CHAPTER SIX FICTION FOCUS ON SHORT FICTION
IN THE NEW COLLECTION SOMEONE SOMEWHERE ENJOY STORIES FROM 75 WORDS TO 27,000. FLASH FICTION TO NOVELLAS.
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Someone is somewhere, but are they where they should be and who are they?
Enjoy two novellas, four short stories and two chapters of flash fiction. Some of the tales have a connection; in all the stories you will find the boundaries hazy between lost and found, living and dead, human or personhood.
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Someone For The Weekend
Friday 28th March 2014
‘Mother, are you listening? Your own personal autonomous robot assistant for the week, you can sit with your feet up while it does all the housework.’
‘I have got other things to do beside housework’ I objected, but I still felt a thrill as it dawned on me what he was saying. ‘Is it like that TV drama where you couldn’t tell the difference?’
‘Not exactly, that was science fiction, robots rarely look like humans, they just have to think like them. I’ll bring it in now it’s dark, don’t want the neighbours looking.’
...They skirted round to avoid the home paddock; fields and trees were not as they should be, as if the whole estate had been picked up like a rug, shaken and laid down again. But as they clattered onto the cobbled entrance to the stable yard he heard voices, too many voices. The Major started to rear just as a dozen strangely clad children almost threw themselves under his hooves. Ralph half slipped, half fell out of the saddle, just managing to keep hold of the reins.
Karla Saturday June 21st 2014
Karla was looking forward to lunch, it had been a busy morning, the early summer Saturday sunshine had brought hordes of people out to Durlswood House. As she approached the Stable Yard Tearooms there was a flurry of excitement. She heard an excited parent urging her children ‘Come on, they must be doing a drama thing’.
A very large white horse was skittering in the entrance to the stable yard, blocking, or at least scaring anyone from going in or out. Clinging to his neck was a strangely dressed rider. The Victorian enactment was not due till next weekend and this certainly was not one of the scenes. None of the park rangers had appeared, health and safety had gone by the board. Karla only did inside the house, though she loved to visit the children’s farm and see the ponies. This magnificent horse was not from there, they had either strayed wildly from the bridle path or from a film set, but Durlswood had never yet been chosen for a classic film or television series.
He leaned back in the chair and smiled; the best things in life were free. The afternoon sun bestowed its life giving warmth and he understood why the ancients worshipped the golden disc. Myriad specks of light danced on the calm turquoise sea, a scene to delight the impressionists, but no painter could do justice to such a view; the chalky cliffs of the Isle of Wight and the green sloping downs of the Purbecks.
He languorously reached out for his glass of wine; it tasted like the nectar of the gods. Silky arms wrapped themselves around his neck; Tasha crept up behind him and kissed the nape of his neck. He sighed contentedly, love in the afternoon.
Tasha stretched out on the other chair and they watched life below on the promenade and beach; happy cries of children drifted up to them. They pondered where they would eat tonight, what they might do tomorrow. The sea air made them pleasantly drowsy.
Friends said he would tire of the sea view, but if he did he would call a taxi to the station. At Waterloo he would step off the train and stroll along the embankment to another balcony, with spectacular views of the Thames; watch the sun set and the city light up. Then perhaps go to the theatre, dine late, take in a club.
He opened his eyes from his daydream as he felt Tasha’s fingers on his cheek. It wasn’t a daydream, it was real. Money could buy you happiness; a seaside apartment, London penthouse, holidays to anywhere, a beautiful woman and a life free of debt and work. Winning the lottery was certainly helpful if you wanted to exchange a grotty rented room in a rundown house in a dreary suburb, for a new life. 300 words
How long is flash fiction? It can be as short as six words, but there is no agreement on an upper limit. In Someone Somewhere seventy five words to a thousand words take you from a frozen grave to a crematorium with sunshine in between, from the finite to the infinite...
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Twenty five stories starting with a blind date and ending on Xmas Eve, with no clue as to what you might expect in between. In this third collection of short stories are some real places and experiences plus much that could happen or should never happen.
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Making an Entrance
His name was on the billboard in larger letters than mine.
‘Live Satellite Broadcast from the National Theatre.’
They had that wrong for a start, this run down theatre in a godforsaken seaside town could not afford live broadcasts; the locals would see a recording at a Sunday matinee tomorrow.
While Charles was making his entrance at the National Theatre tonight, in front of a packed house, with cameras sending high definition digital images around the world, I would be making my entrance on the splintered stage of ‘The Regal’. Ticket sales had been poor, considering there was nothing else to do here on a Saturday night.
Charles and I had started out in rep. together, touring provincial theatres. Now I was back touring those same theatres, looking a lot the worse for wear, as did the theatres.
The posters for ‘Murder in the Tunnel’ showed my co star Sylvia in her television days; it seemed unlikely anyone would remember that dreadful series, but judging by the age of the audiences so far this week they probably would. Sylvia had had so many face lifts she wore the same surprised expression throughout the play, it was left for me to portray shock, guilt and grief. The other three members of the cast performed multiple costume changes to come on as uniformed police, detectives, lord and lady of the manor, gardener, postman, railway guard etcetera.
Charles was a national treasure, the National Theatre play had been written as a vehicle for him by one of the Alans; the other members of the cast were also great thespians, some on their way up, others on their way down.
I had resisted reading about the drama, but it was impossible to ignore, discussed on Radio 4, Radio 3, BBC Four, BBC Two and in the broadsheets. Charles’ character looked back on a long life with a mixture of emotions, but in the final act he was moved to commit suicide, not out of desperation or melancholy, but for altruistic reasons. It was a complex story that raised issues, but provided no answers.
Our little play was a revival of a cliché ridden black comedy drama that any simpleton could understand. One of many similar dramas I had acted in over the decades. It was one of those long forgotten plays that I had been in many years ago that gave me the idea. I could not remember what it was called; Perfect Murder… Perfect Alibi… Quiet Death? But our landlady’s daughter had said I made a perfect murderer, though it was the chap playing the policeman that she slept with.
Was that before or after I married Gillian? Can’t remember now; Gillian would have been a national treasure by now and I was the first to admit she had a greater career ahead than I could anticipate. We weren’t one of those couples where the wife steps back and supports her husband. I encouraged her to take every opportunity; she did and ran off with Charles.
Years later, when it was fashionable, he came out as gay, making the stealing of my wife an even crueller blow. A few years further on, when that was fashionable, he came out as bi-sexual, which I supposed helped explain.
Of course I couldn’t have made my plans without the internet, you don’t need to be a scientist or doctor to find out about drugs and chemistry. Nor could I have acted without my intimate knowledge of the backstage area of the National Theatre, acquired in happier days.
A mini cab to the nearest town with a railway station, fast train to Waterloo and fast train back again in time for the evening performance and my mission was complete. In the final act of Charles’ play he retires to his study, pours his whisky nightcap into the crystal tumbler, drops something in and sips it like a connoisseur. Being Charles, he likes the real thing, no cold tea for him. He had his favourite single malt and knew the exact level on the bottle, woe betide any stage hand who took a secret swig.
Amusing that he would play a character wiling to part with his life; Charles clung tenaciously to his life and career. He didn’t cling to Gillian, dumped her for the next girl, or perhaps it was a boy. I offered to take her back, no pleaded, but she refused, said we couldn’t turn the clock back. Maybe it wouldn’t have worked with us, but nor did her new life, things went downhill after that, what with the drinking. No one remembers her now.
I made my entrance that night feeling an extra buzz, even most of the audience stayed awake. I was on stage in every act, a perfect alibi. The audience laughed, mostly in the right places and as the curtain came down those who weren’t afraid of exertion applauded. We had given the locals a good evening out.
‘Are you coming to the matinee tomorrow?’ asked Sylvia, as we left through the stage door.
‘I didn’t bother to buy a ticket.’
‘Oh dear, they’ve probably sold out, Cousin Daphne bought our tickets weeks ago.’
Sylvia had been saved the ordeal of the B&B when her spinster cousin invited her to stay in her tiny two bedroom bungalow, thrilled to impress her neighbours with her link to fame.
I doubted the matinee would take place if my plan had worked and wondered how soon it would be on the news. In the pokey attic room with no sea views I switched on the small television hunched under the sloping ceiling. Football, grand prix, the middle east, politics, then as tomorrow morning’s newspapers were previewed, the rolling words beneath.
Theatre legend dies on stage.
For a moment I fantasised that he had forgotten his lines, that would have been almost as satisfying… then the presenter spoke.
We are just receiving news of the death of one of Britain’s greatest actors. A fellow cast member said he died as he would have wished, in harness. It is believed he passed away of natural causes while feigning death in the final scene of the award winning play by Alan…
Now for tomorrow’s weather.
I waited irritably for the next round of new items.
…of the audience were surprised when he did not appear for the curtain call, but other members of the cast smiled as a man in a suit explained that Charles was feeling a little under the weather after being on the stage for three hours…
…viewers in cinemas and theatres across the world saw his final moments. When stage crew could not arouse him, paramedics were called. A spokesman for Saint Thomas’ Hospital said an elderly man had been admitted with a suspected heart attack, but was declared dead soon afterwards.
If only Charles had been alive to hear himself called an elderly man. Natural causes a bit disappointing, though I guessed that would count as a perfect crime; of course there was bound to be a post mortem.
The morning news was much the same, but I switched the set off when the accolades and anecdotes started rolling across the screen. My not so ‘Full English Breakfast’ was interrupted by the arrival of Sylvia and Daphne. The cousin looked distraught, while Sylvia wore her usual expression.
‘We had to come,’ said Sylvia ‘what terrible news, weren’t you in rep. with him?’
‘He was my favourite actor,’ sobbed Daphne ‘I’ve followed his whole career, I saw him at Chichester.’
‘They won’t show the matinee now,’ said Sylvia ‘but we shall still go to the theatre this afternoon, take some flowers to show our respect.’
When I strolled round the town later that morning there was a sign outside ‘The Regal’. Friends and relatives of Charles had requested the showing go ahead as a tribute. I popped into the ticket office and spoke to the ancient volunteer behind the desk. She didn’t recognise me.
‘You’re in luck, we’ve had a few returns for this afternoon, one broken hip and two deaths.’
I rang Sylvia. ‘Yes, row D43 and44 and E46, bit of luck. Allow me to take you two ladies out to tea afterwards to celeb… remember Charles.’
To celebrate indeed, to watch the perfect crime unfold on the big screen.
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