Flash fiction 300 – Late Mail

Late Mail

My phone pinged with a message. I expected it to be a friend, checking in after David’s funeral.

‘Hello Lauren. You think you’ve got away with it, don’t you?’

It was David, but it couldn’t be, we’d just cremated him. Someone had hacked his account.

‘Who is this?’

‘Did you really think you could murder me and not be caught?’

Nobody knew what had really happened other than me and David, and he was dead.

‘David’s death was an accident. Stop this cruel joke now or I’ll report you to the police.’

They police had questioned me, maybe suspected me, but I claimed never to have taken the tiller before, that I was confused, that I was trying to stop the boat. Putting it into reverse was judged by the coroner as an accident. 

‘I saw you looking at me, you knew what you were doing.’

‘You’re not David. Please stop this.’

‘Would the police have believed you if they knew you spent every childhood holiday on a canal boat?’

My stomach lurched. My childhood and my father’s abuse was a closed book. I spoke to nobody about it, other than David, I had trusted him, until he made a joke of it that day, one he paid for with his life.

‘Whoever you are you’re crazy.’

‘Not crazy, but I am angry. And you’ve made one mistake.’

‘You can’t be David, you’re dead.’

‘You still have those photographs.’

I should have burned them. Photographs of me as a teenager, at the tiller, threading my father’s narrow boat into a lock.

I’ve emailed Detective Connery. He knows where the photographs are.

There was a knock on the front door. I looked through the window and Detective Connery was outside, with three other officers.

“Open the door please, Mrs Baker.”

Flash fiction 500 – First Love

First Love

Mary started painting again when she retired to a small village on the coast. She joined a local art group who met in an old chapel. She never saw herself as talented, despite three years at Art College in her youth, but she enjoyed the way the brush moved on the paper, leaving a trail of colour in its wake. Her husband had died the year before and she was now free to express herself in ways that would have previously been viewed as frivolous.

They never had children. In latter years Marcus thought more of his garden than her, treating the lawn with studied care, cherishing his chrysanthemums with the same tenderness of touch she had once enjoyed.

“That’s very good Mary?”

The voice of the instructor made her start. Mary hadn’t been thinking about what she was painting, but on the paper in front of her was the face of a young man, one she recognised even though the nose was a peculiar shade of blue.

“It looks like Peter.”

Mary didn’t know who Peter was. The face before her had been stored in her memory for fifty years. It was David, a boy she had dated and fallen in love with when she was sixteen years old. He moved away with his parents when his father was offered a promotion. For a few months they had exchanged letters, but the interval between each communication grew longer. He never replied to her last letter in which she had enclosed a pressed flower, a silly gesture.

Curiosity drew others to her painting. Mary wanted to cover it with her hands, but let them rest on the table.

“It does look like Peter,” said a woman she thought was called Anne. “You must have met him?”

“It’s just a face,” Mary said.

All agreed that it was an astonishing likeness and someone said that she must show it to David.

“David?” She repeated. Her throat contracted.

“He owns the Three Ducks, Peter is his son. He works there at weekends. You must have seen him.”

Mary hadn’t been in the village inn. She had no objection to alcohol and enjoyed a glass of wine, but Marcus had not been one for socialising.

“Oh I couldn’t show it to him. I don’t even know him.”

“Join me,” Anne said, I often pop in after class.

Mary wasn’t sure, but accepted the invitation.

She wondered where David’s life had taken him. Would they even have stayed together had he not moved away?

“But don’t mention Peter’s mother, she left when he was ten.”

“I wasn’t going to interrogate him.”

When they entered the Three Ducks, the barman had his back to them. Grey hair suggested it wasn’t Peter. He turned and indeed it wasn’t the boy she had drawn, but the man he had become. Behind his shoulder, propped on a shelf, was a small frame holding a dried flower. Many years had passed, but it had somehow retained its colour.

Hannah’s Island – location

A work in progress. A post apocalyptic novel of sorts, but set in somewhere between a dystopian and utopian world.

map of Hannah's Island

The location for this novel is significant. I wanted to set it on an island, an enclosed, somewhat isolated environment. I also realised that I needed some sort of conflict or I wouldn’t have a story to tell.

This stumped me for a week or so, but one day I had one of those lightbulb moments and decided that an unexpected visitor would upset the apple cart in an otherwise idyllic but basic, rural, closed community. I knew almost instantly how the newcomer would affect lives of those already there – but why has the visitor come?

While I was thinking about this I decided to draw a map of Hannah’s Island. I needed to know where everyone was going to live and their relative positions. I also researched how much land a small population would require for real self sufficiency. It will make life easier to have this reference to hand while writing.

Hannah’s Island – disaster strikes

A work in progress. A post apocalyptic novel of sorts, but set in somewhere between a dystopian and utopian world.

A wave breaking over a road

The first disaster I envisaged for this novel is rising sea levels (it didn’t take much imagining). I had come across a map of how various coastlines, and indeed whole countries, would change if the worst case scenario happened. Transport, communication, shipping (ports would have to be relocated), cities (many are on the coast) would all be lost. Life would change slowly and we would adapt. But our infrastructure has taken hundreds of years to evolve and the land masses would be different – and the available material resources.

With so much infrastructure beneath the sea would salvaging of metals become a potential income stream for an individual?
What happens when food has to be more locally sourced?
What happens if other disasters disrupt the rebuilding process?

Gender fluidity in creative writing

Flip book for children

A man writing women’s fiction?

I am a man writing women’s commercial fiction. I never set out to trespass into a genre that is usually written ‘by women’ and ‘for women’, it just happened.

When I was a child we had flip books that showed us how bizarre gender stereotyping is. They don’t exist now in the same simplistic format, I presume because the gender specific portrayals they were based on are no longer acceptable. But if your based the characters on a man baking a cake, a female firefighter, a male nurse and a businesswoman, maybe it would still work – or maybe not.

I am just setting out the plot of a new novel, set around one hundred years in the future and the protagonist is not only female, but a teenager – as is the second most prominent character. This novel has a working title of Hannah’s Island. I plan to post the way the idea grows each week – without giving away the plot I hope.

Does everyone, except autobiographers, write outside their own personal experience?