What Pegman Saw : In the arms of Crooked Woman

We left Papa under the tree the old people call Crooked Woman – wrapped in palm leaves, bound with strips of knotted cloth.

The night before I’d shifted rocks from beneath the tree, made space enough for his slight form to lie. I sang as I hefted boulders, old songs Papa taught me when we set nets in the river, as we climbed fig trees, gripping bark with knotted toes, stowing plump fruit in our bags.

I set a basket of best black figs and a comb of honey at his feet. The honey dripped into the dull water as the river rose, as waves licked the rocks and kissed the sands. His body held tight to Crooked Woman for a while, a child reluctant to take his first step.

The river took him at sunset, as the water turned gold as honey, as we sang a last goodbye.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Streetview. See here to share, to read and comment.

 

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Three Line Tales : His bloody mission

three line tales week 113: a close up of a road in Rome

photo by Vek Labs via Unsplash


 

‘Never stay anywhere more than one night. Never speak your real name, your real home town, your real destination. Lies are your only protection …’

Papa was long gone but his voice still circled Gordy’s brain. Each time someone was kind to him, each time he found more than a cold doorway to sleep in. Surely, the world was in too much disarray to notice one, lone man …

Still, Papa’s words stung him back to the cold road, to dew on his shoulders, to the familiar sting of blistered feet. His bloody mission.

 


Written for Three Line Tales. See here to join in.

I see a lone and lonely man, sore and wounded by his travels, yearning for another life, goaded by his father’s teachings. But what’s his bloody mission?

Suggestions please.

Friday Fictioneers : The day Chaucer beat Gramma Mags

PHOTO PROMPT © Fatima Fakier Deria


 

Florence gazed up through the old cypress tree at a speckless sky.

The tree listed to the west, its bark wizened, branches balding. Gramma Mags had instructed Morris to cut it into logs, burn it through the blistering winter to come.

But one autumn afternoon over cucumber sandwiches and slabs of Madeira cake, Florence read from Dickens, Bunyan, Shakespeare, Chaucer until the sun set prickly through the leaves. She rubbed the trunk with pinked fingers.

‘This tree’s older than them all, Gramma.’

Gramma had nodded, pulled her shawl tight against the wind. ‘Best knit me another shawl then,’ she said.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the picture and hone your own story. See here to share, read and comment.

Notes

For those of you unfamiliar with any of the literary figures mentioned above –

Charles Dickens

John Bunyan

William Shakespeare

Geoffrey Chaucer

What Pegman Saw : They come

‘They come at night.’

It is the last clear thing Hutter says. Afterwards there is only the hint of words amid the sweats and anguished mumbles.

As Frau Weber gives over her second best bed sheet for the binding, the party is solemn but nothing more – death is an unwelcome but assumed companion on such an arduous journey.

Then Oma Jansen passes, slumped over her washing stone like a bundle of her own laundry. I sense true fear after Uwe dies. A big man – strong as a bull – falling like a rotten larch. No one speaks of it but later prayers echo loud in the darkness.

It is only after my Margarethe goes that I remember Hutter’s words … at night.

The sun sinks behind the mountain for the last time. Something shifts through the fir trees, sending crows laughing skyward. Cold metal presses against my throat.

Margarethe, I come.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Streetview. This week we are in Yellowstone National Park and what a place. See here to join in, to read and comment.

 

 

 

 

Three Line Tales : Buried in the snow

three line tales week 112: an inquisitive sheep

photo by Sam Carter via Unsplash


 

Doug climbs onto the stile, sits on the limestone step. Beneath him the rock is as cold as the ice capping the water butts in the farmyard, as if it’s grown brittle in the frost and might shatter under his weight.

He gazes out over the flock, at the wind tugged fleeces, at the snow gathering along the wall line. Time to go. Still he waits, lets the flakes build in the crooks of his arms.

He could sit, let the drifts pile over him, let the walkers find him – wind dried and stringy – in the thaw … A warm, wet nose nuzzles into his palm – his collie, Flash, needing food. Needing him. Doug stands, beats the snow from his coat and heads home.

 


Written for Three Line Tales. See here to join in.

This reminded me of growing up on the edge of the Peak District National Park. Lots of hills. Lots of limestone. Lots of sheep.

 

Friday Fictioneers : A world too perfect to endure

PHOTO PROMPT © Björn Rudberg


 

‘Where did it happen?’

‘Perhaps it’s best if you don’t hear all the details -‘

‘I need to know.’

‘Further along. Past the sign.’

‘I want to see the exact spot.’

‘I don’t know why -‘

A sigh so deep, it cracked in his throat. ‘There was a point she could have stopped. Saved herself. I have to know why she didn’t.’

The ground was marked with police tape, scuffed by dozens of heavy boots. But there, beyond the yellow line, two small footprints.

Jerry gazed across the wooded valley, smelt the almond blossom on the warm breeze. And he knew.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the pic and write a tale. See here to join in, read and comment.

 

 

The worst writer in the world?

 

Have you ever visited that portion of Erin’s plot that offers its sympathetic soil for the minute survey and scrutinous examination of those in political power, whose decision has wisely been the means before now of converting the stern and prejudiced, and reaching the hand of slight aid to share its strength in augmenting its agricultural richness?

So begins Amanda McKittrick Ros’s novel, Delina DelaneyI found this quote on the Goodreads site with the tag wtf-does-this-mean. And no, I haven’t a clue either.

Now, literary fashion has changed a great deal since Ros published the book in 1898. If he were writing Bleak House (1853) today, I’m not sure even Charles Dickens would have dared begin with a discussion of the grisly London weather, wonderful though that passage is, complete with mentions of fog, mud, umbrellas and a Megalosaurus. Imagine the tattoo of red pen from a modern editor.

‘Never open a story with the weather’ is one piece of writing advice often given. As is the need to trim your prose of flabby, unnecessary words  – edit, edit, edit is our current mantra – and make your writing as clear as a mountain stream to your reader.

None of which seem to have been a priority to Ros.

The writer was famed for her circumlocutory language. When she wrote in her debut novel, Irene Iddesleigh,

When on the eve of glory, whilst brooding over the prospects of a bright and happy future, whilst meditating upon the risky right of justice, there we remain, wanderers on the cloudy surface of mental woe, disappointment and danger, inhabitants of the grim sphere of anticipated imagery, partakers of the poisonous dregs of concocted injustice. Yet such is life

it probably never occurred to her that she could have said –

Why is it we always feel most fed up when something good’s about to happen?

More was … more as far as Amanda was concerned.

She may have been a self-published teacher from County Down, but that didn’t stop her from imagining “the million and one who thirst for aught that drops from my pen” and that she would “be talked about at the end of a thousand years”. One thing she never lacked was confidence in her own work: she once discussed the Nobel Prize for Literature with her publisher, asking “What think you of this prize? Do you think I should make a ‘dart’ for it?”

Some of her best words she saved for her critics, calling them variously,

“bastard donkey-headed mites”

“clay crabs of corruption”

“auctioneering agents of Satan”

“hogwashing hooligans”

“evil-minded snapshots of spleen”

She had a gift for alliteration if nothing else.

What are we, then, to think of an author who – in her last novel, Helen Huddleson – lumbered most of her characters with a fruit-based name (Lord Raspberry, Cherry Raspberry, Sir Peter Plum, Christopher Currant, the Earl of Grape, Madame Pear)?

Well, I can’t advise any modern writer to ape her writing style and it seems famous authors would support my decision: the literary group The Inklings (which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkein) held competitions where the winner was the member who could read from one of her books for longest without laughing.

But I do admire her no nonsense attitude towards critics, the absolute faith she had in her own work and the way she was prepared to defend it.

In these days when most authors are loathe to get into online arguments with readers over snippy critiques or even outright, troll-like oceans of bile, Ros reacted to a poet’s criticism of her debut novel by printing a 20 page rebuttal in her follow up novel.

No shrinking violet, our Amanda.

So if I think she was deluded in her own talents, she had more self-belief than most of us.

And that is definitely something to aspire to.


What do you think of Ros’s verbiage? Do you agree with the critics or do you long for a time when the circumlocutory phrase was en vogue? Are you tired of this demand for tough edits, long for the return of purple prose?

 

https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/apr/19/worst-novelist-in-history

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanda_McKittrick_Ros#cite_note-Words_To_Remember-6

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2013/01/was_amanda_mckittrick_ros_the_worst_novelist_in_history.html