FFfAW : Hemmingway’s Shoes

This week’s photo prompt is provided by Shivangi Singh. Thank you Shivangi for our photo prompt!


She flies at the workmen, claws at their arms, her grey hair flying. They swear, drop their chainsaws, grapple for her hands, pin her arms. When she spits, they back away cursing, shaking their heads.

‘Mad old witch.’

Sinking to her knees, she weeps, stares at the sawn tree trunk, at the treasures tangled in its branches. For years people have come to tie ribbons and leave notes, photographs, beads … teddy bears.

For Jane. For Simon. For Grandad, with love. 

Somewhere among the snapped twigs and crushed leaves is her own offering, the first, the one that brought this wishing tree to life.

Two objects. Together they can balance on the palm of her hand. Salmon coloured leather, pinked flower design round the toe, the buckles now dulled, silver flaking.

For my own, sweet Beth. I hope you’re still dancing x


Written for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. See the pic and have a go. See here to read the other tales.

I’m sure many of you writers out there are aware of the – probably apocryphal – story of Ernest Hemmingway taking a bet that he could write a complete story in six words. He wrote on a napkin,

For sale : baby shoes, never worn.

and collected his winnings.

I thought of this story as I wrote my own.

Does sobriety stop me from being the next Ernest Hemmingway?

Image Pixabay

Image Pixabay

I’m not feeling that special today. In fact I’m feeling rough.

Symptoms? Headache: exhaustion: nausea: Gold Fish Brain (the inability to concentrate on anything for more than thirty seconds, and then only as if viewed through the cloudy waters of a rarely cleaned aquarium.)

I keep drifting off, staring into space, struggling to think of words – pretty much any word. It feels as if my head has been stuffed with candy floss , pink and sticky and in danger of turning to a treacly mass if exposed to the heat caused by thought.

Do I have a bug incubating inside me, multiplying with each passing second, sending my white blood cell count rocketing until my veins congest with sludge, halting the progress of oxygen-starved haemoglobin until I’m a walking skin-bag of bacterial infestation? Err, no, hopefully not.

What I am, though, people, is mildly hungover.

This is a rare occurrence. I used to be a drinker. Oh, yes, I could knock back a pint of the Black Stuff or a Real Ale with a colourful name like Old Shepherd’s Love Pouch or Scabby Red Monkey Claw – in fact, in the days before parental responsibility and HRT, I could’ve knocked back three. I would’ve felt rougher than my Grandmother’s unshaved corns the next morning ‒ but I could’ve done it.

Then things changed.

Maybe the sleep-deprivation brought on by having a baby killed the trainee-alcoholic part of my brain. Maybe I just got too old. Fact is I can’t drink even a moderate amount of alcohol without those most irritating of companions – Thirst, Palpitation, Nausea and Headache – accompanying me through the night or bludgeoning me into wakefulness.

It was only one pint, shared with good friends – thank you S and K – consumed in a convivial hostelry environment. But now I’d rather hide under a blanket with a copy of Crochet Addict’s Monthly than do almost anything – but as today is a writing day, that just isn’t an option.

Which got me thinking of all of those writers who used alcohol and narcotics before/ during/ after/as inspiration for their work –

Robert Louis Stevenson, Hunter S. Thompson, Dylan Thomas, William Burroughs, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Ernest Hemmingway, Kingsley Amis, Jack Kerouac, F Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith, Philip Larkin, Philip K Dick …

It seems it would be quicker to empty the contents of a Dublin bar than name those writers who didn’t use some kind of chemical.

Which makes you wonder, doesn’t it? It makes you wonder a lot of things – if they had any money left after paying bar tabs and drug pusher invoices (do drug pushers write invoices?) for the huge dry cleaning bills that would inevitably ensue from imbibing what are basically large amounts of toxins.

But it also makes me wonder whether they needed the stimulants to write or if there’s something about the creative brain that craves uppers, downers, sidewaysers or back-to-fronters.

It’s generally accepted that Philip K Dick would never have written his hugely imaginative sci-fi stories without his prolific use of hallucinogens. And where would Hunter S Thompson’s semi-autobiographical Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas be if his main indulgences were camomile tea and Bourbon  Creams?

Calm and Soothed and in Bed for Ten wouldn’t have the same appeal.

I sort of admire these renegades for being able to function, let alone for their works of genius. Although, for many, of course, the productivity only lasted a few years before organ failure, overdose and various unpleasant diseases followed.

Would I swap being an also-ran for the short life of a genius addict?

I’ll stick to tea and biscuits, thanks.   

And in answer to the title question – I suspect talent is a bigger stumbling block.