Bubble, by @LorrieHartshorn

Cross-posted from: Circles Under Street Lights

And she’s swimming, and she’s swimming, and be damned if she’s not trying her best to look like she’s got this covered, like she knows what she’s doing, instead of how she really is, which is exhausted after two lengths of the pool and seasick as hell. The little old guy who got in after her is slicing through the water like a speedboat to her left, and she wonders – between trying to time her breathing right and sucking her chin in and trying to look suitably, casually happy – whether there might not be someone under the water, pushing him along while he rotates his arms dutifully. There’s probably a market for that, she thinks.

Speedboat man is coming up fast again, doing the big-mouth-breathing thing and sending up a tidal wave in her direction. She flounders on top of the swell then drops into the sudden dip that follows, feeling the toast she stuffed down an hour earlier roll like oil in her stomach. God knows there’s enough water in there to set it afloat, and to sink her oversized body like a rock. ….

 

This was first published by Pithead Chapel. You can read the full piece here.

 

 

Circles Under Streetlights : Circles Under Streetlights is the personal blog of Lorrie Hartshorn who is an English literary and speculative fiction writer, whose work has appeared in The F-Word, FlashFlood, Six Sentences, 1000 Words, The Pygmy Giant, Six Words, The Literary Nest, Compose, Anthem and Vagabond. @LorrieHartshorn

 

Honesty at Blues in a tea cup

Cross-posted from: Blues in a tea cup
Originally published: 18.07.17

The flower bed in the lee of the wall on the beach road has flourished in the year since it was replanted. Amongst the tangle of oxeye daisies and fading thrift, a glimpse of honesty takes me to a time when those papery seed heads grew alongside carrots and sweet peas in the garden of my childish dreams.

“Why is it called honesty?”

“Because you can see right through it,” my mother said, as we patted the earth over the seeds together.


Read more Honesty at Blues in a tea cup

Darkroom at She means well but ….

Cross-posted from: She means well but .....
Originally published: 23.10.17

That’s where it started. In the darkroom. I’d spent the afternoon taking pictures of a sixteen-year-old with the wholesome teeth and unchallenged confidence of a future beauty queen.

Sarah. That was her name. You know the type. Clear-skinned, bright-eyed, conventional little blonde. Aced her exams, dating the captain of the cricket team, raised on a diet of praise as she swanned her way to adulthood. Almost certainly head prefect material. Pretty, polite, practically perfect for the niche carved out for her. And dull as ditchwater.

 

What could I do? Pampered little madams like her paid my rent. Picture perfect portraits of good girls that never betrayed the small cruelties they inflicted on the outcasts at school. Studio portraits for the yearbook, doting grandparents, distant aunts and uncles, whatever – that was my bread and butter. After the strikes and shortages of the “Winter of Discontent” the papers had been screaming about, I couldn’t afford to turn good business away, could I?


Read more Darkroom at She means well but ….

cheeseburgers and Ikea bags, at Blues in a tea cup

Cross-posted from: Blues in a tea cup.
Originally published: 08.08.17

It’s dark the way only an October night in England can be, and raining a baptism. I’m walking home from Mrs M’s, reflecting on the fragility of life. In truth, I’ve believed Mrs M to be immortal until now, but she’s 92 and so frail it’s taken two of us to get her into bed tonight.  My faith is beginning to waver.  I don’t yet know the day when I’ll hold her hand while she fights her last battle is less than eight weeks away, but there’s a sense of finality. 
Read more cheeseburgers and Ikea bags, at Blues in a tea cup

IN THE WAKE by @LorrieHartshorn

Cross-posted from: Lorrie Hartshorn

nighttrafficI.

My lullaby is the rumble of trucks as they cut through the town on their way to anywhere else. This is not a destination.

II.

The horizon is an impassive witness. The brow of a hill, the curve of a road framed by firs. It watches you as you go about your daily business, crawling into adulthood then stooping back out the other side. Perhaps one day it will approach and share what it’s seen. For now, it slides further away if we, fools that we are, try to reach it.


Read more IN THE WAKE by @LorrieHartshorn

Alex’s Dream

Cross-posted from: Generation Why
Originally published: 16.10.16

2016 Friday 12th of august 15:43

Dad said this morning I wasn’t allowed to bring my diary to the church but I didn’t listen. He says my dream job writing isn’t proper whatever that means. So when dad took my diary he put it in his desk drawer that he puts everything he doesn’t want me touching in. He thinks I can’t get in because he locks it but then he just puts the key on his desk. My dad isn’t very smart; all he does is watch TV and “teach”, He supposed to be a teacher but all he does is hire this guy to pretend to be him. Everyone tells me I shouldn’t complain cause he’s rich and has a big house, but they don’t know him like I do. Only 2 people in the entire world know him like I do, my best friend and my mum. My mum is dead now but she understood me when I complained. She said he was a nice man when he met him but as he grew older his heart got smaller. It got even worse when mum was diagnosed with cancer. It was weeks and weeks of back and fourth to the hospital. Soon mum lost her hair and then she died n the 28th of july. That’s why I’m here its mum’s funeral. 


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Whisky in a Storm by @sianushka

Cross-posted from: sian and crooked rib
Originally published: 16.04.16

The taxi dropped David at the end of a long gravel drive. It was still light – midsummer – and the sky was heavy. It had not been a good summer. The sun had struggled all month to break through the barriers of clouds.

‘Just down there,’ the taxi driver said, pointing, as David paid the £20 fare. ‘It’s a ten minute walk. Full of potholes,’ he grumbled. ‘Wreck my tyres to take you all the way down.’

David nodded. After seven hours on the train and twenty minutes in the cab he could do with the walk.  Stretch his legs.

He stopped, and turned back to the driver who was pulling away.

‘Sorry,’ David said. ‘Have you got a card? In case I need you to pick me up?’ He didn’t know what welcome awaited him at the end of the driveway. He should’ve contacted Leonie first, let her know he had thought about it, let her know he was coming. What an idiot, he thought. She might not even be here.
Read more Whisky in a Storm by @sianushka

Does Kindness Kill Vision?

Cross-posted from: Halo Lit Mag
Originally published: 18.04.16

Here at Halo Towers (yes, we have an actual castle), we’ve been talking a lot about kindness recently. We figured it was worth sharing some of those thoughts on here, so they’re down in writing and you know what to expect from us if you ever submit your work to Halo.

NEWSFLASH: Creative writing is hard. NEWSFLASH 2: Submitting your writing is even harder because you’re making yourself vulnerable—you’ve not only produced something that you think is good, you’re sending it to someone else in the hope that they’ll think that it’s good as well. You’re asking to be judged, by a stranger, on something you’ve put your heart into. It takes guts.

I decided to found Halo – which is a literary mag just for women’s short fiction – because I wanted women writers to have an opportunity to be heard. But, women are notoriously reluctant to submit their work anywhere – often, we’re basically convinced we suck. In order to encourage women to come forward, I knew there needed to be a level of kindness and openness in our interactions and online content.


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The Inri Letters – Part 1: Mother’s lament at She means well

Cross-posted from: She means well ...
Originally published: 15.10.15

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 08.21.31Dear Sarah,

Well, I suppose you’ve heard the news.

My boy’s been arrested, and he’s not talking to anyone. Not even me. His mother, for heaven’s sake.

I can imagine the gossip in the village market this week. I bet they’re lapping it up, aren’t they? Especially that bitch Katy from the bakers. She must be having a field day. She’s always been jealous.

Our boys were born on the same day, in the same hospital. Did you know that? And, if you wanted proof that there’s absolutely nothing to all the rubbish about star signs and horoscopes, it was those two lads. They grew up just a few blocks from each another, too. Matt was a loud, annoying child as soon as he was old enough to kick a ball around in the back streets. Always making a racket with the other lads after school when my boy was trying to read his books.

Not that it’s surprising. My son had my undivided love and attention, while Katy had five other brats to take care of. No wonder that Matt went feral. Even now, he’s nothing more than a glorified barrow boy, for all his millions and that awful, extravagant house he’s built just outside town.

I can’t help wondering what I did wrong. How I failed my boy. He had everything he ever wanted growing up – not that he ever asked for much. He was clever too, too clever for those idiots they called teachers at the village school. How else could he have possibly have been ‘just’ an average student?

So how we did end up here, with him sitting in prison and refusing see anyone? I wish I knew.

Personally, I blame that lecturer at college. Filled his head with all sorts of ideas. Introduced him to unsavoury sorts who filled my nice, clean house with smoke, loud music and long conversations late into the night. Eating my food without even a “thank you”as if I was some kind of skivvy serving at the table of their ‘higher cause’. They sat around talking about equality and fraternity – but who did the washing up when they’d all passed out on the living room floor? Yes, you guessed it.

And then there was that strumpet, always hanging on his arm. Stroking his hair like he was her special pet. Like he was her property. Not even she had the common decency to offer a helping hand when I fetched and carried as they plotted late into the night. Playing the Lady – like I didn’t know where she’d come from, or what she really was.

But did I ever complain, or leave them wanting? No. Not once.

Let’s face it, they were the first group who ever really befriended him, the first friends he’d ever had over for a meal. I could hardly turn them away, could I?

The only one who showed the slightest decency towards to me was that Jude. A strange lad. Always so intense, so much in earnest. A little bit too eager. A little bit too fey (not that he stood a chance with my boy). But to give credit where it’s due, Jude was the only one to speak to me like I mattered. His praise of me as “the woman that made the man who leads” us was almost embarrassing at times. Almost.

I wonder what’s become of him  now?

Sarah, I want you to do me a favour. When they ask you what you know about the whole thing (and let’s face it, they will, everyone knows you’re my favourite cousin) just tell them that he’s a victim of wrongful arrest. That it’s all been a huge mistake, it’s a conspiracy, and that he’ll be out soon. That one day, they’ll be proud to tell the world that he came from THEIR village.

And if my mother asks you, just tell her that her grandson has gone abroad to study for a few years.

Please write back soon, and let me know what that fishwife Katy has been saying. I wouldn’t wish ill on anyone, you know that, but so far as I’m concerned she can go drown in all those fancy cushions her loud-mouthed son has swamped her with from the leftover stock from his import-export business.

And just one more thing? Can you drop this cheque in the collection box when you go to church on Sunday? Just make sure you leave it open so everyone can see who it’s from.

Meanwhile, I’ll give my boy your love when he finally agrees to see me. And I’ll let him know that you’ll have a plate of your famous almond pastries waiting for him when he gets comes home.

Because he will, of course, be coming home.

Won’t he?

With love,

Your cousin, Mary.

 

She Means Well I’m a feminist, loud and proud, but I’m also married and have a son. I demand to be treated equally based on my qualities and abilities, not the ‘equipment’ I was born with – but I am a firm believer that humour is one of life’s essential and that, yes, silliness DOES save lives. My blog covers a wide range of subjects, mostly in a mildly humourous way, including life as a transplanted Brit living in Greece, the imagined thoughts of my cat in The Kitty Letter Chronicles, things that make me go “Hmmmm” and things that make me go “Aaaaagh!”

Nothing is Perfect; Everything is Perfect at Circles Under Streetlights

Willow

NOTHING IS PERFECT; EVERYTHING IS PERFECT

Come and sit, says the tree, its long branches swaying in the breeze.

Rachel’s breath is raw in her throat, each inhale a jagged tear in her skinny chest. She doesn’t remember running this far but now here she is, bent double in front of the willow at the end of the road. She has never been out this late before, not on her own, and bed-time was a long time ago. She doesn’t know if that’s a good thing.

Come closer, Rachel. Show us the bruises he has left on you.

 


Read more Nothing is Perfect; Everything is Perfect at Circles Under Streetlights

The egg

I come from my mother, full as an egg with the weight that sits and grows, sinking into her pelvis, into the centre of her like a truth. I am plump and round and perfect, as the midwives declare my sex, and for a moment, all is whole. One has become two, and each of those two is one. A whole.

Crossing the road with my mother when I am 11. She launches a volley of fury at a man passing us. Somewhere, later, I learn that my swelling breasts, still tiny mounds on a child’s body, had drawn his eye down. A little piece of me is nipped away.

A dark bus station, 14 years old, counting the chewing gum pebbles on the bricks. A man sits next to me. His hands, my legs, my skirt. I am giddy with relief when another man comes to help, hollowed a little more when he asks me to show him my gratitude. The police come and my mother, who was the start of me, tells me I will be the death of her. Another chunk of me falls away.


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The Bell by Katharine Edgar

Cross-posted from: Katharine Edgar
Originally published: 30.10.14

A Halloween story for children:

This is actually a true story. It happened in this house. I didn’t want to tell you before in case you were scared. Is everyone ok with hearing the story? You can go and play in the dining room if you like. The lights are on in there.

You all want to hear it?

All right then.

This is something that happened in Victorian times, about a hundred and fifty years ago. At that time the house belonged to one very rich old lady who lived here all by herself. Her name was Mrs Taylor.

Now, when I say by herself, she actually had servants. There was a gardener called Mr Bean who lived down the street and just came in the morning, but there was also a cook-housekeeper called Mrs Brain who slept in the attic and most of the time, another servant girl who would be the maid-of-all-work.
Read more The Bell by Katharine Edgar