Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Weather Behaving Badly

 Dawn Knox

Prairie Fire, a spicy shot of tequila and tabasco

Bernard finished the letter of resignation with his signature and a small flourish. He didn’t, however, add his usual two kisses. They didn’t seem appropriate under the circumstances. He read the letter, checking grammar, spelling and punctuation. It was all so important. An incorrectly positioned comma, for example could result in all sorts of confusion and he couldn’t risk any misunderstandings. 
With a sweep of his arm, he moved the stuffed teddy bear, the small cactus in the Mexican hat-shaped pot, the travel set of Newton’s Balls and the fluorescent pencil case aside, to reveal the long scorch mark on the top of his desk. It ran from the front to the back, finishing just in front of where he was seated. He stood up and looked down at his chair. The greasy stain and singed line were all that remained of his predecessor although arguably, there might be a few bits of him embedded in the wall behind the desk. The crater in the plaster had been repaired although the burns in the carpet and the damage to the furniture were still evident.
Well, the budget was tight this year. 
In his less generous moments, Bernard wondered if his boss hadn’t wanted there to be reminders of his wrath – just to keep the staff in check. But with any luck, that soon wouldn’t apply to him. Not once he’d handed in his letter of resignation. He put it in an envelope and sealed it, then placed it over the scorch mark on his desk.
Now what?
He needed to deliver his letter… but to whom? Mr. Thor, Mr. Jupiter or Mr. Zeus? They were all as scary as each other. Of course, the logical choice would have been the one who was most senior but they all claimed seniority and who was Bernard to argue with any of them?
Perhaps he should just leave it on the desk of whoever wasn’t in his office at the time and then disappear before anyone came asking questions. He’d been as much as promised a job in the Sunshine Department and he couldn’t wait. There was only a certain amount of lightning and thunder one could take in a lifetime. And he’d had his fill. 
Suddenly, he realised the decision was about to be taken out of his hands. Thunderous footsteps rang out and echoed ominously along the corridor with the odd flash of lightning that Bernard could see through the crack round the door. 
He placed his hands over his ears to protect them from the booming noise and blanched as the door flew open.
“Ah! There you are, Bernard.”
“M…Mr. Thor, sir?”
“I just came to see how you’re settling in.”
“F…fine, thank you, sir.”
“Pleased to hear it. The last chap only lasted two weeks. No stamina. No drive. No tenacity. In the end…” he glanced at the blackened line in the desk, “he ended up with not much of anything… Well, what can you expect from a chap who wanted a transfer to the Sunshine Department?”
Words died in Bernard’s throat and he emitted a cross between a high-pitched squeak and the hiss of a slow leak in a tyre.
Mr. Thor aimed at the desk with his index finger and Bernard ducked as tiny sparks crackled round his hand and up his arm. 
“Is that the mail?” he asked pointing at Bernard’s letter of resignation. 
“No, sir. I was just tidying up, sir.”
Bernard slapped his hand over the letter, pulled it into his lap and tearing it into little pieces, he dropped them in the bin. 

About the author: 

Dawn's second book 'The Great War, 100 stories of 100 words honouring those who lived and died 100 years ago' was published in 2016. She enjoys a writing challenge and has had stories published in various anthologies, including horror and speculative fiction, as well as romances in several women's magazines. Dawn has written a script for a play to commemorate World War One, which has been performed in her home town in Essex, as well as in Germany and France. Married with one son, she lives in Essex.

Monday, 22 May 2017

I count

Dawn Knox

sweet, milky tea such as might have been savoured in the trenches

It is 100 days since our massive bombardment of the Germans began, and 92 days since we went over the top believing this battle on the Somme was ours. 

I count everything.

The number of rats per day I see, the number of letters from home I receive each week, the number of pals who’ve been maimed, the number of those who still lie in No Man’s Land. 

I can’t control this hell; I can only count the consequences. 

Now I count the seconds until I go over the top again. 

I count everything, yet, my life counts for nothing. 

About the author: 

Dawn's second book 'The Great War, 100 stories of 100 words honouring those who lived and died 100 years ago' was published in 2016. She enjoys a writing challenge and has had stories published in various anthologies, including horror and speculative fiction, as well as romances in several women's magazines. Dawn has written a script for a play to commemorate World War One, which has been performed in her home town in Essex, as well as in Germany and France. Married with one son, she lives in Essex.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

The Janus Stone

Paula R C Readman 

Whisky Mac on the rocks

‘It’s that age old question,’ my wife said turning an accusing eye in my direction as we stood staring at a stone circle high up on the wind swept moorlands
As far as I was concerned, it was of no importance to me to find the answer to riddle of the sentinels.
‘That’s the trouble with you, Janus you’re so blinkered, when the facts are before your very eyes.’
I cast my eyes toward the heavens and held my breath and my tongue, knowing there was no point in arguing with her. She was like a starving wolf, once she has a bone between her teeth.
‘There you go, you can’t deny it now. The truth hurts,’ she said bitterness edging her tone.
I gave her a sideways glance; suddenly realizing she wasn’t talking about the stones at all.
‘Too busy looking back, aren’t you?’ she said, with an air of smugness.
Oh yes, she was right there. I’ve been accused of being backwards looking before, but I do often look forward too. Dreams of a peaceful life seemed impossible from where I was standing.
‘Well, haven’t you got something to say for yourself?’ she snapped.
I narrowed my eyes, and wondered if it was possible.
‘Oh yes, just like your father as your mother use to say, you’ve no balls. Well, it’s about time you manned up.'
I shrugged, turned, and walked away.
‘Where the hell do you think you’re going Janus Lot?’
As I drove out of the car park, I did look back.  My wife stood rigid with anger and disbelief that I was finally leaving her. I laughed. Not quite a pillar of salt, but close enough to leave a nasty taste in her nagging mouth.   


About the author

Bridge House, Chapel town, English Heritage, Parthian Books have published Paula R C Readman’s short stories. She was also the overall winner in the Writing Magazine Harrogate Crime Short Story Competition 2012.
Check out her Blog: paulareadman1.wordpress.com

The Instruction Manual

Greg Bresciani 

warm malted milk  

Why does everyone keep saying that children don’t come with an instruction manual? Sure they do. I use one all the time.
I can never have children of my own- my lazy sperm made sure of that. However, since becoming a foster carer, I always read the instruction manual for each foster child that is placed in my care. The instructions help me with that which I have no previous experience in.
The first section of the instruction manual covers the basics: clean your teeth, clean your room, have a bath before bedtime etc.  This is the easiest part. You can’t go wrong with it.
Much of the instruction manual’s focus is on open-mindedness. Achieving this requires plenty of field trips to festivals and cultural events. I don’t know why so much emphasis is placed on open-mindedness, but I do know that the children in my care rejoice in the weekend outings- and so do I.
The section on discipline is unusable. I am instructed to smack naughty children with a wooden spoon. I refuse to do this as it is common knowledge that most foster children are victims of abuse. The lessons taught by the sting of a wooden spoon would be lost on them.
Another concern with the instruction manual is section four: teaching children good manners. No matter how hard I try, I can never get good manners to stick. It doesn’t help either that the pages for this section are blank.
Hmm. This could be a problem. Technical Support may be the solution. I should phone them; their contact details will be somewhere inside the front cover. Yep, here it is.  Only after I’ve dialled do I realise that Technical Support has the same phone number as my mom.
“Hi mom.”
“Oh, hi Glenn.”
“I, um … need some advice mom.”
“I’m trying to teach my kids manners, but it’s not working mom. How did you do it? You know, with me.”
“But I raised you from a baby. Foster Care is a totally different situation. “
So, it seems the problem with the instruction manual goes far beyond the support provided by Technical Support.
Am I even using the right instruction manual? Is it an older version? Do I need to upgrade to a newer one? I should contact Head Office and ask. I’ll just find the company’s details- ah, here it is: Kiehna Incorporated. Kiehna? But … that’s my mom’s maiden name.
Shit! What was I thinking? Children don’t come with an instruction manual. They never have. That’s just silly.
When I’m raising a foster child, I’m not mentally flipping through the pages of a booklet. Oh-no. It’s much more grandiose than that. I’m accessing a file cabinet inside my head with thousands of memories filed away in each draw. Memories of a mother’s love and devotion directed at me. Memories of being reminded to clean my teeth, clean my room, have a bath before bedtime etc. All throughout my childhood, my mom asked me to do these chores more times than there are people in China.
Memories- I will cherish forever -of weekend outings with my mom. Festivals and cultural events, if it encouraged me to explore the world around me, my mom would take me there. Only as an adult, do I now understand my mom’s hidden agenda of teaching me tolerance and to value diversity.
I remember the fear of the wooden spoon more so than the smacks across my buttocks. I believe this was the whole point. The fear of being smacked forced me to stop and think of the consequences of my actions.
I have no memories of my mom nurturing my good manners. She would have taught me this valuable lesson as soon as I could walk and talk. No one has memories of their life under the age of four.
It amazes me, the more I consider it, that parenting skills don’t begin with the birth of a baby. Everyone has memories of being raised by their parents that they can use as a reference, should ever they find themselves raising a child.  Plus what’s most exciting, I can gain new parenting tricks- or undo bad parenting habits –through learning and experience.
With the foster children in my care, my success or failure as a parent depends on how these children will one day parent children of their own.   

About the author

Greg is n Australian who is a factory worker by day and a writer by night. he an his partner have been caring for foster children for seven years.  His stories on foster care have been published on the websites Parenting Express and Next Family. 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Rest is up to You Dandelion and Burdock Wine

'The rest is up to you', she said giving me a final shove. I hadn't really seen myself as one who could fly, but l suddenly felt l had to learn quickly as the ground was now come up to meet me. 
I guess that's how all baby birds feel on their first step into adulthood, but me a mere fairy and a clumsy one at that had hoped that l could forgo learning, but Mum had other ideas.
 Too proud of our family history to allow me to just focus on painting ground loving flowers. 
'No, you aren't going to let the family name down', she said, grabbing me by the collar and hauling me to the tops of the trees. 
I guess l better give it a try, because l'm sure I've run out of time.
'Woo yes!' Quite easy once you get the hang of it! 
Oh, at least Mum looking pleased for once. Though it's going to be sometime before l master the art of landing elegantly on flowers.