Writing Sprint Poetry: Grandfather’s Hand

Writing Sprint Poetry: Grandfather’s Hand

This week’s writing sprint’s prompts were five words, an image, and a quote.

The words were: Pretend; Friends; Different; Agent; Hands.

The image and quote inspiration:

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The Walt Whitman reference tempted me into poetry waters. Be warned, there are two P’s I struggle with on a regular basis: piano and poetry. Luckily, I have a teacher to help me on the keys so I understand the rules (sometimes) and can play something close to a tune.

As for poetry, I haven’t got a clue. To prove the point here’s this week’s effort (I apologise in advance to any poetry purists).

Grandfather’s Hand

An unfinished sky,
A brick without dust,
A grandfather’s task,
The last tailored must.

The shatter of glass,
Uncompromising thirst,
Pre-ordained hope,
A step to the worst.

All blinded by blood,
Bonded by their hate,
Hoping halves are whole,
The strong segregate.

Seen with pretend youth,
Older than their age,
River to waterfall,
Love that becomes rage.

Moving over seas,
Touching clouds trapped above,
Agent of circumstance,
Perceived as a dove.

With no obvious stop,
The bird has to land,
Spreading broken wings,
It takes a last stand.

After this moment,
Good can become true,
More shattered glass, sparkles,
Grandfather’s chosen few.

With rounding complete,
Friends fade to the past,
As light becomes shadow,
The hope needs to last.

It hangs different,
Each day is a stride,
Disbelief mistaken,
For Grandfather’s pride.

Writing Sprint Short Story: Dogma(n)

Writing Sprint Short Story: Dogma(n)

The latest prompts for the two-hour writing sprint were:

Pole
Bodies
Slink
Pyramid
Inch

I did make a conscious effort to lighten the mood after the two darker pieces the early April writing prompts produced. Somehow that led me to a dog POV when all signs pointed to a lap dancing plot.

Dogma(n)

Before we start, let me get this out of the way – I’m a dog.

I don’t mean that as a turn of phrase, like: “That guy’s acted like a real dog.” I am a real dog. Literally a dog. And I mean literally in the very literal sense, not in the way people do nowadays when they say things like, “I literally died.” They literally didn’t.

But who’s going to take an English language class from a canine?

Another thing we’ll clear up from the start, I used to be a human. I know all about being up on two feet, talking, sitting on the loo instead of crouching by trees. Yeah, I’m familiar with the big people world. I’m also pretty certain not all dogs – if any – are reincarnated like me. It’s pretty hard to say for certain. Bark language hasn’t really got the range to ask such probing questions.

If I tried to put, “Hey, Oscar, did you used to be a human too?” into a series of barks, it would only result in one of my big people telling me to keep the noise down. I don’t actually know any dogs called Oscar. I’ve heard it in the park a few times. Seems to me that more and more dogs are being given proper human names. Check mine out, it’s Billy.

I’m not complaining, it’s a cool name. I imagine when I’m too old for walks, it’ll drift toward Bill. Old Bill on the rug by the fire. “Come on, kids. Leave Old Bill alone. He’s old and grumpy.”

To be fair, I’m pretty grumpy now. Probably wondering about my breed at this point. Is Billy a grumpy German Shepherd or a nippy Yorkshire Terrier. I find the question offensive. Labelling us like that. I’ve left all that labelling business to humans. Plus, I’m not completely sure. I’ve forgotten how mirrors work. There’s a niggling feeling that the dog upstairs on the inside of Karen’s wardrobe door might be my reflection. Whenever I see that big, handsome but rugged character, I can’t help but bark at him. It’s just instinct, see.

There’s a lot of that going on being a dog: instinct.

By the way – FYI, as I hear the younger ones say – Karen is the female big person who lives here. She’s great. At first, she wanted a dog about as much as I want ten cats lined up on the back fence when I’m locked inside, but she came around. Now it’s Karen that takes best care of me. The kids are growing up, I’m not as much fun as the little phones in their hands. The male big person – James – is cool, I just see less of him nowadays. He still gives the best walks and stays up late chatting to me.

Back to that instinct thing. It’s reasonable to wonder how a dog that remembers being a man can get on in life. Some things should disgust me, or I should apply knowledge gained as a person, or refrain from certain acts. I do chastise myself over many things but a lack of willpower isn’t just a human trait.

Also, some things are impossible to stop. Try opening a pack of Pringles or Jaffa Cakes and taking just one. A single Pringle. Let it sit on your tongue then refrain from having any more. Pretty much impossible. It’s like that being a dog. So much is like a scratch that needs to be itched. The top of the Pringle pot is always open.

We know we’re giving into temptation and instinct – often they are mutually exclusive – that’s how we know when to tuck our tails between our legs after chewing expensive shoes. Seriously, keep a nice set of Bottega Veneta’s away from these biters. Yummy. They’re not actually tasty in the conventional sense, I prefer a sausage, but it’s that Pringle moment times ten. Well worth a clip around the ear.

Being aware of the human world, another natural line of thought is the one humans are super obsessed with: sex. Well, there’s a thing I’ve done as a canine and a man – it isn’t doggy style, you perverts – it’s having the old balls chopped off. Literally, as in really happened, as a dog. Cut and binned. Had my tubes tied as a man. Having it done as a pup means I don’t have an eye for the ladies. Or the bitches as gangster rappers and us dogs get to say. Sure, I have a female friend. Her name’s Bella. A tall, golden, slinky thing. Trots around like she’s from higher breeding but the minute the big people are out of sight, she’s the one running off to roll around in fox faeces.

I hate to use a cliché but almost feel prompted to say that if you give her an inch, she’ll disappear for the next mile.

She even has the audacity to snap me into silence on occasion. For some reason, she loves listening to Ken Bruce’s PopMaster Challenge. If I try to get her attention, she’ll make a little nipping motion to shut me up. Then she returns to the classic head cocked expression. Dogs looked so stupid when they try to concentrate, I’m pretty sure it’s something I’ve  never done. The silly head movement, not concentrating, I still have to focus on the odd thing even with a plethora of human knowledge.

Bella making sense of the radio is a one off. The television plays a big role in human life, but it becomes something different as a dog. I’m aware it’s there, creating sound and images, but it’s like reading the control panel of a Klingon ship in Star Trek. I get what it is supposed to do but can’t translate it so it becomes a blur – a prop.

Language suffers from the television-Klingon-blur thing. I understand what it’s there for but it begins to drift out of understanding. I remember the key parts. A bit like a Brit on holiday, I know the words for food and drink and anything denoting fun. The rest of the time I let their babble become white noise.

You may be wondering how this situation enables a stream of canine consciousness to exist. To paraphrase and improve on Confucius: am I a dog dreaming of a human reading my diary or a human dreaming of being a literary dog?

Perhaps a direct quote of his will better suffice: Life is really simple, but men insist on making it complicated.

I say direct quote, it’s obviously translated so it probably means something else in Mandarin or Spanish or whatever tongue the wise man spoke.

One important thing you have to remember is, for all their collective wisdom, humans are a bit weird. Canines just have to play along. Take the whole giving a paw gig. When James invites his mates over, they don’t need to lay an open palm in his hand to get a beer. If Billy here wants a biscuit, I’ve got to smack a paw down on James. Thing is, most of the time, I haven’t even thought about a biscuit. You think he’d have bored with the performing monkey acts by now but it keeps him ticking over, so, whatevs.

I take some small comfort in knowing James is very particular about hygiene – he never handles the bottom of his trainers – but never thinks twice about putting my pads in his bare hand. And sometimes, Karen doesn’t wipe my feet after a walk. She can be a rascal.

There’s the whole thing about our noses I should clear up. Apparently my hooter has the potential to be a hundred-thousand times more sensitive than a human’s. This isn’t raw scent. It’s hard to make a direct comparison. It’s not like shifting from standard definition to Ultra HD. A lot of that scent gets converted into different perceptions. Sometimes it’ll be a feeling, a strong emotion, pure instinct. It’s an expansive sense but not overwhelming. Sure, if you gave me my human nose for an hour, then switched back, it’d be too much. But I don’t know any different now and this sense has served me well. I can literally smell your fear.

I may be using literally the way the kids do there – or am I?

But seriously, if you take a turd and try to hide it in Tupperware, I’ll be able to smell it. And if someone’s searching for a hidden treat, I’m in pole position for getting there first.

It’s why some dogs get careers. If you can smell out dead bodies or a stash of drugs, your days of looking forward to one walk a day are behind you. You get a uniform and join the fuzz. Little insider secret here: the dogs know they are searching for cadavers and crack. The humans believe they train the dog to think it’s all a game, that they’re looking for something to get a treat.

Yeah, okay. Think about it, you have a highly intelligent dog, you trick it into thinking it’s seeking out a favourite tennis ball. First day on the job, it finds a dead body. It would shit a brick, proper freak out. But they never do, they wag their tail and accept the treat so the human copper thinks the training worked.

Humans: weird and gullible. They’ll believe anything that makes them feel better, even if the evidence is so clear and obvious to the contrary.

The big people have rules that us pets have to follow. I hate using the term pets. Or anything that acknowledges ownership. It makes me feel like a slave, when for the most part, they treat me like family. I’m definitely more in the family clique than Uncle Cliff. We all think he’s an idiot. When I was still young enough to get away with it, I’d pee in his moccasins. The structure is a little like a pyramid Ponzi scheme. Karen’s at the top (no one’s told James yet), there’s a tier below her with a few people on it (her parents). Another below that which includes James and the kids. Then a wider bottom area where I sit with Uncle Cliff.

Uncles aside, they see me as a pet. There are key principles applied to my existence.

Rule 1: I am not allowed to share the sofa with a human. If there’s no one around, it’s fine. But if a big person arrives it’s an unspoken rule (sometimes reaffirmed with hissy words) I must get off the sofa. I shan’t be crass and draw a comparison to human history but if there’s one thing it shows us is how humans can’t help segregation.

Rule 2: There is a restriction on where and when I can groom my nether regions.

There was one time James and Uncle Cliff were enjoying a late night beer after a barbecue. I thought the ambiance – lads together – lent itself to a clean of the gooch. Cliff said, “I wish I could do that.”

James replied, “Give him some of your beer, he might let you.”

He didn’t give me any beer, and I would never let Uncle Cliff down there.

Rule 3: Being house-trained is the primary rule. It’s also a bit of a pisser. I list it here third because once it’s nailed on, the big people never directly mention it again. It is just heavily implied when they acknowledge late night whining. Now, I remember using the toilet but the logistics of getting up, not to mention how it’d start a massive debate, just turns me cold on the idea. Plus, if I can’t share a comfy sofa, I ain’t making toilet breaks easier for them. I take comfort in watching James bend over to collect my shit. It’s another reminder that humans are weird.

Being locked up without a bog can be painful. Picture a two hundred mile car journey without a toilet break. If you make it all the way without a stop, you get a million bucks. The catch is, you need to drink four litres of water beforehand. Yeah, good luck with that. I have to endure that most days. If it’s a night Karen and James are out drinking, it’s like ten litres of water.

I make sure the morning after such occasions my bark is especially cutting.

Rule 4: The feeding rule. I can only eat when directed. Sometimes James fills my bowl up and makes me sit and look at it. He can be a right tit. I remind myself it’s a pathetic control thing. An offshoot of the food rule is how I can’t use human plates or drink from their taps or cups. Which seems especially strange when you consider the vigour used when applying Rule 2.

Rule 5: I’m not allowed to bite anyone. Even Uncle Cliff. Breaking this rule is likely to result in the death penalty. Did you know 1964 was the last time capital punishment was used in the UK? The last time they put a dog down for biting a person was about the time it took you to read this sentence.

Rule 6: Anything they throw, I have to catch. Unless it is dropped food (see Rule 4).

No sofas. No licking balls. No eating until told. Long sleep for trigger-happy teeth.

But aside from all that, it is a dog’s life.

I get an easy ride, unlike James. He came home late last night and you didn’t need a super-sensitive nose to smell the trouble he was in or the guilt he’d tried to drink away. Karen really let rip. She’s quite good at shouting. Even the kids got emotional and shouted some abuse. I let off a few barks, feeling that everyone in the family should get their two pennies’ worth in.

James spent last night on the sofa. Doesn’t feel so special now, does it, James?

I even drank from his cup of tea when he was sleeping. He’s got to be careful, it’s a quick descent from his current position. He only eats when Karen says he’s free to use the kitchen. I reckon he’s a few days from being made to poop in the garden. He’s practically on all fours begging Karen every day.

Karen’s officially declared James is in the Doghouse which must be a metaphorical place because I’ve never been given the keys to my own pad. It must have something to do with Rule 7: Act as a guard when big people are in bed, because he’s barely sleeping on that sofa.

He’s not barking at cats yet, so there’s a chance his stay in the Doghouse will be short-lived. Some people just aren’t cut out for the dog’s life.

Writing Sprint Flash Fiction: The Forgotten Child

Writing Sprint Flash Fiction: The Forgotten Child

Following this week’s prompts for the Aside from Writing Writing Sprint which were:

Trying
Fast
Trapped
Smidge
Lamp

The story below is what appeared after sticking to the two-hour time limit.

If you decide to have a go, put your story or a link to it in the comments here or on Aside from Writing.

The Forgotten Child

Dan watches her from the other side of the garage. Stacey looks up, her lips come together to form a mysterious smile.

“Come closer,” she says.

The smile remains. Dan is unsettled by her fixed glare. The light cast by the solitary lamp doesn’t help the appearance of Stacey’s features, it reminds Dan of how children place torches beneath their chins when telling scary stories. He senses Stacey is about to say something unsettling. He wants to go to the toilet. Dan suddenly feels the end of his privates fill with water. He only went twenty minutes ago but he needs to pee again.

He wants to leave this garage.

“I’m not sure,” Dan says. It is typical of Dan to make open and honest and statements. He cannot speak with hidden intent or with a tactical tongue. There is no filter in his mind which processes raw emotion into agendas. He feels, he speaks.

He acts.

His feet shuffle forward, as if commanded by her voice while fighting the anchor of his own distrust.

“What are you worried about?” she asks. Each word is delivered like a lullaby, but forms a tease, the creases in her smile as she speaks become the conductor of their devious orchestra.

“Mum would be angry if she knew I was here alone.”

“You’re not a child,” she says. “She shouldn’t treat you like one. Your age precludes you the cover of childhood.

Dan frowns at this which makes Stacey smile. Words such as preclude evade his understanding, just as membership to the proper adult world has. Their peer group is morphing fast before his eyes, becoming mentally adept at traversing the new pitfalls life presents. He is the exception that proves the rule. His body became a symbol of manhood first but his mind lags behind. 

“Anyway,” she continues, realising her words are having little impact, “it’s nothing that would make your mum unhappy. She’d actually be mad if you didn’t come and help me.”

“Help you?” he says.

“Yes,” she replies. “I can’t carry this box alone.”

“What box?” Dan hears his mother’s voice, telling him he can be trying at times.

“Come see.”

His legs take two fast steps forward. This new information creates two reasons – his mum would say excuses – to assist Stacey. He’s been taught that a girl – or in this case, young woman – should never carry things unassisted. The main reason is the appeal of secret treasure, wrapped up in curiosity. 

His legs bolt to a stop again. The line on the anchor pulls him taut. Now he has stepped directly into her path, he can see the concealed corner of the garage to her right.

“Thank you, Dan,” she says, her lurid smile breaking into a more conventional beam. Gratitude for a task he’s yet to complete. With deeper breaths, he walks closer to Stacey. Each step reminds Dan how beautiful she is, how he always wants to stroke her sandy coloured hair when they’re alone. How he wants Stacey to touch him back in the ways she has sworn to secrecy.

Up close, he sees she has sprinklings of sweat across her brow. Each little bead is a raindrop. It makes Dan want to gently dab them, knowing her skin will be warm.

“Come closer,” says.

For a minute, he thinks she means closer to her but she walks them to the corner, pulling his hand along. Their bare arms touch. He is now aware of her perfume; the scent is strong and hypnotic.

They stop at a box which has been placed on a trestle, set to the height of Dan’s waist. Perfect for rooting through the treasures within. All that stands between Dan and discovery is a small kitchen towel that has been laid over the box’s opening. It has blue stripes running in both directions on a white background. There is a smidge of dirt or something like liquid in its centre. He wonders if the blemish is caused by what’s below the towel.

“You’ll have to take it off to have a peek,” she whispers. “But hurry, I need you to move it soon.”

Removing the towel to reveal the treasure in the box should be easy but Dan’s trepidation, unfounded as it appears, feels like an instinct he should observe.

“You said you’d do it, Dan,” she says, on the verge of a whine. The whispers have gone, her perfume less potent now.

“Okay,” he replies.

Dan’s hand reaches out to the towel. The blue and white pattern becomes his focus, Stacey drifts into the background. It is just him and what lies beneath. His large fingers grip an edge, the towel feels stale like the air in the garage. He begins to feel trapped.

There are no words for his filterless head. He just acts.

With a swift movement, he swings the towel away from the box.

Dan makes an involuntary sound which has a guttural aspect. It sounds like something only a very large man could produce. The effect of this outburst takes away his ability to stand, he falls to his knees. Dan’s hands also act on autopilot and make manoeuvres to cover his eyes. Before they can accomplish this mission, Dan’s head receives a sickening blow from behind. It propels his face through the incoming open palms and lays him flat on the floor.

As consciousness begins to fade, he recalls Stacey’s mysterious smile on her tightly formed lips. But that was a different day in the open field, and they had all been together back then.