that held her back; a governess couldn't barge in to give George a piece of her mind. Of course, a governess also shouldn't be led astray by his charm.
On her return, she stopped at the glint of something in the doorway. Shards of glass, and droplets of blood.
Alice stepped backward away from the mess and hurried across to the aviary.
Most of the creatures perched high up, but she caught flashes of colour at ground level, where overeaters pecked for leftover grain.
Intact glass, and no cries of distress. Obeying instinct rather than reason, Alice quit the porch and made for the garden.
George raised his head at her approach and greeted her with a grimace, eyetooth and all.
Instinct spoke again, a small voice. "He wants you gone."
But reason showed her his hand, cradled in his lap. Two fingers wrapped in a handkerchief, stained crimson.
George threw her a black look that suddenly softened into -- well, Alice wouldn't call his expression sweet, but it was a decidedly friendlier face than he'd turned on her in all the days since they'd first met.
In this very garden, it'd been. She'd forgotten, but now recalled the bizarre greeting he'd tossed her way: "Another one to feast on my remains."
He seemed to think his injury an abomination, a nuisance he shouldn't have to deal with.
"You left your tea unfinished," he said softly. "I thought you might like a second cup." His scowl returned. "Those damned crutches!"
He'd hurt himself during his first act of kindness towards her. Would acknowledging his intent, even to thank him, embarrass him further, or might it begin to breach the rift?An old poem and some snips showing why I am not a plotter. Here's the poem:
Alice knew where a clump of aloe grew on the inner edge of the woods. She did not ask permission, but began wheeling him towards the treasure.
For a wonder, George did not protest. She went further and offered him her own, clean handkerchief – a dove's token. He accepted with thanks, in a pinched voice.
It would take more than a spot of nursing for her to belong.
under the big top
when you're waking all those faces
and the colours are bright on your skin
they're shining and shining and shining
full house tonight
hey man, the laughter's loud
it's echoing from all sides
and running all down your spine
to the ballooning pants and the
they're cackling when you snap your
they're howling when you've got custard
in your eyes
and the tears are from the smoke, right?