Two Worlds

A Friday Flash, this story was highly commended in a National Flash Fiction Day competition on the 1000words site Feb 2013. 

Two Worlds

‘More plates, I need plates. This is a restaurant, not a take out.’

‘Yes, Chef. Right away Chef.’ Yes Chef, no Chef, Kiss my arse Chef.

Greg stared out of the kitchen window above the sink, his hands continuing to work on autopilot. He could see the lights of the Piste Bullies high up on the mountain bashing down the snowfall of the last twenty four hours.

‘For God’s sake, what do you call this? Do it again. Focus on what you’re doing or you’re out of here!’

‘Yes Chef, sorry Chef.’

Greg hit the take off point fast, twisting to his left as soon as his skis hit the air. As the skis came towards the vertical, he pulled his left arm back increasing the speed of rotation. On his first turn, he stared into nothing but sky. On his second, he could see the town nestled in the valley below as the sun sank behind the mountains. He watched for a second as he fell towards the ground then pushed out his skis to absorb the energy as he landed, then set off down for evening service. Down here nobody, up there a King.

That Voice Again

Another Friday Flash, this story was published on the Flashflood April 2013.

That Voice Again

 This train is for Kings Cross. The next station is Potters Bar.

Anna rested her head upon Dave’s shoulder as the train pulled into the station. The platform looked busy for a Saturday morning, more like rush hour.

The doors opened and the people streamed on board.

‘There’s seats over there.’

Dave winced. No doubt who it was. He hoped she’d sit somewhere else. Some hope.

This train is for Kings Cross calling at Finsbury Park and Kings Cross only

‘Hello Dave. Fancy seeing you here. Hi Anna.’

‘Hello Sadie.’

Dave felt Anna’s grip tighten on his hand and her fingernails sink into the top of his palm. Anna said nothing but now sat bolt upright. The two women glared at each other. Dave expected to see a layer of frost form on the carriage window.

‘Oh, this is Steve, by the way,’ said Sadie.

Dave thought about shaking hands but then thought better of it and nodded at him. Steve nodded back. He knew who Dave was and was determined to keep out of the conversation if at all possible.

‘So how have you been, Dave? Haven’t seen you for ages.’

‘Yeah, I’ve…we’ve moved’ said Dave.

‘We’re engaged.’ Anna unclasped her fingers from his, held her hand out, wiggling her fingers and smiling without baring her teeth.

‘Oh congratulations, how lovely. Steve and I were thinking of moving in together, weren’t we Steve?’

Steve nodded. Poor sod, thought Dave. At first it had been great until he and Sadie moved in together. He’d soon found out that Sadie couldn’t do anything without starting an argument. Dave sometimes wondered if Sadie could argue with her own shadow. Still Steve looked a patient man. He’d need to be.

This train is for Kings Cross. The next station is Finsbury Park.

‘I expect you need to get off here, Dave. I know you have that thing of not wanting to look at the Emirates.’

‘He’s fine, chirped Anna ‘and besides we need to go to Kings Cross anyway, remember?

Dave stared at Anna. What the hell was she playing at? Of course, he wanted to get off here and why did they need to go to Kings Cross? Anna stared back defying him to argue. ‘Yeah, ‘course I remember.’

This train is for Kings Cross. The next station is Kings Cross where this train will terminate.

The group settled into an uncomfortable silence. Dave stared out of the window and glared at the stadium as it approached. He hated Arsenal but he knew Anna hated Sadie more so he kept quiet. He looked back towards Sadie and then back to Anna. He knew this would ruin the day. Anna would be monosyllabic most of the day and there’d be an argument on the way home over something trivial.

This is Kings Cross where this train terminates. Please remember to take all your belongs with you when you leave the train.

No choice, thought Dave. No choice.

The Last Last Ride

It’s been ages since I posted a Friday Flash story. This story was longlisted in The New Writer Poetry and Prose Competition 2011. 

The Last Last Ride

IMG_7090 You’d stay on this small roller coaster ride all summer long if you could and if I were a rich man, I would let you. Is it fun riding around in circles? You’re only nine; of course it’s fun. Most things are fun when you’re nine, except doing your homework, tidying your bedroom and going to bed when you’re told! But going round in circles, that’s real fun.

Another ride? OK.

I’ll take some more photos for your Mum. For me too, but I won’t need to look at them. I’ll remember this moment like it was yesterday. Last year, you were losing your baby teeth; the Tooth Fairy had deep pockets. Now you have a beautiful wide smile. One baby tooth hangs on stubbornly but soon that will be gone and then that smile will be perfect. You’re not a baby any more, except to your Mum. You’ll always be her baby.

It’s a quiet day and the operator lets you go round an extra couple of times. I’ve lost count now. You never grow tired of this ride. Your Mum can’t understand the attraction but I understand much better than you think. I never grew tired of the ride when I was nine. My ride was different; a fairground carousel in a Northern seaside town with beautiful carved wooden horses painted in garish colours taking part in an imaginary race. Each horse would pull ahead then fall behind whilst I clung on tightly to my charge, looking out for my mother and father. They stood together patiently as I sped by, going round in circles, smiling and waving at a happy little boy that would soon grow tired of such childish things, who wanted to grow up too fast. It was a lifetime ago but yesterday too. I wonder what they were thinking then? Now I’ll never know.

IMG_7085Another ride? Last one, OK? And then we’ve really got to go.

At the end, you run straight past me towards your mother. She looks tired and distant but, as you approach, her face lights up as she listens to you, all breathless and excited. You grow more like her every day. You look to me for signs of weakness and plead for a ‘last last’ ride. You pull a sad face then flash that smile, not sure which tactic will work best. You know I am the verge of giving in but I smile and shake my head. It’s time to leave.

It’s getting late and your Mum’s tired, but the nine year old in me wants to say yes. I wish we could stay, that the ride could go on forever.

I wish for a ride when the world wasn’t on my shoulders, when I didn’t disappoint, when time didn’t matter and going round in circles was just fun once again and not a punishment. I want that ‘last last’ ride too.

 

 

Photos © PDomican LRPS

Good News Monday

Last week really was good news Monday. I’m doing a bit of management consulting work for a friend’s construction company down in Wimbledon which meant a very early morning start. The journey was made more pleasant by an email telling me that one of my early flash pieces ‘Greyhound’ had been selected for the 2nd Flash Friday anthology and at lunchtime I received another email telling me that one of my ‘small stones’ (very short pieces of observation – flash without a story if you prefer) written in January has been selected for the 2012 Small Stones book. since I set up my submissions spreadsheet, I’ve had four pieces get to at least longlist (for competitions) or acceptance out of eight.
It’s lovely to see some older stories doing well but there’s pressure on to start writing some new ones. There’s loads of competitions and anthologies to submit for and not many stories in the box. I’d better get on with it then.

 

The Last Post

It took her some time but at last she found his name, high above the road and halfway to the skylights of the Menin Gate. He had probably passed through here on his way to the Front, never to return, not even to be found. There were thousands of names here; so many that the monument was not big enough for all that had been lost. The golden light of the early evening had turned into a faded red but now the sun was setting and the light was failing fast. She took a final photograph and hoped it would turn out alright.

She was not alone now. There were hundreds standing there now; some talking in a hushed voice, others quiet and still. The street had been closed off by the police and veterans of other wars had appeared, adorned in medals from different conflicts. An announcement came from nowhere and the crowd hushed as the buglers from the fire department of the town took their positions.

The Last Post sounded and she wondered whether he had gone willingly, whether he had believed in the cause? Was he frightened as he passed through this place or resigned to his fate? She would never know. The family’s memory of him had been lost through the generations. All that remained was a single photograph of a young man standing proudly in uniform taken a few weeks before he set off for the Front, never to return.

Did he know how many had fallen before him? If he knew how many would die after him or that it was not the War to end all Wars, would he still have marched to the front?  As a soldier stepped forward to recite ‘For The Fallen’, she gazed at the veterans lined up, heads bowed and she found her answer.

She noticed the teenagers that she had seen at the museum earlier in the day. Some were taking pictures of the ceremony, others silent. What would they take away from here? Could they recognise themselves in the soldiers’ stories they had heard or seen them as an irrelevance, naive fools heading to almost certain death for a futile cause, a distant part of history?

The Reveille sounded followed by the sound of voices and conversations once again as the people dispersed, heading for a good dinner and a peaceful nights sleep. He would have had neither in his last few days, she reflected. The police vans disappeared and traffic began to rumble through the Gate once more. She looked back up at his name for the last time, whispered a silent thank you and followed the crowd back into town.

Every evening since 1928, The Last Post has been played under the Menin Gate Memorial in Ieper at 8 o’ clock sharp. This evening the ceremony will take place for the 28621st time.

Words and pictures ⒸPeter Domican LRPS

The Col

Old George sipped his pastis and watched from the roadside cafe as the cyclists passed by; some at speed downhill but many just above walking pace uphill. There had been a lifetime of change here in the mountains. He hadn’t been born when the first dome had been constructed, but as a child he remembered the trail that conveyed men and equipment to the observatory in the summer months. Since then there had been much development in the area, most of it to be deplored and now the small quiet village of his youth had become an ugly ski resort in winter and an even uglier summer stopping point for middle aged men in lycra struggling their way up to the top of the Col du Tourmalet in an attempt to emulate elite riders almost half their age and half their weight.

George had nothing against cycling. He had cycled all his life in these mountains  He looked into their vacant eyes and wondered what they thought about as they suffered on the way up from the valley below. When did the bravado and good humour at breakfast disappear? Were the kilometre markers encouraging or did their spirits drop as they realised what little progress had been made for so much effort?  What did they think when they saw the hideous apartment blocks as they approached La Mongie; relief they had made it so far or despair knowing that there was still a third of the way to go? Did the satisfaction for those who made it make the ordeal worthwhile?

He wondered but he never asked. He never spoke to the tourists, they were not his kind. He looked at the bill, placed a few coins onto the saucer and rose slowly putting on his jacket. It was getting late and his daughter would be expecting him. He climbed onto his rusty old bike, pulled his cloth cap down tight and set off in the direction of the Col, passing rider after rider as he went.

40-15

’40-15’

There must be an easier way of making a living. Four hours now, give up you bastard. Don’t you know who I am? You may be the rising star but you’re not going to beat me, not this year. This title’s mine. Two match points now, it won’t be long. I’ll take my time, wipe my brow, look around a bit, own the court. That’s what champions do isn’t it, own the court?

Let the crowd settle, bounce the ball once, twice, straight arm, throw up, watch the ball, watch the ball, boom! Shit, long. OK second serve, bounce the ball once, twice, straight arm, throw up, watch the ball, watch the ball, boom! In this time, return along the line, get to it, get to it, damn! Two years ago, I’d have got that one. God, I’m getting old. How can you be old at 29?

’40-30’

OK, don’t tense up, nearly there. Keep it cool. A few shouts from the crowd, ignore them. They don’t know shit. Let the crowd settle, bounce the ball once, twice, straight arm, throw up, watch the ball, watch the ball, boom! Straight down the middle. Take that baby! Huh, how did he get to that? The crowd’s on their feet, they sense a comeback. Sit down; it’s not going to happen, not today. Maybe next year, though; no the year after. I want that record; not just a champion, the champion. You can wait your turn, pay your dues.

‘Deuce’

Let the crowd settle, bounce the ball once, twice, straight arm, throw up, watch the ball, watch the ball, boom! Applause. Didn’t see that one coming, did you? You’ll learn of course; if you keep your focus, concentrate on your game and not the distractions. It’s so easy to get distracted, believe me. Airport, hotel, practice, match, dinner, practice, match, dinner, practice, match, dinner, airport…see. It’s boring, lonely and there’s a girl called Distraction in every city. Good luck, son. Been there, worn the T-shirt.

‘Advantage Cole’

Let’s get this over with. I’m tired now but I’m not going to let you know that. Never let them know you’re hurting. Let the crowd settle, bounce the ball once, twice, straight arm, throw up, watch the ball, watch the ball, boom!

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