C’est L’Amour, C’est La Guerre

History took place a long time ago, so it is no surprise that over time certain facts become slightly mixed up. It is widely believed, for example, that Helen of Troy was kidnapped by Paris…

Helen of Paris sat gloomily in her apartment. She had been kidnapped five years earlier and brought to Paris by Troy, who was now her husband. You might think that she’d have refused his hand, irked by a courtship technique that was basically one step up from a caveman with a club, but, she had admitted blushingly to herself, she had been young and Troy had been French, said to be the world’s greatest lovers.

Over time, though, she had become filled with ennui, since there was so little to do. The Louvre, at that time, had only one painting, a picture of a bowl of fruit. Since it had been painted by a Spartan, the bowl contained a single apple. Perè Lachaise was dead. Notre Dame was there, but she had no interest in American Football.

And she had discovered that while the French are indeed said to be the world’s greatest lovers, it is mostly the French who say this.

She gazed disconsolately out of the apartment window. A small patisserie had opened across the street a few years ago, and had become so successful that it had rapidly become a chain, opening a branch on almost every street corner across the city. Indeed, it was often said there was nowhere in Paris from which you couldn’t see The Trifle Tower.

The Greeks had not taken kindly to her kidnapping and had sent an army to rescue her. They had been routed by the French, who had employed their heaviest weaponry – the shrug, the use of the word “pwwwh”, and the look of utter disdain.

Next they had sent a huge horse. It had men in its belly, because it was a really bad-tempered fecker, and the Greeks had hoped that it would stampede through the city spreading fear and copious amounts of horse-droppings.

The French had eaten it.

Eventually Aristotle had come up with a plan. He gave each member of the army a large map, which would not fold properly, and a confused look, as if they were about to ask directions. Faced with the awful prospect of tourists, the Parisians had fled the city, and the Greeks had poured in to rescue Helen.

To her surprise, Helen had found that she did not want to be rescued. She had become used to chic Parisian robes, and to vin that tasted of, well, grapes. She thought back to the demisroussos, the gown the size of a tent worn by Grecian women, and to ouzo, a drink that tasted of lighted fart. Helen had panicked, and had fled the city along with the others.

She ended up in England, where she is now Helen of Barnsley. She met and married the owner of Joe’s Café, and happily works there running it with him.

She is known to the locals as the face that launched a thousand chips.

Burnt Bridges

This was yesterday’s photo prompt for the Flash! Friday challenge…

The Bridge

 

“Let me get this straight. You told our gang – the ones so dim that you’re regarded as the brains of the outfit – to blow up the bridge exactly at noon, so as to leave the posse stuck on this side?”

“Yes.”

“But you didn’t specifically say that this instruction should not apply if, say, we were late?”

“Not specifically, no.”

“I see. Well, if I hold my hand to my ear like this I can hear hoof-beats approaching, so I hope you have another plan.”

“Better than that, I have THE plan.”

“Please tell me you don’t mean the Butch and Sundance plan.”

“The very one. We jump the gorge. Every outlaw knows the story of how Butch and Sundance were trapped like we are now, and jumped a gorge to escape.”

“Almost.”

“Almost every outlaw knows?”

“No, almost jumped the gorge. That’s why they were called the Hole in the Wall gang.”

 

Where The Sun Don’t Shine

You’ll all be thrilled to learn that I’ve found another flash fiction challenge. This one is called VisDare, and we’d to write 150 words to the challenge (from this source) below…

 On a chain around her neck Ythyl Mermaid carried the key to Davy Jones’ locker, which had sunk gently to land outside her cave after Davy had discovered by the empirical method that a pirate hat provides surprisingly little protection against a cannonball. In it she kept shampoos, conditioners and even a GHD hair-straightener, which admittedly might have worked better had she had anywhere to plug it in.

Still her hair looked like the bush that other people sometimes look as if they’ve been dragged through.

Her skin was cracked – seriously cracked. And anyone who’s ever looked at their fingertips after a long bath will not be surprised to learn that her face was as wrinkled as a concertina that’s spent two years trapped down the back of a sofa.

Yet she was not short of suitors. The aquaphibians from Stingray reckoned that she was a bit of a looker.

Eternal Flame

This was the photo prompt for today’s Flash! Friday challenge – 140-160 words, and we had to incorporate friendship…

Fire Eaters

His flame went higher, because boys are like that. It was the pyrotechnic equivalent of seeing who could pee furthest out into the snow.

It spoilt the synchronicity of the act – hers formed the perfect mushroom she’d been trying to achieve, his looked as if a dragon had just eaten a chilli burrito. They couldn’t even wear matching outfits, because he kept forgetting not to bow to audience applause before he’d finished blowing off.

That’s why he wore a flame-retardant loincloth. There are limits to how much you should be willing to suffer for your art.

Ambition told her to go solo, or to find another co-performer whose lifelong dream was to spit burning oil through a gap in their teeth, but loyalty told her otherwise.

They were melded, more firmly than soldered iron, by their years on the road together.

He might sometimes scorch the hairs off his chest, but it was her heart he set on fire.

August Personages

Months have lives. They have a beginning and an end and, just as with humans, if they feel that they have unfinished business, they become ghosts.

There is, for example, the March Hare, plaintively begging tortoises, snails, even garden gnomes to race against him, trying to right some perceived ancient wrong.

There is the May Flower, haunting garden centres hoping that one day someone will buy one of those small plastic packets of seeds and find that something actually grows as a result.

There is also June Isbustinoutallover, who haunts the bra of a large-chested lady in Oklahoma, though only because she fell into her cleavage one day and hasn’t been able to get out.

And there is July Andrews, a ghostly nun who haunts Alpine villages trying to get the residents to dress their children in Laura Ashley wallpaper.

And then there is the April Fool.

Legend has it that he was a happy-go-lucky type of person, who unfortunately took the phrase “April showers” too literally. One April 1st he went out – in Ireland – carrying only one of those tiny umbrellas that look like a black pudding and are about as useful in keeping rain off.

He returned home ten minutes later with his umbrella inside out, his shoes full of water and the beginnings of a heavy cold. Then, just as he stuck his metal key into the metal front-door lock, he was struck by lightning.

Conventional wisdom tells us that one of two outcomes might have resulted. He could have ended up with superpowers, perhaps as a Rain God. Or, and this is what actually happened, the lightning might have caused his mobile phone to explode. In his trousers pocket.

So now he travels the earth, whispering warnings to the over-optimistic. He is the voice in your head that tells you not to give your bank details to Nigerian princesses, not to try to light your farts, not to go to see Die Hard 5. He is the voice that saves you from yourself.

Trust me on this.

In Your Face

This photo, by Ashwin Rao, is the prompt for this week’s Flash Frenzy challenge…

Tash the Goddess

The shrine is in a diner in the tiny town of Bedd Springs, Idaho.

This is because there are not many disciples of the Cult of Tash, the Goddess of Moustaches. No woman, for instance, has ever prayed to Tash to bless them with facial carpeting.

The Goddess is depicted as a cat, because they have whiskers, the animal equivalent of a moustache. Legend has it that she grew her middle whisker until it doubled as an eyebrow, and this is why she has a following among men who would never dream of training the hair on their head into a depiction of, say, Sydney Opera House, but who regard a moustache the length of a cello bow as the height of hirsute art.

Among her acolytes have been Groucho Marx, Salvador Dali and Dick Dastardly.

At her feet are her children – on her left foot, in her sleeping bag, is Katnap, the Goddess of Snoozing In Front Of The TV. On her right foot are the twins, Puss and Boots, Gods of Pus, Boots, and Ill-fitting Footwear.

When it comes to selling souvenirs nothing is sacred, not even something sacred, so supplicants can buy small bottles decanted from the products arranged around Tash. The bottle behind her to her right is moustache dye, for dark-haired men who embarrassingly find that their moustache has grown ginger.

The bottle to her right is vinegar and has been left there by mistake, it was supposed to have been on one of the diner tables.

The almost-empty bottle nearest us contains earwax, because a true believer will buy anything.

Most of the pilgrims who visit the shrine are adolescents anxious to prove their graduation into manhood by growing a hedge upon their face. As we watch here one is approaching, bearing the traditional bowl of cat food. Since Tash does not approve of food made from cats, this is a mistake.

That’s why all teenagers’ first attempts at a moustache make them look as if their face has been attacked by a dandelion clock.

And Words Are All I Have

It was silent in the glen, the kind of deep, almost hollow silence that makes the stillness of space sound as loud as a set of bagpipes broadcast through a vuvuzela.

Echo liked it that way. It gave her less work to do.

Suddenly, and to her horror, she heard a voice say “Hello?”

“Hello?” she replied, having little option. Anytime you think that your job is dull, try imagining hers.

A woman was walking towards her. She was incredibly beautiful, and clad in a long white gown tied with a golden belt, with one shoulder bare. She didn’t actually have “I am a Goddess” written on her forehead, but she might as well have had.

There was silence for a while. Echo, to whom the phrase “don’t speak until you’re spoken to” was more than just advice from her mother, waited patiently.

“I am Thethalonika,” said the woman eventually. “Goddeth of Lithpth.”

Echo sighed, and took a deep breath. “I am –“ she began.

“We don’t have to keep that up,” said Thessalonika, “since there are no humans around. You can stop behaving like a budgie, and I don’t have to sound like Harry Potter speaking parseltongue.”

“Fine,” said Echo. “Why are you here?”

“Aphrodite sent me,” said Thessalonika. “I’m here because of your boyfriend.”

“Narcissus?”

“That’s easy for you to say,” muttered Thessalonika. “Anyway,” she continued, “we saw how he dumped you, being more in love with himself, and how you pined away here until only your voice was left.”

“And what do you think?” asked Echo.

“Frankly, we think you’re a bit of a wimp,” said Thessalonika, “but sisterhood must stick together, blah, blah, et cetera, so we’ve decided to get him back for you.”

“Good luck with that,” said Echo. “He sits by the pool all day, staring adoringly at his own reflection. It’s the perfect relationship, really – they’ll laugh at the same things, grow old together, and his reflection will never argue with him. I can’t compete with it.”

“Says the girl who repeats everything anyone says,” said Thessalonika. “Anyway, we’ve an idea. Come with me.”

They went through the woods and emerged at the pool. Narcissus was facing away from them, kneeling on all fours and gazing lovingly down at himself.

“Wow,” said Thessalonika. “Nice arse.”

“Nice arse?” said Echo furiously. “And that wasn’t echoing, by the way, that was ‘that’s-my-boyfriend-so-butt-out-admiring-his-butt’-ing”.

“Sorry,” said Thessalonika. “Anyway, watch this.” She took a round stone and skimmed it across the pool. Eventually its journey ended, and a widening circle of ripples spread from where it softly sank.

The ripples slowly reached the reflection, and on reflection, though a different sort, it is surprising that this had never happened before, that raindrops, or wind, or Zeus landing as a shower of swans, had never disturbed the tranquillity of the water’s surface.

Perhaps that was why the effect was so powerful. Narcissus cried out in horror as the face in front of him suddenly distorted, as if it had just tried to eat a wasabi-and-grapefruit yogurt. He stood and backed away from the pool, and with the spell of his self-absorption broken, Echo slowly re-materialised.

Narcissus turned and saw her there – seeing and truly noticing, as if for the first time, the beauty of her face, the radiance of her smile, and, because he was as shallow as the pool, the size of her boobs.

“Echo,” he said. “I’ve missed you.”

Echo looked at him – seeing and truly noticing, as if for the first time, their likely future – their house like a Hall of Mirrors, his anguished cries at his first grey hair, his hiding indoors if he developed a zit.

“Get stuffed,” she said.

“Get stuffed?” he echoed. She smiled at him. “Welcome to my world,” she said. “Tedious, isn’t it?”

Narcissus turned and walked off into the forest, taking a comb from his pocket every few yards to make sure his hair was perfect. Echo turned to Thessalonika.

“Thank you,” she said, “for setting me free.” She patted at her arms, then at her face, and grinned. “And for giving me some body to love.”

“That somebody was supposed to be him,” said Thessalonika.

“Yes,” said Echo, “but as you can see I’m better off without him. He’s completely narcissistic.”

“That’s not actually a word, is it?” groaned Thessalonika. “Thit.”