So this isn't a piece of flash fiction but it is a piece of travel writing, written after my last trip to Ecuador in 2011. Posted today on a new writing website recently set up by Cafe Aphra contributor, B.E. Seidl. Check it out for a glimpse of the Amazon: The Scrapbook of Stories Enjoy!
The stranger loomed up out of the gloom. In the dank air of the alley, Price could feel the dampness of the River Thames. The cobblestones shone wetly and the gas streetlight gave out a golden halo in the smog; a deceptive illusion of warmth.
The man looked him up and down. ‘I ain’t never heard a man of no conserkence call himself no such thing. What’s yer business?’
Price turned and looked at the wooden cart he pulled behind.
‘I sell tulips. To the rich.’
‘Yes. From Holland.’
The man stared.
‘For their gardens.’
‘Do I look rich to you? Do I look like I have a bleedin’ garden? Do you see any gardens round ‘ere?’
‘Actually I was hoping I might find accommodation in your establishment for the night.’
‘Three shillings an’ sixpence.’
Price sighed, rummaged in his coat pockets and dropped the coins into his host’s grimy hand. The man grinned, displaying one missing and one gold tooth in his wide, malodorous mouth. He signalled for Price to follow.
‘No conserkence, indeed!’ His laughter echoed ahead and he shook his head as he limped up the alleyway. 'No conserkence!'
The sun was
down. He had climbed 350 metres in half an hour, keeping pace with the late
evening shadows as they'd raked up the mountain, but finally as he stood atop
his favourite rocky outcrop it was dusk everywhere. A bee, laden with pollen
lolloped on the stone at his feet and in a moment of kinship he too laid down
his bag and flopped to the hard ground.
He stared hard
at the bee, marveling at the ingenuity of nature. Often cited by intelligent
design zealots as clinching evidence of a creator God (how could something so
bizarre actually 'evolve' by itself they'd say) it struck him now as quite the
example of the opposite. How could an intelligent designer have come up with
something so utterly ridiculous as a black and yellow striped, furry, bag
carrying, stinging, non-aerodynamic, flying insect? Where was the intelligence
or whatever designed the world also came up with Penny he thought. Nature or
God, how was that particular concoction dreamed up? The bee was a piece of cake
in comparison. She was more ridiculous than a whole hive of the buggers. He
opened his bag and took out his camera. He trained it on the orange red horizon
line and held the view, not fully depressing the shutter, just waiting.
Waiting. He was always waiting. Waiting for a bird, or for something to pass
across the image. It wasn't right. He eased his finger off the shutter and
sighed. Penny. She always crashed these moments. God damn it. She was
everywhere but more than that, she was nowhere.
The bee was
flexing its wings, buzzing like an insistent alarm clock, clearly preparing for
flight. He swapped in his macro lens and turned the camera onto the daft
looking creature. He quickly twisted the lens to gain the right focal point and
ran off seven or eight shots before the bee, suddenly emboldened, took to the
air, a comical fluff ball of legs and wings and pollen sacks. Like a drunk
driver it veered one way then another before dropping out of sight in another
direction altogether. He checked the shots. Not bad. Then he glanced back at
the reddening sky, blood orange crimson now. A large raptor, perhaps a falcon,
was hanging in the air, shadowing some unwary prey, its silhouetted form
providing a menacing point of interest in the gloaming.
loved that he thought. Yeah, she'd have loved that very much.
Want to get the joy of writing back? Today I have discovered a brilliant live online project called 'Lost in Track Changes', which is part of if:book Australia. That's the curated version of the flash fiction event, with well-known Australian authors 'remixing' each other's work, week by week. The un-curated version of the event, however, is open to everyone - that's you and me - and is called 'Open Changes'. What it involves is reading a few pieces of flash fiction and using any part of the them that catches your (mind's) eye as a writing prompt to set you off with writing your own piece. The maximum wordcount is 200! Ouch! This is a seriously fun writing exercise, though. I actually made myself laugh today. And who knows, your 'comment' might be selected and used as one of the pieces for next week's prompts for other writers. There are several publishing incentives, as well as just the fun of doing it. And there are only another six weeks left, so get going. http://open.futureofthebook.org.au/
The drain was gone from her abdominal incision and she had her take-home pack of painkillers and anti-inflammatories. The only problem would be deciding just where was home.
For the past thirty years she had lived in Mr Kneebone’s brownstone. She reckoned she could easily walk back there if she started right after breakfast the next morning. No need at all to phone Mr Kneebone or infuriate him by arranging a taxi.
The brownstone was certainly a home. But had it ever really been her home? Everything there had been pre-determined by the two previous Mrs Kneebones, Mr Kneebone’s first wife and Mr Kneebone’s mother, and held by Mr Kneebone to be sacred to their memories and perfectly serviceable. (Mr Kneebone couldn’t tolerate change for the sake of change.) Mrs Kneebone had acknowledged the logic of that, as long as she had—propped up on her bedside table—the hand-coloured print of a wisteria-covered arch given her by her brother Daniel when she married Mr Kneebone.
So good of Daniel to stand by her at the wedding when her parents refused even to acknowledge it was happening. From the brownstone’s stoop, Mrs Kneebone was just able to see the outline of the uptown skyscraper where she was born. Oh, yes, born—not just brought up. Her parents owned the entire 83rd floor, all one huge apartment, and could easily afford the services of a live-in baby nurse and the attendance of an obstetrician. Whenever she looked that way, Mrs Kneebone imagined that if as a girl she had trained Daniel’s telescope in this direction, she would have picked out (and known it to be her fate) the brownstone. For all she knew, that apartment was someone else’s home now. Come to think of it, she couldn’t remember even as a child thinking of that place of shine and hard, hard surfaces as home.
Mrs Hightower, who until two days ago had occupied the bed next to hers, had spoken often about going home, and had been absolutely certain what that meant. A woman who had been preparing to go home since she was a girl, she now had the added incentive that so many of her friends and family, including her husband and one of her sons, had gone before her. She told Mrs Kneebone she heard her heavenly Father calling her home, and was glad to be going to her rest. But Mrs Kneebone didn’t fancy the idea. A rest home in the clouds was still a rest home.
So, as she pottered around the bed tucking things into the threadbare tote Mr Kneebone had brought in—the necessities he thought she should have in hospital and the wisteria print she had insisted he bring—Mrs Kneebone thought she would simply set out as early as possible. They were saying it was going to be a lovely sunny day tomorrow. She would head for the park. It really wasn’t very far at all.