Tag Archives: Tinman

C’est La Guerre

*

“Not tonight, Josephine,” said Napoleon.

Josephine

Josephine (and her pet White-Spotted Giant Toad, apparently)

Josephine sighed. When she had taken up with this Frenchman she had expected beaucoup d’amour, a sexy accent and a really long baguette. What she had got was a short guy with delusions of grandeur, a naval hat worn sideways and seemingly no interest in un peu d’autre. History would point out that Josephine bore Napoleon no children. Given her lack of opportunity for setting such a train of events in motion it was a bit unfair, a bit like History pointing out that Galileo never won Wimbledon.

“Why not, cheri?” she asked. She was dressed as alluringly as possible, in a basque, a long diaphanous robe and French knickers, or knickers as she referred to them. This seemed to have no effect on Napoleon. She might as well have been wearing overalls and deep-sea divers’ boots.

“I must plan for Moscow,” said Napoleon.

“We’re going to Moscow?” asked Josephine excitedly. “How wonderful. I believe they have an excellent ballet.”

“Bolshoi,” nodded Napoleon.

“No, really,” said Josephine. “And a really good state circus. It has a performing bear.”

“What does it perform?” asked Napoleon, momentarily diverted from his plans.

“Bach, I think,” said Josephine. “He plays it on the clavicle.”

Napoleon was about to point out that a clavicle was a collar-bone, but decided not to bother. He reflected, not for the first time, that while Madame Sardhine’s Finishing School for Young Ladies might be excellent at teaching deportment, the importance of extending one’s pinky finger whilst drinking tea, and the ability to walk with a pile of books on your head, it wasn’t too hot at imparting general knowledge.

“I’m not going there on a weekend break,” said Napoleon. “I plan to conquer it, then to change the name. I’m going to call it after you.”

“How sweet,” said Josephine. “Though that might kill the tourist trade. It’ll be hard to fit “I ♥ Josephinedebeauharnaisburg” on a T-shirt.”

Vrai,” said Napoleon. “Perhaps I should just call it Jo’burg.”

“Suit yourself,” said Josephine. “Anyway, won’t this be dangerous?”

“Why?”

“Well, isn’t Russia really big?” asked Josephine. “They’ll have a huge army, and I’ve heard that each of their soldiers has another smaller one inside, and another one inside that.”

“We will prevail,”  said Napoleon. “We will take them by surprise. I plan for my army to march on its stomach. They won’t see us coming.”

“When are you going to go?” asked Josephine.

“Next month,” said Napoleon.

“Er, isn’t that winter?” said Josephine.

Napoleon did that shrug-and-moue gesture that only the French can manage. Monsieur Zhardin’s School Of Warfare might have been excellent at teaching how to move stuff around a map with a mini hockey-stick, the importance of keeping one hand on one’s weapon inside one’s coat at all times, and the value of brightly-coloured uniforms as camouflage in snow, but it taught sod-all about climate.

“it will be fine,” said Napoleon. “We’ll wear longue-jeans.”

*

(The image is from Wikipedia)

I’m Pressed. Impressed?

*

This is a modest, self-effacing blog run by a modest, self-effacing man.

Today, though, I am allowing myself to be immodest, though I’m not exactly sure that’s the phrase I’m looking for.

Each day WordPress has a page called “Freshly Pressed” on which it lists what it reckons are the best of that day’s posts, or, as it puts it itself: “the best of  515,249 bloggers, 1,056,179 new posts, 1,397,545 comments & 229,044,509 words posted today on WordPress.com”.

It says that on this page below (image-capture courtesy of Tinson2, I wouldn’t have a clue how to do it): 


And there, right at the front, is the piece I wrote about the blues yesterday. Out of 229 million words that they could have chosen, they have picked my 374.

I only discovered this because I idly flicked to my blog just before I left the office this evening and discovered that I had 15 comments awaiting moderation. I went rather fearfully into them, wondering had I accidentally offended some entire group of people (the Blues Brothers and their extended family, perhaps) and one of the comments said “congrats on making Freshly Pressed”.

I went to the WordPress page and there I am. Since I spent most of last year making fun of the Daily Post prompts WordPress have proven themselves to be bigger people than me, though since I’m only five-foot-five most people are.

The results have been pretty startling. People (and you are all so welcome along, by the way) have been commenting not just on yesterday’s post, but on others. People have ticked “Like”. People have said they are now following my blog. People have offered me their hand in marriage. I may have made that last bit up.

My stats chart for this month now looks like the skyline of Skibbereen would if someone built the Trump Tower at the end of the Main Street.

Tomorrow is, of course, another day, and my fifteen minutes of Pressedness will be over. But before I revert to my old, humble self, could I direct your attention again to the phrase “the best of 515,249 bloggers, 1,056,179 new posts” just in case you missed it the first time.

I’m thinking of changing the blog’s title to that.

Bad End

There was a long, anguished wail, a huge rumbling crash, and then silence.

“Sounds like we’ve got a new housemate,” said the Wicked Witch of the West.

An old hag appeared suddenly in the centre of the room. As they watched she changed slowly into a beautiful woman, though one who looked like she’d fallen off a cliff.

“What happened to you?” asked Grizella, from Hansel and Gretel.

“Fell off a cliff,” said the woman. “Where am I?”

“Grimm Villa,” said Rumplestiltskin. “It’s reserved for the baddies from Fairy Tales. We get sent here after we’ve met our sticky end, though that sentence may not have come out as I intended it to.”

“What tale are you from?” asked Ralf, the wolf from Red Riding Hood.

“Snow White,” said the newcomer. “My name is Queen Gloriana. My mirror told me that the little cow was more beautiful than me, I hunted her, gave her the poisoned apple, yadda, yadda, got chased, blah, blah, fell off cliff.”

“Chased by who?” asked Elementra, the witch from Sleeping Beauty.

“The dwarves.”

“Dwarves?” said the Wicked Witch of the West. “You mean, like munchkins?”

“Er, yes, but there were loads of them,” said Gloriana defensively.

“How many?” asked Rolf, Ralf’s cousin from the Three Little Pigs.

“Fifty,” said Gloriana. She looked at their sceptical faces. “Seven,” she mumbled.

“Pathetic,” said the Wicked Witch of the West.

“Really?” said Gloriana defiantly. “And how did you die?”

“A house fell on me.”

“Oh,” said Gloriana. “I suppose that is impressive.”

“Sure was,” said Ralf. “CSI had to identify her by her shoes.”

“Don’t worry, you’re not the saddest of us,” said the Wicked Witch. “Grizella got pushed into an oven by two kids.”

“I was blind,” said Grizella. “They were eating the house of a blind woman. How I ended up as the baddie of that story I’ll never know.”

“Same with me,” said Ralf. “I mean humans eat rashers, ham, bacon all day everyday, but when I chase three pigs I get called the Big Bad Wolf.”

“Yeah,” said Rolf. “And all I did was eat a granny.”

“Er, that actually is quite bad,” said Elementra.

“Oh well,” said Gloriana, “I may be dead, but at least that wagon Snow White is too.”

“Don’t be too sure,” said the Wicked Witch of the West.

“What do you mean?”

“You poisoned her, didn’t you? But yet she’ll wake up if she gets kissed, and you can bet she will, even though her kisser will believe she’s dead, some men would get off with anything. It’s the same with all of us, we have to send them to sleep, or turn them into frogs, or make them guess our name -”

“- which your mum had sown onto your underwear,” said Elementra to Rumplestiltskin. “She saw it when you bent over to pick up the gold.”

“Is that how she did it?” said Rumplestiltskin. “I’ve always wondered.”

“My, what big brains you’ve got,” muttered Rolf.

“What I’m saying is, we’re not allowed to just shoot our enemy, or chop her into bits,” continued the Wicked Witch. “We have to give her a chance to escape.”

“It’s called Bond Villain Syndrome.” said Elementra.

Grand Designs

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “a grand entrance”. God seems to be in a surprising number of my stories lately…

*************************************************

“Er, it certainly is a grand entrance,” God said, looking up at the Gates of Heaven.

His cloudmates, having spent many an hour watching makeover programmes on TV, had talked him into doing the place up and so it was that they’d hired St Claude, patron saint of tat, the man who had designed Caesar’s Palace, the rings around Saturn, and the island of Krakatoa (it was supposed to have simply been an eternal fireworks display, but, as St Peter said afterwards, “D’you reckon you used enough dynamite there, Claude?”).

Getting the Heaven contract had been a big deal for Claude, so he had not stinted on expense, loud taste  or garishness.

“Why are the gates two hundred feet tall?” asked God. “The average person going through them will be about five feet nine.

“This is Heaven,” said Claude. “We must impress new members.”

“Why?” asked God. “It’s not like they’ll decide to go somewhere else if they’re not impressed. And how come the Gates are so shiny?”

“They’re Pearly Gates.”

“Is that not the name of a blues singer?” said God, who was more into Choral music himself.

“No, I mean that the Gates are made of pearls,” said Claude.

“Wow,” said God. “How many oyster shells did you have to open to get all those?”

“Just one,” said Claude. “We created one giant oyster, with loads of pearls inside its shell.”

“And where is this oyster now?” asked God, a little queasily.

Claude pointed toward the night sky. God realised that what he had thought was the Andromeda Nebula was actually a giant oyster, drifting through space.

He peered out through the gates and down the long, long Stairway to Heaven. He felt himself getting Vertigo.

“I’m almost afraid to ask, but how long is the stairway?”

“Three million miles.”

“Dear God,” said God. “Why have one at all? Heaven is all around. You just die, and you’re here.”

“But people believe that you ascend to heaven, therefore they have to climb a stair, or they won‘t believe they’re here. It’s all about giving the public what it wants.”

“And what about what I want?” said God. “We just had a simple front door, painted a soothing blue, with the number 1 on it. It had a door-bell that played Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door when you rang it, and a small sign that said “No Junk Mail” above the letter-box, and before you ask, yes, I do get post, though it’s mostly letters from St Paul. It was homely, and comforting to new visitors bewildered by the sudden change in their circumstances. I preferred the old entrance.”

Claude looked crestfallen, so crestfallen that God said “oh, just leave it,” and walked back to his throne.

The Devil was sitting on it, drinking coffee from God’s mug (it had “you don’t have to be a supreme deity to work here, but it helps” written on it).

“Hi,” he said. “Don’t worry, I’m not staying, I just came to see what you did with the place.”

“How did you get in?” gasped God, who’s omniscience was having a really bad day.

The Devil stood up, handed God his mug, and started to leave.

“Simple,” he said. “There’s no Pearly Wall. I just walked in around the gates.”

Sunshine On Our Shoulders

I remember summers.

I’m saying this at 7 a.m. on a cold bus with windows that have rain streaked almost horizontally across them (it‘s the bus that has the windows, not me). They are steamed up from the breath and the dampness of the clothing of the passengers, so that staring out of them tells me nothing. We might be as far as Bray, we might have reached the Motorway, we may have got lost and be in Venice.
The streets are certainly wet enough, though I think Venice would be warmer.

But I remember summers when the sun shone all day, every day. Summers when we would swim in Sandycove Harbour or at the Forty-Foot just beside it. The Forty-Foot, by the way, was a gentleman’s bathing place, meaning that women were barred so that men could swim naked if they wished. I’m not sure why they felt the need to do that, unless they felt the need to show off the small blue walnut now sprouting from their groin.

This was because the water was cold. You were not allowed to say that, of course. You had to inch your way in, gasping to catch your breath, shuddering when the first wave hit your swimming trunks and, when it hit your chest, feeling for a second as if your heart had stopped. You then plunged forward swam for about four strokes, then lifted your head, picked a slimy strip of seaweed from across your face and announced “It’s lovely”.

But if the water was cold, the sun was hot. When we had finished swimming we would run around, shirtless and wearing Factor er, Nothing, stubbing our toes against stones and occasional pieces of broken glass. Our backs would turn the colour, and texture, of a ham, and would sting at the slightest touch. You knew that because your friends, upon spotting any redness, would slap you cheerily on the back. That’s what friends are for, at that age.

As the sun sank we would slip t-shirts onto skin covered in sea-salt, rawness and the beginnings of peeling, and head home to sleep, on our sides, so that we could rise early to do the same thing again the following day.

You may say that I am looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses, though there were no such thing as sunglasses in those days (if the sun was too bright you squinted, what else is the ability to squint for?). You may also say (and please do) that I am too young to be indulging in nostalgia.

All I know is that I haven’t been sunburnt for years. And I know that it wouldn’t be pleasant if I were.

But it would be nice to at least have the option.

Mixed Emotions

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “ambivalence”…

********************************************************

He’d be here in a minute.

He’d come through that door, greet her warmly, and act as if nothing had happened, as if it hadn’t been six weeks since she’d last heard from him. He’d tell her some incredible story about where he’d been.

The annoying thing was that the story would be true. His job took him all over the world, while she stayed here, waiting, wondering if this time would he come back at all.

And wondering why she was still here for him, why she hadn’t moved on, why she hadn’t found someone more attentive, more caring, more, well, safe.

He made her laugh. People always say that’s important about a man, but in the same way they say that a girl “has a wonderful personality”. What the sentence means is “not very attractive”.

The thing was that he was attractive, maddeningly so. Women would throw themselves at a man like him. While he was on his travels they probably did.

She never asked. She was afraid to hear the answer.

He was childish. He drove too fast, drank too much, got into fights – oh, lots of fights. But he was also manly – strong, brave, willing to stand up for what was right.

He could be thoughtless, sometimes astonishingly so, and he could be kind, sometimes astonishingly so.

And he did make her laugh, and think, and love, and sometimes he made her want to hit him in the face with a frying-pan.

He drove her wild, sometimes with desire, sometimes not. She loved him, and she hated him because she loved him, and because she knew that she could never be with anyone else but him.

And because she wasn’t with him. She wasn’t his wife, she wasn’t even his girlfriend, they just worked together. She wondered did that make her sad. Or pathetic. Or a stalker.

It was nine o’clock. The office door opened, and there he was.

“Hello, Moneypenny,” he said.

Star-Spangled Banger

To my American friends, Happy 4th of July, and here’s a story to honor (note spelling, just for today) one of your greatest treasures…. 

***************************************************

“I have to say I’m dubious,” said Mr Edwards, Manager of the Charlotte First Commercial Bank.

“Don’t worry, they’ll sell like hot cakes,” said his client, Mr Feltman.

“Then why not just sell hot cakes.”

“Because this is new, and a challenge.”

“That’s true,” said Mr Edwards, “getting people to eat hot dog certainly will be a challenge.”

“Here, I’ve brought a prototype,” said his client. He reached into his briefcase and produced a small cylindrical-shaped piece of what seemed to be pink meat.

“What’s that?” asked Mr Edwards faintly.

“It’s a wiener.”

“That’s what I was afraid of,” said Mr Edwards, even more faintly.

Mr Feltman took a bun from his briefcase, sliced a gash along the side of it with a large knife (I’ll have to have a word with Security, thought Mr Edwards, there’s no way he should have been able to get that into a bank) and placed the wiener inside.

“It looks most appetising,” said Mr Edwards.

“It does, doesn’t it?” said Mr Feltman, to whom sarcasm was a closed book, rather like cookery books. “It’s not finished yet, this mustard gets poured onto it,” he continued. He produced a bottle and applied a dirty yellow goo to the wiener in a wavy line, like a child’s drawing of the sea. “It’ll be served in this paper tissue, which will stick to the mustard. This will add flavor.”

“It could probably use it. And your saying that this delicacy will be called Hot Dog.”

“No, a Hot-Dog. If I called it just Hot Dog people would think there was dog in it.”

“Which there isn’t.”

“What? No, there’s no dog, there’s just sausage, made from, er, whatever sausage is made from.” Mr Feltman looked down at the wiener, then up at Mr Edwards. “Gee, you didn’t think -”

“Of course not. But why mention the word dog in something you’re trying to get people to eat?”

“It’s a catchy name. It’s called marketing.”

“It’s called madness.”

Mr Feltman looked crestfallen. “So does that mean you won’t lend me the money?”

Mr Edwards knew he should say no. But he was still haunted by the time, when he was very young, when he’d refused a loan to an old Colonel who’d wanted to sell chicken in a bucket. “Ok, I’ll lend it to you,” he said.

The rest is history. Mr Feltman made a fortune, Mr Edwards got promoted, and finally stopped having the nightmare where people surrounded him, shouting the strange phrase “you turned down the beetles”.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting Moment

Photographers who struggle with WordPress’s Weekly Photo Challenge should try having a computer that will no longer let you load photos from your mobile onto it. In such a situation most people would retire defeated, but I am not most people, I am an idiot. So from now until I get some 21st century equipment I’m going to treat the Photo Challenge as a writing challenge…..

****************************************************

It took just one fleeting moment. Maybe it was the cosmic dust that caused it. Anyway, for whatever reason, God sneezed.

“Bless you,” said Gabriel. God looked at him.

“What?” said Gabriel. “It’s an expression.”

God had never sneezed before, and therefore was unaware that One has to put something to One’s nose if One is to avoid possible embarrassment. He and Gabriel suddenly noticed the small ball of blue-green snot that was drifting slowly across space.

“Er, I’ll clean that up for you,” said Gabriel.

“No, wait a sec,” said God. The ball had begun to revolve around a star, close enough to it to start to warm the ball up. Even as they stared, small stirrings began in what is known, very accurately, as the Primordial Ooze.

“It’s alive,” whispered Gabriel, like a Frankenstein’s Igor.

God stared in fascination at it. “I’m going to put beings on it,” he said.

“What kind of beings?” asked Gabriel.

“I’m going to create, er, man,” said God.

“What does that mean?”

“It means ‘word I just made up’. This man will be created in mine own image.”

“What, a million feet tall and totally invisible?”

“No, he will have eyes, ears -”

“-and a nose -”

“Yes, and a nose, just like me.”

“What will he do all day? There’s not a lot of fun to be had on your own on a ball of snot.”

“He won’t be alone,” said God. “He will have a mate.”

“What, like the way you and me are mates?” asked Gabriel.

“Not exactly. Eventually there will be lots of mans.”

“Will they live in the clouds?”

“No.”

“Will they have wings?”

“No.”

“Will they be immortal?”

“No.”

“They sound a bit pathetic,” said Gabriel.

They do, don’t they, thought God. He looked into their future. He saw wars, and cruelties, and petty stupidity, and half thought of giving up the whole idea. But he looked a bit deeper. He saw music, and poetry, and the astonishing creation that is laughter. He saw warmth, and kindness, and he saw love.

“They won’t be pathetic,” he said proudly. “They’ll be magnificent.”
 

Home On The Range

Image via blackandwtf.tumblr.com

At the Inkslingers Workshop on Saturday we tried visual prompts. The girl who runs it showed us three photos, and asked us to pick one and write for 15 minutes about it. The photo on the right is the one that I chose, and the words below are the ones that I wrote….

He’d said he had to work late.

The dumbass fool, he thought she wouldn’t be able to hear the clink of glasses, the crack of pool-balls, the whine of Achy Breaky Heart coming from the juke-box behind him.

He wasn’t working late. He was in Jethro’s Bar again.

He’d be home around eleven, driving erratically up the dirt-track and into their yard, pulling to a halt in a spray of dirt in front of the porch, probably on top of her petunias again.

He’d make some excuse, that he’d been working with Bill-Joe, or Jeb-Bob, or Jake-Chuck, or some other dumbass double-barrelled names, and that they’d just gone for the one afterwards.

No-one gets that drunk on just one beer. She could drink three-quarters of a  bottle of Jack Daniels and not get drunk. In fact she’d done it just now.

Which was why, instead of the traditional rolling-pin, she was awaiting him with the rifle he used to shoot deer, or at them at any rate.

She wasn’t going to kill him, because she was a God-fearin’ Tennessee woman. But he was her man and had done her wrong, so she was gonna wound him, somewhere it would hurt.

That was why she’d put the telescopic-sight on the rifle. She didn’t reckon she had a very big target to aim at.

Hello My Lovely

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “Nom de Plume”…

************************************************

The Lady By The Lake, by Anne Murphy.
It was a splendid day at the Lake Rosebud Village Annual Fete. The sun shone brightly, the day was warm and a soft gentle breeze played playfully at the ladies’ summer dresses. Linda Sweetsoul, waving a magazine in front of her perfectly formed face to keep cool, was crossing the Green when she saw him. He was at the High Striker, and she watched how his muscles flexed beneath his shirt as he brought down the mallet. The lever shot to the top and rang a bell, both on the machine and in her heart. Her hand clasped at her perfectly formed bosom.
His hair was the colour of corn, his eyes the colour of cornflower, his tan the colour of corn-plasters –

“Seriously, Mister Chandler?” said Myrna Dancer, my literary agent. “Tan the colour of corn-plasters?”

I was startled. I’d been enjoying listening. I thought it was a good read, like the will of a wealthy uncle. I thought that because I’d written it.

Times were hard, harder than the heart of an ex-wife. Book sales were falling faster than a cat on a hot greased roof, bourbon prices were rising faster than the blood pressure of a banker, and money was tighter than Santa Claus’s belt.

It was Myrna who’d suggested that I write for Mills and Boon.

“They wouldn‘t let me,” I’d said. “I’ve seen the books, filling shelf after shelf like German cheeses in a Lidl store. They’re all written by dames.”

“Shows what you know,” Myrna had said. “They’re all men writing under noms de plume.”

I’d stared blankly at her, since I don’t speak Italian.

“It means pen-name,” she’d sighed, crossing her perfectly formed legs. “Petunia Chasteheart is really George Orwell, Emily Boyscomb is Arthur Miller, Evelyn Goodlove is Evelyn Waugh. They’re all at it.”

“All?” I’d said. “Surely not Hemingway.”

“Victoria Swooning.”

“Wow,” I’d said. No wonder he’s always getting into bar-brawls.”

“Men have been writing for Mills and Boon ever since Dickens wrote A Christmas With Carol, under the name of Festera Snozzlebutt.” There was a second of silence. “He was never great with names,” she’d admitted.

And now we were in her office and she was holding out my manuscript as if it was a four-day old fish. “It’s not bad for a first draft. Change Linda to Lydia, cornflowers to sapphires, corn-plasters to gold, and if you use the phrase “perfectly-formed” once more I’ll beat you to death with your own fedora.” She stood and walked to the door, hips swaying like the Lake Rosebud Rope Bridge on a windy day. I walked behind her, admiring a rear that I’d have described as perfectly formed, if I’d been allowed to.

As I left she said “and Anne Murphy is too dull. You’re now Stella Starlight.”

I was back three days later. She asked what took me so long, apparently some of the writers could do two of these books a day. She took the manuscript and continued reading from where we’d left off.

Lydia ran into him at the lemonade bar. He introduced himself as Chad Brad Cuthbert Byceptz. He wore his sweater draped over his shoulders, a sure sign that he was a pillock gentleman. There was a pale sweat on his brow from his exertions with the mallet, and she could smell the musky scent of his manhood manliness.
They talked until the sun sank, and on into the evening. He asked could he walk her home, and she invited him in. She offered him a drink, he said yes, so she took a bottle of bourbon from her desk drawer made some iced tea. Eventually he leaned forward and kissed her, and they went at it like bunnies went into her bedroom and closed the door ….

On and on it went, through break-ups then reconciliations, through heartbreak then joy, through bedrooms then lines of dots.

If it were a movie it would have had Jennifer Aniston in it.

I thought it sucked harder than a vampire with a toffee apple. Myrna thought it was great, and paid me a sum with more zeroes than a Norwegian Eurovision Song Contest entry. I took it and went home, feeling dirtier than the loser in a dung-throwing fight.

After a while I sat at my typewriter, and began to write:

Hammer Blow, by Raymond Chandler.
I could tell she was trouble as soon as she walked into the office. She had lips as red as rubies, legs as long as a Tolkein film and a rack you could stand trophies on.
“Are you Philip Marlowe?” she asked.
“That’s what it says on the door, doll,” I said.
“And you’re a dick?”
I shrugged. I’ve been called worse. “If you mean Private Detective, then yes.”
“I need your help,” she said. “My name’s Lydia Byceptz, my husband Cuthbert is dead, beaten with a fairground mallet, the cops think I did it and the people who really did it are after me.”

I made some iced tea took a bottle of bourbon from my desk drawer, and set myself comfortably on the chair.
This was going to be fun.