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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 #210 – “MEN!”

I last posted this piece of flash fiction in 2018. At that time writing short stories was a new thing for me so I was really out of my comfort zone!

The writers group I belong to (watfordwriters.org) regularly runs a flash fiction competition where we have to write to a specific topic and word count. The subject here was “The Party”.

If you enjoy reading my story, please let me know. Your feedback really means a lot to me. Thanks!

SOMETHING IN COMMON

The party music was deafening.

“I can’t hear myself speak above this noise,” Jenny said to no one in particular. Then, turning to the woman nearest to her, “I hate works parties don’t you?”

“Makes a break from home” yelled the other into Jenny’s ear.

The music stopped for a second and the two women smiled at one another.  “I’m Jenny”, said one, “from the Hertford office”. “Donna,” volunteered the other, “Camden branch.”

They moved into the adjoining room where it was quieter and found some seats.  “Can’t wait to get these off”, said Donna slipping off her high heels. Jenny nodded in agreement.  “I’ve given up killer heels. It’s trainers for me from now on.  Much easier for school runs with our three.  You got kids Donna?”

“We have a dog. Hubbie doesn’t want children. Trouble is he’s away so much on business that I’m the one that has to walk it every day.

“It’s the same for me” Jenny sighed. “I do all the work – mine’s never around!”

“Men!” they exclaimed in unison.

“Yet we can’t live without them can we?” smiled Donna. “And mine’s not so bad.  He still knows how to give me a good time.”

“You’re lucky”, Jenny responded. “It’s different once you have kids. At the first hint of anything that needs doing, mine’s off.  Disappears for days!  Even at Christmas! Sometimes I feel like a single mum.  Even when we’re away it’s the same. Always self-catering and it’s all down to me. I might as well be at home.”

Donna nodded sympathetically. “Yes, I am lucky Jenny. We’ve had some fantastic holidays. Ever been to the Maldives?”

Jenny shook her head dismally. “The most we’ve ever had is a day trip to Calais.”

Donna was busily scrolling through her photos.

“Look – this was taken outside our holiday bungalow last Christmas.”  Jenny looked at the photo. Took off her glasses, cleaned them and peered at it again.  “I must have had too much to drink – your bloke looks just like my Dennis”.

“Dennis!” shrieked Donna. “My husband’s name is Dennis!”

© 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

100 WORDS ON FREEDOM

This is my 190th post since the start of lockdown.

I wrote this piece over three years ago. It is barely a story. More like a paragraph.

The task was to write 100 words on the topic of freedom.

I first posted this nine months ago but thought it worth blogging again now the subject is so topical. At the time it was simply meant to be humorous – who knew how prescient it would turn out to be? It was written with my tongue firmly in my cheek and I trust it won’t offend any Royal watchers.

Notes from a diary

The security guy had slipped out for a smoke.

“Come on”, I said. “This is the moment we’ve been waiting for.”

She had tears in her eyes. “Can I really only take one suitcase?”

“Yes, hurry up!”

“Well”, she said, “at least we’ll finally be free of your awful stepmother – not to mention your dad. We’ll miss the kids though.”

We ran to the station.

“I can’t believe we’re free Meghan. I’ve waited so long for this.

You do love me, don’t you?”

“Harry,” she replied, “I’ll follow you anywhere if it means freedom from your ghastly family.”

Those of you who follow my posts will know that I’ve been blogging regularly since the start of lockdown. 

I know many of you look forward to reading my blogs and I’ve been touched by the kind remarks and support I have received. 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please do continue to let me have your feedback, comments and “likes” – it means a lot to me.

 

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

 

 

 

BLOG POST #165. LOCKDOWN SHOPPING.

How has shopping during the lockdown been for you?

Last week the lockdown flash fiction task for my writers’ group was to write a story to go with any song title. That’s like saying, write about anything you like! To my mind, much harder than being given a specific topic to write about.  It was the same when I was at school and the English teacher said we could write about anything.  I would be completely stuck.  And I was this time too. Until OH (to his credit) suggested I write about Ocado’s robots. The only limitation was the word count 450-500 words max. 

Here’s my story.  Please let me know if you like it.

 “YES, WE HAVE NO BANANAS” *

It was the week before Christmas at Ocado’s main warehouse in Kent and the 3,500 robots, who normally fulfilled customers’ orders, were having a noisy union meeting. 

“It’s not fair,” moaned robot X who normally dealt with the grocery aisles.

“We do all the hard work and the delivery drivers get to have all the fun.”

“Not to mention the Christmas bonuses!” added robot Y. 

“You’re right” agreed robot Z. “They get to drive all those trucks and meet people.”

“Not just people,” replied robot 69. “Women. They get to meet women.”

“And men,” said robot 55. “Men too!”

 “And they get thanked,” grumbled robot R. “We never get thanked!” 

“Let’s put it to the management,” offered robot 127.  “X, Y and Z come with me.” 

“We’re all coming!” the robots shouted.

“What do we want? We want to deliver!”

 “We want to deliver” echoed all the other robots in unison. 

And deliver they did.

They overpowered the delivery drivers, took over the trucks and fulfilled customers’ orders in half the time it had been done previously.

It made the headlines in all the newspapers. 

“ROBOTS REVOLT!”  Said the Daily Mail. 

The front page of the Watford Observer read, “YES, WE HAVE NO BANANAS!”

And “ROBOTS REDUCE THE COST OF DELIVERIES” was the headline in the FT.

Management had promised the truck drivers that after Christmas things would go back to normal but there was an outpouring of complaints from the general public. Notably from women all over the country who were enjoying the added benefits of a hitherto little used robotic function, hailed in a scientific paper as the absence of RED. Robotic Erectile Disfunction. Research showed that this was the case because robots never ran out of essential oil.

In the new year there were more divorces than usual. Not surprisingly the robots were blamed.

Many of the other major supermarkets decided that they too would use robots – not only to fulfil orders, package goods but also to drive their trucks.  The unemployment rate rose dramatically and again it was the robots who got the blame.

But, thanks to all the publicity, robots were no longer hidden behind the scene and became far more visible in our society. 

The NHS started training robots to replace receptionists at GP practices all over the UK.

Robot R appeared on Strictly. And hardly anyone noticed when a robot replaced Fiona Bruce on BBC Question Time.

It’s rumoured that a robot might even stand for parliament in the next election.

Channel 4 are currently making a documentary on what robots really think.

Some robots are now reading the news and a few have even infiltrated neighbourhood writing groups. Who do you think wrote this? 

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

*(“Yes, We Have No Bananas” was first recorded in 1923 and subsequently by Benny Goodman and a number of other performers over the years.)

 

 

 

 

DAY 140. TIME FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

Today’s blog will only take you a minute to read. 

Our writers’ group exercise a few weeks ago was to write a piece of flash fiction. In other words, an ultra short story written to a specific word count.

The subject we were given was “A face at the window”.

This is what I wrote.  Let me know what you think and whether or not you like it. Did you guess the ending?

Fixation

I’ve spent my whole week at work thinking about her.

Yesterday she was wearing a red shawl around her shoulders.

I swear she stared straight at me.

I am haunted by that stare. I see her every day on my way to and from work staring from that window on the upper floor of the mansion block where she lives.

I keep hoping for a sign. She must have seen me looking at her.

“You’re keen to walk the dog all of sudden,” Kathy, my wife, said to me last night.

But by the time I reached the flats it was dark and the curtains were closed.

Who lives there? I wondered. I’ve asked around but no one seems to know anything about her.

Kathy and I have been watching the brilliant BBC series “Hidden” on iPlayer. It’s all about a woman who is being held against her will. I began to fantasise. What if my woman – because I’ve begun to think of her as my woman – was being held prisoner? You do read about these kind of things happening.

This morning I couldn’t wait to leave for work. I even left the house a few minutes early in the hope that I might see her.

To my surprise, there was a removal van right outside the flats where she lives. I had a hell of a shock because there she was being carried out by two men.  I did a double take. She was naked and the red shawl had been draped carelessly over the lower half of her body. What was going on? Had I been right all along about her having been abducted?

I was just about to cry out when I realised what a fool I had been fantasising about her all these weeks. To think I had been driving myself mad and losing sleep over her when she was nothing but a dressmaker’s dummy!

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems