Tag Archives: fiction

2032. Raven Mad

(The opening sentence for this story was suggested by Uma of One Grain Amongst the Storm. If you want to join in the fun of suggesting a future opening sentence for these stories, please leave your suggestion in the comments – only one suggestion per person!)

Every time the one-legged raven returned to the village and filled the night with its grating caws, someone died the next afternoon and the skies wept till the funerals.

The entire village was more than aware of this phenomenon. It happened every several months. It wasn’t regular – like clockwork – but it was frequent enough not to be considered by many as a coincidence.

The local policeman had pointed out a few things during a village conflab called to discuss the matter. The victims (does one call them victims?) were all adults. Few had died of natural causes. Most had died as the result of an accident. And then the rain always began soon after. A few practical suggestions were made.

Madeline Clumski suggested that the one-legged raven was possessed. It was the work of the devil. The bird should be shot. In fact people had tried and it always disappeared only to return like Rasputin a month or so later. Madeline was well respected in the village. Perhaps she was right. If the village bank was a bit more generous she could afford to purchase a gun and shoot the raven herself.

Charlie Dalzell considered the coincidence of the deaths to be mathematically feasible. Such things happen. Charlie taught algebra at the local high school, so his understanding of coincidental possibilities was well regarded.

Mickey Dragnet suggested murder. Someone was releasing a one-legged crow, murdering someone for some reason, and running off with crow in hand. There was an outcry over this because it was really a silly suggestion. No one in the village had a pet raven, let alone a one-legged one. Mickey was regarded as a mean man who was a bit if a recluse. He was also the local bank manager. It was suggested that his natural bent for meanness went hand in hand with his profession. No one got away scot-free from owing the bank a penny in overdraft.

Sally Smith said that Mickey Dragnet clearly didn’t know what he was talking about. He had called the bird a crow, and it was obviously a raven. There was a difference, and if Mickey Dragnet was so sure of himself he would’ve known that.

So all in all, the meeting had not solved the mystery. And then it happened again; just two days after the meeting. The victim was the aforementioned Sally Smith. The raven made an appearance and the next afternoon Sally Smith was found hanging from a tree. This time there was no rain.

“Dam unreliable meteorological office forecasts,” muttered Mickey Dragnet, as he poked a piece of carrot into the cage of his one-legged crow.

2031. The open window

(The opening sentence for this story was suggested by Noelle of Sayling Away. If you want to join in the fun of suggesting a future opening sentence for these stories, please leave your suggestion in the comments – only one suggestion per person!)

The sky outside the open window was dark with the portent of a storm. Philomena went over to close it. Several times in the past she had left the window open and a squall had come and blown rain on the furniture. Not much mind you. There was no substantial damage, although she kept a doily on top of the sideboard to hide a small water stain.

The window was on the ground floor. The television news had recently announced the escape of a dangerous murderer from the local prison. “Do not approach”, they had announced. “Things like that never happen to me,” thought Philomena, “but I had better err on the side of caution.”

It would be easy for a lithe man to climb in through the window. She didn’t know if the murderer was fat, thin, or somewhere in the middle. Usually in prison the inmates are fit from spending too much time in the gym with nothing better to do. The television news had not shown a photograph, so she didn’t know if the murderer was handsome, ugly, or somewhere in between. Suddenly a great rumble came from the black cloud. There was going to be a downpour.

Philomena shivered. There seemed more to it than bad weather. She had goose bumps on her arms. She almost felt a presence. “How silly,” she thought. “It must be the combination of a black sky and the news of the murderer.” A blast of lightning forked. She began to count. Thunder came five seconds later so the storm was only five miles away. At least that was the method she had learned as a girl; count the seconds, count the miles.  Another lightning flash! She shut the window tight.

“Rain! Rain! Go away! Come again another day,” chanted Philomena. She turned back into the room. There was an ugly stranger standing behind her.

2030. Mustang Molly

(The opening sentence for this story was suggested by Badfinger20 who is Max of PowerPop. If you want to join in the fun of suggesting a future opening sentence for these stories, please leave your suggestion in the comments – only one suggestion per person!)

Sam and Molly bought a 1966 Mustang from Molly’s dad but when driving away they heard something rattling in the door panel. They hadn’t paid much for the car. It was sort of an engagement present from Molly’s parents, Mack and Laura Rice.

Mack Rice was one of these dads who couldn’t help but insinuate possible future situations. Molly and Sam had been living together for almost three years. During that time Mack had hinted about marriage and when, and engagement and when, and wedding and when. Once he even personally oversaw Laura’s frosting of Molly’s birthday cake. It looked remarkably like a wedding cake.

“Oh Daddy!” exclaimed Molly. “Is this meant to be a hint?”

And now, to celebrate their engagement – at last! at last! – Mack had sold them his prize 1966 Mustang for a song. He was as excited about the engagement as they were excited about the car! But that rattling in the door panel. Mack had never said anything about that before. It was unlikely to be a mechanical thing because not even a fly had been allowed to land on the Mustang in the fifty-four years Mack had owned it. Sam would investigate as soon as they got home.

Sam carefully removed the inside of the door panel. There it was! The cause of the noise! A baby’s rattle!

“Oh Daddy!” exclaimed Molly. “Is this meant to be a hint?”

2029. A day on the river

(The opening sentence for this story was suggested by Yvonne of Hello World. If you want to join in the fun of suggesting a future opening sentence for these stories, please leave your suggestion in the comments – only one suggestion per person!)

“I’ll really have to think about your offer,” said Alida.

Alida and her boyfriend, Braxton, had spent the day in sunshine gently rowing up and down the weeping-willowed city river in a punt. Braxton was a farmer and a day in town didn’t exactly involve shopping but an activity that communed a little more with Nature.

It had been a lovely day and Alida had packed a picnic lunch which they had on a blanket on the river bank, half of the bread going to the local ducks. Then it was back to the rowing. Well! Almost rowing! It was more floating in the boat along with the gentle river flow.

The day was drawing to a close. Braxton had asked and Alida had replied with “I’ll really have to think about your offer.”

To be honest, her reply took Braxton by surprise. He was expecting an immediate “Yes!” Every farming boy would’ve thought so, wouldn’t you? Especially after the blissful day they had just had. Perhaps she never heard right. Braxton repeated the question.

“I’ve just killed a cattle beast for the freezer and wondered if you wanted any liver?”

“I’ll really have to think about your offal,” said Alida. She was joking of course. She loved everything a future farmer’s wife dutifully should. “YES!” she exclaimed. “Yes, Braxton, yes!” They kissed.

2028. The endangered Zapata Rail

(The opening sentence for this story was suggested by Herb of The Haps with Herb. If you want to join in the fun of suggesting a future opening sentence for these stories, please leave your suggestion in the comments – only one suggestion per person!)

It sure wasn’t everyday that you see one, that’s for sure. Nick had returned daily for several hours to the swamp in the hope of catching sight of the critically endangered Zapata Rail (Cyanolimnas cerverai), one of the world’s most threatened waterbirds. The sighting had been by two staff members of the Natural History Museum of which Nick was in charge. He had sent them out one afternoon on a mission to “sight the Zapata Rail” as one had not been seen in over four decades.

His staff’s sighting had been reported in newspapers up and down the country. It was brilliant publicity for the museum. In fact, the two staff members were almost overnight sensations themselves. Wonderful!

Nick now knew then that there was definitely at least one of these birds in this swamp. That is why he had returned for five days in a row on his annual vacation. His vacation ended tomorrow. Today was his last chance.

Suddenly a Zapata Rail’s head protruded from the sawgrass at the side of the bank. After a few seconds the bird emerged slowly into the open and stopped.

Nick raised his gun.

The stuffed Cyanolimnas cerverai  is proving to be a popular addition to the museum’s collection.

2020. The camel was designed by a committee

(Today is story Number 2020 and will be my last posting for a while. (For those a little slow, 2020 is also the year!) Today too marks my 71st birthday, so what a splendid time to debloggerate for a bit! 2020 stories, 100 poems, nearly four hundred pieces of music – and thanks to you my readers, just under 40,000 comments! (Clearly, some of you can’t shut up!) I shall be back at some stage but possibly to do different things. After all, if a person hasn’t found a single story they liked out of 2020 then… whatever. I thought (inspired by a suggestion once made by Uma) that I might write some monologues. Or (as Iseult suggested) I might write Part II of an “autobiography”. Or (as I have suggested to myself many times) I might write another novel. Who knows?! Anyway, here is today’s story, the final, entitled “The camel was designed by a committee”.)

The Nobel Prize for Literature Committee called a very important meeting. They had invited a group of people to advise whether or not, for the first time in Nobel history, a blogger should receive the award. No one knows a blogger like a blogger. Apologies if your presence and what you said at the meeting was not recorded; the story would get too long – but whole-hearted thanks to ALL who read this blog.

Below is a rough transcription of the meeting. Andrea set the ball rolling.

Andrea: I really don’t think we should award Bruce the Nobel Prize for Literature. He would probably show his thanks by killing us all off in a story.

Uma: I agree with Andrea. Our world is dark enough without our adding to it. Mind you, it’s a Catch 22 situation; he’ll kill us off in the stories whether we say yes or no.

Nitin: What Bruce getting the Nobel Prize for Literature has got to do with Bozo the Clown is quite beyond me.

Yvonne: I’m not in favour of the Nobel Prize for Literature being given to Bruce. Imagine the interminable shopping lists he’d make once he got all that money.

GP Cox: He needs a bomb put under him.

Lisa: I agree with Yvonne on this one. I have tried to play his music on the violin and I think we should concentrate on his stories.

Keith: As a poet and story writer who has lived in France I really think there are cases more worthy, such as…

João-Maria (interrupting): I agree with Keith. I can think of lots of Portuguese poets who…

Ian (interrupting): Since no one knows who I am I can speak the truth without any negative repercussions. All I can say about his getting the Nobel Prize is – balderdash. Bunkum. Hokum. (And (although he might hate me saying) possibly the one who writes enough stupid stuff to be appreciated).

Max: He doesn’t know much about popular music from the 60s and 70s, so personally I’m more in favour of awarding it to Bob Dylan. Someone like that.

Matthew: Bob Dylan’s already got it once. I agree with João-Marie; but not Portuguese poets. Colombian poets would be more suitable.

Noelle: The Pilgrim Fathers (and Mothers) didn’t get off the Mayflower to award the Nobel Prize for Literature to every Tom, Dick, and Harry. I cry Murder! Murder! It’s a “No!” from me because I usually found his methods of killing people under researched.

Sylvie: I suspect he hasn’t written any haikus, so it’s “Non” from me (which according to Google Translate is French for “No”).

Herb: I’ve looked back over my own blog over the years, and if length of service is anything to go on I shall have to recommend the same as Sylvie, only in English.

Chelsea: As a mother of five boys I simply haven’t got any spare time to voice an opinion, although it’s pretty amazing how much I get done in a day.

Terry: From my point of view, all I can say is I’m an Australian, and my excellent stories are…

Sarah  (interrupting): As a published author I cannot recommend the prize going to someone who has never been published. In fact, in researching the history of the Nobel Prizes I can’t think of a single unpublished author who has had a book published. Nor for that matter can I think of a published author who has not had a book published.

Alex: They certainly haven’t made any films using his stories. For that matter, they haven’t made even a sitcom. It’s pathetic. What a pathetic loser! What an insignificant personage! It’s going to be a big fat “No” from me.

Chris: And “No” from me. His poems don’t rhyme. Nor do most of mine but that’s not what we’re on about here.

Cindy: If it’s photographable I’m in favour of it, although he’s not particularly photogenic. Then again, not every bird I photograph is pretty. Some are downright ugly. On second thoughts, I’m voting “No”. Sometimes one has to take into account the feelings of the camera.

Marina: Hello from Greece. I’m standing at my easel wondering whether to write or paint my “No”.

John: It looks like it’s going to be a unanimous “NO”. I should know because I write excellent poetry and have two daughters who live in New Zealand. In fact, Bruce and I have just had a series of poems published in a new poetry anthology called “No More Can Fit Into the Evening”. Published by Four Windows Press in Wisconsin. More of that anon.

Inese: Bruce is as cunning as a fox, although he’s never seen one. I went for a long and very picturesque walk along a river bank in Ireland to think about this award, and I got so distracted by the beauty of the environment that I quite forgot to think. Mind you, I have played all 160 of his piano pieces. Unfortunately there’s no Nobel Prize for Piano Music.

Lindsey: Speaking of walking… who’s this walking up the garden path this very minute?

Gulsum: Why! It’s Bruce himself!

Bruce: Hands up! Hands up! This is a hold up! Stick ‘em up!

Tom: We can’t say we weren’t warned. (And Tom’s publishing company – Four Windows Press – is the publisher of the poetry anthology mentioned by John above. And Tom is also one of the editors).

Paul: Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!

Iseult: Where is a murderous machete when I need it? Help! A machete! A machete! My latest novel for a machete!

Bruce: Ok. Just this once I relent. In today’s story, you’re all going to survive. Well, maybe not all… YOU – over there in the corner in the silly hat – I see you’ve already nibbled surreptitiously on some of the poisonous salami I put out for refreshments later on.

Simon: I haven’t eaten any of the poisonous salami. I eat only what I cook myself – unless someone else cooks it. Why don’t you get on your bike and pedal off?

Bruce got onto his bicycle and pedaled off into the sunset. Of course, he’s so unfit that it’s not impossible he won’t get far.

THE END

2019. A gaggle of gossipers

(Today’s story is the penultimate. Tomorrow’s story (Number 2020) will be the last – at least for a while. I am writing this in September so who knows! Tomorrow’s story has LOTS of links so it’s not impossible that it will automatically end up in your email trash. Just a warning!)

Monique and Marcel had known each other for years. They were good friends since university days. Now both were widowed. They usually met once or twice a month for coffee and a chat. Each found support from the other in their loss.

After some time they started to hear rumours: they were a couple, they were dating, they were inevitably going to get married… None of this was true, but rumours stick.

“Apparently they haven’t as yet moved into the same house,” said Nora Cudworthy to Mabel Johnstoneville. “You’d think they would. After all, they do everything else. They should stop pretending we don’t know and move in.”

“I heard,” said Sandy Monteverdi to Joe Devon, “that they were having an affair long before their spouses died. I’m not surprised, judging from the way they carry on these days.”

“It’s unbelievable! Unbelievable!” said Carmel Cranford to Tessa London. “They have their grandchildren come to stay and I heard that Marcel and Monique spend all their time otherwise engaged. Unbelievable!”

“Enough is enough!” declared Monique to Marcel. “Let’s add fuel to the fire. Let’s go away together in the same car to some fancy resort somewhere and leave them to chatter.”

And they did! Off they trundled ostentatiously in the car.

While they were away the nearby volcano erupted and utterly decimated the village. It was like a modern Pompeii. The whole gaggle of gossipers was gone. Of course, Monique and Marcel were safe. But there was no one left to announce their engagement to.

2015. The trials of having a pet

Charleen rented. The rental agency inspected the house every seven weeks. The inspector pretended the visit was in case anything was needed, or if anything needed fixing. In reality, the inspection was for the sake of the landlord. Make sure those horrible renters are not destroying my property.

Charleen loathed these inspection but was grateful she got seven days warning. It gave her time to “tidy up”. It also gave her time to hide her pet dragon. The rental agreement had stated “NO PETS” and in particular “NO DRAGONS”. Charleen had kept her dragon for well-nigh twenty years. It was impossible to find a landlord who would allow a pet dragon. The only way to find accommodation was to lie about the dragon – and hide it every seven weeks.

Charleen’s dragon was called Constibelle. It was a very pretty name for a dragon. The thing that Charleen detested the most about dragons was that they stained the carpet like you wouldn’t believe. It was possible to house-train them, but it wasn’t an easy task. Fortunately Constibelle’s was house-trained, but there were a few accidents on the way, and Charleen had to tastefully arrange mats and furniture to hide the stains. She dreaded the day when she might have to move house, and the final inspection would reveal the dragon stains in hideous detail.

Then disaster struck. Constibelle died. Quite suddenly. The neighbours wondered why Charleen was digging such a huge hole in her back yard, but Charleen explain that she was hoping to plant a well-grown apple tree.

Those of you who have never had a pet dragon will be unaware of the two possible things that can happen upon the death of a dragon. Either nothing happens at all, or dragon stains made during the course of a lifetime miraculously disappear. In this case, nothing happened.

Charleen was devastated. She grew to despise her departed dragon. Why had Clara’s pet dragon performed a miracle upon its death and why not Charleen’s? Selfish selfish dead dragon.

To hell with the corpse. The hole digging was abandoned. Charleen threw the dead dragon into a dumpster. She swore she would never get another dragon. She would never make that mistake again. Her next pet would be a pterodactyl.

2014. A smoking gun

Jude had not been brought up well. His father was an alcoholic; at least he was until he turned up to work drunk and “accidentally” fell down an elevator shaft. Jude’s mother was addicted to quinine and her kidneys had packed up and she too was dead.

Jude had an older sister who took over his care, but she was on drugs and got her drug money in the entertainment business. She worked from home.

When he was fourteen, Jude didn’t “discover” for he already knew, but “realized” that there were easier ways to make money than to work. He’s made a few contacts via some of his sister’s clients. He looked a lot older than fourteen. School had long gone down the drain. He worked as a pimp with the occasional bit of burglary thrown in for luck.

Then his big break came. One of his sister’s ex-clients said he’d give Jude ten thousand if he did his sister in. Jude said he would but what way was it to be done? The guy said he didn’t care, so Jude got a gun and shot his sister dead point blank. It was all pretty easy.

When Jude went to get his money the ex-client turned him in. “This guy murdered his sister.”

Jude got life. The ex-client got off scot-free. He was clever like that.

2013. Don’t count your chickens

Maree was trying to instil into nine-year old Vincent a sense of the value of money. He must learn to work and save and spend. Since they lived on a small life-style block Maree came up with an idea based on their living conditions: if Vincent fed and looked after their poultry she would buy the eggs off him. It was quite simple: Maree and Vincent’s father would continue to buy the feed for the poultry, but the rest was over to Vincent. She would pay him thirty cents an egg. There were only three hens, but with careful saving money over a reasonably short space of time things could build up into a handy little nest egg.

Three eggs a day! Not quite a dollar a day! Almost seven dollars a week! Roughly 27 dollars a month!

For two months Vincent acted as a faithful chicken farmer.

“Have you spent anything of your savings yet?” asked proud Maree.

“Nothing yet,” said Vincent. But he had learnt and done a few things. He had gone to a local poultry farm and they had given him an old rooster.

“Is that crowing I hear coming from the hen house?” asked Maree.

“When there’s no rooster,” said Vincent knowledgeably, “sometimes a hen will start crowing like a rooster.”

After several weeks Vincent started going to the grocery store and buying a carton of eggs. He would sell his mother three eggs a day. In the meantime his three broody hens were sitting on a dozen eggs each!

When his money ran out, Vincent announced that his hens were moulting and not producing eggs, so Maree began to buy eggs from the shop.

Within a few months there were more than thirty hens and roosters scampering around the life-style block.

“What’s all this chicken food I’m having to buy?” asked Vincent’s father.

Within a few weeks more Vincent was able to sell his mother a dozen eggs a day. Not that she needed that many eggs, but she passed some to her sister and some to her mother. Now and again Vincent would get a bonus – five dollars for a freshly killed and plucked rooster.

“Well,” said Vincent’s father to Maree, “I think your little money education plan worked. From now on he can buy his own chicken feed.”

By the age of eleven, Vincent was selling fresh eggs to fifteen different households.