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The Call Of The Sea

The waves gently rolled the hull, like a mother softly rocking a cradle. She smiled, tiredly, and closed her eyes.

She was woken just minutes later by loud knocking and shouting from the starboard side of the yacht. She leapt from her bunk, banging her head against the ceiling and her shin against her locker because, as she reflected grimly, unlike the Tardis a yacht’s cabin is not certainly not bigger on the inside.

She climbed up onto the deck and looked over the side. A man was at the wheel of a small motor-boat, looking up at her.

“Hello,” he said cheerfully.

“Hello back,” she answered. “What are you doing here?”

“Good question,” he said. “I was about two miles away, heading east, when my boat suddenly changed direction, ignored all my wheel-turning and swearing, sped over here and parallel-parked beside your yacht far better than I could ever have done.”

“I see,” she said. “Well, go away again.”

“I can’t,” he said. “My engine’s completely dead. It’s really odd. Do you have a giant magnet on board or something?”

“Of course not,” she said, “why would ….”

Her voice tailed off as she thought back over the last half-hour. She’d been pondering her perfect life – no people, no stress. She’d been lulled by the swell of the sea. She’d been warm, and tired. She’d been happy.

“And so,” she muttered bitterly, “I started to hum.”

“I’m sorry?” said the man in the boat.

“Er,” she said. She looked down at him, then sighed. “You’d better come aboard,” she said.

He climbed the ladder and stood up onto the deck, holding out his hand. “I’m James,” he said.

She shook his hand. “Sharlana,” she answered. She saw his eyes widen. “Yeah,” she said, “well, women in my family don’t tend to get names like Jane or Mary.”

“Because?”

“Because….” she said, and took a breath, “because I’m a siren.” James’s eyes widened further, though she hadn’t thought that possible. “Yes, yes, my ancestors used to lure sailors onto the rocks.”

“With the beauty of their singing,” nodded James.

“Exactly,” she said. “Of course, the fact that they were naked also helped. Anyway, I’m a descendant. The last of the line.”

“From men and women sirens?”

“You haven’t been listening. The female side of my family have an ability to attract sailors. There’s so much sailor in my genes it’s a wonder I wasn’t born with a parrot on my shoulder and a wooden leg.”

“So that’s why you were on about humming,” said James. “You lured me here.”

“Yes, well I didn’t mean to,” said Sharlana. “I’m sorry about that.”

“I’m not,” said James, and to Sharlana’s surprise she felt her sun-tanned face blush. “And the big yacht?”

“Sunken treasure, pieces-of-eight, blah, blah, blah,” said Sharlana. “My family’s been very rich for a very long time.”  

“I see,” said James. “And you’re telling me all this why?”

“Because no one will believe you,” said Sharlana sweetly. “You might as well go back home and say you were abducted by aliens.” She looked at him quizzically. “You seem to be taking it all very calmly,” she said.

James shrugged, “I’m a marine biologist,” he said. “I’ve seen fish that look like shuttle-cocks, turtles that look like coffee-tables, jellyfish that look like, well, jellyfish. I’ve learnt that there’s nothing that the sea can’t throw up, or make you want to.”

They talked, then, as the sun slowly set, a huge red ball sinking beneath the waves. He told her about his life and his studies, and she saw the light blaze in his eyes as he talked passionately about his work and his love of the sea. She told him of storms she had fought, and dawns she had watched, and of the simple joy of a life spent swimming, and sunbathing, and watching box sets of Game of Thrones on the yacht’s computer.

At dusk James got back onto his boat, and Sharlana towed him back to the mainland. “The engine will work again once I’m gone,” she said.

“Great,” said James. “I don’t fancy rowing around the sea for the rest of my career, I’d end up with biceps the size of that thing on a spit you see in kebab shops.” He looked up at the lights of the town behind the pier. “While you’re here,” he said, “will you have dinner with me?”

She shook her head. Don’t get involved, she told herself. You have a perfect life.

“Please?” he said. “I know a place that does seafood.”

She suddenly felt a pang, and thought about the small doubts she’d been having lately, about the increasing number of nights when she’d felt unexpectedly empty, like an emotional Marie Celeste. She thought about how she’d been trying to ignore the small clouds that had been gathering on the horizon of her soul, like a warning of an impending storm, or of a deep depression.

And she wondered why indeed she had told him her secret, so readily, instead of fobbing him off with some explanation about local currents, or faulty navigation systems, or the Bermuda Triangle.

Marine biologist, she thought. It’s basically just a sailor with an IQ of two hundred.

She smiled then, and nodded.

“Arrr, Jim lad, “she said.

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Indigestible

The screen was blank, apart from just four words. They had been there for over a week now, waiting for the accompanying paragraphs that would justify their existence.

The four words were “I Am John’s Knee”.

David had been writing this section for the Readers Digest for five years now. During that time he had been John’s heart, spleen, kidney, lungs and scrotum (he might as well have written just the one article called “I am John‘s sausage”). He hadn’t yet been John’s dandruff, his Betty Boop tattoo or his third little piggy (the one that got roast beef), but those days would surely come soon, John was running out of body parts.

Sometimes David got to be part of Jane, when the Digest wanted to explore areas of the anatomy that John simply didn’t have. You might think that this would put David in touch with his feminine side, but you’d be wrong. After the article where he informed the world that he was Jane’s ovaries he just felt embarrassed for the whole day.

And it’s wasn’t as if he was making a fortune from this. Indeed, readers with names like Mrs J. Spalding, Sussex, were making £250 for merry snippets about their grandchildren for the “Life’s Like That” section. This worked out usually at about two pounds a word, or about five times what David, a supposedly professional writer, was being paid.

The screen in front of him remained blank. It should by now have been filled with information about the patella, the cruciate ligament and even about the fact that de knee-bone connect to de shin-bone, but David just couldn’t be arsed. Couldn’t be John’s arsed, in fact.

The words remained a forlorn foursome on the screen. David went to the kitchen and got himself a bottle of scotch. He then sat on his sofa in front of an episode of Castle and, as he had done every evening that week, poured himself a very large glass.

Oh, I am David’s liver, by the way. I’m screwed.

One Day Late

In my defence, Boxing Day was traditionally the day in the UK when Christmas boxes and good wishes were given out, so I wasn’t doing anything wrong by not being here yesterday to wish you all Happy Christmas.

In my lack-of-defence I do not live in the UK.

The day just went. We had presents, we had dinner, we watched about 32 hours of films in 14 hours and suddenly the day was over.

So belated, apologetic, but really heartfelt best wishes to every single one of you who come here. You are my support and my encouragement.

You are my friends.

I hope you all had a really lovely day yesterday and that you enjoy today and the rest of the holidays.

I will be doing other writing over the coming days, especially since Tingirl has bought me this:

26.12.12 049

Have a super day, everyone, and talk to you all again soon.

Tin.

Rules Are Rules

The prompts at our Inksplinters Writers Group this week were all palindromes. One was “some men interpret nine memos”…
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“How many?” asked Aaron.

“Nine,” said Moses.

“Nine rules?” said Aaron. “That’s an awful lot. We didn’t have that many when we were slaves in Egypt.”

“Yeah,” said Joshua. “Basically there were just two – if you found yourself thrown to the lions try to keep away from the toothy end, and if the Red Sea suddenly parts, run like hell, it’s not going to stay that way forever.”

“Well, there’s nine here,” said Moses. Joshua muttered something under his breath that sounded like “calls this a promised land”.

“Lets hear them, then,” said Aaron.

“First, I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have strange gods before me,” said Moses.

“Are they all written like that?” asked Joshua.

“Of course,” said Moses. “This is God talking.”

“Well, just give us the gist of the rest of them,” said Joshua. “What’s next?”

It was around this time that Moses began to regret not carrying the tablets down the mountain with him. But they’d been made of stone and he felt weak, since he’d eaten nothing but manna (a kind of meringue) for three weeks, so he’d just read quickly through the list, confident that he’d remember them. On the way down he realised that he’d forgotten one already, which was why he had presented the others with the notion of nine commandments. Now, as the others blathered on, he found himself struggling even with them.

“Keep Sunday free,” he said suddenly.

“Why, said Aaron, “what’s happening?”

“No, that was one of them,” said Moses. “Then there was do not kill, or steal. Look after your mum and dad. Don’t lie. And, um,” (he thought frantically) “oh yes, don’t covet your neighbour’s wife’s ass.”

“Not even Isaiah’s wife?” said Aaron.

They all thought for a few seconds about Isaiah’s wife, the Pippa Middleton of the desert, and her incredible bum.

“No, apparently not even her,” said Moses, wistfully.

“Jesus Christ,” said Joshua.

“Oh, thanks, I’d forgotten that one,” said Moses. “You can’t say ’Jesus Christ’ like that.”

“Fuck me,” said Joshua.

“Whereas oddly, that seems to be OK,” said Moses. “Now, how many is that?”

There was silence. None of them wanted to admit that they couldn’t count higher than four.

“Er, nine,” said Aaron eventually.

“There you are then,” said Moses. “The nine memos from God.”

Celebration Day

WordPress asks us to “invent a holiday, and explain how and why everyone should celebrate”…

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International Tinday is a celebration of the wonder that is Tinman’s blog, the wonder being how he gets away with writing the stuff he does. It is a fun-filled day guaranteed to quicken hearts, mimicking what Tinman’s pacemaker is doing to his.

It is celebrated on April 29th, partly because that is the anniversary of the day on which the blog first appeared, and partly because it is nowhere near Christmas, so there is no risk of getting just one present to cover the two events.

The fun begins the evening before, when families gather around while their father reads “The Night Before Tinday”.

In the story the father has just settled his brain for a long winter’s nap (surely the words “long” and “nap” are contradictory?) when there arises such a clatter, of fingers on a keyboard, and down the internet comes Tinman. Traditionalists will be disappointed to hear that since he has given up beer he no longer has a little round belly that shakes, when he laughs, like a bowlful of jelly, but his dimples are probably still merry, whatever that means.

The evening ends with someone saying the traditional sentence “this time tomorrow it’ll be all over”.

On Tinday itself gifts are exchanged, mainly large tins of shortbread biscuits or large tins of Cadburys Roses, including the sweets with the ghastly pink goo in the centre. Some people think it’s amusing to give Tin-openers, though I have to say I don’t find that at all funny. Men are given socks.

Then there is the traditional Tinday dinner, consisting of tinned foods. Tins of Spam are frowned upon, because that casts aspersions on his blog, but tins of peaches are served because Tinman is a real peach, tins of baked beans because he is great gas, and tins of prunes because he is full of, well, let’s leave it at that.

In Australia they drink a lot of tinnies. Sorry, that has nothing to do with Tinday, I just thought I’d point it out.

After dinner families gather around the computer to listen the traditional Tinday messages from the Pope, the Queen and, for some reason, Wolverine from the X-Men. These are given via comments on Tinman’s blog (to which he usually doesn’t respond, so it’s not just you). The families then turn on the TV and watch the Great Escape, the Sound of Music or ET (apparently there is some EU law that these are the only films allowed on such days). The BBC will show an especially depressing episode of EastEnders, in which one of the cast will beat one of the others with a tin dustbin lid.

The night ends with another traditional sentence, “well, that’s it over for another year”.

Shameless attempts have been made to commercialise the day, as has happened with Christmas, marketing “Happy Tinday” Cards, Tinday crackers, and even Tinday novelty jumpers (it has a picture of Tinman‘s face on it, and if you press his nose he tells you to stop doing it).

These attempts have so far been unsuccessful, but I fully intend to keep trying.

Prompt Reply

The WordPress Daily Prompt is back!

All through 2011 WordPress (in fairness, trying to help us all) suggested a writing topic each day. These were often daft and were often derided mercilessly, mostly by Tilly Bud and myself.

(Indeed last June I predicted that they would be desperate for ideas by the end of the year, and suggested this list of topics for December:)

1st. If you were a cat, what kind of cat-food would you eat?
2nd. Describe the socks you’re wearing right now.
3rd. Weekly Photo Challenge: Despair.
4th. Was Little Jimmy Osmond crap or what?
5th. Which of your legs is your favourite?
6th. Humor or humour? Does your blog have either?
7th. Describe a jigsaw puzzle you once made.
8th. Ear lobes. Why?
9th. Will this year ever be over?
10th. Weekly Photo Challenge: Women’s Bums (bonus: if you don’t get slapped).
11th. Bloggers are gobshites who can’t think up their own topics. Discuss loudly, after twelve cans of beer.
12th. Do you like the smell of tarmac on a hot day?
13th. Why did the fourth little piggy get no roast beef?
14th. Do you think it’s easy making up 365 topics? Well, do you?
15th. Describe your most recent haircut.
16th. Write about Pirates of the Caribbean 4 without using the words “utter” or “crap”.
17th. Weekly Photo Challenge: Hold your thumb over the lens.
18th. Were you popular at school? Why not?
19th. How big is Uruguay?
20th. Not worth a hill of beans. What does that actually mean?
21st. No-one reads what you write. You know that, don’t you?
22nd. Write about the back of your head.
23rd. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. How do you get them out?
24th. Weekly Photo Challenge: Santa (no, the real one).
25th. Oh, give me a break, you’re not seriously all here today too?
26th. Write about the worst present you got yesterday (bonus: name and write nasty things about the present-giver).
27th. Describe your left thumb.
28th. How many Star Wars movies can you name? (bonus: what does that tell you about yourself)?
29th. Just what was so wrong with the post about the dead puppies?
30th. Are you counting down the seconds to New Year as eagerly as I am?
31st. Do you think we’re going to have a Postaday 2012? Are you mad?

(I apologise for filling most of today’s post with another one, it’s a bit like inviting yourself along as a guest blogger, but the clock went back, or forward, or sideways this morning and I’m suffering from jet-lag without ever having left my house).

Anyway, to the delight of Tilly and I they have decided to brave our scorn (or have never heard of us) and are having another go this year.

Since I only found this out on the second day I am tackling the first two together. The first was “write about the most precious thing you’ve ever lost and the second was “what’s the one thing you hope people never say about you?”.

The most precious thing I’ve ever lost, of course, was the WordPress daily prompt, leaving my mind like a desert, dotted with only the occasional oasis of creative thought.

What I would least like people to say about me, though, is that I am lost without the daily prompt.