The White Stetson.

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stetson

(Flash fiction inspired by 70’s rock documentary)

It seemed so long ago when life was young and every dream possible, when Hendricks clave the air in wild notes that punctuated the “Stars and Stripes” with Vietnam bombs, when fields of tents orchestrated a new era of peace and love.

She had been young too, had dared believe the dream. All had faded to ashes. Big business took over, exploited the music and milked the ideals to the last dollar. Yet the letter lay in her hand, white, pristine, unsoiled. Would he be the same she wondered? There was only one way to find out.

Boarding the greyhound bus, she looked back one last time. Was she fooling herself? It was forty years since she last saw him, a shadow in khaki lined up for slaughter. They had led separate lives, made their own concessions as dreams withered.

He had sent no picture. She would know him by his white cowboy hat.

“You’re crazy!” she told herself again as she disembarked clutching the bus tickets he’d sent in clammy fingers. Then she saw it – the wheelchair! Her stomach churned, heart melted at the hat hanging from the back, the white Stetson. Its owner looked up and smiled, waving her over.

“Are you the missy looking for a guy in a cowboy hat?” She nodded.

“He’s helping get my bags…. said I should look out for you.”

She raised her eyes to meet the sparkling ones approaching. Time may fly blowing much away, but some things never changed…

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The Pursuit of Dreams

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dreams

(flash fiction)

“My dreams?” you ask. Why I shall become a vet and take care of all the animals in the world or maybe a princess secretly overseeing startling new inventions that will feed the hungry and bring war to an end!” I set off blithely in expectation, but sadly as I grow my dreams shrink. Vets need years of schooling and grade levels I don’t have and I must finally come to terms that I am not really a princess, besides interests change!

Instead I shall find a glorious man to love, strong, kind and honorable. I shall devote my life to treasuring and upholding him. I set off on my quest at once, but find all the available applicants sadly unqualified for the task – they all turn out to be human like me.

So sorting through discarded dreams like rifling through old photos of past times dimmed and tinted by age, I ask myself “what remains of my dreams?” Then I find to my surprise a treasure trove beneath the scattered pictures, like jewels of dust fallen from past images to the floor beneath. Things unvalued as yet but greater in their simplicity than a hundred achievements, riches I have been gathering through the years. It is not what I have achieved but what I have become that is important, for from the mud that clung to my feet in my many painful wadings (encompassing seeds I was unaware of) have sprung flowers of wisdom leaving their trail through my life, blossoms others have picked and treasured. Did I find my dreams? No, not one, but my dreams found me it seems.

Origin of the Species

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sci fi flower

Sci-fi flash fiction (just for fun!)

The flower danced, a pale, perfect pink, in the arms of the wind. Doe shaded his eyes to watch it swirl. A touch of red he decided. He coaxed the colour wheel to a brilliant magenta augmenting the tip of the petals. Essem looked on approvingly. Her bloom, tinted white and blue, sparkled in the sunlight its long vine like tendrils caressing the trunk of the giant cyrus tree from which it hung. All around them tropical jungle rose up in dazzling hues of orange, red and purple.

“Now try!” she said.

“I haven’t got the aerodynamics finished yet,” he answered fine tuning the apparatus.

Complete at last they watched in satisfaction as the blossoms performed their aerial ballet against a vivid turquoise sky.  A light flashed on his control unit. It was time to go.

Another species had been formed. Logging the video entry in his virtual pad Doe squeezed Essem’s  hand as it slipped into his own. They ascended the portal steps into the hovering craft. Taking his seat, Doe switched to auto pilot as she snuggled, sleepily into his shoulder. They had a long trip back, but it was worth it, when the music was added  it would be perfect, another innovation to add to his budding collection. He watched as double moons rose above the horizon a blaze of crimson red. Not far now…

Descending on a lawn dotted with wild henions pulsating a few inches above the green (another of his adaptions) he called to the vast, palatial villa that sat sedately on its rim. A head poked out between the columns, eyes bright, her silver blond hair ruffled by the breeze.

“Have you two finished your homework?” she called.

“Yes mother!” he answered, “it’s all done!”

OTHER’S WORLDS

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fireworks

(A short story from a competition theme of “fireworks”.)

It was Chinese New Year 1985. Elaine looked out over the harbour anticipating the spectacle. Every year the British Consul hosted a gargantuan display to placate the Chinese population’s frustration at firework restrictions.  Random sprays of outlawed splendour  still sometimes lit the sky above the hills encompassing Hong Kong Island with a show of their defiance, but the stream of injured previously dampening the festivities was stemmed.

Though familiar with the history and the complex relationships between native Chinese and her own British expatriate counterparts it was not this that engulfed her mind as she waited for the first triumphant bursts to issue forth from the ships anchored in Kowloon Bay. ..

She was remembering the last time she watched the sky transform in its choreographed blaze of glory. It had begun with the unexpected phone call, from a Chinese friend…

“I need your help. Can you help me?” the voice smooth, cultured with that hint of accent and the odd slip of “Chinglish grammar”. It was “Susie” Chan, or so she was known by her foreign friends. Susie ran a very respectable escort agency supplying guides and dinner dates for the many foreign businessmen that swarmed the city hoping to make deals with the elusive mainland market via enterprising Hong Kong compatriots.

“What do you need Susie?” Elaine tried to sound breezy. What would Susie need at Chinese New Year? Most of her girls would be with their families, even the foreigners would be somewhere imbibing the cultural grandeur of the celebrations.

“One of my girls is sick and I need a favour. It’s a special client…”

With her light brown hair that passed for blond in China, petite features and classic blue eyes Elaine had with difficulty managed to elude Susie’s enticements to work for her. She knew even the most respectable escort girls were not adverse to “turning tricks” on the side and agencies turned a knowingly blind eye. Not that Elaine worried what people might think (she hated expat society and all it represented). She just dreaded the embarrassment of possibly getting propositioned.

“Look Susie I’ve told you before…” Elaine interrupted.

“But it’s Chinese New Year, everyone’s busy. I pay you double! Come on you know you need it. You could buy some things for the girls…” While a charming friend, Susie, like most Chinese women, had a hidden tiger when it came to business.

“He just needs a partner to go to dinner. He’s clinching a big deal. He’s crippled, can’t pick up a girl so easy, anyway he needs a foreigner. Just this once, no need to do anything, just go to dinner and smile…”

Images flashed before her eyes.  Gone was the picture of the slimy businessman, wallet in hand, instead the image of a human being in need… a cripple she said … someone who needed help to clinch a deal… Susie had accidently found a way past her defences. She sensed her indecision.

“He’s a nice man,” she said, “rich…” her tone heightened as she paused knowingly. Elaine didn’t share her perception that rich men were to be pursued and “landed”. Susie, who knew of her divorce and difficulty raising her two girls alone, doubtless felt she was throwing good fortune her way –It was every Chinese girl’s dream to marry a rich Englishman!

“That’s not important,” Elaine stammered still having a hard time swallowing just how upfront her Chinese friends could be. She could tell Susie didn’t believe her.

“He’s staying at the Peninsula,” she continued. “You’d have to dress up.”

“He’s crippled you said?” She wanted to get back to that point, the humanitarian gesture that would enable her integrity to disengage. Susie misunderstood.

“Oh it’s not so bad, he can walk with a cane, he’s not in a chair. I pay you double. ”Elaine could almost hear her smile over the phone.

“How much?”

“Two hundred dollars Hong Kong. Maybe he give you tip, big tip …” Elaine squirmed.

“No tip” she said firmly knowing exactly by what means girls got those “extras”!

“Maybe you like him…” Susie’s voice was full of innuendo.  Elaine wasn’t sure if she felt she needed money bad or that she must want a rich English husband even if he was a little damaged. Susie sensed she was losing her and changed tactics.

“Come on, you’re the only English girl I know, with your high class accent and college background you’ll be perfect. Just this time, I won’t ask again, I promise.”

She did need the money that was for sure, classes stopped over the extended New Year as half the populace, like lemmings in mass exodus, endeavoured to fight their way home for their family gatherings. Pickings for an English teacher were slim and having only returned to HK a short while ago she’d not had time to create much of a cash buffer for her and the girls. “I’m doing this as a favour to Susie and to help a crippled man pull off his business deal,” she told her conscience. It was placated.

“OK, OK Susie, just this once…”

Having finally managed to procure a cab for an extortionate price Elaine stood nervously at the door of 709. The porter eyed her suspiciously. Would he challenge her? She thanked God for her English demeanour. The Peninsular claimed the elite place among Hong Kong hotels and looked frowningly upon any but the upper classes that frequented there. She could imagine what it must be like for those Chinese escort girls trying to gain entry. Avoiding eye contact and trying to look confident she knocked. The sound echoed along the plush carpeted corridor and bounced off formally papered walls. She heard a shuffling sound within. Involuntarily she held her breath as the door opened revealing a man leant awkwardly on a cane as he pivoted the door ajar. The impression lasted but a moment as her eyes were fixed by a glowing smile. He greeted her like an old friend quelling the reservations of the porter still attending his luggage trolley. Embarrassed she rushed to help close the door.

He turned to her.” Did he give you any trouble?”

“No.” Elaine felt the colour creep up her cheeks in a humiliating flush. He pretended not to notice, though she was sure he did.

“Russell,” he said extending a hand, “and you must be Elaine. Please, sit down and make yourself comfortable. We have a little time and I want to fill you in on what’s happening.” Elaine grasped frantically at her social graces as he eased himself into a chair, placing the cane alongside him.

“Susie said you had some kind of business you needed to conclude?”

She wanted to make sure he knew she wasn’t a usual escort girl, that she was Susie’s friend… She sensed a glimmer of amusement in his eyes as he motioned to a bottle of wine set on the table. She nodded and he poured her a glass before answering.

“Yes. I’m in shipping. I’m afraid you’re going to be having dinner with an Arab oil Sheik. Are you up for that?” The corner of his mouth twitched imperceptibly at her confusion. “Don’t worry, just be yourself.” He passed her the glass.

“A little out of my league,” she ventured.

“Don’t worry, all you have to do is look pretty and enjoy the meal. I’ll be the one doing all the talking!” He smiled again. It was not the kind of smile she’d expected. It was far too open, too comforting. She had felt herself on a private crusade to help one in need (and breach a financial pitfall) but instead she found herself quite taken with him.

The wine took a relaxing effect as they chatted informally, his humour setting her at ease. Her curiosity was aroused. Why was he the way he was? Had he been crippled from birth or had some sickness or accident maimed him? How did he handle it so well?  She took in the deep green eyes, the brown curly hair that seemed to match his immaculate informality as, anticipating her thoughts, he explained.

He had made his fortune as a mercenary he said, before the leg injury that brought his career to a close. Bringing to bare his experience of several Middle East cultures in the business world he had slowly increased his wealth till now he dealt in liners. He said nothing further of his disability but seemed so at ease Elaine soon found herself forgetting the cane propped beside him.

Dinner was far less tranquil. Escorted to their table by a stream of overly attentive waiters Elaine took her seat. The Sheik seemed far from aloof, gesturing them to be seated with the practiced wave and perfect manners of a monarch he fulfilled his role with a finesse that set others at ease.

It was the woman that troubled her, excluding culture and charm. Russell had told her his colleague would be there with a companion but…

Elaine took in the perfectly matched co-ordinates, manicured nails, and beautifully coiffured hair as the icon entered into a discussion of the wine list with obvious familiarity. Elaine cringed, as, feeling distinctly inferior in her blue party dress, she hid her untended hands under the table.  Taking a few sips of wine to cover her confusion she was further intimidated as a waiter at her right elbow instantly replenished it. There were five placed about the table like implacable soldiers on guard ready to move imperceptibly forward should the slightest need arise. It was like eating in a goldfish bowl.

The conversation moved around shipping and finances between the men. She remembered Russell’s words.

“All you need to do is smile and look pretty.” Certainly that was all she could manage.

She watched in envy as her nemesis mingled effortlessly in the conversations. From time to time Russell would inquire as to her meal, her comfort etc. rescuing her when she didn’t know which spoon to use, but she was relieved not to have to engage in conversation for the most part.

Her eyes were drawn beyond the retinue of waiters to a magnificent view of Kowloon Bay. The men were making wagers about the speed of a vessel clearing harbour and eventually a call was made, courtesy of the hotel, to the ship’s captain to ascertain the facts. Elaine was strangely proud when Russell’s assumption proved to be correct.

Business finally concluded, the woman took her elegant British self to the ladies room.

“Are you enjoying your meal?” Russell asked leaning over.

In agony over her ineptitude Elaine whispered, “I’m sorry.  I’m not used to dining in such company. I wish I was as accomplished as your colleague’s companion.” A grin crossed his face.

“She’s a prostitute, a very costly one, but a prostitute none the less.” He whispered. “I thought you knew. We all know her (hinting at services rendered).  I told you, just be yourself.” Elaine was dumbfounded.

“I think the fireworks should start soon, we’ll have a splendid view.” He continued gesturing to the window.

The liner was steaming on towards the horizon and with it went Elaine’s misconceptions. When Paula returned she was no longer the English aristocrat but a fellow being of suddenly intense interest. What was her story Elaine wondered? One could not ask.

Glasses were raised as the first fireworks pumped their splendour into the night sky, their glowing colours reflecting in her opulent surroundings. Now she could enjoy the spectacle, enjoy the meal, even enjoy the company. Russell was admiring her along with the fireworks she noticed. She felt a warm glow remembering Susie’s words, “Maybe you like him…” She did like him. Somehow it didn’t seem to matter about the cane, the injury. It didn’t seem to matter to him, why should it matter to her? She watched as explosions of red and yellow silhouetted towering skyscrapers and felt her emotions blossom with their swell. She glanced round at Russell. Ever the gentleman he had given her the seat with the better view. He looked back confident in himself. Elaine smiled and knew this date would entail more than dinner.

It did. As the cane lay unheeded beside the bedside table Elaine felt her body respond like a finely tuned instrument in the hands of an artiste.  He knew how to draw notes of passion from deep within her, how to stretch them upon the air and release them in tumbling crescendos. She knew it could come to nothing, he would be here only a few days, but like the fireworks it burst in a splendour that could not be denied.

Next day she brought the girls to meet him. They were too small to understand what was happening, only that this strange man with a cane was so much fun to be with. He played with them and told stories, bought toys and chatted to them like they were great friends. When they fell asleep tucked up on the plush sofa of Russell’s suite Elaine withdrew to the bedroom.

“That’s one thing I regret,” he said. “I never had children. Maybe one day. Maybe one day I’ll settle down and have a family.”  Having gotten to know him better Elaine doubted it. There was a restless energy about Russell that had to somehow run its course.

“I hope you do someday,” she replied. “They are the most precious things in life.”

“I can see that. In some ways I envy you!”

“But not enough to change,” she teased.

“No, not enough for that.” He turned towards her his fingers beginning already to touch keys of sensation…

He had not changed, she knew he wouldn’t. Like the fireworks the time they shared fizzled and dimmed and the sky was as it had ever been. They saw him off at the airport with promises to write but the letters never materialised, yet she was grateful to him. It was not only the envelope he had sneaked into her bag containing enough to last them well beyond the New Year. It was the illumination of her life. Though short lived the bursts of enlightenment had allowed her to see far beyond her usual surroundings. He had welded his cane like a fashion accessory, something added that made him special and she must do the same. She came with her own “cane” did she not, two adorable young children. She could let that limit her or make her special. She understood, as he had said, she just needed to be herself, that was enough…

Her thoughts returned to the present as her fiancé’s arms enveloped her. She gazed out of the window of their Mid-Levels apartment leaning back into his embrace.

“Still waiting for the fireworks?” he asked.

“Not really.” She turned to look up at him curling her fingers past his collar into the enticing curls at the nape of his neck.  He bent to kiss her as outside the first explosions lit the sky. Elaine was not worried, she knew now fireworks were to be had at any season; you just had to be brave enough to light the match.

 

REQUIEM FOR A FRIEND.

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My heart is touched with sadness today. An old and precious friend has concluded his battle with cancer. As a fellow believer I rejoice is his present freedom from suffering, but can’t help but feel a small vacuum left in this teeming world by his passing, such men are rare.

He died as he lived with a peaceful heart surrounded by his family and mourned by friends without number the world over to whom he showed kindness, patience and a helping hand, (me included). Such a man needs no memorial stone to be remembered. I dedicate this next post to him through tears, but in joy that his free spirit is no longer confined to his bed.

 

         The Greatest Adventure!

          (A believer’s perspective)

Once all was clean and unsullied, fresh and new; mankind surveyed his domain. He walked childlike through creation, peeping through trailing vines, smelling the fragrance of the flowers and watching startled as birds took to the sky. Imagine the discoveries – of tastes, of textures, of rushing waterfalls and placid turquoise lakes, the mystery of the sunset, the glory of its rise…

Now it is jaded, much of the joy of discovery has ceased.

The world and creation are mapped and cataloged, pictures flash on screen at the touch of a computer key, yet the heart of man still yearns for exploration, sometimes seeking it in perversity and corruption, but we have yet to begin to delve into the infinity of creation. Exploring one plain, the carnal, seeing from one viewpoint only, we’ve missed the infinite complexity of the universe. True science knows we see but the tip of the iceberg.

Death is a ticket to another dimension from which the view is very different, a startling realization of the infinite. At death one is freed from the restriction of the physical mindset so prevalent in this modern world. Casting off its former shackles, the spirit, that curious, exploring, creative element of man’s inner being, is finally free to explore infinite horizons of time and space. Free to come to God at last casting off all confines of flesh, of time, of mortality.

No need to wait on death, the door stands open. But to enter we must cast aside the glasses of conformity, surrender to the free wind of God’s spirit and let it awaken our senses in full, opening as a new bride to her lover, in trust, in expectancy of fulfillment. Then we’ll begin to comprehend the vastness of creation. Then we would no longer fear death. The journey perhaps, but we would know the door, the portal to eternity.

“All men die, but only some truly live!” (Braveheart)

I’m glad my friend was one of them.

 

 

 

The Spark.

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light

Flash!! Darkness entered my life in a sudden, blazing, blur of light. The curtain fell, an excruciating blanket of night, one of those unforeseen, irreversible accidents, and with it descended a cage of fear. At first the pain was too intense to permit ought but its rending presence, but slowly, stealthily it came, hedging me in, in its cloak of nothingness.
There was no solace. A man, led like a child, provider no longer, a dependent. My pride withered, my self image decayed. Slowly fingers became my eyes, a stick my mapmaker, my ears bodyguards. Days dragged to months and months to years…

My release came from an unexpected source – my nephew. In gayer days I had played the fiddle – he remembered.
“Play uncle, play!” he said. I was too morose. But youth will not be gainsaid. Eager ten year old fingers firmly placed the bow in my hands and at last I played. I felt the strings vibrate beneath my fingers as if in sympathy, the bow slid across the cords drawing a rasping song from the friction as if it understood. Tears fell in gentle streams as my fingers remembered past skill, but something was added. The music now sang my own heart cry, the strings echoed my sorrow, wringing forth a sweetness.

I heard a stifled sob from across the room. My brother was crying. I had played many times before but never touched the heart of another; it was the first of many. From that day I have played, my fingers truly becoming my eyes with a sensitivity I never had before, born of that flash. A spark reduced my world to ashes, but like a phoenix I flew free, reborn.

My Ivory Tower

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ivory tower

(Flash fiction fun)

Well it didn’t look much like an ivory tower, with faded red brickwork and pealing white window sills it didn’t seem the type a prince might climb, but to be honest I didn’t look much a princess either, dumpy, with bushy dirty blond hair and a generally unkept look. I was studying law trying to make ends meet with an evening job at the local Indian restaurant.

I met him at the library. I was using the computers as my internet was off. I must admit he didn’t look much like a “prince charming” either, tall, skinny and  experiencing an outbreak of juvenile spots which I’d had my own episodes with, but he had nice brown eyes. He glanced up as I sat down and gave a half grin.

“Your internet down too?” It was more a statement than a question.

“How did you guess?” I gave the prescribed sigh.

“Easy, you’re a student I can tell. What are you studying?”

“Law, and you?”

“I.T. would you believe!” We both laughed and the ice was broken.

He never was a prince; save perhaps in the inner recesses of his heart, but the coffee we enjoyed together after never tasted so good. He offered to look at my connection and got it working, after that we were friends even when his was hooked up again.

He began to invade my tower (though he always used the steps even when the lift was broken.) Slowly I began to change; I died my hair honey blond and invested in a straightener. I encouraged him to eat better and in doing so began to lose weight myself. As he filled out I slimmed down and we became a more presentable pair, even the spots cleared up after a while. My ivory tower had become a cosy brick home. My prince moved in bringing modernisation.

But the greatest surprise of all was when he came to eat at the restaurant where I work. He fitted right in; he was the nephew of the owner you see!