Author Archives: elmowrites

About elmowrites

Writer, waitress, lawyer, Mum ... Englishwoman in Toronto ... Maker of worlds and decider of fates ... All of these things and more!

Covid-19

I never thought I’d renew this blog in circumstances anything like this, and yet here I am posting twice in two days, on a topic that’s entered our collective consciousness so swiftly and completely. I promise not to bombard you with Covid-19 ramblings every day – if I manage to reinvigorate this blog I’ll try to keep the old emphasis on fiction first and foremost, because I for one need the escapism!

But I’ve been thinking something about the disease and this seems as good a place as any to record those thoughts.

Covid-19 Crisis

As modern Westerners, we’re not used to large-scale crises on our own doorstep. We read about them on the news and in history books, we feel sympathy and we may even be inspired to act, but it’s hard to empathise and the actions we take almost never jeapordise our own wellbeing. We are removed, and we are safe.

This taken-for-granted sense of safety has been apparent to me twice before in my life. In 2001, I watched the USA reeling from a terrorist attack on their own shores. It was shocking and terrible for all of us, the world over, but as a Brit, I was surprised by the depth of the reaction of Americans. And then I realised – I had grown up with a constant awareness of terrorism in my community. Although I had never (mercifully) witnessed it myself, I knew every time I went into a city centre, to a concert or on a train, that there could be an IRA bomb, or at least an evacuation, and I had seen the effects on the news when they happened. I hadn’t grown up scared, but nor did I find it mind-blowing that terrorists had attacked and killed people. Americans I knew didn’t seem to have the same level of normalisation to this type of violence, so their grief and fear and shock were heightened by genuine surprise that it had happened at all.
Then in 2009, I lay down for bed on a Sunday night and felt an intense pain in my chest. I couldn’t inhale fully and we rushed to the hospital for what I think was my first trip to A&E (the ER). I received treatment, stayed overnight and was home the next day with a diagnosis of Pulmonary Embolism and the medication to make it better. On Wednesday, I got the train to work. I lasted a couple of hours, then went home and stayed away for almost 6 months. It seems crazy now that I went into work on that Wednesday, but I genuinely had no idea I could be that ill. I’d never had more than a couple of days off at a time, and I know I now had the drugs to make me better. It was several weeks before I came to terms with the fact that I was really quite ill, and probably a couple of months before it really sank in that I wasn’t immortal.
All of which is a long way of analogising what the Western world is going through at the moment. Most of us, for the first time ever, find ourselves in an actual, day-to-day, community-wide crisis. There is something we can do, but it’s completely messed up the things we took for granted – popping out for cream just because we’ve decided to have cake for dinner, sending the kids to school or taking them to the park, buying enough bread to feed the carb-monsters’ daily cravings…
We are the ones who look on and help (or don’t), we are communities where one person gets terrible news and the rest of us rally round; this is not a place where everyone gets terrible news and the capacity for rallying is severely diminished by the need to stay away. We aren’t those people who queue for bread, wear face masks in the street and celebrate finding toilet paper in the store. Those people live in the history books and in the ‘Third World’.
And yet here we are.
We are learning to live with this new normal, and we will, because we are human beings and those people have much to teach us about the human capacity for resilience in the face of ongoing, universal crisis. But let’s not expect to go to work on Wednesday, or to carry penknives in our hand luggage for a long time to come.
We’re in this together… 6 feet apart.
Virus-free. www.avg.com

 

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Covenant

After a long (looong) hiatus, I have been inspired by an old writing buddy to pop back and post about an old, fictional friend. Melanie never ages, so she is still 7ish, but now Sebastian is 7 too; he wasn’t born when she started being 7 in my head. Yesterday we chalked our walk (and those of some friends we are missing!) – the blue writing above it is hard to read but says “We’re in this together”.

 

rainbow

Covenant

When I stuck the last red heart to the living room window it made a complete rainbow of hearts and I couldn’t see so much of the street outside. For a whole week now, we’ve been stuck here, in the house, waiting. Waiting for the government to say we can go out again? Waiting to get bored? That’s happened already. Just waiting, I guess. Every day, I’ve folded and cut and pasted up tissue paper hearts of a different colour. Now the rainbow is done and I’ll have to think of something else to do with the long hours indoors.

Looking out of the window doesn’t help really. There’s nothing to see. A few people wearing those little blue paper masks. They wear those at the hospital a lot, but they’re everywhere. Do they really help? Does the invisible enemy really care about a tiny scrap of paper?

Mrs Mwana has put up a rainbow too. Mrs Mwana always has amazing sweets that she keeps in a little jar and now the wrappers shine their colours across the street. “It’s like hugging,” Mrs Mwana said, “Put something in your window each day and I will do the same. That way we know each other is there.”

I said we should do a rainbow because the rainbow is the symbol of God’s covenant not to kill all the people again in a massive flood. Mrs Mwana doesn’t believe in God, so she said “I’m not sure about God, sweetheart, but this is our covenant. You and me.”

Mrs Mwana’s rainbow has stopped at the orange line. I should go across and check she’s OK, but Daddy said nobody was allowed to go outside or touch each other. It’s why we can’t visit Mummy at the hospital any more. Not even to say goodnight.

I wonder what Mummy is doing right now. Sleeping, probably, Mummy spends a lot of time sleeping. Last week, I was watching Mummy sleeping and I wondered how they would know when she died. Would she really look any different? I asked Mrs Mwana. Mrs Mwana said not to worry, the doctors would know. Then she said “And when it happens, you come and see me so that we can say goodbye to her spirit.”

Except now I can’t even hug Mummy goodnight and I can’t visit Mrs Mwana and if Mummy does die, there’ll be no way to say goodbye to her spirit because I’m locked in this stupid house with this stupid rainbow that doesn’t even block out the weird, broken world or the horrible virus that’s flooding across the planet to kill everyone I love.

I want tear down the hearts, because God broke his covenant and Mrs Mwana broke her covenant or she’s lying dead in her kitchen and can’t even tell me. Then I see something moving in her window. Mrs Mwana is taping red sweet wrappers over the top of the orange ones. She sees me and points upwards to where a cloud catches the light from her sweet wrappers, or maybe it’s God, painting his promise back onto the sky.

 

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A return to Friday fiction

Hi there,

This blog has been quiet so long, I bet you wondered if I was ever coming back. I did too. But here I am, possibly for a one-off, possibly for a sporadic return to the fold. We’ll have to wait and see. Those little boys whose births were announced here 2.5 and almost 5 years ago are growing, and growing up and definitely keeping me busy. Here they are in a forest, up to some cute mischief!

But I’m really ere to share a story, to try my hand at getting back into the Friday Fiction party, and for that, I present to you a picture (Copyright Sarah Potter) and 100 words of story. I’m not happy with any of my current ideas for a title – feel free to suggest one if you are inspired. Either way, I welcome your constructive critique, I’m a bit rusting on writing, editing and what-have-you, so I’m sure there’ll be plenty to say!

For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.

The line flew unbidden into Alice’s head as she stared at Joey’s old boots, stuffed away and forgotten when summer called for sandals. She’d spent so much of their marriage cleaning up after him, it’d probably been her, but she couldn’t remember. Occasionally he’d swept through the house and made it look like she never put any effort in at all; annoying her even more.

A spider dashed out and shot across her hand.

“Oh Joey,”  Tears washed black spots onto the shoes again. “I wish you’d come back and piss me off again.”

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FF – Gilded Cage

Another post from afar, hence the lack of photo and the haste of writing / posting. You can see it at Rochelle’s FF homepage. Your comments and feedback are welcome.

Gilded Cage

It was a storyline that filled his wife’s shelves in the library: forbidden love. A girl of lowly birth who falls for the son of a Duke, but is forced to marry a blusterer while her true love enters a ‘proper’ marriage with a woman his social equal.

Teddy wondered if Diane’s sympathies for the lovers ever stepped off the page; if she ever thought of him and the gilded cage that she represented. He did, daily. And every time he read a story about Lois’ horse breeding business, he wondered whether his story would share the novels’ happy ending.

****

A brief extroduction…

Our excellent prompt photo this week, courtesy of J Hardy Carroll, reminded me of a thought that’s been mulling about in my head recently regarding the British royal family: Prince Charles and Camilla really need a better spin doctor. Because theirs is a love story.

Years ago, ten years before he had even met Lady Diana Spencer, the young Prince Charles met and fell in love with Camilla. The match was frowned upon and eventually he was married off to Di while she was dispatched to Captain Parker-Bowles. Maybe they went willingly, maybe not; we can never know.

The story we have been sold is that that should have been an end to it: Charles should have accepted his lot, and with it his beautiful, upper class and appropriate wife, leaving the less ‘correct’ Camilla in his past. But love stories don’t run like that, and in fiction most of us don’t want them too. Furthermore, until really very recently, royal Princes weren’t expected to be faithful to the trophy wives chosen for them by ‘the machine’ – and the trophy wives weren’t expected to mind. Charles and Diana happened to live at a tough time for the royal family, when automatic deference was dead, but people still wanted them to be greater than human and without our failings or feelings. Under intense scrutiny and modern expectations, I suggest neither came out particularly spotless. I certainly don’t defend any party’s actions during their respective first marriages.

But Diana has been dead 20 years and Charles has now fulfilled the romantic, love story ambition of a happy ending. He and Camilla may not be innocent, or beautiful, or particularly easy to put on a pedestal, but I suspect they are better for each other than either’s first spouse ever was, and I for one , wish them all the very best in the final act of their love story.

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FF – Footprints

My photo this week, but I’m out and about so I’ll have to catch up properly in a couple of weeks. Also means I can’t add the image from here, but you can see it on Rochelle’s ff homepage.

 

Footprints

The years ticked past as she sat rocking baby after baby through the cries of hunger, teething and fearful dreams. Each one grew, learned to walk, then talk and then push her gently away.

They returned, when the pain or fear or joys heaped upon them by the world were too great for their broadening shoulders to bear. And she, faithful comforter and trusted confidente, embraced them each time anew.

Then one day her chair rocked empty. Gathered around it, they saw for the first time the grooves her feet had worn into the floor, as she had etched footprints on their hearts.

 

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FF – Seeing God

Melanie is far and away my favourite character to write, so when she popped into my head with today’s FF photo after a long absence, I had to find time to record her thoughts and share them with you. My story begins below the prompt picture and I welcome all feedback.  If you enjoy Melanie even half as much as I do, click on her tag below, which will take you to some of her other musings.

Today’s prompt is from our esteemed leader, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. I’ve been watching a BBC documentary on Auschwitz recently and have been staggered, not for the first time, by the cheer incomprehensibility of what happened there, and elsewhere in Europe little under a century ago. Rochelle’s brand of historical fiction, set during another period of anti-semitic mass murder, is the kind of writing that I believe we need to turn shocking but incomprehensible statistics back into real emotions. I don’t think I’m the only person who finds it easier to feel for one person than for a million. Her novels are available on Amazon. I haven’t read them yet, but if they are anything like her short stories, they will make the reader do just that.

clouds-above-the-trees

 

Seeing God

I see God sometimes. Not actually, because that’s only when you’re dead. And not like a burning bush or something… he doesn’t talk. And when I talk, it’s like he’s listening but he doesn’t answer, like Daddy watching the rugby and if I talk about something, he says “Yes, I’m listening,” but he doesn’t actually talk back about the thing.

Seeing God is like a big light in the sky, brighter than the sun. So bright you can’t see it, but it strokes things on the ground like fingers and you want to touch them, but they’re never quite there.

 

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FF – The Creek

Thanks to Ted Strutz for this week’s photo, which reminds me of the Zac Brown Band song “Toes”. I went a different way for my story, though. I welcome your comments as always.

mystery-chair-ted-strutz.jpg

The Creek

Allie lay down in the creek. The rushing water eased her muscles, washing away a week’s sweat and mud. The water stumbled on rocks and branches, but never relented in its quest for the ocean. Allie wished she had the same certainty of purpose, but Owen was gone, their children were gone … She had no one and nowhere to race toward.

She was soaked when she finally stood again – diverting just a little of the creek from its mad rush to the sea to travel a while with her.

“You’ll get there eventually,” she whispered. “And so will I.”

 

 

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