V/Line Vignette 1

Golden 1.4.19

Pauline’s husband died on the eve of their 50th wedding anniversary. A heart attack. It was no surprise as he had been one of a dying breed. A smoker  who over the years had to trade the convenience of smoking anywhere he chose for surreptitious drags in the shadows wedged between the looming office tower where he worked and the adjacent apartment block where he kept four walls for late nights at the office, doubling as a faux bachelor pad for the high class hookers he was dependent on. He’d work late into the night, billing clients for time that would never be his again. Pauline had been busy with arrangements for their anniversary party that coming weekend. It was just another of a long list of projects that kept her occupied through the course of their marriage. Their secret for longevity, they’d only half joke to anyone who cared to ask, was that they were both too busy to have any marital discord. This was of course not entirely true. There was discord, but it was spoken of in the hushed tones of their body language, separate beds, and dreams on divergent paths. From the first time they clapped eyes on one another, Frank a fresh graduate, and Pauline one of many typists in the room servicing the bellowing orders and egos of the men at the Firm, alarm bells rang. He’d criticised Pauline’s spelling mistakes, the smudge of ribbon ink that smeared his dictated words, and the thick, un-shapely legs beneath her desk. He was just getting accustomed to the status quo, clocking the hours to be the man the world accepted and expected of him. Their courtship, which really was just a regretable late-night tryst in the office, led to pregnancy and a shot gun wedding, Frank ejaculating quicker than Pauline could vow that it would be a first and a last. The pregnancy and her changing shape, moods and  connection with the growing being inside her that he had no control over (yet) drove him into violent rages. And so it began, or rather, continued – she could do nothing right and had the bruises to confirm this. She was lazy, a shitty cook, and of course those legs only became more engorged with the fluid retention of pregnancy. Before number one was born, Pauline already thought she’d leave Frank once her bump was of school age. That way she could get full time work and everything would be okay. Time flies she’d think, at every milestone that reminded her of her failed plans. Now that bump and the two that followed in quick succession are adults who occasionally face-time, and Frank is dead. After answering the phone call pronouncing Frank’s demise, she didn’t skip a beat and carried on with the list of final touches required for the party the following evening.

 

Vanessa 9.4.19

The train wove slowly through the changing landscape, darkness descending as tired commuters yawned, faces illuminated by dimmed fluorescent tubes overhead and blue screens projecting mood lighting upwards from clasped hands and warm laps. Veronica fought her will to scroll, placing her phone in her bag and focusing instead on the outline of blurred trees and dark sky, switching her gaze occasionally to the reflection in the window beside her of the couple who sat across the aisle, oblivious to being studied while buried in their laptops, the quiet carriage a convenient excuse for their absence of words. Proposals needed writing and job applicants needed screening, get it out of the way, they had both agreed long ago when their commuting lives began, to free up the evening to feed their voracious appetite for whole seasons in one sitting. Of course, Veronica had no idea this was the case, but creating a story for the people she observed muted thoughts that reminded her of what was missing. Looking at her checkered canvas shoes, she recognised the pattern in the lives she imagined, bleak and loveless narratives that blurred and rendered each observed pair of strangers no different from the last, not even the lightness of a homeward, end of work week leg allowed her to see them any differently. She was single and had been for some time, with no frame of reference other than the failed relationships of her past, poor choices that littered her memories of her twenties and thirties. She returned to her phone for the colourful distraction of candy crush, not quiet the same without the dopamine firing sounds, but a temporary reprieve from the same tale she’d tell the next morning.

 

In the spirit of the holiday, I am resurrecting my blog. The ‘V/Line Vignette’ series will be a weekly post with what little or a lot I have written on my commute. These are from two separate weeks earlier this month. I return to work 29th April, so I will post the next V/Line Vignette sometime on the weekend of 4th May (may the force be with me to commit to that)- saying all this is about accountability. I admire people who commit to a long term creative project like a daily illustration, photographing each meal they eat for a year, a weekly vlog etc. Have you committed and followed through on a long term project? I‘d love to hear from you about how you stick to a concept.

Awakening

Close up photo of a highland cow with cloudy sky background by Jacco Rienks used for sonya's three line tales microfiction prompt.
Photo by Jacco Rienks on Unsplash

Every morning—I assumed it was morning, but couldn’t be sure as the only light came from stark fluorescent tubes that were always lit—my horns were clasped and measured with calipers cinched by gloved hands.

‘Growing too slowly…’

The man in the white coat would mutter to himself each time before shuffling away, almost tripping over his too-long trousers, to top up my trough with a bland oily porridge that was served cold and congealed. It was unappetising but I’d eat it all, nothing escaping, not even the irony of all the meals I once snapped and shared with friends as though they’d mattered (the meals that is); the freedoms I’d taken for granted had never been photo worthy. Continue reading

La Porte de L’Enfer

Photo of a wooden door on a stone building, shut with a chain and padlock. Used as photo prompt for flash fiction.
Photo by Bogdan Dada on Unsplash

I’ve lost count of the number of times ‘the only thing private are his thoughts’ has been muttered by passers-by believing their words to be original and witty; while I retain the dignity of private thoughts in my nakedness, the pleasure is dimmed somewhat by the many distractions that rarely allow for a single coherent train of thought: visitors taking photographs; amateurs and professionals alike making sketches I’ve learnt to not take personally when certain proportions are downgraded to fun size; pretentious conversations about art; scrunched up pages of a sketch book hurled at me; crude paper planes projected with whimsy in my direction, their sharp points denting on impact, gravity ensuring I never receive the message; heads bowed in studious attention toward a Lonely Planet within my line of sight, page open to an image of me as the reader verifies the importance of their visit; and of course, that originality and wit rearing its head again with poses mimicking mine, taunting me as the comedian’s jaunty limbs move in and out of freeze frame with fluidity that escapes me.

As the sun sets on the grounds and the last of the visitors makes a beeline to the gift shop, the first muted signal of evening’s silence cloaks me like a lovers embrace, something akin to a tempered version of that kissing pair who don’t get a moment away from one another.

With the quiet of closing, when left alone with my thoughts for a spell, I’m grateful for being on the right side of the real gates of hell; knowing the screams from that garden shed will take their queue when the bells toll at midnight, telling a tale of a more brutal inferno than our maker envisioned, the fury and despair of forced retirement where the wounded, the shattered, and those with chips on their shoulders too large to repair are banished for eternity.

 

Story inspired by Sonya’s Three Line Tales, Week 97 and memories of a visit to the Musée Rodin in Paris a long time ago.

 

Impartiality

Photo of three people riding horses through the bush in an Australian cattle station. Used as a prompt for microfiction.
Photo by Tobias Keller on Unsplash

In the unseen timelines of the mortal trio, that day was marked as the occasion of the light dimming in each of their hearts forevermore, disconnected as they were from the source.

They’d slunk out of the forest triumphant, leaving behind an unrecongnisable world: sacrifices made in the name of gods they didn’t believe in, although flashbacks were tinged with fear of the wrath of those same dieties.

Meanwhile, the sun continued to rise and set, bearing witness to daylight thievery and acts of grace with the same silent intensity.

 

Inspired by Sonya’s Three Line Tales Week 95.

Excess Baggage

Photo of a pile of dirty dishes in a small sink with a single tap, used as a micro fiction prompt
Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash

We stopped at Novosibirsk and waited on the  platform; as with all other stops, there were locals selling soda, peanuts, pickled fish, two-minute noodles, and the powdered mash potato that had been my staple; I’d get hot water from the surly samovar attendant and with a little stirring, giving me that sense of having cooked a meal, I turned out a delicious starchy mush that paired nicely with whatever vodka was going. Continue reading

Pre-Iron Age Chef

Photo of a snake skeleton use as a prompt for a three line tale, microfiction story
Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

 

Today in the kitchen stadium, the challenger has plated up a char grilled Adaptosaurus on a bed of mashed sweet potato with a side of shredded brussel sprouts stir-fried with the secret ingredient: full-moon-bathed silvered almonds.

If you want to recreate this gastronomic wonder at home, the first step of course is to hunt down your creature, good luck with that—we picked one up at British Museum deli—they’re hard to come by, so if you’re stuck, use chicken and adjust the cooking time accordingly. Carefully debone your protein with a sharpened stone, lather with crushed garlic and coconut oil, and pop it on the grill for an age—paleolithic magic!

 

Inspired by Sonya’s Three Line Tales, Week 82

The Used Car Salesman

Photo of a blue volkswagon combi van used as a prompt for a microfiction story

Photo by Annie Theby on Unsplash

She paid in cash, said it was her savings and emptied a beaten up old suitcase on my desk; between you and me, I usually let people feel they’re getting away with a deal, play along with their haggling and knock off five hundred or so and everybody’s happy, but she wasn’t having none of that—couldn’t wait to dump the cash and drive off with the combi, but then said something about not being able to drive a stick and walked off.

Fred rubbed the stubble on his chin—the bristling of the short hairs gave him pleasure—as he waited for the officer to catch up with her note taking— So why the questions? Was she some kind of crim? Hadn’t seen her around these parts till…

The other officer—carrying a sizable black plastic bag—walked up behind Fred, cutting him off mid-sentence You might want to have a lawyer present before you do any more talking. Frederick Ainsley Bartlett, you are under arrest for…

 

Inspired by Sonya’s Three Line Tales, Week Eighty. I really did’t know where this one was going and feel like it was a bit of a cop out (no pun intended) ending, but maybe I’ll continue it. I so often add half baked promises at the bottom of my posts haha. If you have any thoughts on what Frederick is getting arrested for, please do share…