(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.
Look! It’s not Maxine’s fault that her husband was a sour-puss from the second he stepped onto the cruise liner. Gordon was determined to make Maxine’s longed-for cruise as unpleasant as possible. There were several reasons for this: Maxine had been planning this cruise for a year and Gordon was sick of her going on and on about it. Also Gordon was worried, if the cruise was a success, that she’d want to waste even more of their hard-earned savings year after year on further cruises.
They had been befriended by a Mr. and Mrs. Calvin and Gail Harlick of Cabin 1763. He was a buffoon if ever there was one, although Gail was quite nice. Actually a little more than quite nice, Gordon thought. But Calvin went on and on about nothing. He would monopolize the conversation at dinner and it would inevitably be about himself. The only saving grace at dinner was that Gail sitting opposite would affectionately rub the calf of Gordon’s leg with the toe of her high heels. It was their little joke.
Maxine and Gordon were always invited back to Cabin 1763 for a little drink after the meal, but so far they hadn’t accept the invitation. And then a storm hit. It was so rough that the passengers were confined to their quarters for a brief time. Gordon insisted he and Maxine go up onto the deck. “This storm is the only exciting thing to have happened thus far on the trip.”
That was when Maxine gave Gordon a push over the side, saying “Go join Gail Harlick.”
Steadying herself against the railing, Maxine made her way to Cabin 1763.
The jolly internet has gone down. It sometimes does that during a storm. Apparently there’s a raging wind outside so I’m not surprised that things have got a bit shaky. The trouble is I’ve got a deadline to get an article to a local paper within the next two hours, which is why I got out of bed so early to write it. The Tourist Bureau puts out a free newspaper every week. I had better get the article ready in preparation to send the minute the internet connection comes back. I said I would report on the weather and surf conditions at the beach at Whangamata, which is fifty miles away. It’s the summer season, and people will want to check things before coming to the beach.
Early this morning I took a stroll along the beach at Whangamata. People, even at this early hour, were taking their dogs for a walk, throwing sticks and Frisbees. A couple of runners were enjoying the early morning to get in their exercise for the day. The sunrise was magnificent. It transformed the sea and its gentle waves into summer gold! Already several groups of people were setting up where clearly they were going to spend the day, swimming and lying in the brilliant sunshine. I expected the beach to get fairly crowded as the day progressed, and indeed I was right. As I returned from my walk a lot of sun-worshippers had descended on the beach with hampers loaded with picnic lunches. It was to be a typical day at the lovely Whangamata beach.
I asked one gentleman with a fishing rod where the best places to fish were, and he said anywhere beyond the swimming flags placed there by the surf life-savers. I also asked if he ever caught anything, and he said he got the occasional snapper and also gurnard, especially when the weather was brilliant like it is today. With his electric Kontiki longline fishing line the baited fishhooks could be taken way out to sea in such calm weather. The snapper and gurnard come a bit closer to shore in the spring and return to the depths in the autumn, so hooking them in summer is within the Kontiki’s range.
So come on down, visitors to the region! It’s safe! It’s sunny! Grab a towel and head for the beach! It’s always summer at Whangmata!
I see the internet is now back up, so I’ll send this article to the editor before this frightful weather outside causes an electric blackout.
The wind that broke the branch
forced it to twist and dance before
it died. And what is more,
it stripped it to the core and slashed
its leaves and bark, and bashed
it ‘til it snapped and crashed upon
the ground. Its life had gone.
Death ended all the fun the wind
The young girl danced at his
command; her captor’s wish;
his power; his lust; a dish; spittoon;
his weekly afternoon
delight. She fell quite soon. He spread
her legs and shot her dead,
a bullet to the head. He’ll get
another bit of meat next time
he goes to town.
(The form of this poem is based on the Vietnamese Luc bat. The poem was “driven” by the abduction of 110 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in the Nigerian town of Dapchi).
What an unbelievably beautiful sunset! Spectacular! It changes from blue to green to red to pink to white. It’s like watching coloured theatre lights change on the pleats of a hanging curtain. Blue to green to red to pink to white and back to blue! Part of its beauty must surely be that it passes. Things disappear so quickly. Just a fleeting glimpse into the expanse of the sky and then… darkness.
But this sunset seems to linger. Could it mean a storm at sea? A fine day tomorrow? An portent of better things to come?
None of these. It’s near midday, and I’m watching the nuclear fallout drift this way.
It was Christmas Day! It was also Patsy’s first Christmas for fifty three years without her husband who had passed away in June. Both her children were overseas; one on military duty and the other in the diplomatic corps.
“Let’s not get morbid,” thought Patsy. “I shall celebrate Christmas with a little feast.”
Patsy purchased an hors d’oeuvre (“Do not defrost, heat in oven for ten minutes”), the biggest chicken to roast that she could find (“But for Christmas I shall cook it like a turkey”), and a host of vegetables as side dishes (“Different enough from the usual to make it celebrational”).
“I shall have a little wine with it all, and then end with a slice of homemade piping-hot apple pie with whipped cream. I shall top it off in front of the TV with a nice coffee and some marsh mellows.”
But what a stormy Christmas Day! Snow flurries and sudden gusts of wind! And then the electricity went off. A black out. Everything was only half cooked.
Patsy sat wrapped up next to the fire and roasted her marsh mellows on a stick. Oh! She almost forgot! A little wine!
Mabel was crossing the strait in an inter-island ferry. She had been to visit her daughter who lived on a neighbouring island. It was a three hour crossing in the ferry. The strait was known to be one of the roughest in the world.
Today the wind was wild. The sea was wild. The water churned green. Mabel felt sea sick. She climbed up to the highest deck on the ferry to get air. She was next to the funnel. It was raining. Mabel’s clothes were wet. Mabel didn’t care. When sea sickness sets in, one does not abandon ship, but one abandons all care.
A small boy came cavorting up to the top deck.
“Isn’t it fun!” shouted the boy.
“No it’s not,” said Mabel. “Go away before I puke all over you.” With that, Mabel ran to the side of the deck and heaved her guts out. She wanted to die. If the boat sank she would thank God for small mercies.
Two hours later the ferry arrived at the terminal; quite the worst and longest two hours of Mabel’s life. Her husband was there to meet her.
“Where’s your false teeth?” he asked. But Mabel didn’t give a hoot that her teeth were somewhere at the bottom of the ocean. She was happy to be on land.