Monthly Archives: March 2014

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.”


“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.”

The Cycles of the Moon

This is this week’s photo prompt for the Flash! Friday challenge. 140-160 words, and we had to mention space travel… 

Cycles of the Moon

His first cutback had been to let Pluto go.

The new Director had been brought in to make cuts in NASA’s budget, and relegating Pluto from Mickey Mouse planet to over-sized rock instantly reduced the number of worlds in our Solar System that we will never set foot upon. This was regarded as a saving, for reasons as unclear as a nebula.

Next the Chief Engineer was fired, which was more than you could say for his rockets. The Director had them replaced by bicycles.

It didn’t work, of course. On the test-flight (unmanned and unmonkeyed, thankfully) the bicycle got a flat tyre, and the whole universe heard the giant fart as it zig-zagged past the moon like a dying balloon.

The Director was devastated. He was the kind who dreamt things that never were and asked why not, and then wouldn’t listen to the answers.

Such as that ET was not, as he’d thought, a documentary.

Southern Comfort

I wrote this to the photo prompt below for the Flash! Friday challenge a few weeks ago, and since I can think of so little to write these days it seems a shame to waste it, even if it got nowhere…

Scarlett in Hill O'Tara

Time had not smiled on Scarlett O’Hara. It had laughed at her.

After Rhett left she had taken solace in wine, comfort food and passing sailors. She had grown heavier, stockier, and chins.

In order to live she had re-built Tara as The Hill O’ Tara, the type of Irish bar that wears shillelaghs, Leprechaun hats and inflatable shamrocks like gaudy jewellery, essentially Riverdance set to whiskey.

Since the war ended Atlanta had become a popular stag-party venue with visitors from the North. Many came to The Hill O’ Tara, keen to see the living definition of the term “buxom”.

One such group had just arrived and had loudly demanded her strongest beer, so she was bringing them eleven mugs of Frankly Damn, a foaming, practically steaming concoction that was eleven per cent proof and eighty-nine per cent gas.

A couple of those each, she reckoned, and they’d be gone. With the wind.

Birdie Attempt

This photo, by TheShakes72, was the prompt for this weekend’s Flash Frenzy challenge…

Male golf ball

If you close your eyes you can almost hear the voice of David Attenborough:

“And here. In the long. Grasses the male slowly. Fans. His tail.”

Almost is the important word, though, because David Attenborough has never observed the mating ritual of the male golf ball. No-one has.

People assume that golf balls are manufactured, despite the fact that no-one lives near a golf ball factory and that no-one has ever met anybody who works in one. In fact the golf ball is an animal, and one of the most remarkable species on the planet.

Their natural habitat is the golf course, where they are equally at home in deep sand, underwater, or stuck halfway up a tree. Their breeding ground, though, is in the long grass known as “the rough”, for reasons lost, probably thankfully, in the mists of time.

While salmon struggle upstream to their breeding grounds, and while birds fly through rain, shotgun pellets and small children’s escaped balloons to theirs, the golf ball is clever enough to get humans to drive them to theirs. They have developed remarkably tough hides, and the thump of a golf club feels as gentle to them as a pat on the rump does to a horse. The resulting high-speed journey is so exhilarating that as they leave the tee you can hear them shout “wheeee!”

The humans, without fail, hit the balls into the rough. Nature has programmed them to do this.

When a male golf ball meets a female it fans its tail. The tail looks like a shuttlecock covered in gaudy flowers, and to be honest makes the male look like a bit of a pillock, though in this he is no different to any other male in any other species trying to show off in front of a girl.

If the female is attracted she responds by showing her dimples.

What happens next is unclear, and rightly so. No-one ever asks, for instance, how giraffes do it without toppling over sideways. No-one asks about the sex-life of the hedgehog. Or the Dalek.

Some things should just remain private.

Belated Birthday Wishes

I started writing this last Monday, but unexpectedly found myself in the pub (ok, I am Irish, but it wasn’t something I’d been planning), so I’m only finishing it now…


He chased the snakes out of Ireland.

The logic of this argument is impeccable. He is our Patron Saint, we have no snakes, therefore he must have got rid of them.

We have no zebras either, but he never gets the credit for that.

St PatrickIt wasn’t the job he applied for, being Patron Saint of Ireland, especially since he is Welsh. But while St Valentine got love, St Vitus got dance and St Louis got jazz he got a tiny country full of cows, confusing road signs, and freckles. It was like a Greek deity finally qualifying for Mount Olympus and finding that she’s been made Goddess of Light Drizzle.

He found that he had to wear what is essentially a ballgown, and a hat that looked like the nose-cone of Thunderbird 1. He had to carry a crozier, an implement that’s sole use is to hook an actor off stage during comedy sketches.

Every year he gets thrown a birthday party. Those of you who think that this a plus have never seen the Irish party.

On the day they all wear shamrock, which is a weed. They might as well pin dandelions to themselves, and let the clocks blow up their nostrils. They will wear giant Leprechaun Hats, although the term “giant Leprechaun” is an obvious contradiction in terms, and drink green beer, which is essentially sending vomit through your mouth in the wrong direction.

And St Patrick just sighs, sips his Guinness (there are some advantages to being Irish) and waits for the day to be over.

Sometimes, he reckons, you need the patience of a saint.

Moving Fast

A few weeks ago I wrote a rather moany piece about how unhappy I’ve become with my career, and how I’ve realised that I’ve always hated it. I said that I was in talks with my manager and my department head about finding something else to do in the company, something, anything, that has nothing to do with the production of accounts.

My manager, and dear friend, told me last week that they were taking this very seriously, and that they would take action as soon as possible, and this Tuesday we held a preliminary meeting about the kind of things that I might like to do.

Early days, one might think, and perhaps they are just playing along until the extreme pressure that I’m under at the moment eases and I settle back down, unfulfilled but wearily accepting of my lot.

Or not. On Thursday I got positive proof that they are as determined as I am to find a solution.

My current job is being advertised on our website.

First Case

This photo was today’s Flash! Friday prompt, and we had to include a detective…

Samantha Spade

Her perfume arrived before she did, like a butler announcing a duchess.

“You Sam Spade?” she asked.

“That’s what it says on the door, Doll,” I replied.

“No it isn’t,” she said. “It says ‘Samantta Spaid’.”

I shrugged. “You pay peanuts,” I said, “you’re not gonna get the kind of monkeys who might type Hamlet someday.”

“I’ve never met a female gumshoe before,” she said.

“Gumshoe?” I pointed to my feet on the desk. “These are genuine Manolos. Though I did once have to superglue a heel back on.”

“Whatever,” she said. “I want you to follow my husband.”

“Fifty bucks a day,” I said. “Plus expenses.”

She handed me a MetroCard.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“Your expenses,” she said. “He’s a subway driver.”

So here I am on the dawn subway, tailing my target from a discreet distance. Four carriages, to be exact.

It’s not quite the car chase from Bullitt, but a girl’s gotta start somewhere.

You Shall Go

Fairy Godmother school

It was supposed to have been a coach, but Martha’s pumpkin had turned instead into a balloon giraffe. Miss Applecheek had given it a withering look, and when you’re a teacher at Fairy Godmother School then “withering look” is more than just a turn of phrase.

“Interesting,” she said. “Perhaps when your time comes you can have your princess pulled along to the Ball by a small child holding a piece of string.”

Martha’s lip trembled like her watching classmates. Miss Applecheek turned her attention to Clara, whose efforts had produced a bra with only one strap.

“And what will she do with this?” she asked. “Use it as a sling-shot to stun her prince?”

There is fire and steel within Fairy Godmothers, whose job is basically to patiently help the inept, and Clara would one day make one of the finest.

“She will need it,” she said defiantly, “if the dance she gets invited to is a toga party.”


The photo is called “Dancing at the Red Cross Fund, Brisbane, 1942” and was the prompt for today’s Flash Friday challenge, with a target of 140-160 words.

Cat’s Eyes

This photo is the prompt for today’s Flash Frenzy challenge…..

Cat on the Ark

She was the only one left.

Well, apart from the sloth behind her, who was too lazy to move. Creatures get names for a reason.

The trip had been a disaster from the start, and she blamed the humans. To begin with the Ark was about twenty per cent too small, purely because Noah had been unwilling to admit to God that he had no idea what a cubit was. The cramped living conditions had led to cross animals, cross-species animosity and even cross-breeding. The raccoon, for example, had come about after a koala-bear had bred with a zebra.

Each day the Ark sat a little lower in the water, partly because it was filling up with an astonishing amount and variety of poo, and partly because it was now home to 14,279 rabbits.

But day by day the flood was abating, and this morning the Ark had come to rest on the crest of Mount Ararat. And had promptly toppled over.

All of the creatures had tumbled to one side. One of the elephants had landed on a unicorn. The unicorn was now as dead as the dodo, which had been landed on by the other one.

Animals and humans alike had fled, in fear that the Ark might topple again, snowball-like, down the side of the Mount, with them flailing and tangling inside it like socks in a washing-machine.

She watched them now, swimming towards another hill a few hundred yards away, and she knew that she was going to have to do it too. She steeled herself, took a really deep breath, and for the first time ever a cat entered water.

And as she did so she made a solemn vow to herself that she would never forgive humankind, and that her scorn would pass from generation to generation, like freckles.

So when your cat looks at you in utter contempt, or ignores you altogether, or comes in from the garden and drops half a dead mouse onto you newly-cleaned kitchen floor, then this is the reason.

It is because of the covenant of the Ark.