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FLASH FICTION – DREAMS

My writing group was challenged to come up with ideas for a short story around the theme of “dreams”. We were restricted to 350 words.

Here’s what I wrote:

REALITY

George felt himself perspiring under the hot lights.

“What’s the crowd like tonight?” he asked Jenny, as she dusted his forehead with powder.

Jenny made a face. “I was making up tonight’s contestant earlier and she asked me to make her beautiful. I can’t perform miracles my dear, I told her.”

A roar came from the audience behind the curtain.

“Tell us your dream! Tell us your dream! Tell us your dream!”

The show’s theme music began. George stepped forward as the curtains parted.

“Good evening folks. Welcome to Tell Us Your Dream. Tonight we’re going to make someone’s dream come true. Who’s it gonna be?”

The arc lights swept over the studio audience, many of whom were standing and waving their arms in the air.

“Me! Me!”

The music pulsed louder and louder and then stopped as the cameras zoomed in on a bespectacled middle aged woman.

A disembodied voice yelled, “Audrey Fisher from Luton. Tell us your dream!”

Audrey’s face lit up as eager arms propelled her forwards and up on to the stage.

There was an uproar from the audience who were all on their feet.

“Tell us your dream!”

George smiled at Audrey.  She was a plain old thing, he thought. A trifle nervous, but that was to be expected.

The music pulsed again. And then fell silent.

George smiled. “Welcome Audrey to Tell Us Your Dream.”

“You know the format. You tell us your deepest hopes, desires and wishes and the Dream Team here will help make them come true. Now don’t be shy.”

“Well George,” responded Audrey, not at all shyly.  “I’ve had a secret passion for a long time now. Someone I really fancy.  I know that if he only had the chance to meet me, to spend the night with me that he would realise that I am the one for him.”

“OOOH!” shrieked the audience. “Audrey! Audrey! Audrey!”

George turned to the audience.  “You know we have no prior vetting of dreams. We never know what’s going to come up or who is going to come up on to the stage.” Then, turning to Audrey he said, “Now tell us more about this chap of yours.”

“Well George,” volunteered Audrey, “he’s not conventionally good looking but he‘s got something. That certain je ne sais quoi.”

“OOOOOH!” screamed the audience not understanding a word.

“Tell us your dream! Tell us your dream!”

“After the break,” George announced, “we’re going to let you in on the lucky chap’s name. Back in a mo!”

“Audience please don’t leave your seats!” someone shouted. “The show will be starting again in three minutes.”

Jenny came back on stage to dust George’s shiny, sweaty head. And whispered something in his ear.

George continued to smile at the audience but he turned pale.

“That’s crazy,” he murmured. “I’ve been set up. It’s just not possible. I can’t do it.”

Audrey looked up at him and smiled adoringly.

“Are you ready George to make my dreams come true?”

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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FLASH FICTION IN 500 WORDS – FREEDOM

A recent task in my writers’ group was to write a story on “The Key”. Was this going to be about the key to success, a hidden key, a music key, a key to hidden treasure? I racked my brains to try and come up with something original. Here’s what I wrote.

Freedom

Kila lifted her hand up to the door again.  Nothing.

She shook her head perplexed. Why wasn’t the door opening? This had never happened before.

When the Ministry of Security and Home Affairs had first mooted the idea of integrated keys there had been an outcry.

What next will they want to embed in our skin, people had asked.  But, as with the notion of vaccine passports, back in 2021, everyone had soon got used to the idea. And who nowadays used an old fashioned key?

Kila rubbed her hand and tried the door again.

What was she going to do?  Without her palm key she wouldn’t be able to activate anything. How was she going to make phone calls, write, bank, show her health record, her ID? This was the stuff of nightmares.

She looked around in case anyone she knew was passing.

“Kila!” It was Alik reaching out a friendly elbow in greeting.

“Alik! Am I pleased to see you!” She smiled happily at her neighbour and elbowed him back.

Alik wasn’t smiling.

“What is it? What’s wrong?”

“My key’s no longer working,” he said.

“That’s odd,” she responded, “neither is mine. What do you think is going on?”

“So you haven’t heard the news?”

Kila shook her head. “What are you talking about?”

“There’s been some kind of security lapse. None of the palm keys are working. Not just yours and mine.  But everyone’s.”

Kila’s eyes widened in amazement.

“But that’s crazy. How are we going to do anything? The whole system will breakdown! It’s like they had back in the old days with the internet. What are we going to do?”

“We’re marching” announced Alik. “We’re marching on the Ministry. Listen!”

Kila listened and for the first time could hear the shouts of an angry mob.

She could just about make out the words, “freedom from the key” being repeated over and over again.

“But I don’t want freedom from the key.  I like my palm key. It gives me freedom to do everything I want to do.”

“But it gives them control over us,” answered Alik. “We want freedom from control.”

Now Kila could hear the mob chanting, “Freedom from control. Freedom from control!”

Alik elbowed her again. 

“Come with us Kila.  Join the protest.”

Kila stepped back.

“I can’t Alik. Keys give us freedom. You must see that.”

Alik scowled. “Keys belong to our colonial past.”

Kila shook her head and elbowed him away.

“NO!”

“Kila – wake up! Happy birthday my darling! 21 today!

 Her mother was leaning over her. She was laughing and dangling something in her face. A large silvery beribboned cardboard key.

“Happy 21st birthday! Today you get the key of the door! That’s what we used to say when I was young.   But it’s all change now. The Prime Minister was on TV just before announcing a new idea. They’re going to impregnate keys into your hand. Can you imagine! Whatever will they think of next?”

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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POST #212. 350 W0RDS ON DREAMS.

Watford Writers were challenged to come up with ideas for a short story around the theme of “dreams”. 

We were restricted to 350 words.

Here’s what I wrote:

REALITY

George felt himself perspiring under the hot lights.

“What’s the crowd like tonight?” he asked Jenny, as she dusted his forehead with powder.

Jenny made a face. “I was making up tonight’s contestant earlier and she asked me to make her beautiful. I can’t perform miracles my dear, I told her.”

A roar came from the audience behind the curtain.

“Tell us your dream! Tell us your dream! Tell us your dream!”

The show’s theme music began. George stepped forward as the curtains parted.

“Good evening folks. Welcome to Tell Us Your Dream. Tonight we’re going to make someone’s dream come true. Who’s it gonna be?”

The arc lights swept over the studio audience, many of whom were standing and waving their arms in the air.

“Me! Me!”

The music pulsed louder and louder and then stopped as the cameras zoomed in on a bespectacled middle aged woman.

A disembodied voice yelled, “Audrey Fisher from Luton. Tell us your dream!”

Audrey’s face lit up as eager arms propelled her forwards and up on to the stage.

There was an uproar from the audience who were all on their feet.

“Tell us your dream!”

George smiled at Audrey.  She was a plain old thing, he thought. A trifle nervous, but that was to be expected.

The music pulsed again. And then fell silent.

George smiled. “Welcome Audrey to Tell Us Your Dream.”

“You know the format. You tell us your deepest hopes, desires and wishes and the Dream Team here will help make them come true. Now don’t be shy.”

“Well George,” responded Audrey, not at all shyly.  “I’ve had a secret passion for a long time now. Someone I really fancy.  I know that if he only had the chance to meet me, to spend the night with me that he would realise that I am the one for him.”

“OOOH!” shrieked the audience. “Audrey! Audrey! Audrey!”

George turned to the audience.  “You know we have no prior vetting of dreams. We never know what’s going to come up or who is going to come up on to the stage.” Then, turning to Audrey he said, “Now tell us more about this chap of yours.”

“Well George,” volunteered Audrey, “he’s not conventionally good looking but he‘s got something. That certain je ne sais quoi.”

“OOOOOH!” screamed the audience not understanding a word.

“Tell us your dream! Tell us your dream!”

“After the break,” George announced, “we’re going to let you in on the lucky chap’s name. Back in a mo!”

“Audience please don’t leave your seats!” someone shouted. “The show will be starting again in three minutes.”

Jenny came back on stage to dust George’s shiny, sweaty head. And whispered something in his ear.

George continued to smile at the audience but he turned pale.

“That’s crazy,” he murmured. “I’ve been set up. It’s just not possible. I can’t do it.”

Audrey looked up at him and smiled adoringly.

“Are you ready George to make my dreams come true?”

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

POST 209# FLASH FICTION

Yes. I’ve posted 209 poems, thoughts and short stories on this blog since March 2020. Quite a feat even if I say so myself!

The task in our writers’ group this week was to write 500 words on the topic of “The First”.

Here’s what I wrote. Please let me know whether or not you like it. Thanks!

DIPLOMAT

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a peace loving guy. 

I’ve always been the diplomatic sort. Whenever there’s been a confrontation of any kind I’ve turned my back and walked away.

It’s harder when you have kids.  You want to take sides but I’ve always tried to be fair. This has led to the children thinking that their mother, Sally, is a cow and that I’m a saint. But there you are. Can’t be helped. Best not to get involved.

It was different for me growing up. We all lived in fear of my dad once he got going. I would run to my room and hide under the bed until the screaming stopped.  I couldn’t leave home fast enough.

I kept my head down at uni, studied hard and obtained a good degree. 

At work I kept my distance from colleagues.  The boss liked me because I never took sides so I soon achieved promotion.

Now they’re grown up, my children still keep in touch. It’s been difficult in the past year with Covid but I’m hoping they’ll still visit me whenever they can.

It was this time last year that the wife and I were in the car on the way to her sister’s on the Sussex coast. Sally had wanted to go on her own but I insisted on driving.

Like most men, I like to drive in peace.  I prefer to concentrate on the road but Sally does go on and on talking.  I normally ignore her but this time it was different. She just didn’t know when to stop.

All these years, she was saying, you’ve never supported me. You’ve always taken the children’s side against mine. Why? They adore you and they hate me and it’s all your fault.

I found this hurtful and said so. In fact, I told her to shut up. But she didn’t. Just kept on and on, going at me.  You did this. You did that. She was a saint of course. Never said boo to a goose. At least, that’s what she’d have you believe. 

We were getting close to her sister’s house and I did something that I’ve never done before. I pulled off the road thinking I would have it out with Sally once and for all. She sensed something was wrong and undid her seatbelt before I’d even stopped driving. Next thing I knew she was out of the car and running away from me. Such a stupid thing to do when she knows I’m so much bigger and stronger than her.

I chased after the silly bitch and caught up with her right by the cliff edge. You’re not a real man, she sneered. Well that was it. I saw red. I kicked her as hard as I could and she sailed over the cliff edge like an inflatable ball. I didn’t look down. Just got back in the car and drove off.

It was the first time we had ever argued.  

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

“I’VE HEARD OF LOCKED UP BUT NEVER LOCKED DOWN.”

A conversation with Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh was sitting on a tree stump waiting for me.

“Don’t you think,” I asked, “that the words you use are sometimes a bit convoluted for children to understand?”

“Tigger and Eeyore understand me,” he answered, “and so does Christopher Robin.”

I raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“I mean what I say and I say what I mean,” he added.

“That’s from Alice in Wonderland.”

“I know that,” he replied, “but I was hoping you wouldn’t know. It’s hard to come up with words all by myself. This interview isn’t going very well is it? Why don’t I interview you instead? Do you like honey?”

“Bears eat honey,” I told him. “People eat other things.”

“Some bears eat people,” volunteered Pooh. “Christopher Robin told me that.”

“What else has he told you?” I asked.

“That I’m the fluffiest cuddliest wonderfullest bear in the whole wide world.” Pooh announced proudly.

“Apart from that?”

“Er – um – I don’t know. I can only think and say what I’m told. If A A Milne were here he’d be able to help me.”

“Do you know why you were called Winnie the Pooh?”

“Ah! I know the answer to that one!” exclaimed Pooh eagerly. “I was called Winnie after a black bear Christopher Robin saw at London Zoo – which is a zoo in London.” he added importantly.

“And Pooh?”

“I was coming to that. You humans are jolly impatient.”

“Sorry.” I said trying not to smile.

“And so you should be. Pooh – if you still want to know – was a swan Christopher Robin met while on holiday.”

“Not that you can meet a swan.” I volunteered.

“If Christopher Robin said that’s what it was, then that’s what it was,” said Pooh sulkily.

“Christopher Robin called me a bear of very little brain,” he went on, “which was very unfair of him because my brain is much bigger than Owl’s, Piglet’s and Eeyores.”  He swelled proudly. “I am a big brained bear.”

He looked at me sternly as if waiting for me to disagree with him.

“If I was on Twitter,” he added, “I’d tweet that I am the bear with the most bigly brain.”

Then, out of the blue, he asked, “Would you like to hear a song?”

Before I could answer he sang:

” How do you do?

Tiddely poo

And how are you?

Tiddely pooh.”

“That’s as far as I’ve got. It’s hard to find things to rhyme with Pooh. It would be far easier if I’d been called Winnie the Bear.  There are loads of rhymes with bear. Hair, dare, care, lair … “

And then suddenly – I noticed that he kept doing this – changing the question before I’d even asked one.

“What’s a lockdown? I’ve heard of locked up but never locked down.”

Fortunately, before I could answer him, Christopher Robin came along to tell Winnie that it was time for tea. So off he went without even a goodbye.

“Pooh.” I said.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

397TH DAY OF LOCKDOWN IN THE YEAR 2021, CORONAVIRUS ERA

Not that long ago I asked what you were reading. A better question might have been what novel or story did you once read and have never forgotten?

For me, that would be the tale of The Scarlet Plague by the American author, Jack London – a story that came into my mind earlier on in this pandemic. 

I first read The Scarlet Plague when I was in my early teens.  The story tells how the world had been decimated by a plague, leaving few survivors. The narrator, now an old man,  is one of the few people left. He tries to tell his sons, who have only ever known this life, how things used to be.

“To think of it! I’ve seen this beach alive with men, women and children on a pleasant Sunday …. And right up there on the cliff was a big restaurant where you could get anything you wanted to eat. Four million people lived in San Francisco then. And now in the whole city and country there aren’t forty all told.  And out there on the sea were ships … when I was a boy, there were men alive who remembered the coming of the first aeroplanes, and now I have lived to see the last of them, and that sixty years ago.”

His grandson says .. “Four million. That was a lot of folks.”

“Like sand on the beach, each grain of sand a man, woman or child. .. the world was full of people. The census of 2010 gave 8 billions for the whole world …”

Later one of his grandsons says, “You were telling about germs, the things you can’t see but which make men sick.”

” A man did not notice at first when only a few of these germs got into his body. But each germ broke in half and became two germs, and they kept doing this very rapidly so that in a short time there were many millions of them in the body. Then the man was sick. He had a disease, and the disease was named after the kind of germ that was in him. Now this is the strange thing about germs. There were always new ones coming to live in men’s bodies.

Long ago when there were only a few men in the world, there were few diseases. But as men increased and lived closely together in great cities and civilisations, new diseases arose, new kinds of germs entered their bodies.  Thus were countless millions and billions of human beings killed. And the more thickly men packed together, the more terrible were the new diseases that came to be.

Soldervetzsky, as early as 1929, told the bacteriologists that they had no guarantee against some new disease, a thousand times more deadly than any they knew. It was in the summer of 2013 that the plague came. I was 27. The word came of a strange disease that had broken out in New York. There were 17 millions of people living then in that noblest city of America. Nobody thought anything about the news. It was only a small thing. There had only been a few deaths. Within 24 hours came the report of the first case in Chicago. And on the same day, it was made public that London, the greatest city in the world, next to Chicago, had been secretly fighting the plague for two weeks and censoring the news dispatches …

It looked serious but we in California, like everywhere else, were not alarmed. We were sure that the bacteriologists would find a way to overcome this new germ, just had they had overcome other germs in the past. But the trouble was the astonishing quickness with which this germ destroyed human beings, and the fact that it inevitably killed any human body it entered.

… the bacteriologists had so little chance in fighting the germs. They were killed in their laboratories. They were heroes. As fast as they perished others stepped forth and took their places. It was in London that they first isolated it … then came the struggle in all the laboratories to find something that would kill the plague germs. All drugs failed.”

Just saying.

What novel or story did you once read and have never forgotten?  Let me know in the comment space below.

Jack London

1876-1916

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems