Friday, 29 April 2011

Bad Timing - #fridayflash

"I don't think I love you any more."

These are not words a girl wants to hear. Particularly, when the person uttering them is still inside you, and you are experiencing the after-shocks of a deep and satisfying orgasm.

"Then you'd better go." He doesn't move. "NOW." I push him off me. He rolls over to the damp side of the mattress.
"I'm sorry."
"Save it."
"I wish..."
"Just GO."

He makes no further attempt at civilised conversation. Taking me at my word, he climbs out of bed, and grabs his clothes. I bury my head under the pillow so I don't have to look at him. But I can hear the crackle of static as he pulls a T Shirt over the torso that I was just stroking, the sliding of trousers up the legs that were so recently wrapped round my body.

"Bye then." His words penetrate the muffle of the pillow case. If he's looking for a moment of understanding or forgiveness I'm not inclined to give it. I wait till he has left the room before I allow myself to bring my head up to breathe. A sickly smell of sex pervades the room. It makes me gag. The door to the flat bangs. My cue to jump out of bed, run to the toilet and throw up.

I feel better for a second. And then I begin to cry. My body shakes with sobs that seem to surface from deep in my gut. What am I going to do now?

I don't now how long I sit there crying on the cold bathroom floor, my sticky legs rubbing against each other, aggravating my eczema. I do know that when the tears finally subside, and I pull myself up, my face is puffed and blotchy. He used to say I lit up every room. No-one would say that of me now.

The stupid thing is, that I know he is right. He doesn't love me. He never did. And I didn't love him either. We were held together by mutual orgasm and the need for company on a Saturday night. Would it have made a difference if I'd said it first?

I have a shower, get dressed and make myself some toast. It doesn't change anything, so I phone in sick. I put "Casablanca" in the DVD, wrap myself in a blanket, and settle down to watch.

The bedroom will smell of sex for days. The bedsheets will stay stained.

I'm not inclined to clean up just yet.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Plug of the Month - The Partridge and the Pelican by Rachel Crowther

This is another novel I've seen in bits and pieces. Rachel and I spent the winter of 2008 emailing each other and critiquing various segments of our books . Of course, she is far more efficient than I and has not only completed a Masters in Creative Writing since then, but  the novel too and got  published to boot!

I can confirm that although I haven't read the whole and the bits I did read were out of sequence, this is fab.
I'm really looking forward to it. So enjoy!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

A Saturday in March

"Saturday,Saturday." I find myself humming an old Elton John tune as I head down the corridor, carrying a set of medical notes. Mind you, the only reason he found it all right for fighting  was that he'd never had to spend it in Casualty mopping up the mess. Down here with the drunks and druggies, who will conspire to ensure my Saturday night will be anything but pleasant.

The glass doors open, allowing me through to the waiting area. It's 9.30pm. The room is nearly full with punters sitting on pink and blue plastic seats, tending their injuries and illnesses under the white strip-lights. We're going to be busy tonight.

I call out "Emily Davies?"  There is no answer. I call again. It is not until I call for a third time, that a young girl, with tangled hair and a slightly dazed expression, responds. She is helped up from her chair by her friend. They hobble towards me like survivors in a bad disaster movie.

My heart sinks. The paper work says eighteen, but the girl is at least three years younger than that. I doubt Emily Davies is even her real name. Her friend doesn't look much older and is in almost as bad a state. Runaways, no doubt, who've all too quickly learnt the streets of London aren't paved with gold, but with broken glass and, from the looks of it, an unfriendly fist. Emily's right eye is swollen and will be purple by the morning. She has a seeping bandage wrapped around her forehead, her brown hair is matted with blood. Her skirt is ripped and she has bruises forming on her bare legs. Her friend is stroking her arm.They are both biting back tears. I call them through and they follow me into the small cubicle. I draw the tattered green curtain round to give us a modicum of privacy.

"Can I take a look at this Emily?" She nods, wincing as I take the gauze pad of the gaping wound. The triage nurse was right, this will need stitches. I clean the wound and put a fresh bandage on it for now.
 "That's nasty, how did it happen?"
"I fell."  Of course she did.
"It looks like someone hit you."
"She told you she fell." The friend snaps. She, too, has had a rough night. Her clothes are rumpled and her mascara is smudged.
"I can get you some help, you know." Emily raises her head, hopefully. Her friend presses her arm in warning.
"Honestly, it's all right. I fell in the street. Su...Sylvia, picked me up and got me here."
"OK." There's no point pushing it, "You didn't lose consciousness  then?" She shakes her head. "Right, well I'll send the nurse in to do those stitches, and we'll keep you under observation for a bit. Is there anyone we can call?"
"No, thanks."

I call Lucy over and explain what's necessary. "I'm a bit worried about her, I think I might call the police..."
"I'd wait a bit, see what I can find out. They might be more open with a woman. Besides, the police are a bit busy tonight." She nods up at the telly on the wall. The screen is filled with images of a smoking Trafalgar Square, rows of riot police and smashed windows in the West End. Of course, it was the march today. I'd been so busy I'd forgotten all about it.

I move on to the next patient, and the next. An hour passes before I catch up with Lucy again.
"They're all right."
"Did they tell you what happened?"
"Not really, but I honestly don't think you need worry."

 I'm not convinced. I return to their cubicle to repeat my observations. Lucy has cleaned Emily's hair, and the wound is neatly stitched.  Sylvia looks better now she has brushed her hair and they are both eating chocolate bars and swigging fizzy drinks. They seem much more cheerful.

"Any dizziness?" I ask.
"I'm fine, honestly. Can I go now?"
"Another hour, I think. Have you got somewhere to stay?"
"I'm going back to Su... Sylvia's."
"Is it far?"
"Tooting. We should still be able to get a Tube if you let us go soon."
"Are you sure you don't need the police? I saw a couple of PC's outside."
She winces again,as if I'd ripped her stitches open. Sylvia says, "NO cops."

It's puzzling, but I can't prove she's 15, that her name's not Emily, and I can't force the truth out of her.

"I'll be back in an hour."

Now the pubs have closed, the waiting room is noisier and fuller than before. Come to think about it, it's even fuller than usual. But before I can work out why, I'm called to the ambulance bay to treat a head injury patient. Ambulances are  flashing in and out of the bay discharging patients onto gurneys before screeching into the night.

"What's going on?" I ask a paramedic.
"It's a battleground out there. Police with batons, protesters with bricks. We're just ducking our heads and trying to get people to safety."

I haven't a moment to let this sink in. My head injury needs urgent attention, and after him there's a possible cardiac arrest. It is way past midnight by the time I get back to the girls.

The cubicle is empty.

"I think they just went," says the patient in the next  bed, who is waiting to be plastered. I run down the corridor in time to see them heading out of the front doors. I follow them into the March night, gasping at the sudden chill as my lungs flood with fresh air.

"Are you sure you're going to be all right?" I ask, noticing Sylvia's "No Poll Tax" badge, for the first time.
"We just want to go home," says Emily.
"Well, rest up, come back in a fortnight to check those stitches. And immediately if you feel sick."
"Will do, thanks."

I watch them walking off into the night. Lucy comes up to me.

"Do you think they'll be OK?"
"I think they just got caught up in it. We've patched them up and sent them home. They're safe enough now."
"How did you know?"
"Emily Davies, and Sylvia Pankhurst? Somewhat unusual pseudonyms don't you think?"
" I guess."

Another ambulance screams into the bay, and instinctively we both move towards it.

"Saturday, Saturday..."It's going to be a long old night.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Poetry in Motion

As a writer who runs (or a runner who writes) I find a lot of my trotting time is spent pondering about this and that. It helps to pass the miles away, particularly on the long runs I've been doing of late. One of my regular musings has been the connection between writing forms and running distance. So, in honour of my twin passions, I thought I'd post this simultaneously on  my blogs:

Poetry is equivalent to 100-500m sprinting. Short, precise, fluid. Just as the sprint is a perfect mix of swift and simple motion, poems have to hit that perfect mix of words delivered with total economy.

Flash fiction equates to running a mile. Short enough to require that same level of paced precision, but long enough to satisfy a craving to go further. Flash fiction needs control, pacing and an elegant delivery.

Short stories range from 3km to 10km. Now, a runner needs stamina as well as pace, the ability to control the progress of their perfectly placed limbs. There a peaks and troughs, and a critical point to break for the finish line. In the same way, the author directs the flow of a short story ensuring each revelation builds on the last. There are ebbs and flows, and a pivotal moment that determines the fate of the characters for ever.

The novella is similar to a half-marathon. It takes guts and determination to run 13.1 miles, but it also takes a fine-tuned body, balancing energy intake and expenditure exactly. So it is with writing a novella, which requires dedication and commitment, a willingness to put the time in. But also, a control of the narrative, so the reader doesn't lose their way.

The novel, naturally, is the marathon. It requires months of preparation, during which the runner encounters set backs, injuries and false starts. A marathon runner has a clear goal to run 26.2 miles, an often complex journey of with loops, twists. When a marathon is completed, the participants are left emotionally exhausted and totally satisfied. Every aspiring novelist knows writing a novel follows a similar pattern, with dead ends, abandoned characters, and ripped up text. Completing a novel needs stamina and commitment, leaving the novelist, drained, exhausted and ultimately satisifed when it's done.

Stamina, stubborness, patience are all required for running marathons and writing novels. Luckily I'm blessed with both.