Tag Archives: Inspiration Monday

Inspiration Monday – Fork / Childhood Hero

Right. Here’s the thing. Over at bekindrewrite, Steph’s given us another crop of fantastic prompts, including the two in the title of this post. Between them, they prompted me to write this little snippet from Melanie’s story, but I hope it’s within the rules – neither prompt actually appears in the story as such. Fork almost did in the first line, but it didn’t feel like a word Mel would actually use.

I hope you’ll forgive me. And I hope you enjoy the story. For those who are interested, other snippet of Mel’s life can be found by putting her name in the search box.

Watershed Moment

“There comes a time when a girl grows up, Dad,” said Melanie, looking up from her knickerbocker glory, and emphasising that last word that she was suddenly far too old to end with a ‘y’. “You’ve got to learn to let go.”

I nodded. Even at seven, she was wiser than me. I was still clinging to her mother in the same way, desperate that Susan wouldn’t leave me to take care of our little sage alone.

But Melanie wasn’t finished with me yet. “I’m a big girl now. I go to big school and have homework and a briefcase…” It was more of a satchel, but I didn’t dare interrupt. “… and Miss Purley says she is going to make me the Door Monitor. What do you think about that?”

“Wow,” I said. “Door Monitor.”

“Are you being sardastic? You know Mummy doesn’t like it when you’re sardastic to me.”

“Sarcastic,” I corrected her, almost automatically. “But no, actually, I wasn’t. Door monitor sounds like a big responsibility. What does it involve?”

“Opening the door.” Her withering look was the exact replica of Susan’s. I had to look away.

“Wow. Big girl school, big girl responsibilities. Soon you’ll be learning to drive and leaving your old Dad to fend for himself.” I could already picture it: I just wasn’t sure where Susan was in the picture – standing beside me, hunched in a wheelchair, or only a memory in our minds.

Melanie was already out of her chair and tucked in beside me, nudging my arm out of the way so she could get in closer. She liked to feel my beating heart. “I won’t ever leave you,” she whispered. Then, because she knew I wanted it so much, she gave in. “Daddy.”


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Inspiration Monday – Frozen tears

Yesterday, I did something a bit different for FF, today I’m similarly stepping outside my comfort zone for InMon. It’s a historical fiction piece. I’m not sure I’m terribly proud of it, but I’m going to throw it out there and see what y’all think. I always welcome feedback, especially constructive criticism.


Prudence looked out into the darkness and held her breath. Rain pounded the window, then instantly froze, streaking it with frozen tears that blurred her vision. But she could still see them: the lights of their torches dancing through the gloom.

There had never been such a harsh winter, even her Grandpappy said so and he’d come over right near the beginning. Most people stayed home: wrapped themselves in brand new blankets or huddled in front of previously-ornamental fireplaces. But Pa hadn’t had no choice. He couldn’t be late to the white folks’ house where he worked.

She watched those burning branches and she knew the night hid hoods and capes. Prudence prayed into the darkness that Pa had gotten through before they started their gathering. She watched as the torches formed a gently bobbing circle around a larger, brighter light. From this angle, she couldn’t see, but she knew it was a cross.

They were all praying to the same God, but Prudence hoped she was the one He listened to. She dropped to her knees, where she could no longer see the flames, and prayed that the cross wouldn’t become a crucifix tonight.


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Inspiration Monday – Raise Heaven

Another Thursday, another prompt from BeKindRewrite. The muse was determined to come back to this one – raise heaven  – however much I tried to consider some of the others. Let me know how you think she did!

The Limits of Omniscience

My father never blasphemed. I mean, never. When we were small and shouty, he used to say “You’ll raise heaven with that racket”, because Hell was outside his vocabulary. I’m not sure what he thought would happen if he said it, or any of the other words he avoided. We used to discuss it as children. My brothers – all older than I – would goad me into expletives, then threaten eternal darn-nation or the wrath of GD.

It made church attendance in our family something of a pantomime too. My first boyfriend, Stephen Thompson, lasted from Thursday to Sunday, when an uncensored ‘Jesus’ during the first hymn saw him ousted from our family pew, never to darken my door again.

We knew, of course, that our family were extremists. We heard good Christian children at school using these words as though they had no magic power, and not once did I witness a spontaneous lightning strike in the playground. But knowing you’re in the minority isn’t the same as knowing you’re wrong.

When I was seven and she was five, Magda Thorpe, who was the oldest daughter of Reverend Thorpe, told me she prayed to Jesus and he talked back. In so many words: “Jesus”. I clapped a hand over her mouth and pushed her under a yew tree to protect her, but the only punishment was mine. And it was far from divine. Mrs Davis had me stand up in front of class and explain how I shouldn’t push people because it was bad. I couldn’t even explain why I’d pushed Magda, because I couldn’t say the word she’d said.

I believed I was saving Magda that day, and I trusted my father to have our best interests at heart, even when he drove away good prospects like Stephen Thompson.

Right until I turned eighteen. Since my father had always wanted me to be another boy, he insisted that I join in the same tradition my brothers had, and celebrate my birthday with a beer at the Rose and Crown. I sat across the table from him, the pint glass a few inches from the tabletop and heavy in my hand. One sip had told me I wouldn’t enjoy this initiation, but the look in his eye ensured I would weather it.

“Get it down you,” he said. “God knows you’ve waited long enough.”

The breath caught in my throat. The cool glass slipped from my hand and back onto the table with a bump. All my muscles seemed to be simultaneously tense and flaccid, like I’d gone into some unheard of form of medical shock.

All around me, I felt like the world should have stopped, but my father and his friends, even my brother sitting beside me, hadn’t reacted at all. They were talking about the latest football game and waiting for me to drink. One by one, they stopped talking and looked at me.

Then my father laughed and they all joined in. “The rules don’t apply in the Rose, my girl. God doesn’t dirty his feet in this little corner of the world.”


Filed under Inspiration Monday, Writing

Not Friday Fiction

I predict a lack of time to post a FF story this week, so if that’s what you’re looking for, move along, or check out other FF stories at Rochelle’s HQ.

But if you’ve stumbled upon this page looking for a story from me specifically, I’d invite you to consider my other flash fiction exercise, Inspiration Mondays. For all that we sometimes grumble as Fictioneers that there isn’t enough feedback, my FF posts get many more views and comments than my  InMon stories, and I’d love to share some of them with you.

If you’ve got time, have a look at any of the stories here. As ever, I’d love to know what you think.

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InMon – Trust the Beard

My Dad, who once grew a beard and confused everyone by looking just like his twin brother (who’d had a beard all my life) will hopefully know better than to think this story is in any way autobiographical. It just sprung from the prompt. (They are both now clean-shaven, and look identical once again! Love it.)

The Beard

Stacey knew something was wrong the morning her Dad appeared at breakfast with stubble. Her mother was away, a girlie holiday at Aunt Margaret’s. The boys were away camping, so it was just Stacey and Dad for the week. The stubble appeared on their first morning together.

He’d once warned her off a boyfriend whose bum-fluff goatee made him look exactly like what he was – a boy trying to look like a man. “Never trust a man with facial hair,” he’d told her on the way to a date at the cinema. “Anyone who’s trying to hide his mouth is either smiling when he shouldn’t be, or not smiling when you think he is.”

The relationship, predictably, had come to naught. Perhaps it was the beard; more likely it was just the way relationships went at sixteen. It was five years ago; she’d forgotten the name of the boy, but she’d never forgotten her father’s advice.

So when she looked up from her half-grapefruit, she immediately noticed the telltale shadow on her father’s cheeks. She said nothing, but in the pit of her stomach, something dropped a foot or two.

The next day, it was darker, thicker. It grew a trunk, big ears and a rope-like tail and sat between them at the breakfast table. Over dinner, she could not even see her father past its unspoken threat.

He finally broke the silence on the fourth day. “Come on then,” he said, stroking it. “What do you think?”

Stacey tried to look past the beard. She tried to see whether he was smiling or not, and she couldn’t be sure. “I don’t know,” she said quietly.

“It’s just a beard! I thought I’d try something new for a change.” He laughed, as though he’d just gotten his hair cut, or bought a brighter shade of shirt.

“Are you leaving Mum?” Stacey forced herself to ask.

“Are you kidding?” The answer was too cheerful, and she still couldn’t tell if he was smiling, or grimacing behind all that hair. “Where did that come from?”

Stacey placed her spoon beside her half-grapefruit and looked him in the eyes. “I don’t believe you,” she said. “Just tell me the truth.”

Dad sat down. “I’m not leaving your Mum,” he said, his tone now serious. “But I think she might be leaving us.” He stroked the beard as though it were a safety blanket, like her brothers had had when they were babies and Mum had been torn between their cries. “She wanted to tell you herself, but I’m not going to lie to you, Stace.”

He put an arm around her, and Stacey felt the beard scratching at her neck as he pulled her close. It was strangely comforting – a pain that reflected the feelings in her chest, but so concrete and definite. She’d felt as though she was falling into a spin, but the scrape of the beard pulled her back into the kitchen.

“She can’t,” Stacey whispered. “We’re a family.”

“We’ll always be a family,” Dad said, his voice scratching as though the beard was inside his throat too. “Just maybe a different shaped one in the future.”

She hugged him and cried. He was crying too and when she eventually pulled back, she could see the tears trapped in the hairs on his face. They weren’t hiding anything anymore.

“I like it,” she said, with as much conviction as she could manage. “It makes you look like you could take on the world.”


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In Mon – Mind Clutter

In haste today, a post for InMon, courtesy of bekindrewrite. It’s not my favourite story ever and I’d love to hear your constructive criticism about how I could improve it, but I hope you enjoy it too.

Sarah’s Bag

Sarah tipped her handbag out on the bed. “It’s in here somewhere,” she said.

I thought about my Grandma Rita. She used to say a cluttered bag was a sign of a cluttered mind. Sarah’s mind clutter was probably normal for a girl our age, but it was overwhelming to me. Paper hankies mingled with empty sweet wrappers; crumpled receipts and shopping lists were jumbled together and a toy mouse with a broken feather for its tail scuttered across the duvet onto the floor. The college cat, Joey, appeared from nowhere and set about it with relish.

In truth, Grandma Rita wouldn’t have been focusing on the handbag or its contents – a hairbrush, now, and three sets of keys, one of which had a boiled sweet stuck to the fob. She would have been far too outraged that I had a girl in my room at all. Beds, she believed, were a source of temptation and therefore shouldn’t be even glimpsed by the opposite sex until marriage had been discussed.

I smiled at the memory. Sarah and I live in a different age, and the single-room living of university makes it difficult to avoid rooms with a bed in them. I wasn’t convinced Grandma Rita was right anyway, but then two condoms tipped off the pile and I tried not to look at them, the bed and Sarah in the way Grandma Rita had feared. We’d long since established that she didn’t see me that way.

In years gone by, my sisters subjected me to Disney movies more often than I care to mention. Now, I found myself half-expecting Sarah to pull hat stands and umbrellas out of the bag, Mary Poppins-style. Instead, she’d begun to put things back, unfurling each piece of paper in turn.

“I know I put it in here,” she said, stuffing the condoms in with everything else. Obviously Sarah wasn’t looking at the bed the way Grandma expected. “You should have just come to the Grad Hall yourself.”

“I know.” I should have, but I didn’t, and she’d picked up the tiny slip of paper holding my results and my future. You’d think she’d have been more careful with it: tucked it in her wallet or something. You might think she’d have read it too, but I knew she hadn’t. In spite of her cluttered bag, Sarah is so smart, she doesn’t stress about results; she trusts they will always be fine.

“I really should sort this bag out.”

I didn’t reply. Nothing I could have said would have helped.

“There’s loads of money here.” She’d found a twenty wrapped into a receipt, and there were coins all over the duvet. “I’m rich!”

“You could keep your money in your wallet,” I offered, my mind wantonly rolling on the bed with Sarah amid piles of cash. Blame Grandma Rita, she put the idea there.

“I do normally. But then I get given a pile of change and I just stuff it in the bag in a rush.” She was stuffing everything back in, still not sorting it. “Ah!”

My breath caught. She’d found the results. I needed at least a 2:2 in every subject to keep my career dreams alive and now I’d find out.

“I’ve been looking for that for ages!” She pulled the back off the oversized butterfly earring and stuffed it into her right ear. There was nothing in the left one to match and it made her look unbalanced.

“My tripos results?” I reminded her, becoming aware that she seemed to have forgotten the purpose of her search.

“Oh, I think I must have put them in my folder.” She zipped up the handbag and slid off the bed. Five seconds later, she pulled the tiny blue slip from her binder and handed it to me with a flourish. Grandma Rita never worried that having a girl in my room might tempt me to murder, but at this moment that seemed infinitely more likely than sex.




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In Mon – Paper Lies

Oh time, where have you gone? Today, the answer is in brushing up my first contest entry in months. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, here’s my contribution for InMon’s latest prompts. I’d love to hear what you think.

Paper Lies

The dead, of whom we must not speak ill, do not reserve the same courtesy for us, it would seem. My Uncle’s Will contained rather more diatribe against the family than it did bequests. And it’s unduly hard to argue with a dead man; he always seems to have the last word.

My wife was a cruel and unfaithful woman. She had a string of affairs with all sorts of people, most notably my brother, William. For this reason, I have left nothing to either of them, nor to the son who most likely shares no more of my genes than do my nephews.

We all sat round the table, listening to the reading. I tried not to look at my father, but in avoiding his eye, caught my aunt’s: wet and sunken, with something that looked like pain but could have been guilt.

On which subject, I hold those two louts entirely responsible for the downfall of the family business. Lucky I got out when the going was still good – before they ruined everything my father had worked so hard to build up. Nothing for Peter or James.

I thought of the long hard hours my brothers had put in, attempting to shore up the mess Uncle Pete had left behind when he retired. Debts renegotiated and paid off steadily, complaints handled and resolved. I knew a lot about it, having done a lot of the admin for them in my spare time at weekends and holidays.

The Will continued, naming and shaming every member of the family, and a fair few close friends too, with these paper lies. Each one, flimsy and unsubstantiated, yet impossible to disprove.

“His illness took away his reason,” said my Aunt, when the lawyer paused for breath. “Please, don’t judge Pete by these words. He was a kind and loving man before the stroke.”

Of course, that wasn’t really true either. Nobody could have blamed her if she had cheated on him – my Uncle was a bitter man long before his brain function gave him any excuse to be.

“There is one bequest,” said the lawyer, clearly trying to get through this unpleasantness and leave the family to our grief.

In all the blackness which pervades this family, one light shines. One star brings hope for the future. Her beauty, in person and spirit, her kindnesses and gentleness; her strength of character and peace of conscience are an emblem for us all. I leave my entire wealth and possessions to my niece, Ariadne.”

The whole room turned to look at me. Their faces were a mixture of shock and annoyance. How had I, little Ariadne, escaped the wrath of Uncle Pete? And what was I going to do with an estate worth over fourteen million dollars?

“I’ll share it, of course,” I said weakly, hoping to prevent the anguish of the family turning on to me. “He wasn’t in his right mind.”

“You’ll do no such thing,” said my mother. I knew what she was thinking, of course. That first lie – my father and my aunt – it had sewn a seed in her mind. She wanted to hate Uncle Pete, but now she couldn’t be sure. That’s what I mean about dead men’s lies.

“You must do what you think right,” said Father. “The Doctors said he was sane when he signed it, so the Will stands.”

“It does indeed,” said Uncle Pete’s lawyer, standing up and obviously hoping to escape now that the reading was done. “Plebney and Blake would of course be delighted to continue to assist with the estate in any way you wish.”

I looked at my aunt. She hadn’t moved. Hadn’t even looked at me since the bequest was announced. She was staring at her fingers, resting on the table, as though somewhere there she might find an answer to all her questions. I walked over and took her hand. It was cold and unresponsive in mine, as though she had died with her husband.

“Think of all the things we can do together,” I said, without really knowing what I meant.


Filed under Inspiration Monday, Writing

Inspiration Monday – One Click Away

To save time this week, I’m cheating with InMon’s “One click away” prompt. It reminded me of this flash I wrote a couple of years ago. I wasn’t too sure about it, but it won a lot of praise at the time and was runner up in a flash fiction competition, so maybe I just can’t judge my own writing that well. See what you think…


Not with a bang, but a tweet

There is a button which, in theory, only the President can push.

“We have declared war on Iran. Iran is nuclear equipped; all citizens are advised to prepare.”

The message hit every cell, twitter feed and newsreel in the country.

Some whitewashed windows or stockpiled water. Millions prayed. The majority panicked. Shops were raided. Protest groups demanding peace or pre-emptive strike clashed violently in the street. The streets were littered with bodies, whole streets were burning. The army was too depleted for Martial Law to have effect.

By the time the message was declared a hoax, its mission was accomplished.



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Inspiration Monday – Struggling to Communicate

This week’s InMon prompts include the phrase “suspicious click”. That prompted the first few lines of this story, but the rest of it came slowly, as I deliberated what it was that hid behind the mysterious attachment. The resulting story is one that some may find disturbing, but I hope you will take the time to persevere with it.

Struggling to Communicate

Geoffrey opened the email with a single suspicious click. He’d been caught before – Lionel liked to send him loud videos and embarrassing photographs – so the email entitled “check this out” made him wary.

“There was a time when we didn’t send each other stupid things on a whim,” he’d told Lionel on the phone last time a stupid forward made people from neighbouring cubicles stand up and glare at him. “Postage stamps were expensive and going to the postbox put a sort of idiocy filter on even your behaviour!”

His brother had just laughed. Called him a “stick in the mud,” which was Lionel’s way of laying on the age difference between them. Five years had never seemed such a chasm as it did now they were approaching fifty. Geoffrey felt old. Lionel still went out to nightclubs, spent what money he had on drinking and partying. Not something Geoffrey approved of, mind you. It seemed to him that this made Lionel a dirty old man.

The email opened up. The text just said the same as the title of the message, but there was an attachment. “Lindsey.jpg”.

Probably porn Geoffrey thought. He wanted to delete it, but couldn’t quite bring himself to. Lindsey was the name he and Alison had wanted to call their first girl. Had called their first girl, but only for the purpose of a few letters scratched into a piece of stone. Lindsey had never drawn a single breath, and he and Alison had never breathed her name since.

It made the dilemma of the attachment even worse. If it was porn, he would never forgive himself for looking at a girl called Lindsey in that way. She’d be seventeen now. He felt something swell in his throat. Old enough for boys to be looking at her just that way. He swallowed, feeling a mixture of despair and anger washing over him.

Geoffrey picked up his mug, took a swig of cold coffee. He couldn’t bring himself to open the attachment, but deleting it wasn’t an option either.

He closed the email program and opened up a spreadsheet. Work: that was the solution. Numbers swirled across the screen, forming themselves into faces: Alison’s when they discovered she was pregnant; Alison’s on the day Lindsey was born; Lindsey’s scrunched up little features, too blue and too still. He didn’t know anything about babies, but he knew this was wrong. The faces were sharp but the numbers were blurred by tears. He took another swig of coffee and picked up the phone to call her. Alison’s voice would calm him. And she would know what to do with the email.

But he couldn’t tell her. Alison liked Lionel. She said he just struggled to communicate – an accusation she’d levelled at Geoffrey enough times too. The numbers on the phone’s screen caught his eye. 7/12/13. He hated the stupid American phone system. The sun was shining and the thermometer in the car this morning had read 28 degrees. It was the twelfth of July, not the seventh of December.

Twelfth of July, he thought. He couldn’t believe he’d made it almost to lunchtime without realising. He opened the email program again and clicked on the attachment.

The picture opened slowly on the screen. Lionel’s head and another man’s appeared first. They were looking at the camera and smiling. Behind them, a blue and orange logo said simply “Sands”. As the picture loaded, he saw that Lionel and the man were holding a giant cheque: the kind they used on TV. It was payable to Sands and signed with his brother’s elaborate signature. The amount on the cheque was staggering.

At the bottom of the picture, there was some writing, put on with a picture editing program.

Happy 18th Birthday to my beloved and much-missed niece.

Geoffrey looked around. No faces had appeared over the walls of his cubicle; the colleagues who had heard bad sound effects and dubious music from Lionel’s previous emails were oblivious to this one. His fingers thick and his vision blurred, Geoffrey dialled his brother’s number.


Sands is a UK charity which helps and supports those affected by the death of a baby. The characters in this story are entirely fictional but sadly their situation is not. If you have a little spare in your charity pot this month, please consider a donation to Sands. You can view their website by clicking on the logo above, and make a secure online donation there.

 Whatever force or power gave us Sebastian, I’m grateful for him today and every day.


Filed under Inspiration Monday, Writing

In Mon – Cutting Through The Haze

Thursday morning, time for an InMon story! In light of my concerns about writing too many 100 word stories, I deliberately tried to go long this time. It comes in just under 500 words and I have to say there was a definite moment of hesitation at about 120! hopefully it doesn’t show and you enjoy the finished product. Thanks to Steph for a tough set of prompts this week.

The picture comes from wikimedia – I’m not sure about the grammar but I liked the sentiment (which reads: Good people are like street lights along the roads. They do not make the distance short, but they light up the path and make [the] walk easy and safe.)


Night Visitor

Evening fell like a night from a Dickens novel – thick with fog and lit only by the distant glow of obscured streetlamps. The fog shrouded everything, from the lights to the far-off sounds of traffic and revellers. Some headed home, others headed out.

None of them would notice the lone figure on the damp pavement with his head tucked down under the high collar of his jacket. None of them would see him stop at each house, pause in the doorway, and then move on. His touch was like one from the angel of death: no-one saw him come or go, yet everyone felt his visit after he had left.

His feet pounded rhythmically as he moved from house to house, yet the sound went unheard. He traced a route he knew well – cutting across gardens and passing over fences where that shortened the path. Each step confident and accustomed. Each house known and expected.

Occasionally a dog barked, or a cat leapt from its position on a windowsill. Animals’ senses were so much more finely attuned to his presence. They could feel his approach, and it made them wary. Once, a barking dog was silenced by the gruff voice of a man, “Shut up! I can’t hear the TV”, but the man himself had no idea of the meaning and import of that bark; no idea how close he had passed.

At the end of the road, a police car drove by: its lights fuzzy in the fog but its siren cutting through the haze. He froze to the spot, waiting for it to pass out of sight and hearing. The fog seemed to close in, hiding him like the cloak of night.

Though he knew the police wouldn’t touch him, the siren left his heart beating faster. It had been so sudden and so loud in the quiet evening. He paused a moment after it had gone, waiting for the silence to feel comfortable again. Eventually, the sounds of traffic and distant crowds began to settle back in around him. He approached the next house, and a dog barked behind the door.

He was back into his stride now, a few houses from the end of the street.

The barking stopped and the door opened. “Get off my goddam porch before I set the dog on you!” shouted an old woman, silhouetted against the lights of the house. “I don’t want any more bleedin’ pizza leaflets. I’m lactose intolerant!”

Jacob smiled. He would take a break after this. Get a coke from the corner shop, maybe. Perhaps even a hot dog to fuel him for the rest of the shift, certainly not a pizza – he ate enough of those when he worked in the store.


Filed under Inspiration Monday, Writing