Friday Fictioneers : Owt or Nowt?

 

PHOTO PROMPT © Kelvin M. Knight


 

The sun squatted low, puffs of apricot cloud still bubbling along the horizon. The colours brought to mind summer, despite the cold that had snuck into her boots.

Edith waited patiently outside the bakers for a loaf, a roll or perhaps a chunk of parkin too misshapen or overcooked to grace the shining tables of Clifton. She wasn’t particular – a full stomach for a ha’penny was hard to come by these days.

The baker’s boy tugged the door with meaty fingers. ‘Nowt today.’ The door slammed, snapping off his words.

Sleeping rough was always colder on an empty stomach.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See here to join in and read the other tales.

If you’re wondering what ‘parkin’ is, look here. And if you’re wondering what ‘nowt’ means … why, it’s the opposite of ‘owt’ of course! Nowt meaning nothing or naught and owt meaning anything – Northern English slang dropped down from the Old Norse and still very much alive up north and in our house, we being defected Northerners! So when someone asks is there ‘owt or nowt’ they’re saying is there ‘anything or nothing’.

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What Pegman Saw : The flooded orange grove

The space is cramped, the air hot enough to snatch the sweat before it pearls on his skin.

Below breakers crash, hiss to silence before building again, a sound that fills his dreams with frilled waves and sharpened rocks. He used to dream of home, of orange groves and trees speckled with flowers, a thousand stars in a sky of polished emerald leaves. But each crash of the sea has stripped an inch of his past until there is nothing but the fort, the rocks, the waves.

He will die here.

It’s a certainty that he doesn’t know so much as feel, a knowledge hammered into his bones, a thread spun through every tendon and muscle.

Night begins to fall, the cold beam of the lighthouse a lance subduing the sun until it retreats below the sea.

The waves crash louder in the darkness.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, a writing prompt using Google Streetview. See the pic and wander. Go here to join in and to see the other stories.

I saw the fort, saw the little turrets on the side called garita or bartizan and wondered what it might have felt like to be a soldier in there, looking out on a foreign sea.

 

 

Three Line Tales : Miss Salome’s world stops spinning

 

three line tales week 84: glamping

photo by Niv Rozenberg via Unsplash


 

Miss Salome was nervous of her new home at Lombardi’s World of Physical Wonders.

She was used to the contented cluck of the hens, the rhythms of a farmhouse bound by sunrise and seasons. But Lombardi’s was a like a city, all noise and bustle under canvas and always a new face – Atarah the alligator woman, Sherman the dogfaced boy, the half and half Charlie, Abdu who they called the leopard skin boy … too many to remember.

She had once lived rooted to the earth, now the soil beneath her was forever changing from red to brown to grey, back to red with the rumble of cartwheels.

Then one day she saw him, a man in miniature, so small and perfect he could be cast from porcelain. He sat on the top step of the neighbouring caravan, hands resting on his knees, watching her.

‘Welcome to the neighbourhood,’ he said smiling and for once she was pleased of her beard, pleased it hid the flush of pleasure that rogued her cheeks.

 


Written for Sonya at Only 100 Words’ Three Line Tales. See the pic … and you know the rest. Go here to read the other stories.

To learn more sideshow acts and terminology see here.

 

 

FFfAW : A single man who can sew

 

This week’s photo prompt is provided by artycaptures.wordpress.com. Thank you artycaptures!


 

Stanley pulls back the curtain, allowing summer to flood the room and his instinct is to close it again. The light’s too harsh, unforgivingly revealing the intimacies of pallid skin and hair. A respectable man would look away, but there’s little about him most people would class respectable.

The body can wait for now. He turns to examine the room.

It’s neat, floor and grate swept, mantel uncluttered of ornament save a carriage clock. A pair of trousers with worn hems lie over the back of a chair, braces still attached. A shirt flung over them shows a neat repair on the shoulder seam. Stanley darns his own socks – he’s not surprised by a single man who can sew.

A rumble of voices out on the landing tells him Inspector Gordon has arrived. He nods to Stanley as he enters the room.

‘Another?’ Gordon averts his eyes from the bed. For a large man he’s squeamish of the dead.

‘Another,’ nods Stanley. His eyes settle on the scarlet cord.

 


Written for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Authors. See the pic and write a tale. Yesterday I created Gordon and Stanley from nowhere and today they’ve crept back into my head, two Edwardian policemen who want to be heard. See here for their first outing, The Scarlet Net.

The scarlet net

 

‘What do you think?’ Sergeant Stanley looked at him expectantly, smoothing his broad moustache with finger and thumb.

Gordon knew that action well. Despite his calm exterior, Stanley was excited by his own theory, keen for the chase. Gordon looked up to the map again. London, speared by a dozen brass pins, red cords looped between them, the capital caught in a scarlet net.

Stanley was viewed as the station’s eccentric, a bachelor at thirty five still living at home with a mother whose wits often wandered. Gordon had visited the small, sooty terraced house where they lived many times for suppers of pie and liqour. Under the flickering gas mantles, he’d viewed the study wall patchworked with newspaper cuttings and photographs Stanley had taken with his box Brownie, monochrome dismemberments brought to life in the musty cellar.

An odd fish, the other officers said. Rumoured to be a regular at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street. And the closest thing Gordon had to a friend.

Gordon sat back in his chair, resting his heels on his desk. ‘Tell me again, Sergeant.’

 


 

Notes

Pie and liquor – meat pie served with mashed potatoes and a green sauce made from parsley and jellied eels.

Lyons Corner House, Coventry Street – Lyons Corner Houses were a chain of teashops, now defunct. The Coventry Street one in Picadilly, London was a known meeting place for gay men in the days when homosexuality was still very much illegal.

 

 

 

What Pegman Saw : A curtain pulling shut


 

When I was four years old, my father left the family home to be a lumberjack.

He’d grown up in the brick canyons of Manchester, under the long shadows of the cotton mills, every breath he took speckled with coal dust. He started work aged seven as a scavenger, plucking cotton threads from under the looms. Thunder with jaws, he called those machines.

It was foggy the morning he left, the smoke twining with the fog so the two hung solid along the twisted alleyways. I watched from my bedroom window as he slipped away, smog closing behind him like a curtain pulling shut.

Years later a postcard came. On the front a painting – mountains with snowy, pointed hats, thick-fringed with trees too many to count. On the reverse a message.

The air is clear and smells of pine

I did not recognise the hand.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw. Go stroll through Google Streetview with them and find a view that inspires. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

Friday Fictioneers : A Criminal Conversation

 

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bulltot


 

Light from the computer screen filled Campbell’s glasses, masking his eyes. ‘When might your great-grandmother have been admitted to Northmead?’

Sally handed him the details, the paper damp from her hands. Annie Giddings. DOB 4th January 1886. Last seen Bonfire Night 1903.

Campbell hummed tunelessly. ‘Found her!’ he said. ‘Admitted 25th November 1903 for falling into criminal conversations with low men. Hmm … various treatments … Ah! Failing to recover her wits, a hysterectomy was performed.’

The printer clicked and whirred a copy of Annie’s records. Sally clenched and unclenched her fists, relieved Northmead was a ruin so she wouldn’t have to burn it down.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. The best flash fiction prompt on the web. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

I saw the photo and though ‘insane asylum’ then did a search for 19th century teatments for women with mental health problems. Some doctors advocated gynaecological surgery such as relocating the uterus and hysterectomy. Read more here.

Read more on the appalling Victorian treatment of ‘fallen women’ and on the foundling hospitals where many were forced to leave their offspring here (this article is also where I found the euphemism ‘criminal conversation’).

As a side note, 25th November is Saint Catherine of Alexandria’s feast day. Amongst other things she is the patron saint of spinsters.