Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rainbow Weather

"Rainbow weather," Jan sniffed. "Can't make its mind up." 

She stood at the sink, rubber gloves dripping. Shirts hung limply over the lawn: white crosses in a cemetery. There used to be little dresses flapping and a school uniform mucky from football.
"I’d take the washing in," Tom grunted, turning a page. "Looks like rain."
It wasn't her fault. Everyone thought the bruising was from the playground. Then the social worker called her in, asking questions. They took Anna out of school. She was so tired and washed-out, all that running around. Needed a good rest.
Tom thought she was anemic, said they should take her to the doctor's. Jan shuddered at the thought of all the prodding and poking, waiting rooms full of other people’s germs - so they took her to the seaside. The air would get her appetite back, put some colour in her.
The weather was kind at first, glorious sunshine and seagulls soaring in the blue. Anna was difficult, though. When they bought her an ice-cream her eyes lit up, but she only took a few licks before putting it aside.
"Spoilt, that's her trouble. If anyone had taken me to the seaside, I'd have been grateful." 
Anna cried as it started raining. They gathered their things in a hurry, dragging her to the car. She held her head, saying it hurt. Her nose bled all over the back seat. They took her to A&E.
When they were allowed to see her, flat and pale against the sheets, it had stopped raining. 
"Look poppet, a rainbow!" Jan had said, pointing. "That's lucky." 
"Jan?" Tom touched her shoulder lightly. She started. "Take the washing in love. It's raining."
by Sara Roberts 
First published in Flash Flood 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

The 2014 Café Aphra November Challenge

Last year, inspired by the annual Na-No-Wri-Mo Challenge, Cafe Aphra decided to hold our own version to encourage, motivate or just kick ourselves and our followers into some sort of regular writing activity over the month of November.

The 2013 was a great success with people committing a range of writing pursuits and finding that setting themselves a goal reaped rewards. Some decided to write for certain amounts of time each day, whether it was ten minutes first thing or an hour before bed. Some wanted to start or finish projects that had stagnated in the planning stages for far too long. Instead of writing some chose that other put-off activity of editing – taking words out can be as challenging and painful as putting them in.

So how about we do it again? What are you delaying, avoiding, hiding in the dark recesses of your desk drawers or hard drives? What have you promised yourself you’ll do one day? What have you put to the back of your mind until the time is ‘right’? November, with the nights drawing in and the chill of winter creeping into you bones, is the time to do it. Having a time limit – just 30 days – is also a great way to set yourself a goal. There is a clear beginning and end to this challenge and you can use it to stimulate or terrify yourself into action as you see fit. Sharing this activity amongst like-minded people in a writing community is also hugely motivating – we can support, encourage or harangue each other throughout the month.
We will use our Facebook page and this blog to post our ideas, personal challenges and comments and we'd love for you to do the same.
I’ve been letting an idea for a young adult novel simmer in the back of my head for over a year now and as I recently finished my masters dissertation I have no excuse not to get it started. My November challenge is to get the first three chapters written and a clear plan for the rest of it down on paper.
What will you do?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mighty Silver

A ramrod streak tore across
that blue canvas sky
With a mighty silver roar
It bellowed its beauty from high

Metallic heart of aluminium
Jet propelled fusilage
Pulsed with electricity
That wonderful flying bird visage

I watched from where I stood
Those dead wings fixed in flight
At boiling white tail feathers
And try as I might

I could not move my eyes
From the miracle I saw
That distant bird above
Sucked my soul up from the floor

I pledged my heart to it there and then
Before that dreadful bleak
Moment it was gone forever
Mighty silver ramrod streak

by Derek Dohren

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Taking a decision

It was a small advert, flickering on the right hand column of Stacey’s screen, but it spoke to her. Played on her mind. After another evening of silence - sat next to each other, eating off trays on their laps, kind ‘good nights’ and rolling away to their own thoughts - she’d had enough. She called the number, made the appointment.
            “You’ve been coming here for a few months now, do you feel any differently towards your husband?” asked the kindly looking old man with a pointy grey beard and half moon glasses. She shook her head.
            “No. It’s the same. But, well, I haven’t told you everything.”
            “For this to work, you need to be honest.”
            “I know.”
            “I’ve been seeing someone else.”
            “Having an affair?”
            “And how does that make you feel, Stacey?”
            Stacey squirmed. “Excited, alive... guilty.” The psychologist didn’t say anything, waiting patiently. “I don’t know what I want. It’s so silly, I don’t want to ruin everything, hurt him. I just wish I could feel like I did before.”
            “When you first met your husband?”
            “Yes... and for a good number of years after.”
            “Would it be true to say, and think about this carefully, would it be true to say that, what you really want is to feel the way you used to feel with your husband, rather than to feel the way you do about this new man?”
            Stacey sat back. She took a breath and closed her eyes briefly.
            “You’re sure?”
            She nodded.
            He leant back in his chair and lifted his hand. He reached towards a drawer in the his desk then paused. With a swift movement he pulled open the drawer and took out a small cardboard packet. He placed it on the desk and tapped a finger upon it.
            “I don’t usually like to prescribe pills, but in your case I think you’ll find they’ll help.”
            Stacey picked up the pack and turned it over in her hand. It was plain white, no markings.
            “Try them for a week or so, see how you feel. Of course, you don’t have to take them. It’s your choice.”
            The pills seemed to do little at first. Perhaps she felt a little calmer, a little more patient. Then after a couple of weeks her lover seemed less important to her, in fact she noticed things he did and said that aggravated her. He was just like any other man.
            Her husband reached out and held her hand one night after they put their dinner trays down, or she held his, she couldn’t remember. And then, five more pills and five more days later, when he came home from work, she went into the hall to greet him. It felt
as if he’d been gone a lifetime. They clung to each other as they hadn’t for years.
            Stacey awoke and gazed at her sleeping husband. She smiled and kissed his cheek. He murmured but did not wake. She got up and went to her handbag. Only one pill left. Later on, she called her psychologist. The number rang and went dead. She tried four more times.
            Stacey awoke with a start. She emptied her entire handbag on the ground, rifled through pockets and drawers. Nothing. She jumped in the car, driving anxiously through the traffic to his office. The door was locked, letters piled up on the mat inside. Stacey crumpled to her knees and wept.
            That evening she sat at the dinner table twisting her wine glass around by its stem. The front door slammed. A tear trickled down her face as her husband sat next to her and put his arm around her shoulders.
            “Bad day?” he asked.
            Stacey nodded, letting her head fall heavily into his shoulder, “Thank god you’re home.”

by Tina Smith