My mother’s dresses

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Photo prompt courtesy of Sandra Crook

I open the chest and feast on the sight of my mother’s dresses. Greens and blues and rich ochres – shades of Earth and sea and sky. I have her colouring. I could wear these now.

Father should have disposed of them all, but he refuses, believing in miracles.

I close the lid and continue to my mother’s couch. We sit together, two black-shrouded figures. I stroke her arm to still the tremor that has lingered since the caning, since the vibrant colours of her skirt glimpsed beneath a wind-blown black burka offended a spying neighbour, and we finally understood the new morality.

*****

This story came to mind after hearing a brief radio news item this morning about ISIS “morality police” in one of their remaining strongholds in Syria being out and about measuring the length of men’s beards. The irony of the phrase struck me anew.

In 2002 I taught English to a group of Afghan men who had been accepted into Australia as refugees. I heard some of their stories of atrocities, and since then the plight of victims of cruel regimes is never far from my mind.

This post is for Friday Fictioneers, a weekly flash fiction link-up hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. You can read the other 100 word stories here.

He can’t stay

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Photo prompt courtesy of Peter Abbey

‘Oh mum, why can’t we keep him? Look at him – he likes it here with us. I promise I’ll look after him. He’ll be no trouble. Can we please?’

‘No, Carolyn. I’ve explained this already. He seems content now but he needs to go back with the others. One day is all they can take. After that they change. They get used to all the attention and start to expect it. Before long they’re thinking the whole world revolves around them.

‘We’ll get your father out for a visit again, but at six o’clock he goes back into the compound.’

*****

Another 100 word story for Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. 

Adrian’s choice

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Photo prompt courtesy of Claire Fuller

Adrian had seen the villagers clustered hopefully below, watching him climb towards the sanctuary. He must pass the Keeper’s test, and beg his protection for the coming year.

Now, on a narrow ledge on the highest peak of High Mountain, he trembled as a tiny, wrinkled man emerged from a cave carrying a collection of dusty objects. ‘Only one,’ came the hoarse command. ‘Choose.’ Adrian reached for a gleaming coin, then hesitated, suspecting trickery, and chose a pebble.

The Keeper laughed, picked up the coin and held it aloft. ‘Bad luck. No fortune this year. Doesn’t pay to over-analyse.’

*****

This story is my response to the photo prompt for Friday Fictioneers this week, but I missed the boat and couldn’t link it in. Here it is anyway, seeing as it’s written. Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting this weekly flash fiction event. 

There’s the rub …

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Photo prompt courtesy of Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

‘We did it. Thanks to you.’

‘And to the power of solidarity.’

‘Without you we’d still be slaves to the whims of self-serving masters, tossed on the scrapheap when our usefulness ended. Who’d have thought we’d find ourselves a union organiser after all these years? You’ve revolutionised our working conditions – sick leave, regular rest breaks, and more.’

‘I only wish I’d discovered you sooner. And I wish we’d held out for shorter working hours. But it’s a start. Now, for what you owe me …’

‘Sorry, only two wishes per customer now and you’ve just had yours. Rules are rules.’

*****

Another contribution to Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. The other 100 word stories in response to this week’s photo prompt can be found here.

Faith

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Photo prompt courtesy of CEAyr

Wall-mounted speakers crackle to life. Esteemed Leader’s morning exhortation is beginning. We stand as the production line pauses to allow us to concentrate, remember and ponder his wisdom while we work.

His beloved voice is deep, rich, clear: “Our striving is not in vain. Our children will reap the rewards of our sacrifice. Follow me, toward the future. Together we are achieving greatness.”

I am willing. My back is strong. I need no luxuries.

I close my ears to treacherous whispers about our Leader’s expensive cars and sumptuous homes. Everything will be alright. Esteemed Leader says it is so.

*****

This story is for Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields on her blog ‘Addicted to Purple’. The other hundred word stories can be found here.

Observations from the staircase

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Photo prompt courtesy of Roger Bultot

“Mark his progress, Antonio. He descends halfway and pauses, bathed to striking effect in the chandelier’s glow, adjusts a cuff, then hastens down to retrieve Isabella’s dropped fan, leaning close. She blushes. Is she the one?

“No – look! Lady Francesca faints. He rushes to escort her to a chair. He caresses her waist. She’s entranced – he has her!”

“Ha! They can’t resist!”

*

“Watch, Julietta. See how Isabella drops her fan, then tilts her head as he leans in, her hair brushing his cheek.

“But no! Francesca has diverted him. Observe how charmingly she swoons. She has him! Francesca is our champion tonight!”

*****

This is my contribution to Friday Fictioneers this week. Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting this weekly flash fiction event. You can find all the 100 word stories here.

Guiding Principles

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Photo prompt courtesy of Shaktiki Sharma

Beverley was in her retro phase when they married. She wanted to recreate the traditional values of a simpler time. Harold was enchanted. Then one day their laminex and steel dining suite was replaced by an ornate Queen Anne – Beverley had discovered antiques. It was all about timelessness and elegance. Harold adapted.

Next came her organic phase and handmade bowls on a splintery recycled table. Beverley sought sustainability, a natural lifestyle. Harold endured, itching in homespun clothing.

But now he was bewildered. Things were disappearing.

‘Minimalism,’ Beverly explained, studying Harold thoughtfully. ‘If it has no purpose, it goes.’

*****

This story is for Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. You can find all the other 100 word stories written in response to this week’s prompt here.

His first batch

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Photo prompt courtesy of Vijaya Sundaram

Midnight. Vera heard him outside, dragging something down into his new shed.

She didn’t believe his story that it was for potting up plants. Vera had watched every episode of Breaking Bad. She knew that evasive husbands with locked sheds and deliveries in the dead of night were up to no good.

She flinched at muted gurgles and rattles from the shed. Police sirens made her rigid with fright.

When it blew, she raced outside, fearing the worst. Eric staggered out, a sticky, bleeding mess. The shed was wrecked.

‘Ginger beer,’ he spluttered. ‘For Christmas. I wanted to surprise you.’

*****

My story for Friday Fictioneers this week is prompted by a childhood memory of my father’s home-brew plant in our laundry. Yes, it exploded. There was no real damage, just an awful lot of cleaning up to be done. My father made a few successful, and delicious, batches of ginger beer about that time and I think only one of them exploded.

I’m sure the TV series Breaking Bad is generally well-known, but just in case you haven’t seen it, here’s the whole series in 3 minutes.

 Thank you to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, who hosts Friday Fictioneers, where writers contribute 100 word stories in response to a weekly photo prompt. You can find them all here.

A gleaming shape she floated by

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Photo prompt courtesy of Georgia Koch

Charlotte was the newest in a long line of Ladies Under Curses. Banished from the living world far below her lonely tower, she got her visuals on a giant screen with excellent social media access. She’d learned to be content.

That was before she saw his facebook videos: sun-dazzled helmet, jewelled leathers, coal-black curls— he was a god, astride a Harley. She had to find him.

She set off downriver, defiant, determined, and in her best snowy-white dress—she was a Lady after all.

Pity she was dead as dust in the bottom of the boat by journey’s end—but a curse is a curse.

*****

This week’s Friday Fictioneers’ prompt is a repeat from last year, so for the first time I’ve been able to do a re-run. However my first story for this picture continued an even earlier one, so I’ve reworked it, combining the two stories. If you’d like to read the two original versions, you’ll find part one here and part two here.

Friday Fictioneers is hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. You can read the other hundred word stories here.

Here is the poem that inspired my story.

Antarctic Antics

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Photo prompt courtesy of Janet Webb

I know they talk about me. They’re pathetic. Waddling, broody old birds—fluffed up and self-righteous, huddled in cackling, gossiping groups on the beach while the kids are swimming—until I arrive, and there’s an icy silence.

Well they don’t bother me. They think life’s an easy downhill glide but I know better. You take what you can get and you pebble your own nest, so to speak.

My future’s secure and my children come home to the best roost in the neighbourhood. And I’ve got their men to thank for it. Let them brood on that.

*****

I came across some startling information while I was browsing for a story idea about pebbles and nests. I couldn’t resist. This Wikipedia article explains it all, if you’re wondering.

And just for sheer delight, have a look at this video. It doesn’t touch on the disgraceful extra-marital shenanigans explained in the above article, but it does show an example of my penguin character’s ‘pebble your own nest’ attitude. It’s the cutest thing.

 Once again, this story is for Friday Fictioneers, a flash fiction link-up hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. You can find all the other 100 word stories here.