Tag Archives: short story

The painter’s daughter

This is a short story from Penny Blake’s beautiful collection Mahrime.

Once upon a time, when you and I were naught but pips in the core of the great cosmic apple, there lived a painter. You might chance to meet him still, wandering the shore line as the sun rises over the blushing surf, counting the grains of sand or shuffling the streets at dusk, studying the cracks in the paving stones, calling down and listening for a voice.

Back in his studio, his tumbledown beach hut, he paints each grain, each echo. He paints the light and the shadow, the rising and the setting, the dance and sparkle and the soaking up and the deep. His eyes are full of dreams and his dreams are full of shades and glamour.

One day, the painter’s daughter bare-foot tip-toed into that secret space.

And gazed at all the many muchness of towers of tins of tangy turp-scented rainbows.

And wondered what it would be – to touch, to taste, to take in and become such wonders.

One drip.

One lick.

In goes a flinger, smooth and slick.

Gloopy and gorgeful.

Smick  smuck  smack.

Blue, yellow, indigo,

Purple,

black.

She tasted blue – A taste of salt sea and pillow cases, stained glass and new slippers, skinned knees and berryjams and Monday mornings and shaggy hillsides damp in November fog.

She tasted yellow – A taste of custard of course. And a taste of bathrooms and tiled floors and a caravan holiday in 1975, old stiff newspapers and curled up cats, the dust that gathers on lampshades and dims the whole room and a taste of skin and bone and the streets of Rome in July.

She tasted green – A taste of coal and iron, old sandals and ploughed up earth, toadstools and pine woods and rain low down in the valley of the Dove.

Every colour in the universe she drank it down. She gorged on glamour and shade, on dances and sparkles, on things soaked up and deep. She swallowed down the soul of every colour until her limbs felt clogged and cloyed with the weight of them.

One small pot of black she saved for last, – a taste of burning and drowning, of being squeezed out and sucked up and exploded into stars, a taste of being held for eternity and the aching emptiness of an eggshell cracked too soon.

 

This black, she smuggled it away in her pocket, off to her little box bed beside the woodstove. There, when she was feeling dizzy with the reel of the rainbows spinning through her veins, she would sip

Sip

Sip

At the comforting black.

From that day on, every time the painter’s daughter opened her mouth, out spilled thick , oily paint in puddles and spewks that stained the folks and the things all around her in violent assaults of crimson,  viridian, amaranth and egg yolk.

She stopped opening her mouth.

Her limbs dragged heavy as a rag doll and every breath, every step, every heart beat was a drudge and a drain. So much colour inside. So much sparkle and depth. So much echo and shade.

Walking, talking, even breathing seemed mountains too steep to climb with all this weight inside.

She sat on her bed, day in day out, and sip

Sip

Sipped

At the comforting black

Until it spilled out of her eyes in puddles that pooled upon the patchwork quilt and cast back mocking rainbows.

That is how the little bird found her one day. He hopped upon her window sill and cocked his shining eye – the way the bird folk do – and then he fluttered down onto the eiderdown and whistled.

“Go away,” the painter’s daughter hissed, “do you think I care to see your coloured plumes? Do you think I am impressed? What if I told you that I am so full with the light and dark of every colour in the universe that I ache with it and to look at you does not fill me with joy or wonder, only regret and fatigue until I am sick of it.”

The little bird cocked his eye again – infuriating it is when they do that, y’know? – and he reached his yellow bill in deep amongst his tail feathers and plucked out a needle sharp quill the colour of every blue-green under the sea.

The painter’s daughter shrugged in scorn of him and made to turn away when

Ouvchsh!

The little demon jabbed the quill spike hard into the soft, pale flesh of her arm.

Out leapt a tiny spurt of paint.

Then slowly, and with the girl in thrall,

He dragged the rainbow colours out

In swirls and spirals, tree cassyn pathways to guide the flow of all that weary weight into traces of beauty and scope.

Here was a dream in flesh.

Here was pointillized pain.

Here was inside out for all to see and staining no one but herself; surely, no words would be needed now . The world would smile and nod its head at her, as they knocked shoulders in the street, and whisper

‘ah, so, that is how it is with her, mm, we understand now why she walks so slow and dares not speak. How could a child do otherwise, with so much colour inside?’

So she stepped out.

Stained.

With the bird quill tucked behind one ear

And bold, without fear,

Into a forest of fingers who pointed and blamed and waggled and shamed and prodded and poked and jostled and joked and fat cold palms that pushed her far away.

The painter’s daughter ran.

She ran on and on.

She began to feel very proud of her running.

One dark night, she came to a cave, above a river, above a pool, beside a village and into that cave she crept and lay down to sleep.

When she woke up the smell of sweet meat cooking down in the green valley filled her with hunger and the longing for all the things that human company ought to bring but seldom does.

So she spent the morning gathering leaves,  the afternoon stitching them together and by evening she had made for herself a fine long cloak that hid the patterns on her arms, and a hat with a broad brim to cover her face.

Under the stars, she took out the bird quill from behind her ear and dug it deep into her skin until it was slathed in colour, then she found a broad, flat stone and she began to paint

In swirls and spirals, tree cassyn pathways to guide the flow of all that weary weight into illuminated forms both wild and wonderful.

Here was a dream on stone.

Here was pain projected, disembodied, disowned.

Here was inside out for all to see and staining nothing but this unfeeling earth. And the world would smile and nod and never know where all the colours came from.

As the sun rose over the valley, the painter’s daughter stepped down from her cave, down and down and into the village and by that afternoon the tongues were wagging like wild fire flames; who was the stranger in the cloak of leaves who traded her marvellous paintings for table scraps? Some had seen her return to the cave – a hermit then? An anchorite? A holy one, certainly, a wise healer, a cleric, a teacher, a goddess in the flesh… ?

Every day, more and more villagers made the trek up to the painter’s cave. They wondered at her work – colours and patterns that seemed to describe the deepest parts of themselves. The parts they never let show. How? They asked, with tears in their eyes, how can she know?

They bought canvases. They paid in gold.

Inside her cave, hidden from sight, the painter took her feather quill and emptied herself out for them.

Day after day.

Night after night.

Slowly, as time went by, she began to grow old and paper thin. She had to coax out the paint in crusted oozes from her gummed up veins. Sometimes finding the strength and the will would take hours. Often there was not enough. Not enough colour, not enough energy and too much pain of the flesh and the bone to finish the work. ‘One day,’ thought the painter, ‘one day I will dry up. There will be no way of getting these crusted up colours out of my dried up body any longer. And what will happen then? Will the world understand when I can no longer paint their pain for them?’

The painter smiled and shook her head. She stuck the feather quill behind her ear and pulled off her cloak and hat of leaves. Clotheless under the silver moon, she walked down to the lake pool and stepped right into the comforting black.

The next morning, when the people came up to the cave the painter was gone, but the waters of the lake below, as they looked down into the valley, were snaked with rainbows.


The Great House

A guest post from Christopher Blackwell

I have lived in The Great House almost all of my life since I was a young man and now I am very very old and will soon die. Another young man will inherit the house for that is how it has always been done though I have no idea whom it will be. It is not necessary for me to know. I have always had a thing for a odd house, in my case a medieval house that built at different levels, using different types of measurements in each room, and different building material, often with step between different rooms, various stairs that go oddly to unexpected to unknown levels.

A house that sprawls, and seem to go on and on. A house where inside, you never can quite determine where you are in the house, or how to get to where you would like to be. Consider it something like a A Four-Dimensional Maze. Yet unknowingly you could always get to wherever you wished to go, or somewhere much like it. Every type if room was repeated in other wings of the house, but designed uniquely different. But any dining room would have a full meal set out as needed. Any book that you could ever want to read would be easy to find in any of the libraries, even if you had just suddenly decided on a particular book. Wardrobe , closet, or set of drawers, would have whatever clothes that you needed at a time, always a perfect fit, storage always had what was needed at the time. There would be no servants or builders, but the house was always perfectly maintained, except for portions what would be in decay or near ruin, and new parts of the house continued to build, though the sound of construction was never heard.

Always when one owner died, usually at great age, and new young person would discover that they had just inherited the house, though they were never aware of being related to the last owner. All they had to do was live in the house for one year and their title of ownership was solid and legal. Of course leaving the house was never possible throughout their long life, nor did anyone ever turn down the chance to inherit The Great House. Somethings just had to be. with no reason or explanation.


The Myomancer

The Tragic History Of Aisling Ó Rathaille

(Or The Myomancer)

By Aodhagán Ó Rathaille

 

Aisling was never a strange child – not when we considered the very many stranger people that dwell around here. She kept herself to herself but then who could blame her? And as dutifully protective parents we were needless to say delighted that she preferred her own company to that of the unquestionably sinister orphans with which this island is undoubtedly over populated.

When we moved into The House, I confess there were noises ; the wind moved through the pneumanated marrow of the place and the timbers gave it voice. That is what we assumed. And The House was so very beautiful back then, standing proud on a set of impressive rock arches near the cliff edge like a last bastion of sanity and hope erected by some bold and indomitable architect.

So very pretty. So very very sad.

Aisling loved The House. She even asked us to have built for her an ornate replica for her bedroom and she filled it with dolls and spent almost every hour playing happily with it. It was a task to get her to go to bed and even, on occasion, we would wake in the night to find her busy arranging the furniture there ‘just so.’

I say dolls. I think it was late October when we noticed they were puddle rats.

“I’d like you to play a game with me,” Aisling said. We were in the parlour after church, entertaining half the town as usual. Aisling hardly ever invited audience or participant to her private pastimes and so, as doting parents, we were naturally intrigued by this sudden change in temperament.  As were the children in the party for I believe they looked to Aisling as something of a paradigm, you know? Some Poetic Vision of childhood…

“I’m going to tell your fortunes,” Aisling said brightly. Everything about her was bright. Her black curls gleamed in the candleglow and her neat pleat skirts caught the radiance as it blistered over the grain like fire woven into the fabric. The afternoon had promised to be a dull one but now the winged thing’s mantra  thrummed through the heart of the little gathering and we fairly giggled and tweeted our way up the  simple white painted staircase to the nursery.

How I had failed to notice the changes that my daughter had wrought to her beloved dolls house I cannot say. Where she had found the time, the skill, and the mechanical components I am also at a loss to fathom.  Suffice to say each of the tiny intricate replica rooms was now a tiny intricate chamber of death.

We stared.

Parental duty no doubt dictates that if One’s child appears to have constructed a portable torture chamber worthy of the most depraved and fanciful minds of The Inquisition itself, One ought really to put One’s foot down and confiscate the damn thing at once.

Somewhere in the more primal recesses of my mind I am certain I acknowledged this wise course of action. But I did not act upon it. I simply stared. We all stared.

“You, Harriet. You may go first.”

The small child nodded in a small way and shuffled forward.

“Choose a Guide,” Aisling pointed to a birdcage by the window and if our jaws were not already hanging a little slack they now hit the floor in unison. The cage was crammed full of puddle rats, each dressed in a hideous array of silks, satins and lace. Each like a little animate doll. Why had we not noticed them before? Where was the stench that notoriously accompanied these rabid rodents? A faint perfume of heather and primrose hung about the room and as little Harriet cautiously approached the cage, the muttering began.

I have said before that we thought the old house plagued by vocal drafts, but as soon as I heard those lispering, whispering voices I knew these creatures had been living in our walls from the moment of our arrival.

What they were saying I cannot tell you but perhaps Harriet knew for she seemed obviously drawn to one particularly large female rat in a lavender skirt and poke bonnet.

Aisling smiled and withdrew the rat from the cage, sending the others into a wild frenzy of shrieks and howls. Carefully she placed the rat into the centre hallway of the house and then we all watched and waited and felt uncomfortable and hoped that someone else would intervene or voice the ethical objections we knew they must be feeling… but no one spoke or moved except the puddle rat.

It spent a theatrical amount of time sniffing the doors to each of the rooms and pondering the staircase before finally climbing it to the top floor and perishing with dignity in the bath full of acid.

Aisling turned to the traumatised Harriet and beamed “Tomorrow you will go tree climbing. You will fall and break your collar bone but if you dig under the place where you fell you will find a small casket buried there and inside it is an emerald brooch.”

Our guests erupted in ecstasy; the drama, the terror, the excitement … some demon had a clasp on their hearts for sure as they eagerly jostled and shoved to be next in line for The Game – for that was obviously what it was, a game, a fancy, a titillation to alleviate the boredom of another Hopelessly damp October afternoon and at length when each had had their turn we closed the door on the backs of a crowd whose bellies were full of nondescript vegetablish stew and whose souls were elevated by a tasteful mix of revulsion and whimsy.

The next day young Harriet went tree climbing, fell and broke her collar bone and, when her parents dug rabidly beneath the twisted tree she had fallen from, they discovered a casket that contained an emerald brooch.

Our lives were changed forever.

Day in, day out the door rang off its hinges with townsfolk wanting their fortunes told by our little Aisling, until in the end we took the damn thing down completely and let the queue of desperate bodies trail out down the garden path and along the street.

Aisling seemed to thrive on it all at first, at least we thought she did, looking back I suppose we simply failed to see what was happening. I said before she seemed bright that day back in October – everything about her seemed to shine. As the days and weeks and months went by this strange ethereal glow became increasingly intense until it were better likened to an unearthly luminescence. Her eyes no longer captured the gleam of light external but were lit from within by a feverish flame and seemed never to focus upon anything apart from her beloved puddle rats.

The rats kept coming. We never saw them appear but the cage was always full to bursting with them and the people kept on coming too. Everything seemed fine, after a fashion, and we certainly couldn’t complain about the gifts and gratitude lavished upon us by all those who had been assisted by Aisling’s predictions, but fate will notoriously turn …

It had apparently been a long and uncharacteristically clement summer, though we had seen none of it, and it was coming to a close when Aisling suddenly Took Ill. That was the story we put about. The doctor came but we sent him away with a nonchalant wave and a confident smile; she would be fine, just fine in a day or two, nothing to worry about, do call back on Thursday for tea…

Upstairs we drew the shutters as Aisling frothed and raved and foamed and screamed, her pupils like dinner plates and her whole body robed in some vile, pulsing, misamatic aura that reeked of heather and primroses. She didn’t speak, but when she opened her mouth the spittling, spattling voices of the puddle rats spoke through her – they were not happy, they wanted The House for a temple, they wanted the townsfolk for slaves, Aisling was their Oracle, their Priestess, their Queen and they would rule this island through her flesh…

The island of Hopeless was blighted, they said, and overrun with monsters, clergy and demons, but all was not lost if only we would listen to the puddle rats, who only desired to be our benevolent custodians and guides…

If we chose not to embrace our Salvation however, the Hopeless Situation would only become increasingly dire; we would be visited by the Plagues of Egypt, the Plague Of The Black Death, The Plague Of The Red Death, The Plague Of Justinian, The Plague of The Continent and The Common Cold, which of course no man  can endure.

We nodded sagely, we soothed, we simpered, we cringed, we cowered, we begged, we eventually took the matter to the town elders. My wife and I have always been law abiding citizens, when it comes down to it, and we both agreed that, doting parents or not, when we signed the Birth Certificate it said nothing about ‘Duty Of Care In The Event Of Sinister Rodent Possession’.

The overwhelming consensus of our fellow townsfolk was that we did not, really, all things considered, wish to be ruled over by vermin – who does?  And so we did what every other town in human history has done, and I hope will continue to do, when faced with a den of rats attempting to lord power over them ; with no piper in sight, we set flame to our torches, sharpened our pitch forks  and, in the depths of night, we marched upon The House.

I cannot say if the creatures sensed the intention of our Midnight Court or heard our lusty cries of “Tie an anchor of brandy to her, To give a dram to the seals! ” and so forth,  if mayhap the unseen Fates chose to intervene for their own amusement , or if what happened next was mere coincidence …  as we crossed the scrap of heath towards the cliffs, the links between the rock arches on which The House stood, began to crumble into the pulsing waves below.

If you are a Student of Geography , a Celtic Bard or a fanatic of Bostonian Gothic Fiction you will have seen that coming from the outset, but we did not and so the entire town simply stood, impotent  weapons in hand, watching as the bridge between ourselves and our demons came crashing down into the sea.

It is decades now since those events took place. The House still stands upon its rock stack, so covered with lichen, moss and fungi that it seems to have grown up out of the landscape rather than having been built upon it. Whether or not the creature that was once my daughter still resides within I cannot say but every now and then, when a family becomes desperate and no other course of action can be found, a lone rowing boat may be seen, late in the evening or under a shining sliver of yellow moon, making its way across the foam towards the stack.

And this night it is my turn to set oar to rowlock and brave the surf, I am not much longer for this world and my conscience is resolved to make certain the fate of my beautiful daughter before the devils come and claim my soul for good – for how else will I be able to claim the epitaph  ‘Father Of The Aisling’ upon my tombstone?

 

Written by Lou Pulford, set in Hopeless, Maine.


Fiction – Will and testament

No, I never met Julie. I heard about her, but that was before my time. He was always so friendly when I saw him in the street. A lovely man, you couldn’t possibly hope to have a nicer neighbour.

There was a girlfriend, yes. Katie? Kitty? Something like that. I didn’t know her.

No, he never said anything that made me think anything was wrong. He was always nice to everyone.

Kitty, Katie, whoever she was didn’t last for long. I don’t know what happened, I just stopped seeing her around. I don’t like to pry. I don’t think she’d been very good for him, to be honest. I think once she’d gone, he realised that.

Lisa moved in last summer. I would guess she was around for a while before that, months, certainly. It wasn’t too hasty. They seemed perfectly happy at first.

No, I didn’t see or hear anything untoward. It was fine. Perfectly normal. She wasn’t… how do I put it? She wasn’t really in his league. Nothing like as clever as him, not very successful, a little too loud of voice and dress style, if you take my meaning. I expect he got tired of her, realised she wasn’t quite for him.

 

No, I never asked him why his first marriage broke up. As I said we were just neighbours, we were hardly close. No, I never asked him about the others, either. I don’t know what happened. Why are you asking me all these questions? What do you imagine I could tell you?

I do not think those women are dead. I think it’s all nasty lies, cooked up by people with nothing better to do. You go ahead and dig up his garden. You won’t find anything there.

Of course I don’t know where they are!

Is that why you’re asking me all these horrible questions? You really think I know something, don’t you? I barely knew the man. I had very little to do with him.

I wasn’t jealous. Why would I be? It’s not like I have an unrequited attraction to Evan. He’s just a pleasant neighbour.

I moved here after Julie left.

Why? Because I liked the house. I wanted a change of scenery and this is a nice, quiet, upmarket road. No immigrants.  There’s nothing wrong with that, is there? I like to hear a language I speak when I walk down the road of a morning. That’s not a crime. Moving here was not a crime. I was perfectly entitled to do it for my own reasons, and they were exactly as I have already said. I didn’t know Evan before I moved here. I never met him before. I never met Julie. I swear it. Or any of the others, Katie, or Lisa. I didn’t know anyone here.

Yes, I worked at the mail depot for, what was it? Three years, give or take. I left a while back because I’d found something with better pay, and I wanted a new challenge. Still Human Resources, of course.

No, I had no idea Evan also worked for the depot at that time. It was a big place. Lots of people worked there, I don’t know who half of them were. I never saw him.

I wasn’t helping him. Well, there was one time when I helped him pick up litter after a fox had torn the bins open. Was that what you meant? No?

No, I wasn’t stalking him. It’s just coincidences, none of it means anything. This isn’t a big town. I’m sure I have all sorts of things in common with all sorts of people without my ever knowing at all.

I have never been inside his house.

That was a long time ago. That was years ago. I was a kid. You can’t bring that into this. It’s not the same at all. It was an accident. They said so at the time. Everybody said so. It was a terrible, awful accident that she died, and it wasn’t my fault. That’s got nothing to do with any of this.

That’s not fair. I wouldn’t say there have been more accidents in my life than anyone else gets. People die. They do it all the time. People have car accidents and they kill themselves, and they get food poisoning and I don’t know what. I expect if you pick over anybody’s life you can find lots of times they were close to someone who died. That’s what life is! People dying. None of it’s my fault.

I never did anything with Evan beyond talking to him in the street. If he’s told you something different, then I don’t know why, but it isn’t true. I never slept with him. I never asked him to sleep with me. I was not interested in having sex with him.

No, I’m not seeing anyone at the moment, for what that’s worth. I don’t see what that has to do with anything.

Alright, yes, a couple of years ago I found a suicide in my workplace. He’d hung himself from the rafters. It was a traumatic experience for me.

His name was Greg, I’m not sure exactly what he did. I’m sorry. It’s years ago and it isn’t something I like to dwell on.

No, I didn’t know him very well. I talked to him in passing, but that’s true of a lot of other people too.

Yes, that was the mail depot.

No, I had no idea Evan was working there at the same time.

No, I have no idea whether they knew each other. How could I possibly know something like that? Maybe they did know each other. It’s a small enough town, we aren’t all total strangers here.

No, I did not date Greg. Nor did I particularly want to.

No, he did not turn down any advances from me, because there were no advances.

I didn’t resent Greg! He was nothing to me, just another employee in a dead-end place I was working. I work because I need the money, but it’s not a big part of my life. Very little of it interests me.

Literature. That’s interests me. I like nineteenth century novels, and Russian literature especially. I like gardening.

Yes, I own gardening equipment.

Yes, I have several very good spades, thank you. And a saw, for small tree branches.

No power tools. I do not believe it is a crime to own gardening equipment, or to take interest in looking after the soil.

Yes, there is evidence of digging in my garden. I recently dug a trench to bury last year’s compost. I’d rather you didn’t dig it up, I have already redistributed my rhubarb there. You won’t find any bodies there.

Well, you clearly think all manner of things are possible, so why shouldn’t someone have buried a body in my garden without my knowing it? It’s no more ludicrous than suggesting that Greg and Evan were gay lovers and that I killed Greg in a fit of envy. That’s quite remarkably far-fetched.

I didn’t say they were gay lovers! I said you were suggesting they were gay lovers, that’s an entirely different thing.

You’re confusing me. You’re doing it on purpose and making me think I’ve said things I haven’t said.

Alright, yes, ten years ago I reported that someone was stalking me. I was very afraid, and I felt threatened. It’s not easy, being a woman alone. You’ve obviously read the file, you don’t need me to tell you. They never found anyone. Eventually the window banging and the strange things being pushed through my letterbox, stopped. I was very glad. What else is there to say? How is that relevant to any of this? I was a victim of an unsolved crime.

Yes, I’m sure lots of people went missing all over the place during those same weeks. That kind of thing makes me nervous. I’m allowed to be nervous.

And then you found the body. I still don’t see what that has to do with my stalker, other than that it all happened in the same time frame.

No, I did not know the young man, so far as I am aware. It is entirely possible that we once sat in the same cafe or had a hairdresser in common, but honestly, you could say that of anyone.

Oh, we had a bus route in common, did we? Well, I wonder how long it took you to make that tenuous connection.

No, I’m not being flippant, I’m unhappy and frustrated and I think this must be very close to harassment. You have no evidence of anything and you’re just making wild accusations. Aren’t you? I haven’t done anything wrong. I don’t know any of these people you’re talking about. They are nothing to do with me. It’s just coincidences and plain bad luck. I didn’t kill any of them.

And you can’t prove otherwise.


Flash fiction

Pure wickedness

“My Debbie” he says, and in theory there is no reason for this. She is not, in any legal or technical sense his, unless the phrase is an accidental confession to an affair. But I think not. A different kind of slip, something more subtle, and not necessarily a mistake.

A warning shot across the bows, perhaps. Don’t get cocky, don’t assume, don’t take for granted. There are Debbies to be claimed. There could be Sharons, Emmas, a veritable sea of Rachels and Cecilies all available at short notice, should the need arise. There may well be a my Katherine out there, and a my Sabrina Hestlethwaite-Jones.

Perhaps the last example is a little far fetched, as I am confident that he does not know Sabrina, either in her maiden form from my school days, or her slightly annoying social media self with insufficiently plummy husband, who is the butt of her many jokes.

Even so, it is not difficult to imagine him saying ‘my Sabrina Hestlethwaite-Jones’. And she would be, because she never could resist a man in charge.

A collector, then. Perhaps a connoisseur. Or a man offering this woman up as a shield. Not a man claiming ownership necessarily, but a man suggesting that he is already accounted for, several times over, with claims upon his time and resources that it would be as well to take into account. A step back, perhaps. A cautious note.

I take these things seriously. I claim no names; not as warning shots and not as shields. Possession is not something to speak of. What is truly owned need not be mentioned.


Flash Fiction

The other sort of dog
Dogs know how to make the best of everything. Even in the depths of winter, they still want to play. Take them out in a howling gale and they can still wag, go mad for a scent and revel in being their own, furry self.
I envy them that, but I just don’t have the knack of seeing the world so simply and with such bounding, hairy joy.
My dog crawls up my body, big heavy feet placed without care on my squidgy places. He licks my face, offering a hearty dose of dog breath for good measure. Tail wags. Come and play with me. Get up. Do something! He’s relentlessly cheerful.
I haven’t moved in a long time. I don’t know how long. There are mornings when it all seems like too much and leaving the duvet represents monumental effort. It’s no help, having a happy, happy dog begging to go out and play. Run around with me. Amuse me. Feed me. An uncomfortable reminder of all the things I should be doing and ought to find the energy for. The dog makes it clear that there’s no excuse for my sloth. He expects me to get my pitiful backside moving and to make something of the day.
Big paws press into my stomach, and the full weight of the dog settles on my chest. He’s too heavy to shift at the best of times, and in this state I’ve got no chance. I make a few feeble sounds of protest, but with the dog on me it’s challenging enough just to keep breathing. From this position, he can look right into my face, and I can look back. It gives me no comfort at all.
You should get up and do something useful with today. The dog does not care how I feel. Not really.
I study the incomprehensible depths of his dark face. He knows what he’s doing. The more he sits on my chest, the less able I’ll be to do all the things he’s demanding. Of course it’s deliberate, but that’s black dogs for you.


Grandmother Spider

She has woven one web too many and now the sticky trails of recent machinations are all tangled up around her legs. Grandmother Spider, refusing to acknowledge her own strings even as she spins them.

“These threads? Oh no, they aren’t mine at all. I didn’t make them. Come a little closer, have a proper look. That’s right.”

Grandmother Spider knows that she is far, far cleverer than anyone else. It is this vast intellectual power that allows the careful making of webs. Anything caught by her deserved to be trapped, for its own stupidity.

Only now it is she who has somehow been tangled up.

That wasn’t supposed to happen.

Grandmother Spider knows that she is far, far too clever to be caught in her own web, or anyone else’s for that matter. Therefore the only reasonable conclusion, is that she has not been caught. The sticky lines restricting her movement are not real, and this has not happened.

She is still explaining this to an uncaring reality, when the birds come.

 

(I’m planning to do more flash fiction, when inspiraiton strikes!)