Monday, 5 June 2017

Not as it Seems

My response to the Light and Shade Challenge.

Jeff kept his professional smile as he showed the couple around the car dealership. 
“It’s a very reasonable price,” he said.  The Ford Fusion gleamed.  “Very low mileage and we include a full service before delivery.”
India’s lips were pressed together so hard that you couldn’t see her lipstick.  “I don’t see why I have to pay out for that kid.”
“Sweetheart, it’s my godson.  He’s seventeen, he has a hobby…”
“He’s a spoiled brat.”  She turned back to Jeff.  “The kid is just going to take it to pieces.  He hasn’t even got his licence yet…”
“He’s got his test booked…” Jason said helplessly, taking a swift mouthful out of a small flask as India turned back to Jeff.
India hadn’t noticed the flask.  “I have to scrape by and make do, but when it comes to the kid he can’t say no.”
“His name’s Oliver.” Jason muttered. 
India shrugged then turned to Jeff.  “Honestly, something a little cheaper.”
“He should have been called Nancy.” Jason mumbled. 
Oliver can see it as a project.  What have you got that needs work?”
“I wouldn’t let them call him Bill.” Jason managed another crafty mouthful from the flask.
“You’re making less sense than usual.” India looked at Jeff.  “Anything?”
Jeff smiled.  “Between you and me, there’s one vehicle we weren’t thinking of selling at this moment,”he said with absolute truth.  It was booked for the scrapyard.  “It’s a fixer upper, but at a very good price.”
“What do you mean?” India followed Jeff to where the wrecks were stored.
“It’s a nice little car.” Jeff waved a hand at the red wreck in front of them.  “Once it’s done up it could be quite desirable.  Is the lad handy?”
“He’s a good lad.” Jason said quietly.  “Good with his hands.  I was thinking of taking him on as an apprentice.”
Jeff watched India’s hands clench into fists and then slowly unclench.  Then her shoulders slumped.  She nodded.  “We’ll take it.”
“Why don’t you look it over while I sort out the paperwork.” Jeff didn’t like leaving people alone, but today was an exception.  “I’ll be back in five minutes.”

Jason slumped against the Toyota, shielding India as she knelt next to the wheel arch and quickly felt inside.  She looked up.  “Keep talking to cover me,” she whispered.
“She could have called him Sikes,” Jason said, his voice getting a little louder. “She never called him after me.”
“Hang on.” The woman struggled a little then nodded.  “I’ve got it.”  She pulled out a small, tightly wrapped package.  “Okay, let’s stage the argument and get out of here.”

Jeff was shuffling the paperwork on the when he heard them shouting. 
“What do you mean, he’s your son?” India yelled.  “I can’t believe it.  After all these years!” She stormed over to their car and threw herself into the driver’s seat. 
“Sweetheart…” Jason scrambled into the passenger side as the car rattled out of the yard and screeched around the corner onto the main road. 

Jeff shrugged.  He may have lost a sale, but at least he didn’t have a headache.  

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Someone New

I didn't mean to write something that linked in with At the Sign of the White Hart but I had already started writing the next installment that fitted so well with the quotation from the Light and Shade Challenge for this week.  This is the pared down version, 514 words (oops!) down from 3192 for the full version which you can find on the blog 'At the Sign of the White Hart' here or, if you're interested you can find the full story from the beginning here.

Ian followed the vague directions.  He went through the door and up the stairs, along the passage and stopped outside the fourth door on the right.  Somehow this door seemed to be a much bigger step than anything else so far.  He lowered both of his bags to the floor.  He didn’t want to do this.  He wanted to go back to Ann and be happy again.  He wanted time to rewind.  He wanted it all to be different.  Ian squared his shoulders and turned the key in the lock. 
Picking up his bags and stepping across the threshold was one of the hardest things Ian had ever done, but he did it.  Then he gave himself a shake and looked around.  It was clean.  The paint on the plain magnolia walls were new and so was the plain beige carpet.  The cream coloured curtains were also new and still stiff as he pushed them back a little.  He had a view of a carpark but past that he could see York’s medieval walls with the distinctive tower of the Minster in the distance.  He checked his watch.  He needed this job and this place so much.  He had to make a good impression.
He ran a quick eye over the room as he opened his bags.  The bed looked comfortable and the new bedlinen looked clean and inviting.  The sturdy wardrobe came with a good supply of hangers and the tv was set on a matching set of drawers.  The small table next to the light brown chair was second hand like the wardrobe and chest of drawers but was equally as sturdy.  He found a lump in his throat.  Someone had tried to make him welcome.  A vase of daffodils sat next to the tv and a box of tissues was on the small bedside table next to the lamp. 

Ian felt a lump in his throat.  This was a chance to begin again.  The odds were not in his favour, but that was no reason to give in.  He hung his jacket behind the door.  The rest of his unpacking could wait apart from one vital thing. 

Ian dug into the bottom of the sports bag, tipping his clothes carelessly on the bed.  Right at the bottom, carefully wrapped, was the most precious thing he now had.  Ann, his soon-to-be-ex-wife, had given it to him just before he left.  He unwrapped it reverently.  He took down the print of York Minster and hung up the most important thing he had left, the only real thing he had left, the thing he needed most.  He stepped back and memorised the way it looked with the morning sunlight glancing across the newly painted wall and over the pink and white, shabby chic, feminine plaque.  The particle board was shaped and sanded to look like driftwood or reclaimed fencing and there were tiny sequins framing the folksy lettering.  Ian didn’t care.  Ann had given him this last thing.  A piece of wall art that said HOPE in fake-faded glory.  That was all that mattered.

And I hope no-one minds me mentioning this, but you can find out more about Ian in my novella 'Dinner at Dark' available at Smashwords, Amazon and all good ebook retailers.  You don't, however, need to read that to be able to enjoy the stories from 'At the Sign of the White Hart' as all is explained as we go.  

Monday, 9 January 2017

Magic on the Bridge

This is a response to the Light and Shade Challenge prompted by this picture.

           Image from WikiCommons, taken by Richard Webb and used under the Creative Commons Agreement

I wasn't meaning it to turn out like this, but it ran away with me, so below you will find the just about under 500 words version, because I ought to try if I'm setting the challenges (I don't check anyone else's).  However as it turned out to be part of the rebooted 'At the Sign of the White Hart' series and the Steve Adderson story, I expanded it and added it on to both of those.  For those interested, the Steve Adderson story is here, and the latest installment of 'At the Sign of the White Hart' is here.   For reference, installment one is here, installment two is here, installment three is here and installment four is here.  And, if you are still with me, here is the story...

Steve Adderson took a deep breath.  It was a lovely, crisp spring day but the refreshing air didn’t blow away his sense of unease.  He looked at Lord Ragnar who was leaning on the bridge parapet and looking down to the foamy river beneath.  Kadogan was looking along the road to the west at the Yorkshire Dales stretching into the distance.  The hills were empty.  They should be undisturbed. 
“Are you sure you want to go ahead with this?” Steve asked Lord Ragnar.  The elfen nodded.  Steve looked at Kadogan who gave an almost imperceptible nod of his head.  Steve unzipped his heavy sportsbag and started pulling out his equipment.  It was a perfect day.  The breeze was light and yesterday’s rain had filled the river.  He snapped together the portable easel and placed the mirror on it.  He set the deep brass braziers with care at either end of the bridge.  The charcoal caught quickly and the heavy incense was soon smoking.  Then he pulled out the heavy rope to mark the circle.
“Do you honestly believe that you will break through elfen magical wards?” Lord Ragnar asked.
“Nothing is guaranteed.” Steve said as he put the orange candle in the hurricane lantern and lit it.  “But if anything can, this will.  It’s the place.  Feel the energy.  We are between sky and water, between fire…” Steve gestured at the smoking brazier, “and earth.” He gestured to the bank rising up on the other side of the bridge.  “We are between the elements. As we are so undefined we have a loose tile, a loophole, a possible chink that we may be able to use.  Right, let’s start.”
The two elfen remained motionless as Steve pulled on the currents of power and twisted it around the mirror, sending sparking filaments out to search.  Lord Ragnar stepped back in shock as the mirror flooded with inky black but Kadogan just froze.  They could see the different strands of magic spiralling in and out of the circle and converging on the mirror on the easel.  The images coalesced and just for one heartbeat Steve saw Lord Ragnar change back to the glamour of a Viking berserker that he had worn when he seized control of the elfen of York back when it was called Jorvik and the Norseman ruled the men.  Then he was his normal self.
“I congratulate you.” Lord Ragnar bowed formally to Steve.  “It is a feat of legend to break through the magical defence of an elfen.  You recorded it?” Steve nodded.
“What are you going to do with the recording?” Kadogan asked, his eyes averted from the mirror.
“A recording of my wife sinning with her lover?  I shall merely use it in divorce.” Lord Ragnar turned to Steve.  “Thank you.  I owe you a large favour that will not easily be repaid.  Now I need to return to York.  There is much to do.”