This week's Fiction Friday prompt asks us to pick two established characters from your previous work and tell the story of their meeting. I've chosen Simon, my itinerant Irishman who finally settles down in France and Elizabeth who after a long voyage of self-discovery finally discovered her life was intricately linked up with Africa. Several years later...

When he saw the drizzle outside, Simon began to have his doubts. He turned away from the window and glanced up at the fine grandfather clock in the corner of his salon. Just ten more minutes before the taxi came. Too late for doubts.

He picked up the CD she'd given him when he'd met her at the airport yesterday evening: Mama Etta's Bongo Supreme.

"They're really very good. They're the first band from Dahc to make it onto the world stage."

He'd listened to a couple of the titles, just to say he had, should she ask. He placed the CD in the rack between underneath the Irish Folk section, making mental note to write a label for musique du monde. Strange how some expressions just refused to come to him now in English. The internal phone buzzed: the portier telling him the taxi was on its way. Passing in front of the mirror to straighten his tie, he picked up the bouquet and made his way out.

They pulled up in front of the hotel some five minutes later and before he knew it an apparition in traditional African clothing came racing out of the hotel and opened the door to the taxi. How Simon stared. Her hair was made up in ringed sticks which stood out at angles from her head. He stared and stared not knowing what to think or say. He even forgot to make to make room for her to get into the taxi and she almost had to push him over.

As she leaned across and gave him a peck on the cheek the bouquet of her perfume roused him. He took her hand with not quite his usual eagerness and pressed his lips to it. It was one of the most exquisite perfumes he had ever come across. She was obviously a connaisseur. Was that her one redeeming feature? Maybe things would work out okay. She was certainly a beautiful woman with her tall, straight figure and the fine features of her face. If only she wouldn't stop behaving like a child all the time. She was like a bottle of freshly opened Champagne, bubbling away with all her might as she babbled on at all there was to see. Was there no end to her enthusiasm.

The taxi pulled up in front of the Arpège and Simon scuttled out and handed the Majeur d' the box containing the bouquet. He then opened the door for Elizabeth and taking her arm accompanied her inside.He was acutely aware that every eye was fixed on them as they made their way to the small private chamber he had ordered for the occasion. Would the table-talk revolve around her beauty or her outlandish appearance. Surely, Arpège had never seen anything like it. Was it his fault? Should he have prepared her? But how?They'd only met for the first time yesterday. True her letters had been full of Africa. But never once had he suspected anything like this.

He lead her to their table and pulled the chair out for her, giving an almost imperceptible nod to the waiter. He had scarcely sat down himself when she started.

"Oh Simon, you can't possibly imagine how I feel. It's all so heavenly like in a fairy story. Here in Paris, in the shadow of so much history. And all these wonderful things happening to me. Aaaah, yellow roses! My favourite colour. How on earth could you have known!"

He blushed; whether out her embarrassment at her shriek or due to his stroke of luck with the roses, we shall refrain from enquiring. The waiter returned again, champagne bucket in hand.

"Oh, what's that? I'm afraid I couldn't possibly drink that. I'm not a drinker. Seen to many lives ruined by it. I hope you don't mind, but I really don't drink." Her smile failed to penetrate.

"This isn't drinking, it's Champagne. You can't possibly refuse Champagne."

But it became perfectly obvious that that's what she intended doing and with a sigh he ordered her a bottle of Peregrinet - "Sparkling, if you please," she added.

They chatted a while but somehow life had gone out of their conversation. Could this really be the vibrant lady he had been corresponding with these past months; he'd thought her so charming, so refined. And once they'd exchanged photos, he knew he had to meet her. Where had he gone wrong?

The waiter brought in the dishes for the snails. She seemed puzzled.


"How wonderful." She clapped her hands together. "I love snails." But why all these dishes. What on earth are they for?"

He opened his mouth and was about to give an explanation but thought better of it.

"You ate snails in Dahc? So how did you prepare them?"

"We chop them up in the lettuce, of course. How else can you prepare snails."

He didn't bother answering. Was she really trying to tell him she ate raw snails straight from the garden? She obviously had no idea of how civilised people ate them. He helped her as well as he could. She didn't seem terribly keen on them. The waiter cleared up the dishes and reappeared with the dinner plates and an innumerable number of knives and forks. Elizabeth gave him an anxious smile.

"I'm afraid you're going to have to help me. I'm just not used to all this finery. In Africa everything is far simpler. Most times use our fingers."

Simon stared at her with disgust. Wiping his mouth with his serviette he leant forward:

"Would you please excuse me a minute."

He got up and left the room discreetly. He went immediately to the Majeur d' and whispered into his ear. The latter led him through into the manager's office. Before eclipsing, he paid the bill in full and left an additional sum: "For the lady to take a taxi back to her hotel." He may have been a coward but he was also scrupulously fair.


Two for the price of one today as I've combined this weeks 3WW prompt (bait, jump, victim) with a writing exercise that appeared Monday one the Write Anything site to write a story in just ten lines as follows:

  1. describe the weather
  2. describe a sound
  3. describe an object
  4. update the weather
  5. describe a piece of clothing/ accessory
  6. update the sound
  7. using the object, write something about the mood of the scene
  8. describe an action or movement using the article of clothing or accessory
  9. describe a physical trait of one of the characters
  10. end with a single line of dialogue

The red of the setting sun almost matched that of his cheeks. A snigger went through the room as he desperately sought to evade those eyes directed at him, the victim. He stared at the large at the pebble in front of him: round, smooth, a little jagged at the edges; the worm-like writing and that one single word - which had him baited. The sun was growing ever paler; he hoped his cheeks matched. The gleaming, red pen, bought for the occasion, remained motionless in his hand. Around him the sniggering had died down, replaced by the sound of concentration and the occasional scratch of pen on paper. In front of each writer, a pebble evoking memories of carefree days at the beach, sunshine, laughter; the nadir of the prevailing seriousness. His pen touched paper, jumping down the side of the page forming the letters C A D U Q U E S. He began filling in the lines of an acrostic when he noticed her eyes settle on him, their sparkle offering a thousand excuses, all the time seeking absolution for the guilt brought about by chance. His smile returned, he managed to pluck up courage enough to mouth the words:

"How about a quiet drink together after class?"


This morning Jodi published an interesting writing exercise on the Write Anything blog. Here's my attempt to do it justice.

A glimmer of sun broke through the gloom of the drizzle as Ron rounded the corner; fourteen years and not a word from Mum or Dad. The sound of the train pulling out of the station slowly reached his ears. He raised his eyes seeking out the slightest hint of a once familiar rainbow over the family abode; the one he had not called home since the day of the announcement - the cries and the slamming still made him shudder. There it stood in all its splendour but as the rejuvenated sunlight slowly caressed its façade, he realised how much that splendour had succumbed to impinging time and ebbing attention.

A familiar vibration in his pocket: he flicked open his shiny, new cellphone and smiled. A second train rolled through the station - the express down from Swansea: it didn't stop. He glanced up and shivered... still no rainbow; where was he to get the courage from, not even Jan's words had helped.

He propped himself up against the oak tree half way up the road and his fingers began moving furiously. His tongue soon found its way through the pursed lips, much like the train emerging from the tunnel. With one short stab he hit the reply button:

Can't go through with it; coming home.

This story is inspired by this week's Fiction Friday prompt: Use a McGuffin in your story. McGuffin: An object or person in a movie that has no use other than to drive the narrative forward. (originally coined by Alfred Hitchcock)

It wasn't much of a case. And the paycheck promised to be even smaller. But everyone has to begin somewhere. One day I'd be as famous as Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, or maybe even all those aristocratic English detectives put together. When that day comes I'll be able to take on whateverc cases I chose. But for now, I take whatever comes my way. Not that this case actually came my way. It would be closer to the truth if I said, I went riding into it. But since I've always been somewhat econimical with truth, then we'll stick by that expression.

I first went riding into Sdoowkcab because one of my old school sweets had sent out what you might call an SOS. Seemed like Annie moved out there soon after she left Homeville and married a local dignitary with a lot of money. He died about a year back leaving her a very rich lady. Well, now she was convinced that someone was after her and she wanted me to come down and protect her. She said, she'd make it worth my while. And when I remembered the good times we'd had together, I figured I knew what she meant by that. But nothing ever came of it. By the time I rode into Sdoowkcab - and yes it was as hard to find as it is to say - Annie was one stone dead woman, and I had myself a case to solve.

I reckoned the best place to start was with the mayor out there. My problem was that I didn't know him nor his office and there was no one about to ask. At this hour, even the saloon had not yet opened up for business. But perched on a pole right in front was one of the strangest looking parrots, you ever did see. He gave a mighty screech when he saw me, but he let me approach no problem.

"Well now, you the only thing round here, huh? ... So, you ain't talking huh. Now if you were a human, I'd consider that somewhat suspicious, but I guess, you're just not a talking parrot. Wonder if you could show me where I can get to see the mayor."

Behind me a door opened and a bucket sloshed it's way onto the hardened earth. Whoever it was threw it had retreated but the door stayed open. I wondered over and just as I did so the parrot gave a sqauwk and flew off above my head. At the open door I called out and a lady appeared.

"Well Maam, sorry for disturbing you like this, but I was just wondering where I could get hold of the mayor of this here town?"

In reply, she signalled with her head above and behind me and I turned to see the parrot sitting on a balcony rail. So the damn thing had understood me after all. As well as that my luck was in because the mayor was in his office and received me at once.

"Well, what can I be doing for you, Mr...?"

"Braak, Sir. John Braak."

I showed him the letter. His eyebrows pulled together as he read.

"I was wondering if you could shed any light..."

"Yes, I can Mr. Whateveryousayyournameis. I can tell you that there's nothing suspicious here and if I were you I'd get out of town as soon as possible. Folks round here don't like people prying into their comings and goings, especially outsiders like you. Miss Annie's death was just an unfortunate accident. We looked into it thoroughly what with her husband having met such an unfortunate death and all that. But we found nothing. Besides, there was no motive. No one here wanted her dead. Why should they?"

Just then, the parrot gave another squawk and planted itself right in front of us on the mayor's desk, flapping its wings.

"Pretty fine fine bird you've got there. I guess a parrot like that could reveal a lot if it could say anything; kinda like a dumb witness."

"Dumb's the word, Mr. It's not uttered a word since I've been here. And it's certainly not mine. Just hangs around town. And now Mr. Ahhh, if you don't mind, I've got..."

But the parrot didn't give him a chance to finish whatever he had to say. With a whoosh and squawk, he went sailing away. It was waiting for me when I got out onto the street and immediately started fluttering away. This time I followed it through the streets and out onto one of the many prairies surrounding the town. He stopped at a small outhouse about a mile out of town. I hadn't a clue why it had brought me here but I figured it wasn't as dumb as people were saying. It had a flair for detective work, so if it brought me here, there must be some reason for it. I went inside and looked around. The place was empty but underneath one of the windows there was a dark blot that looked like it was blood.

"So that's why you brought me here. Is this where Annie died."

The parrot was on the sill and it looked me direct in the eyes. It didn't say a word. It didn't have to. I knew I was on the right track. Together we started to nosing around, digging up a few bits and pieces when the parrot gave another screech and I saw it was picking away at something shiney. I prised it from the ground and saw it was a gold ring. I cleaned it up a bit and examined it carefully. The name Joel was inscribed inside.

Another look at the parrot. "Do you know this guy, Joel?" I put the ring flat on my hand and he took it in its beak before flying back off to town without stopping. But I wasn't worried. We too had developped a rapport. That's the only way you can do detective work. Find yourself a helper and build up a rapport. The parrot was waiting for right in front of the saloon, the ring sitting on the top step. I picked it up and put it quickly in my pocket before anyone could see. I must be getting pretty close to my prey now, so I didn't want to give anything away. I went in, the parrot on my shoulder. All eyes turned on me as I shimmied up to the bar.

"Scotch. Make it a double. On the rocks."

"You, a stranger round here."

"Yeh, just passing through from the east."

"So you won't be staying long then?"

It sounded more like a threat than a question. I obviously must be on the right track. I took my scotch.

"Your health... and mine."

There was a screech from my shoulder and the parrot started hopping round on top of the bar and just as suddenly took off through the open window and out into the street. The barman gave a smile.

"Looks like your partner's cut and run."

But I didn't pay any attention. I was way too occupied trying to figure out what I should do now to hear the shot. And I hadn't a clue where it came from. Not that that really matters now. The shot certainly proved beyond doubt that I was on the right track. It was just a bit too late to do anything about it now.

Forward Or Back

gentle, praise, vulgar are this week's 3WW words. So settle back for a little allegory this week.

As Alabanzo grew older, he began to wonder whose praise his writing was meant to glorify. His first poems and stories reflected the innocence of the teenager he was: white characters against backgrounds whose shades but occasionally darkened his canvas. Doubtless, a reflection on the simple but loving upbringing Alabanzo had experienced in the small village which wasn't but which could have been called Paradiso. The world seemed so straightforward in those days.

Even when he left home to begin his studies, things hadn't changed much. The worlds he portrayed now contained big, black splodges. Even he could now see that the world of Paradiso was not to be encountered everywhere. Yet light was predominant in his stories, a vaccinating light, protecting and never failing to banish darkness.

At university, his reputation as a writer with talent grew. But, said his teachers, you need to look the world in the eye; most of this stuff is far too sentimental to be of much use. But the girls liked it. And Alabanzo began to like the girls. Passion, desire, and elation rose up from this heart of light lifting him to new dimensions. But alongside such feelings came those of envy, chagrin, anger and obsession as he had to fight to obtain a prize much yearned after. Yet, he couldn't write about any of these. They just didn't fit into any world he could imagine; he had no idea how to represent them.

Salvation came with Doucette. A fellow student she dripped her way into his life, dampening those passions which were threatening to tear him apart. Gentle was the only word he could find to describe everything about her appearance, her manner, her deeds, even the way she had invaded her soul. Not for her the passion others had provoked within him. Here was sweet assurance, benign light, placid contemplation. The world was whole again and Alabanzo wrote with a joy hitherto unfelt.

Their life together followed the regular rhythm of the drum accompanying the onward progression of a tortoise battling its way through the many obstacles on its upward progression. They themselves, however, had very few obstacles to overcome. Alabanzo's writing was received with enthusiasm by tutors and readers alike. And interaction with others made him realise that the world was not quite the paradise he had once thought. His work began to sell and people praised the optimism which shone forth from his pen. He was soon earning a small but steady income and he married Doucette. Once again, all was well in the best of worlds and continued so for many years.

Indeed, it might have continued so for the rest of his life, were it not for the monotony perfection brings. Alabanzo was growing tired of churning out the same kind of work day in day out. He wanted to widen his wings, take in something different. But whenever he went to the bookstore, all he could find was the type of vulgar novel from which he had freed all his life. "Who on earth would read such drivel?" he commented to Doucette one night. She responded with another of her saintly smiles. Monotony soon gave way to a broader dissatisfaction when Alabanzo discovered the drivel, as he put it, was actually selling a lot better than his own work. Not that they needed any extra money, they had more than enough and no desire for more. But the thought that readers were preferring vulgarity to the sublimity he had to offer them was too much. Envy soon found a small chink in his armour and began to lay siege to his thoughts. The resulting dissatisfaction was a severe test he fought hard to counter.

Then came the day of the village dance. Alabanzo and Doucette never spent more than a few minutes together at such occasions. They turned up to show they were not totally cut off from what was going on around them, but rarely gained anything worthwhile from the experience. This year, however, Alabanzo was alone, Doucette having returned to her native village to help prepare her younger sister's wedding. Ever since her departure envy was having a field day with Alabanzo's thoughts, conjuring up various promises of excitement against which Alabanzo had little resistance to offer. In a desperate bid to find some sort of peace of mind, he had considered not going, or, at least just putting in an even more token appearance than usual, or certainly not staying for longer than the first dance. And as he had never liked dancing anyway, the rest would be easy.

And it most certainly would have been, were it not for Tawdria. Tawdria was far from the most beautiful woman in the village. In the cold light of day, few would give her a second look. But done up in her finery with gaiety all around him she was the most hunted treasure

Hiding behind all the modesty she could muster, she held out her little finger to Alabanzo. Just the one dance he thought and then off home. They whirled around the floor and became the object of many tongue among those present. Alabanzo was spellbound when they stopped and was so glad when she leaned over and whispered into his ear. Never had words created such a tempest in his mind. She curled her little finger around his and led him away from the assembly, urging him on with promises of such enchantment. He followed her willingly and they soon came to the edge. She slipped his arm around her waist and soon they were looking out over the cliff into a future that sparkled with exhilaration. Just one more step. But would he go forwards or back?



Lucy couldn't help wondering if a third of a bullet would kill. That would save her having to chose who would die. She stared at the newspaper lying in front of her. Now or never. The words began to swim around in her mind, the letters kaleidoscoping, creating in her mind new forms but always coming back to that law inscribed in stone which was to govern her day. She'd never been one to set much store in horoscopes, but today was different. Today, it spoke to her heart, urging her to action. The toss of the coin confirmed what she had to do.

The strains of Dany Boy poured out from the loudspeakers above the bookcase. Her eyes rested on Luke's photo, cropped into the top of her mirror. Those sparkling eyes which had sent her such a clear message. How she'd wanted to believe it was meant for her; the champagne of her heart overflowing when she'd realised, it was. The unbound joy as they whirled together across the floor gave way yet again to the letters swirling around before yet again settling on their final absolute form: Now or never. There was no escape.

That grasping bitch, Julie! Why couldn't she keep her hands to herself? What right had she to steal Luke from him? Now she would pay. Finding her would be easy. They'd be at tonight's ball. Where Lucy should have been... in his arms.

She studied the gun in her hand. "A lady's gun...," that's what the man had said. She was glad, he'd asked no questions. But she had just one bullet. "Luke! Live or die? The one bullet decides."

She lifted the gun towards the photo, took aim... and squeezed. There was a shattering of glass as the mirror disintegrated into a profusion of words spewing forth from his lips... worthless words, as unfaithful as his own.

Determined. That's how my parents knew me. From my early teens onwards I must have given them a pretty rough time. More than made up for my tepid big sister, who's still never kissed a boy or smoked a cigarette in all her 17 years.

But determination doesn't have to be destructive. I learnt that when I finally learnt that my parents weren't quite the bane I'd always taken them for. True, their ideas are somewhat archaic at times. My dad is still proud of the fact that he never made out with my mum before they were married. But sometimes what they say contains some slight modicum of sense. Actually, and I want to make it clear that I'm not admitting to this publicly, but if I put their advice on the scale of good or bad, it would very definitely lean to one side more than the other.

So, if determination does not have to be destructive, I'm issuing notice right now to all my teachers everywhere... you know who you were because of the acrid taste that rises up whenever you hear my name... I'm going to show you what I can do. Leave school with top marks, off to university and with my degree in the bag it's your jobs I'll be after.


This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is 'me,' begging the question who am I?

She knew, he'd been working on one last project. She knew he'd wanted to keep it secret. "When it's ready," he'd say. There's just so many things going round in my mind, I have to sort things out. The next day, he was no longer. All that was left, were the letters and the safe where the manuscript was kept. At first, she'd wondered whether she should. But how couldn't she? Resistance had never been her forte. But what she saw surprised even her. Not one but five different manuscripts. Each one bearing the same title; each one bearing one single letter for the author's name. It was only when she went back to the letters that she realised what he had done. He had sold his memoirs to five different publishers; a manuscript had been prepared for each one. But this was no fraud; each manuscript was different. Each looked at the world through the eyes of the man she had called husband. Five answers to the same riddle.


Henri wasn't sure why he'd stopped to read the notice pasted on the back wall of the bus stop. But having read it once, he seemed to be drawn to it so that even the most casual observer couldn't help but notice this strange compulsion. Moreover, the notice seemed to be haunting him. Whenever anyone said something to him, he stared right through them with his grey eyes, taking up to a minute before acknowledging whatever was said.

Being new to the village I was naturally intrigued by his behaviour. Moreover, Henri was one of the few villagers who hadn't taken me up on my offer of a free 10 minutes consultation - a bid to get my new practice off to a good start.

I myself had taken some interest in some interest in the notice. As yet, I knew very few people here; a barbecue and dance would be an excellent opportunity to go about making some friends. But what did Henri find so intriguing.

It was Annie who filled me in on his background. Seemed she used to do some cleaning up at their house during the better times. 'The better times' was Annie's shorthand for the period before his wife walked out on him. "Ran off with a good for nothing conman who'd persuaded her he owned half the state. Maybe, he did 'n all as far as I know. But he was bad news that guy, that I do know. Walked out on him right on his birthday Doctor, and he's never been the same since. Sure, he did try to get his life back in order. Set up a transport company exactly one year after; got a really good contract from the old steelworks down behind the canal. He invested heavily but they never paid. When he went to court, they declared bankruptcy. He lost everything. Had to move to one of the terraces. Remember I took him a cake the day he moved, bring some birthday cheer and all that. But never asks me to clean now. Never asks anyone anything now."

To my surprise Henri turned up at the barbecue. Judging by the whispers I wasn't the only one surprised. He was standing silently beside the festive pole when the village Mayor clapped a hand on his shoulder:

"Happy birthday, Henri. How are you holding up?" The only reply he got was a pair of raised eyebrows as Henri turned away. He reminded me of a dog we'd once had. Such a beautiful creature, he'd been the pride of the family. I remember I'd have given anything to be allowed to take him off to college with me. But when I came home for vacation the spark had gone out of him. Shortly after the vet suggested... at his age it was only normal.

Henri was still in the prime of life, but the spark had gone out him. He must have been a handsome, imposing man... once. But now, there was just that droop. The music started up and I was pushed along with the masses. A hand grabbed me from the right, another from the left and around we whirled. And as the band started a little jig, I twisted inside and out, from one partner to the other. One, two, three, four, five, six... and I found myself standing in front of Henri. I more or less had to place myself in his arms, so surprised he was to find himself with a dancing partner, but once we got going he led with assurance. My thoughts too were in a whirl but I was glad when he kept hold of me when the music stopped and we set off on a second adventure of the evening.

After the first round of dances the barbecue was lit and Henri beat a hasty retreat before I could say anything. But I could help notice the occasional glance he cast me from across the square. Once I smiled back and I'm sure I detected a brief spark light up his eyes before he turned away.

I ate with a group of people who lived in the same street as me. From where I was sitting, I couldn't see Henri, but my mind kept coming back to him. The moment the band started up and the next dance was announced, I pushed my way through to the edge of the dance floor. There was Henri standing alone by the festive pole. When he saw me, he seemed to hesitate. Would he dare? He took two steps forward but then moved quickly to the drinks table. He picked up a glass and hesitated between the bottle of water and the whisky. I watched with bated breath as our future hung in the balance. I saw him pour and swallow and by the time he'd turned round, I was already in the arms of the young man standing next to me whom I'd asked to dance. The last thing I needed was a man who took his courage from a bottle.

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