Friday Story: 5) This is a safe attachment, trust me

This a story for anyone who has ever had computer problems, so that’s all of us. My computer went pop earlier this week and had to go to the computer hospital. It is now back, restored to health. What a relief.

Feely (pictured on the chair at which I sit to use my computer) is a male cat, so obviously not the one in the story!

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This a safe attachment, trust me

I clicked on the attachment to the e-mail. Next thing there were multiple windows opening and reopening again as fast as I closed them. The screen was pulsating with the speed of it but I didn’t panic, just turned the computer off and went to make myself a cup of coffee. It was a shame that the cat got under my feet and hot coffee spilt on her, but I still didn’t panic.

Rebooted, the computer seemed fine. But as I started typing a document a little dog strayed onto the screen.

“Woof,” it went.

“Woof to you,” I said, “go away.”

“Won’t,” it said. I turned off the sound. I was not going to be dictated to by an animation.

“Be careful,” said the cat, from her seat behind me.

I whirled round. The cat was curled up like a cinnamon whirl, apparently dead to the world. I turned back to the computer. The dog on the screen had started eating my text and spewing it out of its backside in a mangled heap of letters.

This was too much. I started banging the desk, remembering too late what this would do to my collarbone.

“Ow!” I yelled, as pain shot up my arm.

“You should be more careful,” mewed the cat gleefully.

I’m thinking of selling the computer. Pen and paper have a safe track record, and no attachments with hidden secrets to trip you up. Perhaps I’d better ask the cat. She’s offering opinions on everything now.

Shortlisted in Helen Yendall’s blog about writing comp April 2013

Published on PostcardShorts (www.postcardshorts.com) on 26.05.13

 

Friday Story: 4) The curious incident of the pig in the café

It’s National Flash Fiction Day in the UK tomorrow, 16th June. Every year there’s a Flash Flood of stories. My story The curious incident of the pig in the café was included in the Flash Flood a couple of years back.

This year I have a micro story included. It’s called Lonely Hearts and it’ll be published here at about 1.50pm (BST) on 16th June.

Smile for the birdie

The curious incident of the pig in the café

It was that elusive thing, the first day of summer. The day when you fling off your cardies and your winter boundaries. So it was that at 12 noon sharp Charmaine and Sophie could be seen emerging from the dingy office where they worked, heading for Porky’s Pizzeria, just up the street. The local dosser, Ed the Rags, was sitting in a doorway crying out for the price of a cup of tea as usual.

There was a queue at Porky’s. As usual. The girls were happy to wait in the sunshine for their “You must be smoking!” specials with smoked cheese, bacon, pepperoni and smoked sausage. As they had their faces raised to the sun neither of them noticed Ed the Rags approaching. Someone must have slipped him a fiver. He pushed to the top of the queue and no-one tried to stop him, be it out of guilt or revulsion, because he ponged something terrible.

Ed got his pizza and emerged from the café dripping cheese and tomato onto the street and himself as he shoved the hot pizza into his mouth. A shout went up from inside. Had Ed run away without paying? It didn’t look like it, the way he was ambling with a beatific smile on his face. But following him and sniffing at his shoes, was a pig. A genuine porker!

Charmaine jumped back and Sophie squealed as her friend’s stiletto nearly pierced her foot. Other people were spilling out of the doorway holding their noses. A pungent odour swirled in the air, and it was not the sweet smell of baking dough mingling with cooked meats, but something altogether more earthy.

Francesco, chef-patron of Porky’s, emerged in a cloud of Italian expletives, waving a tea-towel at the retreating backs of Ed and the porker.

Finito!” he cried. “Ze lunch is finito. Zat pig has made escremento in my café. Eet is a dirty dog.”

People watched as Ed the Rags and the pig processed down the street. Ed seemed to remain blissfully unaware of his follower, engrossed as he was in the rich flavours of his pizza. Then the pig must have pulled at his coat, because he turned and saw it. What he did next was either poignant or gross, depending on your point of view. He bent down and offered the beast his last piece of pizza. The pig swallowed it whole and ran off down the street.

It turned out that the pig had escaped from a lorry that was taking it to market and run in the open back door of Porky’s. It’s now gone to live the rest of its days in a community farm, where it may not get pizza but children feed it other titbits daily. Ed the Rags got his his toothless grin in the local paper and some kindly old soul has paid for him to have pizza every week from Francesco.

As for Porky’s, it’s thriving more than ever, it’s name finally justified!

First published in National Flash Fiction Day Flash Flood, June 2016

Guest post: by author Nadya A.R.

In the first of a series of occasional guest posts, I welcome author Nadya A.R., to tell us about her novel Invisible Ties, and in particular why labels fail to do justice to the complex reality of women in the sub-continent.

WHY I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH LABELS!!!

Nadya A.R.

I am a writer, psychotherapist and motivational speaker. My latest novel, Invisible Ties, has been published by Rupa publications in August 2017. In Invisible Ties my protagonist, a well-educated woman in her early twenties, Noor Kamal, faces the overbearing pressure of marriage and succumbs to an arranged proposal, engineered by her shrewd, worldly wise Aunty Lily, who lives in Malaysia. An eligible, Pakistani banker, Meekaal Kalim, living in Singapore views her picture in her Aunt’s plush home in Kuala Lumpur and expresses his interest in marrying her. Noor’s intelligent father scoffs at this seemingly bizarre proposal, while her materialistic and socially competitive mother feels as if she has won a huge lottery.

Noor is definitely not the stereotypical, oppressed Eastern woman. Neither can she be described as a kickass nor as a badass heroine- terms which are now the flavour of today. Her reality is complex and evolving, very similar to what is happening in South Asia and to women in our modern world. Noor’s circumstances of agreeing to this marriage are unique and drastic, and though she perceives herself as ‘different’, she finds herself cast in the same mould as many women around her.

While grappling with the disturbing fact that her husband is a cold stranger in a foreign land, Noor is well-aware that she was given a one-way ticket by her parents. She is expected to make her marriage work regardless of the circumstances, which is the message that many parents give to their daughters, even in this day and age. However, there is that spark in Noor, regardless of the stifling pressures of an out-dated society, which lies dormant within her. Enjoying the new sights and ways of Singapore, and by opening herself to the narratives of others around her, Noor starts questioning and then challenging the norms which undermine her individuality and most important, her happiness.

Like many South Asian women living in the West, and those surviving and strong in their native, nurturing environment, Noor learns how to balance and juggle the traditions and values, which are perhaps more than a part of her and define her sense of self. Though she holds them and the wishes of her parents in high regard, her identity is no longer determined by the significant others and people around her.

The most important aspect of her journey is how she ventures out of her comfort zone, in her case the close and compact, South Asian community, and seeks out people who don’t identify with her philosophy on love and life. In the process, she is overwhelmed and utterly confused between the right and wrong, which again is dispersed in shades of grey around her. Until, she learns to live with the discomfort and those emotional ties, which now have a different meaning in her life. Her evolution reflects the change that we experience to become stronger, and as we stumble, fall and then rise as women to take charge of our lives.

UK readers can buy Nadya’s novel Invisible Ties here.

Nadya A R

Author Nadya A.R.

Friday Story: 3) Orange juice

Orange juice

Illustration for Inktrap Magazine by Sue Gent

 

Looking back, I can see how it started. Two ten-year-old boys, bored in the too-long summer holidays, complaining to our mothers that we’d nothing to do.

Our mothers, exasperated, overworked with the constant round of cooking, cleaning, washing from which they could see no means of escape, willingly gave us ours. Packed us off with egg sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper, an apple each and bottles of orange juice. Yes, glass bottles. That’s what we used then.

We headed off into the promise of the July day, kicking at stones on the road, not caring a fig that we scuffed our shoes, not caring that our mothers would care and would ask us if we thought money grew on trees. It might as well have done, for all we thought about it.

Cynan dropped his bottle before we even reached the river, the orange liquid spurting across the tarmac path like the blood of some rare primate. We kicked the sharp shards of the broken bottle into the grass, not caring that some tender-bodied creature might crawl over them and be cut, even mortally wounded. We didn’t think. We didn’t think about anything that day. Didn’t plan anything. Didn’t mean any of what happened. Going down to the river was just something to do, a way of passing another long boring day.

We found sticks in the long grass and threw them into the river, seeing which of us could get his the furthest, but we got bored. Cynan said we should build a dam. It was something to do, but it was difficult. Others boys had dads who helped them with things like that. At least we thought they did, and that made us both sad, though we never actually said so to one another. We didn’t have dads. If anyone had asked us we’d both have said we didn’t care, though of course we did.

We walked on down the river, picking our way through brambles and nettles, getting stung and hurt but not saying. Then Cynan saw the dead cat. It was lying half under some twigs, as if someone had tried to hide it, but couldn’t be bothered to do it properly.

“Or maybe,” I said, “it wasn’t completely dead and it wriggled a bit.”

It wouldn’t have been able to move much. Its back legs were at funny angles and its head looked as if it had been screwed right round. Cynan poked it with a stick.

“Don’t do that,” I said.

“It’s dead,” he said. “It doesn’t matter to it now.”

I don’t know why we didn’t just leave it there, or bury it, like other kids would have done, but we were bored. Dissecting it was something to do.

I had a penknife. It was a bit blunt, but I managed to saw through the cat’s sternum and pull out its heart. It was the same colour as the orange juice. I turned it over in my hands and we both gawped at it. I remember Cynan saying,

“We’ve got hearts like that.”

And me saying, “We haven’t, we’ve got red hearts.”

What happened next should obviously never have happened. But I was ten years old, it was a summer’s day, the sun was getting hot even though it was still morning and after days and weeks of boredom I was suddenly excited.

I lunged at Cynan and stabbed him with my penknife, hard, straight into his sternum. He screamed and twisted away. I shouted but he was gone, thumping through the undergrowth like the wounded creature he was. I didn’t follow him. I don’t know why I didn’t. I suppose I thought he would come back. I carried on dissecting the cat. It was something to do.

When I’d finished I washed my hands in the river. I remember the blood. The red and the orange and the dark blood, mingling with the water, turning it brown. And then it ran clear again and I got out the sandwiches and ate them all. And both apples. And drank the remaining bottle of orange juice.

Then I must have fallen asleep, because when I woke up it was shady in the wood and I was cold, in spite of the heat of the day.

Then I looked for Cynan. I found him quite quickly, and I covered him with sticks, the way someone had half-covered the cat, but better, because I knew he wasn’t going to move. His face was red and big and it scared me. There was something coming out of his mouth. Something orange and sticky, like the juice and the cat’s heart.

Then I walked till I couldn’t see him any more and I lay down and covered myself with sticks and leaves, because it was going to get really cold and I didn’t know how long it would be before they found me.

 

First published by Inktrap Magazine on-line, July 2015

Republished by Idler.ie, March 2016

NEWS, NEWS, NEWS

I am just back from a few days of rest and inspiration in Paris. Here’s a pic:

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Friday Story no 3 is coming later this week, so do come back and read that.

Meanwhile, I have a new flash in the latest issue of Moonchild Magazine. Go take a read of all the splendid work in there. The link to my piece is on my Stories page.