I really do love Sample Sunday. I don’t do a lot of marketing in the week, but on Sunday, it’s a chance for me to share some of my writing, perhaps with people who aren’t aware of my work. Sometimes I post new writing, sometimes it’s writing I’ve had on my books for a while.
This week, as last week, it’s a selection from my two current collections, .: Bleak Midwinter Tales :. and .: Bleak Midwinter Tales 2 :. . They’re also available from Amazon.com in the US on .: BMT :. and .: BMT 2 :.
The first of this week’s stories is nasty. This could possibly make it into a longer work at some point, but it shows the depraved and sick minds that some people have. The second shows how an innocent, spur-of-the-moment decision can have grave effects on the rest of your life. The third story is a very sad tale, told through photos in an album, and shows how things can change over the years. The final story is back to nasty. I sometimes wonder where I get these ideas from.
Anyway, without much more ado, here’s the pieces for this week:
ADDING TO THE COLLECTION
Lightly, he stroked his index finger across her skin. Milky-white skin, perfectly smooth. He traced her lips, her beautiful, red lips. How he longed to kiss them. But they should be unsullied.
Her hair was briefly caught by a breath of wind, and a strand or two flicked hesitantly across her cheek. He impatiently brushed them away, and tucked them behind her ear. Nothing should spoil her beauty.
Satisfied, he stood up, and stretched his aching back. He was getting too old for this type of work. It was time he found someone who might be interested in taking over. There was always too much to do, and time was short.
Above, the branches of the trees shook with the portent of the coming storm, causing leaves to rustle and hiss like tree-bound vipers. He breathed in the fresh, cool air. A touch of chill foretold the advent of winter, and with it, the inevitable snow. Maybe even as soon as this afternoon. The last thing he needed right now was a whiteout.
He hurried to where the camera stood, poised, observing the scene like some impotent Big Brother. Two photos, identical, one for the cops, and one for his growing collection.
Collapsing the tripod, boxing up the camera, he took one last look. Such beauty, tainted with a rapier-like slash of red. Quite possibly his best yet.
ONE FOR THE ROAD
“So what is it, Connor? Another pint?”
“No thanks, Trevor, I’m driving. Anyway, I should be getting off. I have to pick Jamie up from swimming in twenty minutes.”
“You’ve only had a couple. Another won’t take you over the limit. And it’s not very strong beer.”
“You sure? Okay then, maybe just a half.”
“Don’t do halves, Connor. So another pint it is then.”
“Okay then. One for the road. But I’ll have to down it pretty quickly. I don’t want to keep Jamie waiting.”
“He’ll probably be talking to his mates outside until you turn up. You’ll be fine.”
“I suppose you’re right. Ah. Cheers, Trev.” “Cheers, Connor. Good health.”
Ten minutes later, and Connor lost control of his car, driving too fast because he was late, and because he was over the legal limit. And because he was trying to answer a call on his mobile phone.
Jamie, rather than wait around in the wet, had decided to catch the bus home with his mates. He called his dad’s mobile phone, to ask him where he was.
There was really no need for the phone call anyway as, for a split second, Jamie knew where his dad was, and Connor knew all about Jamie catching the bus.
A WISH FOR JENNY
Opening the faux-leather album, a sliver of tissue paper spilled out, and wafted lazily to the faded floral carpet. Many years ago, she could have picked it up, maybe, but not now. The restrictions of advanced years and infirmity meant that all movements needed to be carefully considered. Each time, a value judgement was made – was the hoped-for result going to be worth the effort involved? The ratio increasingly tilted towards the effort being greater. Someone would pick it up. Later.
The first page was all bumps. Grainy black and white stomachs, stretched and enlarged. With each photo, the smile became more strained, with more forced happiness.
And then a change. Colour now, and a small cotton-wrapped thing, a creature, a new life. It grew, it pulled funny faces, it smiled. It ate, sitting in a high chair, more food on the white plastic tray than in its mouth.
Later, the photos were clearer, better quality. A young girl now, not a thing. New school uniform, knee-length socks and pleated skirt. A bright red ribbon held pigtails tight. Later still, the girl added a straw boater, braces on her teeth, glasses for her eyes. A party, and a large “Happy Birthday, Jenny” banner across the width of the room.
As the pages turned, the story of a life unfolded. Graduation day, broad grins, cap and gown, rolled-up certificate tied with red ribbon. Another face appears by her side, handsome, sparkling eyes. Hair cut short, and then very short, to go with the uniform he wore.
And now there was a lump again. Crystal-clear colour images, but the same bloated stomach, covered in designer maternity wear. Parties, celebrations, sometimes matching stomachs from friends. Plenty of uniforms around.
And then the same cotton-wrapped bundle. But somehow not the same. The smiles were all mouth, but the eyes were sadness. Photos of the small thing, tiny hands and feet, but not quite right. Proud parents, but their expressions said: “How long?”
She closed the book, and looked at the tissue on the floor. She wished she could have picked it up, but she wished more that Jenny could have had a book to chart a life, rather than record a death.
A VILE AFTERTASTE
Vince dug the teaspoon deep into the jar, and scooped up a big heap of garlic and dropped it into the hot olive oil. Vince always liked lots of garlic. He thought it added a special flavour to the food he cooked. Jenny didn’t – she said she hated the taste, even hated it on his breath if he’d been eating it. He inhaled deeply, with a smile on his lips.
He stirred the oil, turning the crushed garlic a light brown, before he added the chopped onions, and then stirring the whole mixture. Vince loved cooking, and tonight was spag bol night, his favourite. Jenny never liked his spaghetti, but tonight he was eating alone. He turned to the cedar chopping block, and cubed the meat carefully. Bringing the block to the cooker, he began dropping the chunks of meat into the pan, stirring as he did so.
“So, Jenny.” Plop. Sizzle. Stir.
“You never liked garlic.” Plop. Sizzle. Stir.
“Did you?” Plop. Sizzle. Stir.
“So what do you think of this then?” Plop. Sizzle. Stir.
He bent his head down to the pan, listening intently. He wrinkled his nose. He didn’t like the smell of this meat, although he might just have to get used to it. There were a good few pounds stored in the freezer.
© Gerald Hornsby 2010