What Pegman Saw: The only honest soul

Image : Google Street View

Maria was the town’s scarlet woman, though she didn’t help herself.

Well into middle age her hair changed with the seasons – auburn, black, white blond, gold – while the wives of the village turned a respectable steel grey. And while the Mamas went to market in buttoned up dresses and skirts to their thick calves, Maria’s cleavage was always golden in the sun, a camelia nestled in the chasm.

Her neighbour Dorothea would tut over shared cups of black sweet tea and hand rolled cigarettes. ‘Got to play the game, girl. Whole town’s built on lies – why’d you have to be the only honest soul?’

When Maria died her memorial was there among the others, jostling with the Mamas who’d feared her, the Papas who’d loved her. And though she had no family and Dorothea had already passed, there was always a freshly picked camelia tucked by her smiling image.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we are in Patagonia, Chile.

As it’s Mother’s Day here in the UK this weekend, I have a very busy week ahead, so please forgive me if it takes a few days for me to reply to your comments. Normal-ish service will be resumed soon.

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Friday Fictioneers: Magda’s Triumph


PHOTO PROMPT © CEAyr

We’d hear the phut-phut of the old Triumph motor bike minutes before seeing it. As it drew nearer, other sounds – the twin rattles of the sidecar’s loose wheel and the cage strapped to the pillion with cable ties.

The din snaked along cobbled lanes, in through open windows, drowned out the excited yabber of playing kids, of old time tunes on the radio.

Then Magda would appear in scratched goggles and a flying helmet, squint-eyed cat pressed to the floor of the cage, claws locked round the wires.

Magda chose to be alone, mum said, but I never learned why.

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the pic and write a tale and don’t forget to read and comment on others, found here.

Three Line Tales: Artist unknown

three line tales, week 153: a lot of paintings

photo by Beata Ratuszniak via Unsplash

All day he crouched, limbs folded tight as a disused easel, eyes on the cobbles, on scuffed work boots and tightly tied Oxfords with leather slick and shiny as glass.

I never saw him look up, never saw him sell a painting or the configuration of brightly coloured canvases change.

He’s gone but the canvases remain, peeled and paled, the gallery of an unknown, unknowable artist.

**************

Written for Three Line Tales. See the pic and write a tale. See here to join in.

All fur coat and no knickers : The Daily Prompt : Facade

Glamorous female model smoking

Image: Pixabay

 

Your facade reminds me of a country house – grand but stony. I wonder if there are other similarities.

Does your beautiful exterior hide decrepitude, hidden portions of yourself you’d rather others did not peek at? No doubting you are presentable when you’ve had fair warning of visitors, but if we look a little deeper, are there places – hidden behind a red silk rope – unavailable to the public? With an air of dusty neglect and just a whiff of rodent?

If I pulled aside the curtain of your respectablilty, would I find rotting waste, a thousand dirty, hidden little secrets swept out of sight of prying eyes?

Just tell me – are you all fur coat and no knickers?

 


Written for The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt – FACADE. Write a post to accompany the word and why not pop along here to read the other posts.

A man always walking in shadow

Scruffy tie and shirt

Image : Pixabay

Does he look in the mirror before he leaves the house?

At the shirt, discoloured from over washing, dimpled fabric that never sees an iron. A sheen of sweat coats him even on the coolest days and dirt driven into pores makes his skin grey – a man always walking in shadow. A broad, flat smile – mouth stretched wide – is his permanent expression, revealing chipped teeth stained ivory by early morning nicotine and late night coffee. A furred tongue licks feathered lips.

He tries hard to be someone, but he can’t hide the truth. It’s there in his eyes.

He’s afraid. Of failure. Of being seen to fail. He works hard achieving nothing and knows one day the facade of competence he’s built to fool himself and the world will be shattered by a misplaced word or a slip on a keyboard, taking job and money, family – his sense of self – with it.

That day will come but not today. Today, he survives.

 

 

 

 

 

Can blog, can write, can act a little

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In Monday’s post, I shared with you my childhood love of the theatre.

There’s a bit of me that still loves it. If I’m ever at the seaside or at a ‘Fun Day’* at our local park and there’s a Punch and Judy booth, you’ll see me gravitate towards it.

For those of you unaware of what Punch and Judy is, imagine a brightly coloured square tent, just tall and wide enough to hold one man – maybe two – like a little mobile theatre. A square hole in one wall of the tent acts as the stage and on the stage appear puppets.

Apart from the wildly unattractive, hook-nosed Punch (who’s usually dressed in red and yellow with a pointed hat – like a court jester), there’s his equally unattractive wife Judy, their baby, a policeman, a crocodile and strings of sausages Honestly, I’m not making it up – this madness is my heritage.

Most of the characters have shrill, insane voices that drill holes in your brain because the puppeteer has a reedy piece of metal in his mouth called a swazzle. They say you’re not a proper Punch and Judy man until you’ve swallowed several swazzles. And I say, you can’t say ‘swallowed several swazzles’ if you’ve been drinking.

The storylines mainly consist of domestic abuse, infanticide, assaulting police officers, being eaten by crocodiles… It’s subversive, very dark and has passed as fit entertainment for the under tens since its first recorded performance in the UK in 1662.

Anyway, even though the voices give me a headache and the nice liberal in me loathes the laughs derived from unbridled male-on-female violence (this guy ain’t no role model, people) I will always watch a little of a performance as I pass by. Part of me loves the tradition, the history of it – and what are we Brits without tradition – but a bit of me is drawn to the theatricality of it, the idea that the puppeteer is like a strolling player of old, carrying his stage on his back – or more likely these days in the back of his Ford Transit.

And then there’s conventional theatre. I’m lucky in that I live in a biggish city with some excellent theatres. At any one time, I could choose between Shrek the musical or Warhorse, performances of Handel’s Water Music, a challenging modern piece about female genital mutilation or an 18th century Restoration comedy in one of the country’s oldest surviving theatres … by candlelight.

And as I said in Monday’s post, I really do see the parallels between actors and writers.

Both disciplines must thoroughly know their characters, how they would speak, what they would say, how they’d react to a given situation or stimulus.

We have to channel other people who might be very different from us, have different life experiences with different tales to tell.

We have to give ourselves over to the process of living as someone else and hearing their voices in our heads.

Now, if all of this sounds frightening close to mental illness, then maybe it is.

But take comfort from the fact that authors are solitary beasts by nature, usually hidden away in their Writing Caves, barely seeing the light of day from one season to the next, communicating only through email or text. They are rarely allowed out of their Caves, and if they must, if some evil agent or publisher forces them blinking into the blinding brightness of the day to promote something at a signing or a book fair, they are usually outnumbered and can be easily overpowered as their limbs have been wasted through sitting at a desk all day.

Now, actors … I’d be much more worried about them if I were you.


*Beware of anything sold to you as ‘fun’ – it will be cheap, cheesy low-grade entertainment, often with a high humiliation factor (such as stag nights, hen dos, and anything that involves the removal of clothing). If ‘fun’ is prefaced with the word ‘harmless’, it will be neither harmless nor fun. Fun is for the under tens and possibly for those over seventy who behave like under tens.

Lost and Found

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The ring hung from Grace’s finger, clashing, overlapping with her own rings. The problem was money. If only they had more money, she would never have found it.

If Simon’s salary was higher, she would have gone straight out somewhere swish and stylish like Liberty or Biba and bought herself a new winter coat. She could have donated the old one to the Salvation Army or to Mrs Bloom a few doors down. It might have been too small but with eight children and a runaway husband, her neighbour couldn’t afford to be picky.

But although the coat was drab, the cut five years out of date, it was serviceable. So when Grace found the pocket lining had come apart, her heart sank. Make do and mend.

Grace had pushed her hand through the split seam, the frayed silky edge tickling her wrist as she felt for lost pennies. There was definitely something, round and solid- but she couldn’t tell what it was. As she opened her fist, the dull gold had glowed in the light. Her stomach jerked.

Simon’s ring.

He’d never worn a wedding ring, said he wasn’t ‘the type’. But she’d wanted something for him, something he could wear next to his skin. Something he could look at and think only of her.

Grace had bought it from Mrs Bloom with money scraped from the housekeeping. It had belonged to Mr Bloom- a gambling debt repaid in jewellery. One of the only times he’d actually won, apparently. It was the stone Grace was drawn to, the flash of blue. Mrs Bloom had wanted more for it, but she had that lean, hungry look common just after the war, when rationing had cut bone deep. In the end, they’d agreed three shillings.

And Simon had loved it- Grace had known from the heat in his eyes. He’d never taken it off.

Then it vanished.

He’d tried to make a joke of it, of what a dolt he was- not to be trusted with anything. But Grace was devastated. How could he be so careless? Did he know how hard she’d saved, how much she’d gone without? She’d thrown the teapot, taken a nick out of the cupboard door. She’d known she was being unreasonable, that the loss was no reflection on how much he loved her. But once she’d started to cry, to shout, something hot and painful was unleased. It was as if a reservoir of grief was tapped- unceasing, constantly replenished- and she couldn’t find the way to dam it.

Then one day, Simon returned with a bunch of roses- the palest pink, with soft, fleshy petals. A few days later had come a new teapot and not a heavy, brown-glazed one, but bone china with trails of ivy painted on the handle. She hadn’t dared to ask where the money had come from.

But there were other things. His face softened when she talked about her day and when she spoke- even if it was only about the price of fish, or how cheeky the new bread boy was- he folded his paper, turned down the radio and she basked in his attention, sparkling like sunlight in a pool.

And now she’d found the ring.

She could show him. He might smile, laugh, pull her to him and kiss her cheek. He might.

The front door banged.

‘Grace? Where are you?’

Grace opened her underwear draw, slid the ring between a blue petticoat and a pink. She thought of his hand, sliding over the slippery fabric and smiled.

‘Coming!’ she called and headed for the stairs.


Today’s Prompt: Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings. Describe a day in which you come upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile.

This is linked to Writing 101 Days Four and Thirteen- Lost and Found– and imagines Grace (the old woman with dementia in the previous posts) as a young woman.