Crimson’s Creative Challenge #4 : The old school house

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It’s quiet now, that clock, that bell that chimed the hours of our young lives away, that ticked the minutes off and struck the hours dead.

Ivy blinkers the windows, clogs the door that swallowed us each morning, that spewed us out just as the best of the day was done.

Here we learned of times tables and the alphabet, of continents and rivers, of brash kings and silent queens. Here too we learned of friendship, of power, of kind words and harsh words, the meaning of betrayal.

The world moves on and the pupils are grown, gone to practice what they learned within school’s rough walls.

***

What a great pleasure it is to join in Crimson Prose’s Creative Challenge #4. A wonderfully inspiring photograph. See here to learn how to join in.

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What Pegman Saw : Always so cold …

Image : Google Street View 

‘They can’t be grave markers.’ Dr Stephanie Grayling crouched by the nearest stone.

‘Nonsense,’ said Professor Hill. ‘How many burial sites have you excavated in Ethiopia with the same style of carving, the same themes of weaponry and plant life?’ 

Grayling ran a finger over the grainy stone, felt the grooves mesh with the whorls in her skin. Always so cold, even on the hottest days … 

Hill must have heard the rumours circulating the dig team, but she’d worked with him often enough to know he never listened to chatter, only ever focusing on the facts as they presented themselves.

She stood beside him. ‘There are just too many, Craig.’ Thousands of markers sticking from the scrubby grass, accusing fingers of stone in every direction. She tried to fight off the panic, the feeling some had subtly shifted position since the day before.

‘We should never have come here.’

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Street View as a jumping off point. This week we visit a fascinating archaeological site in Ethiopia. See here to join in, share, read and comment.

FFfAW : The Great Black Bird


This week’s photo prompt is provided by Yinglan. Thank you Yinglan!

Another two inches of snow had fallen overnight, a frost following close behind. When Lou finally ventured out, the wooden sledge she used to haul firewood skidded waywardly behind her over the hard surface, while she cracked the ice and sank ankle deep, the snow holding her every footfall.

The cold wants me, she thought, her thigh muscles burning, skirts growing heavier, stiffer. 

Not for the first time, she was tempted just to stop, let the snow take her. Take the arthritis swelling knuckles, knees and wrists, take the knocking in her left lung, the ulcer on her ankle that wouldn’t heal no matter how many hawthorn poultices she made. 

She stopped a moment, breathless from the wind and effort. The crows were arguing in the tree canopy, great black wings flapping like huge sheets of paper. Somewhere in the future, a black bird waited for her.

But not today.

Tugging the sledge, she headed on. 

***

Written for FFfAW. See the prompt picture, write a tale and share with others. See here for the full rules and to join in.

 

What Pegman Saw : The many in the one

 

I tell Mammy, “The church speaks to me.”

I don’t expect tears of joy, the kisses and blessings. I don’t expect to be trussed in my coat, my hat with the ear flaps, my scarf, my mittens and heavy boots until I’m muffled and leaden, a deep sea diver wading among the coral.

Mammy’s heels clip-clop on the cobbles, the sound echoing between staring houses.

It speaks again as we enter the churchyard. At first it’s like one voice, a wind sighing through narrow gaps. But then I hear the many in the one – crying, whispering, calling for help that never comes.

The rectory door bell rings. I shuffle on the step, aching to run but held by Mammy’s joy, her fierce pride that the Lord has chosen to speak to me.

The door swings wide. There’s the black shirt, the white collar.

One look and it’s clear – he knows.


Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we are in Stockholm, Sweden. See here to join in, to share, read and comment.

FFfAW : Digging the Dirt

This week’s photo prompt is provided by wildverbs. Thank you wildverbs!


 

Everyone on the little cul-de-sac of sooty terraced houses said what a good neighbour Beryl was.

When Mary at number 5 was laid up with a broken hip, it was Beryl who fed her budgie, put the ancient Hoover through its paces. And when Fred and Sylvie’s son died in a car crash, it was Beryl who organised the wake, made the beef paste sandwiches, kept the mourners topped up with tea and sweet sherry.

On the day she passed away there were many tears shed. By the next day – when her diaries were found – there were no more tears.

There was a diary entry about the baby Mary had given up for adoption when she was fourteen, a sad little snapshot of the golden haired baby boy – the only picture Mary had of him.

There were newspaper clippings of Fred and Mary’s son taped on one page, about the trouble he’d got into in Exeter with that young typist and the reason he drank.

Only the vicar attended Beryl’s funeral.


Written for FFfAW. See the picture, write a tale, share, read and comment – here.

Yes, I’ve gone a little left field. I struggled to begin with but once the title phrase blipped into my head, the rest came easily.

What Pegman Saw: The one who made it home

 

 

He was one of the displaced after the war, I think.

Just one of thousands forced to flee along the river bank, pushed on by the stink of burning and blood, outpaced by the corpses floating downstream.

I don’t know why he stopped here. Perhaps he finally felt safe. Or he just couldn’t walk anymore.

Did he imagine getting old like this, sleeping on a palette bed by the river, earning a few riel carrying sacks of rice and bales of cane, arthritic joints growing gnarly as kapok tree roots? Nothing to his name other than one set of clothes, a string hammock, a battered water carrier.

As I take his wrist, check for a pulse I won’t find, I think how at peace he looks, how the young man he was still peeks from behind that old man’s death mask.

Perhaps he finally made it home.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Street View as it’s inspiration. This week we visit Cambodia. See here to join in, share and comment.

Cambodia has had a traumatic past, years of war followed by atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. To learn more about the war, see here and see here to read about the reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.

 

 

 

 

FFfAW : The beat of a tin heart

This week’s photo prompt is provided by Jade M. Wong. Thank you Jade!


 

She’s there again, the bobbin head at the window, slashes of blonde hair warping with the faults in the window pane. Her face is a pale oval, the grey of over-washed sheets.

As I mount the steps of the smoky block that was once our home, I sense her approach the glass, peer at my crunching path along the shingle drive. I listen for the tap of her nails – tick-tick, tick-tick, like a tiny metal heart beat – but it doesn’t come. There is only the wind soughing in my ears and the groan of the door swinging wide.

‘Daddy’s home,’ I call.

But she won’t come down from her attic room. She’ll stay at the window, with her grey face paling, her mouth a blur of silent pleas and prayers, hoping that someone will come.

Someone who isn’t me.

 


Written for FFfAW. See the pic and share a tale.

As it’s the eve of Halloween and Jade’s photograph took me in that direction, I thought a tale of ghostly presences and seen things that aren’t quite seen would be fitting.