“They haven’t cut the straps.” Luke kicks disapprovingly at the third discarded mask we’ve seen in the one mile walk to school.
“Huh?” I’m not really listening. I’m wondering what we’re going to do on Monday. The third strike day of his first ‘normal’ school year since Grade 1.
“Animals can get tangled in them and die.”
“In the discarded mask?”
“Yes. It’s serious, Mom.”
One of us is missing the point. “You want the careless idiots who drop their mask on the side of the road to carefully cut the straps first?”
“It’s environmentally caring.”
“Ah, environmentally caring littering.”
Today’s photo put me in mind of a song from my childhood, The Bedstead Men, by comedy duo Flanders and Swann. You can enjoy it on the link below (2:25 for the relevant verse). It occurred to me that 80 years on, the specific items listed in the final chorus would have changed considerably, and in the last few years, one piece of litter has taken over from the prophylactic as the most ubiquitous: the single-use mask.
I toyed with the idea of amending the lyrics for our times, but at 352 words, it’s a little over the limit and most of them wouldn’t change. My own Luke recently took on board an important lesson about mask disposal, and my own Matty is currently sprawled on the couch with ‘flu … likely to recover just in time to miss school for yet another strike.
And so today’s snippet was born. If you enjoy stories featuring the fictional Luke and Matty, you can find more of them here.
Thank you to Brenda Cox for the photo prompt. Not sure why WordPress isn’t in the mood to caption it today.
Family Road Trip
“The frogs always drive 2CVs,” my husband jokes as we pass our fifth that day.
“Wearing a blue beret, with garlic round their neck and a baguette? You’ve been watching too much old TV, Dad.” Luke’s suspicious of our inclination to stereotype.
“If it was properly old, you wouldn’t be able to see the colour.”
Matty looks up then. “Black and white TV ended before you were born.” His voice is slick with disdain.
“That one’s green!” I say, trying to lighten the mood. “It looks like a frog!”
“How apt,” sighs Luke, “A frog car for a frog driver.”
*** Translation notes ***
In case you aren’t familiar, British people tend to call French people “frogs” or “froggies”. It’s generally innocent and affectionate and there’s some debate about where it came from (a summary can be found here), but like most of the national stereotypes and nicknames we grew up on, it probably wouldn’t be approved of by younger, woker generations like Luke.
Melanie had opinions about this picture, but they were depressing and a bit repetitious, so I thought Luke and Matty might be interested in the playground instead. Unfortunately, Luke and Matty, much like my real life boys, lived through a pandemic, and the sight of a rain-soaked playground gave their Mom a very different memory you can read more about here. Still miserable, I’m afraid, but then – is there anything more forlorn than an empty playground?
Even when it poured rain, we went across to the park every day. Rain never stopped play. I remember getting annoyed about it, but I bought myself raingear and handwarmers, and longed for them to be old enough to send over without me.
They’re old enough now, but we all sit inside and look out at the street instead. On rainy days, there are puddles Matty longs to jump in, and mud they would happily dig through; when the sun shines, the slides glow, calling the neighbourhood children to flout the rules, risk the world’s new Big C…
We’ve recently introduced my 2 favourite real-life boys to a bit of our childhood. It’s amazing how different kids’ tv was in those days. So I thought I’d introduce my 2 favourite fictional boys to the same bit of nostalgia. They seem to have enjoyed it…
My A Team
“I ain’t goin in no plane, fool!” Luke shouts, tying the broken crate onto the wreck we found.
“D’ya fix the transponder, BA?”
“I don’t actually know what that is,” whispers Luke, dropping out of character.
“Doesn’t matter, we gotta finish this tank before those mudsuckers get here.” Matty chews the popeye cigarette that’s acting as his cigar and props the scarecrow back up. “Look lively, Face, we need those cabbage guns ready.”
Face slumps again but Hannibal leaves him because the local air ambulance flies over at that moment.
“Murdock’s back. I love it when a plan comes together!”
On this occasion, you will forgive me, I hope, for one or two things: a little sentimentality, a couple of my favourite recurring characters, and an interpretation of the picture that is both incredibly literal and heavily metaphorical. Three days into my own mother-of-two adventure, I’ve somehow squeezed in time for Friday Fiction (thanks to Grandma who is ironing, hubby who is gardening and simultaneously-sleeping boys) not least because I want to thank Rochelle for her lovely message on the FF homepage.
For those who missed it, the announcement of Dominic’s arrival is here. I now have my very own Matty and Luke. Thanks to C.Hase for a picture that couldn’t be more evocative for this week. Now, though, a story. Of sorts.
Matty threw his arms out to the sides for balance, then jumped expertly to the next link on the old anchor chain.
“The slimy blackness of the serpent oozed up, then disappeared under the ripples for mile upon mile,” Luke intoned, studying the links undulating in and out of the sand.
I half-watched one, half-listened to the other and thought about two mornings, eleven and nine years ago when life-giving cords from me to each of them had been irrevocably cut, and replaced by something longer, stronger and invisible to the eye: a mighty chain stretching endlessly into our futures.
Another week into my own personal challenge to move away from Illustration and follow more closely Inspiration for my FF stories. Rochelle leads the way; I’ve got a long way to go to catch her. This week’s photo is from Douglas MacIlroy. I recommend both their stories to you without having read either; and many of the others besides. If you read mine, I’d love to receive your comments, thoughts and critique. Thanks!
What’s in a name?
I could hear them playing – Matty’s laughter carried and I was proud of him for finally letting his little brother borrow his new plastic lightsaber.
“Use the force, Luke,” he intoned like a monastic chant. I daydreamed over our naming discussions – the jokes that we should have two more: John and Mark, or have them re-release “When Will I Be Famous?” when they were older.
It wasn’t until I stood up that I saw the young padawan blindfolded and cowering as tennis balls pelted through the air at him from Stuart’s stupid serving machine, the coveted lightsaber prone beside him.
This week’s FF picture, courtesy of Lauren Moscato by way of Amy Reese put me instantly in mind of two of my favourite recurring characters. It being April 1st, I should probably have come up with something more foolish, but Matty and Luke stories always seem to arrive fully formed, and I can do little more than transcribe (and cut; this one started out >150 words). I hope you enjoy, I welcome your comments either way though.
Technically this story comes with a LANGUAGE WARNING.
“Look,” said Luke, “A magic portal!”
“Or the builders fucked up,” Matty replied.
I nearly put the car through a window. “Matty!”
“Uncle Jason says it means made a mistake,” he sounded innocent; I couldn’t see his face.
“It does, but it’s not something we say in polite company.” God, I sounded like my mother.
“What’s polite about us?”
He had a point. Luke had a finger halfway up his nose and I’d just beeped some idiot pedestrian.
“Our language,” I said, burning and burying good parenting, “And the fact that my sons don’t answer back if they want McDonalds.”
I must be pregnant, or a stay-at-home-Mum … Oh, or both 😉 Each week I think I’ll write a story about something other than parent-child relationships and every week, I mull the prompt over, dismiss a bunch of other ideas and land back in the family. Here’s another one where the appropriate response might be “they’ll be asking to borrow the car keys next”; I hope you like it and welcome your comments either way. In fact, I’ve written about Luke (and his brother, Matty) before; theirs is one of my favourite fictional families.
Rochelle continues to challenge us with fantastic prompts. This week’s comes from Ted Strutz – a long time Fictioneer whose writing I haven’t seen for a while. Are you still with us, Ted?
On The Shoulders of Giants
“Dad,” Luke paused in The World’s Great Inventors, “When Bell invented the telephone, who did he call?”
“Actually, three men were working on telephone inventions back then. Bell just got there first,” I said.
“So he called the other guys?”
“Also, when Edison invented the lightbulb did he have to wait for someone to invent the switch? And electricity?”
Surely only yesterday this little philosopher was riding on my shoulders and asking about Thomas trains? “Look up Isaac Newton next,” I said, inspired by the memories. “He had something to say about how inventions can’t be seen in isolation.”