Sunday, 11 April 2021

I Wish You Were Closer

 

                                                                  by Tony Domaille

Camp coffee

 

‘I wish you were closer,’ she said.

            I put my palm to the Perspex screen between us and watched her raise her own frail, wrinkled, hand to meet mine. Close, but still a world away.

            ‘Are you eating?’ she asked. ‘You look like you could do with a few decent meals. Do you remember my hot pot?’

            I smiled. If anyone could do with feeding up it was her. The care home manager said she lived on hope and custard. The hope that someone would visit and give her a hug, and custard because it required no chewing.  They tried to persuade her to eat, but she just nibbled a little, pushed her plate away, and begged for the yellow stuff that kept her going.

            ‘You should try to eat better,’ I said.

            She shrugged. ‘I would if you sat down with me.’

            She knew I couldn’t. Even though the pandemic was waning, the closest I could be was the other side of this screen, though I wondered if the kitchen would allow us to have a plate each here. I wasn’t hungry, but I was prepared to match her, fork for fork, with some lasagne or cottage pie, or whatever they served up to the dentally challenged.

I would have suggested it, but she launched into her stories. Way back in time when I did things that made her laugh or cry or proud. I watched her eyes light up as her memories flooded back, one after another. I had groomed the dog with garden shears. I had flooded the bathroom playing submarines. I had won school prizes, been kind, had the finest wedding day she had ever known, and been the best son a mother could ever wish for.

‘You’ve always been a lovely boy,’ she said, putting her palm to the screen again.

I mirrored her hand. ‘You’re lovely yourself.’

And then the care worker was there behind her, tapping at his watch and mouthing that it was time I was leaving.

She looked tearful when I said I had to go. ‘I wish you were closer,’ she said again.

I blew her a kiss in return for the one she blew me and watched as she was led away back to her room.

As I signed myself out at reception the care home manager said to me, ‘Thank you for coming. Mary so looks forward to your visits.’

‘Does anyone else visit at all?’ I asked.

‘Not a soul, so you volunteers are a godsend,’ said the manager. But I suppose she knew what I was thinking because then she said, ‘Dementia isn’t always a curse, it can sometimes be a curse, but it can also be a blessing. Mary thinks you’re her son, doesn’t she?’

About the author 

 Tony has written a number of award-winning plays, published by Lazy Bee Scripts and Pint Sized Plays, that have been performed across the world.  He has also had many stories published in anthologies and magazines. You can follow him here -https://www.facebook.com/tonydomaillewriting/

Saturday, 10 April 2021

It Could Have Been Dramatic…

 This is in response to the writing prompt  given out at Janet Howson's book launch about something dramatic that happened at school.

By Dawn Knox

milk

I suppose I could blame the many children’s books I’d read where there was always a hero who saved the day. Or perhaps it was my childish and naïve confidence that adults were always in control and therefore nothing could go wrong. There again, maybe I was an empty-headed child so caught up in the wonders and exuberance of childhood that I simply didn’t notice what was going on around me.

Now, as an adult who is reasonably disciplined and informed, it’s hard to judge why, as a child, I was so calm and unconcerned about the world around me. In those days, there was no suspicion of global warming, rising sea levels, deforestation or of the pandemics to come. It seemed to be a world where if you knew where to look, you could easily stumble across the Magic Faraway Tree of Enid Blyton’s story, or a Hobbit Hole of JRR Tolkien’s book.

Over the last few years, I’ve often puzzled over one particular day in the mid-1960s when I was at junior school. I was a carefree, daydreamer who would invariably forget to take her PE kit to school in the morning and wouldn’t remember to bring her coat home in the afternoon but on that particular day, unusually, I’d thought ahead and worked out that at mid-morning, my form would be taking part in another dreaded country dancing class. A special form of torture dreamt up by teachers to force shy girls to hold hands with grubby boys who didn’t know their left foot from their right foot. Or perhaps it was supposed to encourage teamwork as each couple had to work hard to avoid collapsing in an ungainly heap of arms and legs.

Girls and boys were paired up for the term in a seemingly random fashion although I later wondered whether our teacher simply had a quirky sense of humour. I was one of the smallest children in the class, so, to have paired me up with the rather large, bear-like Paul, was a curious choice. Resembling Baloo and Mowgli, we skipped, galloped and polkaed around the hall in our plimsolls; he squeezing all feeling out of my hand and trampling over my feet; and me, trying to match his giant strides as we Roger de Coverley’ed with the other children.

Once, for no particular reason, Paul told me he would wait for me at the gate after school… and then beat me up. That was one of the few afternoons when I didn’t dawdle after school. I was out of the building seconds after the bell rang, escaping through a gate out of which I wouldn’t normally leave school and then I took a circuitous route home.

The following day having thwarted his plans, I expected there to be some reprisals from Paul but there was none. In fact, he seemed quite friendly and after a while, I realised it had simply been an idle boast and that he probably hadn’t been at the gate waiting for me at all.

But the particular country dancing lesson in the mid-1960s which I remember so vividly, taught me an important lesson. And it had nothing to do with skipping, springing or side-stepping.

That morning over breakfast, I recall a slight feeling of triumph in reading an article in the newspaper which led me to believe that my country dancing lesson would have to be abandoned. There would be no more hand-crushing or toe-mashing from Paul. Sadly, it would also mean no opportunity to pair up with Stuart, the boy on whom I had a crush. I longed to dance with him, yet dreaded the prospect, knowing I’d be so shy, I wouldn’t be able to look him in the eyes.

But if the newspaper report was true–and why wouldn’t it be? Then the country dancing lesson should be disrupted shortly after it began. I must admit, to being slightly doubtful because neither of my parents seemed particularly perturbed–indeed, neither of them had mentioned that the day was expected to be anything other than ordinary. Both of them said goodbye to me with no greater fondness on that day than any other.

 

The time came for the lesson and we changed into our plimsolls and filed into the hall. As usual, I waited with bated breath to see if the teacher would change our partners around–wouldn’t it be ironic if, on this particular day, I was paired with Stuart? But, no. My partner was Paul. As usual, the music started and with the size-difference of Yogi and Boo Boo, we began to strut our stuff.

During the lesson, there wasn’t much opportunity to consider the newspaper article as Paul’s sweaty hand crushed mine and I fervently hoped he wouldn’t suddenly let go as he swung me around, sending me hurtling with centrifugal force into the climbing bars attached to the wall. It therefore came as quite a surprise when the end of the lesson arrived with the ringing of the bell and we changed back into our outdoor shoes then went to lunch.

I was baffled and slightly disappointed. It appeared the newspaper report had been wrong. The asteroid which had been hurtling through space hadn’t collided with earth at eleven o’clock on that day as the newspaper report had predicted.

Looking back on it now, I can only wonder at how calmly I ate my porridge at breakfast-time while reading about the imminent destruction of the world. Why hadn’t I asked my parents that morning? Why hadn’t I been frightened? From the perspective of adulthood, I can’t believe I hadn’t foreseen the likely consequences that would follow an asteroid strike.

I can only imagine I’d read so many amazing stories where heroes overcame all sorts of disasters that the idea of a real calamity happening didn’t seem possible. And surely my parents would have kept me off school if they’d believed the world was about to be devastated? It simply couldn’t be true. And yet, it had been in the newspaper…

And then again, perhaps my dislike of country dancing lessons added a dollop of wishful thinking, with no regard for the repercussions for the world, its inhabitants, my family or me.

However, I learned an important lesson that day. Nothing to do with dance steps or even the wisdom of keeping out of Paul’s way–no, I learned that the news media can be wrong and isn’t always to be trusted. A very important lesson indeed.

The following week and from then on, I was paired with Paul during country dancing and the lessons continued until I left junior school. And I never got to dance with Stuart once…

On the other hand, I lived to tell the tale…

 


About the auhtor

Dawn enjoys writing in different genres and has had romances, speculative fiction, sci-fi, humorous and women’s fiction published in magazines, anthologies and books. She’s also had two plays about World War One performed internationally. Her latest book was written with Colin Payn–a near-future romance called The Future Brokers.

You can follow her here on https://dawnknox.com or on Twitter here https://twitter.com/SunriseCalls 

Friday, 9 April 2021

Double Yolkers

by Judith Skilleter

a cold Belgian beer

I have a problem with double yolkers, eggs that is. First of all I have to say that double yolkers are a delight when just eating, it is as if you are getting double your money, two for the price of one. There is not much that is as yummy as a double yolked fried or poached egg with lots of soldiers dripping with salty butter. Dip dip yum yum.

And then when the dipping is sadly over there is delight in making the uneaten egg (or is it eggs?), depleted double yolkers with just a fringe of solid golden yellow, into a sandwich. I reckon one double yolker would nicely cover a whole slice of bread to be then covered by a little more salt and a second slice of bread. Of course there are those who would add bacon or other goodies to this edible marvel – and why not. The world is not so constricted that we do not have sandwich choices.

But double yolkers are a nightmare in cooking. Imagine you are making a cake, your butter and sugar is nicely creamed and the recipe says add 2 eggs. What if one of those eggs is a double yolker? Does that count as 2 eggs?  If a further egg was added would that mean you have put in 3eggs or just 2 as advised by the recipe?

There is a saying “Do not over egg the pudding.” The following is from Google

“Over-egg the pudding” is an English phrase and first appeared in the mid-19th century. It originated as a simple literal phrase alluding to the way that baked foods may be spoiled by using too many eggs. 

So is that the answer. By increasing the egginess the chemical imbalance (I don’t know if it is a chemical imbalance but it sounds good and it sounds as if I know what I am talking about) of the baking is altered and the final results are not as good as they might have been.

Another suggestion is that we mustn’t spoil our baking by trying too hard to improve it and I am sure there are some recipes that can be improved by adding an extra egg. But what if we are not trying to improve it. What if we are just baffled by the fact that we have 2 eggs in one egg shell and do not know what to do next?

In my experience this bafflement had led to cakes that taste okay but have a dip in the middle and do not look as if they have just been taken with loving care from Mary Berry’s oven.

There are then two choices. I could then turn the cake over and what do you know, a perfect cake appears but unfortunately my family are not so easily fooled. If the cake is seen before inversion I have memories of comments like “Vesuvius must have looked like this after it erupted in AD79.” Or I might fill the dip with icing or chocolate or fruit and a sort-of flan appears. Comments would then follow like “Was this supposed to look like this?” or “I thought you were making a cake, mum?”

“Grrrr” is often my reply

Needless to say, double yolker advice would be gratefully received.

But not by me!

About the author 

Judith Skilleter is new to writing fiction after a long career in social work and teaching and her first children's novel will be published shortly. She is a Geordie, who settled in East Yorkshire 45 years ago and is married with nearly three grandchildren

 

 

 

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Montage of Memories

 

by Thomas Elson

cola

 He, at six foot-three inches, remembered she was slightly taller. And, on that first evening, in high heels, she was towering.

He could not remember being asked to be her escort for her birthday dinner at the country club. Clouded in his memory was the birthday gift he must have given her. Nor could he remember picking her up or even driving her back to her parents’ six-acre country estate.

But he did remember being introduced to her parents at the country club, and the maître de greeting her by name.

He remembered her basement with the two-lane bowling alley he never used, the soft drink fountain with every Pepsi product at the ready, the stereo system with soft music, and the easy feel of the leather divan on his skin.

He also remembered the way she inched closer, brought her long legs under her hips, smiled, partially unbuttoned her blouse, then leaned back, removed her shoes, and extended her legs toward him.

He remembered two more things: her legs were bare, and her feet were bigger than his.

About the author 

Thomas Elson’s short stories, poetry, and flash fiction have been published in numerous venues such as Calliope, The Cabinet of Heed, Pinyon, Lunaris, New Ulster, Lampeter, Selkie, and Adelaide. He divides his time between Northern California and Western Kansas.