A Tick Of Approval

This piece was written for The Unicorn Challenge, a weekly photo prompt for up to 250 words of prose.

Oh, that view. It’s idyllic here in Lower Sidebottom.

Yes, it is. Now.

Was there a problem in the past?

Yes. Before the Great Purge of 2022.

What do you mean?

We’d been inundated by sea changers, Gen-alphabets, lawyers, car salesman, politicians and social influencers. All the scum of the Earth.

So what did you do?

Nature took care of it with the Lower Sidebottom Tick.

I’ve never heard of that.

I’m not surprised. We locals had always known about it and we’d developed herd immunity. But with climate change, the ticks had bred up and the interlopers started getting bitten. We told them the effects were worse than Lyme Disease.

But surely they would have checked with health authorities.

Oh, they did. But we’d warned them the authorities would lie to prevent panic spreading across the country and, given the modern propensity towards conspiracy theories, they believed us.

And did it work?

As you can see, it did. Now outsiders won’t even visit, let alone live here. Hence the absence of luxury yachts, surf-skis, health food franchises, gastropubs and other abominations.

Extraordinary. On a more pleasant note, it’s a beautiful garden you have here, full of all sorts of exotic plants.

Yes, they make an excellent breeding ground for all sorts of insects. Would you like a tour? Best to tuck your trousers into your socks.

Sorry, must run. I’ve got a yoga class and I need to pick up some kambucha along the way. Another time perhaps.

Talkin’ about my A-A-Aliteration

Pleased to finally find a home for this piece of nonsense at The Gorko Gazette . It will appear in their autumn collection (northern hemisphere), spring edition (southern hemisphere).

F’ing Freddie

Freddie Stare was a fabulous finesser of foot-tapping fantasia, with his fascinating rhythms filling the gravity-free firmament after he found Fionnuala Fagan, the famed fox-trotter from Fenagh.

However, after a time, he’d decided he could fare well without fair Fionnuala and was making a fine fettle of flying solo on his seemingly-feathered feet and was often to be seen playing footsies with a wide array of footloose floozies.

Not to be fobbed off, Fionnuala furiously fanned her desire for fatal revenge and fossicked through files on pharmacology, seeking to distill a phial of foul poison to fix Freddie’s fate, knowing full well he would return to the fold in the future.

She made up a tincture of fenugreek, fennel, feverfew, fo-ti root and shrooms, disguising its fetid taste with fruit juice and fizzy Fanta.

Eventually, Freddie became fatigued and grew too floppy for fandangos, fornications and frolics so he presented himself to Fionnuala, with fraudulent fork-tongued promises of faithfulness, in order to charm her into ministering to his frail and failing frame, for old friendship’s sake.

Fionnuala was not to be fooled by Freddie’s flattering fakery but feigned concern and bade him drink her felicitous tincture, which she said she’d named in his honour as ‘Freddie’s Fantasia’. Soon after Freddie fell flat on his face and Fionnuala fed him to the fiery furnace.

Barriers are all in the mind

This piece of photo prompt insanity was written for the weekly Unicorn Challenge and this week it stars the progenitors of said challenge in all their Gallic philosophical finery.

CE: Damn, the road is closed.

Jenne: But only for 0 metres.

CE: So it’s not closed?

Jenne: Of course it is. That’s why the barrier is there. To prevent people from going 0 metres. You know what some people are like. Give them a centimetre and they’ll take a metre.

CE: So if we didn’t want to go more than 0 metres we wouldn’t be concerned about the road closure? This is the Catch-22 of road closures. If we wanted to go more than 0 metres, then this is not the road we should be on. Only crazy people would want to be on a road that’s closed for 0 metres. So sane people would not be on this road.

Jenne: Exactly. We are the problem.

CE: I suppose we could always cycle or walk.

Jenne: Then what would we do with the car?

CE: We’d come back for it after we’ve done what we came to do?

Jenne: But what if they re-open it while we’re not here? We’d be blocking the road and people would be upset.

CE: Well, we’d just have to explain we were only gone for 0 minutes. Hardly any inconvenience to a reasonable person.

Jenne: Excellent! We could even say that, like Schrodinger’s cat, we may or may not have been gone at all. That would teach them not to mess with a couple of canny Scots in the home country of Jean-Paul Satire.

A bracing tale

A wee bit of what passes for teenage romance this week, in response to the photo prompt posted in the Unicorn Challenge .

It was in the shadows behind the wall, just before that first streetlight, that I made my first fumbling teenage attempts at taking the virginity of Wendy Posingthwaite, the vicar’s daughter. I knew she liked me because she totally ignored me, except for when she whispered behind her hand to her girlfriends and they’d all burst out laughing.

One Saturday night, after the Blue Light Disco, she let me walk her home. Well, at least she didn’t say anything when I followed her and, besides, she lived next door. As we neared her front gate, she stopped and steered me behind the wall and gave me my first kiss, a kiss that seemed to last forever, until she said, like a bad ventriloquist, ‘Ar aces are uck ether’. She meant ‘our braces are stuck together’.

As randy opportunistic teenage boys are wont to do, I took advantage of the situation to attempt to unhook her bra, at which point, suspiciously quickly, our braces were suddenly unmeshed. She slapped my face and ran off laughing and I began to imagine how quickly her tale would spread around the school.

We weren’t Catholics so I don’t imagine her father could have me excommunicated from our church but he could tell my parents, a fate worse than death in our household. In the end, it seemed she didn’t tell anyone and next week, after the disco, she waited for me outside and I noticed she’d taken off her braces.

Rodentia in extremis

This piece of alternative truth was written for the weekly photo prompt Unicorn Challenge from Jenne Gray and CE Ayr. Join in the fun with up to 250 words of your own.

Inspired by an article about a former Acting Prime Minister. What a performance. Trigger warning: You might want to skip the bit about a woman waking up to find a mouse chewing on her eyeball.

Mouse plague army should be sent to scratch the faces of animal activists’ children, says Australia’s acting PM – Turbo Celebrity

‘Grandpa, what’s that sculpture in your back garden?’

In answering, Grandpa carefully avoided having to pronounce his grandson’s given name, #tafarian.

‘Oh, that’s a piece I bought many years ago from an artist called Leonardo de Capuccino. He was considered the Rodin of rodents. It commemorates the Great Giant Mouse Plague of 1946.’

‘But how did they get so big, Grandpa?’

‘Science gone wrong, my boy. Spectacularly. They used to be tiny furry creatures that could eat their way through anything. And they did. In plague proportions they brought Australian agriculture to its knees. So scientists invented a poison that killed them by the truckload and they were thought to be extinct. But a few survived and the poison mutated them into giants. Again they bred up in plague proportions until it appeared they would destroy the entire continent.’

Wide-eyed, the boy said ‘What happened then, Grandpa?’

‘Well, the Americans lent us a few H-bombs in exchange for our mortal souls for perpetuity. We nuked the pesky big creatures. The former Garden of Eden that was the inland became a barren desert and the Army bulldozed all the dead ones together to make Ayers Rock.’

‘Oh, Grandpa, Uluru existed for a long time before that!’

‘Boy, your AI humanoid teachers will say anything to cover up our sordid past. I bet they haven’t even told you that Tasmania used to be connected to the mainland and we had to dig a bloody great ditch to keep the Devils out.’

I saw it on SeaBay

This piece was written in response to this photo on the Unicorn Challenge.

The selling agent, dressed in garish clothing and with a considerable belly hanging over his tightly cinched belt, took a jaundiced look at me before saying ‘I’ve given up my golf game for this so you better not be just another mooring rope kicker.’

‘No, no, not at all’ I protested. ‘I’m a genuine collector and I’ve been enthralled since I saw it on SeaBay.’

The agent began his pitch. ‘This craft is a meticulous reproduction of Black Bart’s Royal Fortune.’

I interrupted him with ‘Which one?’

‘What do you mean, which one? This is unique.’

‘Sorry, I’m not suggesting it’s not a unique copy. It’s just that Black Bart had several ships, all named Royal Fortune. So which one is this a copy of?’

The agent, reassured that I was indeed a genuine collector, said ‘I’ll look into that for you, sir. But as I said, it is a unique copy of … what it was copied from. I apologise for my scepticism earlier. It’s just that we get so many smart alecs wasting our time. You know the sort of thing. “How many miles to the galleon?” “Is it aaaaarghed to handle?”

I indicated my sympathy and said ‘That’s OK. I only have one other question. Do the masts fold down?’

‘I’m sorry, sir, I ….’

‘It’s just that if the masts don’t fold down, I won’t be able to get it into the bottle.’

The agent’s face went from red to puce and I took off.

Your call is important to you

The wonderful Jeff Sommerfield and Jason Splichal continue to provide that rarest of things for US journals, genuine opportunities for writers across the globe. They even send postcards to their writers that come from 43 countries so far and they reach 125,000 readers.

They’ve included this piece in their Issue 24 for Spring 2023. https://www.skyislandjournal.com/issues#/issue-24-spring-2023/

Be sure to check out some of the other fine fare available.

Study under glass

This piece was written for The Unicorn Challenge 250 word max. weekly photo prompt from the Gray/Ayr empire.

It had taken seven years for him to complete his glass-domed memoir with the sunset diorama in the background. From his wheelchair, every evening and most days would be spent working with tiny tools and a high-powered magnifying glass, to re-create the boat haven near where he was born and lived as a boy.

The marina and every boat were true to that time. The final touch was the fading sun nestled above the palms and the stick forest of masts, symbolising both his early hopes for the future and the meandering journeys in his life as he waited for its end.

His father took him fishing there when he was a boy. Catches were rare but, along with the wisdom imparted by his father as they surveyed the scene before them, they were worth the wait. One evening he said to his father, ‘Dad, what are those boats made from?’ His father sat silently for a while, as he often did, and then said ‘Bullshit, mostly.’

Sensing his son’s puzzlement, he went on. ‘Most of the people who own these boats made their money from selling dreams and illusions and things no-one really needs. And people bought them. And that’s where the money came from to build the boats.’

So the boy grew up not wanting to own a boat if that was the price but he always wanted to remember where and how that happened and encase it for posterity.