What Pegman Saw: The grieving widow

The room was unassuming, the furnishings plain but clean, old but well kept, very much like the landlady, Mrs Hollis.

‘A month’s rent in advance,’ she said. ‘No lady visitors in the rooms, please. We’ve had unpleasant moments. In the past.’

My gaze lingered over the sloped ceiling, the low window that looked over a square of clipped lawn, gaudy sentries of begonias and geraniums.

I paused, feeling her watching me, enjoying her confidence shift into uncertainty.

‘Is everything to your satisfaction?’

‘Everything, Mrs Hollis? No, not everything. But the room? Yes.’

A little sigh escaped her and I felt glad I’d made her wait for my approval.

‘May I ask, is there a Mr Hollis?’

‘He passed.’ She shook her bowed head. Not a bad imitation of a grieving widow, though I’ve seen better.

I turned my attention to the shadow behind the door.

Mr Hollis, I presume.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its inspiration. This week we visit Delaware.

I tried to be inspired by the location itself, read about Maryland and Delaware and this house – Great Oak Manor – that has been host to John F. Kennedy and Ernest Hemmingway in its time.

I’m afraid, though, my mind is too tied up with ghosts to shake them off and Mr Hollis jumped out at me at the last moment.

What Pegman Saw: The Desert Kin

Image: Google Street View

The shack had been the post office of a mining town, now deserted. Sunbleached boards across the windows, tiles missing from the roof like a reptile shedding scales.

‘This it?’ Roddy’s usual cocky smile had slipped as we’d driven further into the desert. Now he was a fifteen-year-old boy again, arms tight folded, fear skulking behind his eyes.

‘It’s okay, kid,’ I said, smiling. ‘Soon have a fire going. Go fetch the bedrolls from the pickup, would you?’

I scanned the plain, the distant ridge of smoke grey hills. At least we’d see someone coming. Any vehicle would kick up a dust trail and as long as we were vigilant –

Something cold brushed the back of my hand. Instinct made me look, but there was nothing. Of course not. You don’t see the Desert Kin. Not unless they want you to.

‘Roddy, I’ll take first watch,’ I called.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we visit Cloverdale, New Mexico. See here to join in.

Crimson’s Creative Challenge #60: Diversion

CCC#60

Culvert is the name I have chosen.

Over the weeks of my recuperation, as my bruises faded and bones mostly healed, I considered alternatives – River, Brook, Flow… Shimmer had a certain ring. But Culvert. Culvert fits.

Three months ago, I stepped into the shallow waters as one thing – a good but conventional mind, a man who looked both ways at an intersection, had cut sugar from his diet, paid his taxes.

Hours later, I was dragged out… Changed. Now red lights are a challenge to my sharpened reactions. Dietary advice I leave for those who need it. And taxes… Well, let’s say, any tax collector only visits my office once.

My time in the water diverted my old self and something new was built over the top. The babbling brook that was me is still there, buried under new, hard layers.

Culvert is here to stay.

***

Written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge #60. See here to join in.

What Pegman Saw: Underneath the bridge

Image: Google Street View

‘Meet by the Green Wood,’ we’d say and share a smile.

A smile cos there was nothing green or wooded about that spot under the bridge on Greenwood.

The concrete was pitted, iron bars showing like bones through broken skin. We’d joke about bodies in the pillars, old gangsters and drug dealers who’d been holding up the road since the bridge was built in the sixties.

‘Putting something back into the community,’ Manny would say.

Con always laughed too hard at that, spluttering into his can of beer, making a show of wiping the spray from his face, his stone washed jeans.

But Con would always meet up with someone else on his way to the Green Wood, say he was passing Gerry’s anyway, running errands in Hop’s neighbourhood. Never would be there alone.

The place was always filled with voices, even when no one was speaking.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as a starting point. See here to join in.

Note

I confess, I clicked straight on the prompt image and wrote this story before reading Josh’s guidance about the horrifying events of 1921. I shall try to write another, more fitting, post.

Where she walks

 

I always knew when she’d passed by.

A mound of flies for each footfall, iridescent bodies and soap bubble wings rocking with every puff of breeze, a salute from the recent dead.

It’s been like that for years, the glistening footprints, the absence of her. She seemed forever round the next corner, bluebottles the only sign of her presence as other women leave their scent.

This evening she came clawing at the door, a ghost at my last feast. And now she waits. And now she watches. And the flies fall about us like jewels.

 

 

 

Three Line Tales : When the day really starts

 

photo by Diana Feil via Unsplash


 

The booths were closing for the night, shutters locking in stuffed bears and tigers, flamingoes with felt beaks and floppy legs the colour of raw salmon. Damian passed by the hot dog van, greasy air scented with onions.

He’d arrived early, starting off making balloon poodles and flowers, passing them into small, sticky hands, trying to smile into Bambi eyes. His day really started as the children stumbled home to bed, as the bass began to pound through the PA. It was then the women would come, teetering over the claggy grass in stilettos, clinging together for support. They’d be drunk – handbags heavy with quarters of vodka – and see him, his broad red smile, his rainbow wig. Damian’s hand would go to his pocket, balloons slipping through his fingers, sleek as skin. The women would touch his shoulder, brush his arm – kiss him sometimes. The sweet, harmless clown.

It was them he thought of when he was alone, as he fingered the slack balloons.

 


Written for Sonya at Only 100 Words’ Three Line Tales. See the pic and write a story.

FFfAW : What Nanty said

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


 

The tree was a wild thing, Nanty said.

Neither good nor bad, friend nor foe, a creature that lived only for itself. Drawing mosses close as the world turned and cooled, making fresh sticky buds the colour of Angel Shades caterpillars when the sun wheeled high over the moors.

Tiddle Spence learned how wild the tree was, Gordy Prin too the day they went wassailing. Full of last blow’s cider they beat each branch and bough with walking canes and cricket bats, hallooing across the gorse like cattle under the slaughter man.

Tiddle they found plaited in the tree’s gnarly roots. Gordy was never found at all – except the middle finger of his right hand, discovered in a knot hole, wedded to the trunk.

Nanty just nodded when she heard. ‘Wild,’ she said.

 


Written for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

Although less popular than it once was, wassailing is still done here in the South West of England, in the cider making counties, such our own Somerset. I’ve been a wassailing myself, in a chill January, drinking warm cider, beating pots and making lots of noise to encourage the apple trees to wake up and give a good harvest. See here to learn more about wassailing.