Wednesday Write-in #37

Welcome to the Wednesday Write-in!

CAKE.shortandsweet runs a write-in every week to writers to practise their skills, and get chatting to each other about their work. Everyone is welcome to join in, and the more people you tell, the more everyone will get out of it.


shoe polish ::  face  ::  copper  ::  rotten  ::  high altitude


There are no hard and fast rules, but here are some brief guidelines:

  • You can use the prompts as inspiration or try to work them into your story somehow. Use as many as you want.
  • When your story is done, post it online (your blog/twitter/in a comment here), tag with #wednesdaywritein if you like, and comment with a link so we can read it.
  • Please take the time to read and comment on as many other stories as you can.
  • If you want to write a poem, a script, or something completely different, feel free.

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40 thoughts on “Wednesday Write-in #37

  1. Here is my effort, like to keep them short – but not so sweet!

    Baxter rested the fleshy heels of both hands on the edge of the contemporary square wash hand basin. He looked down at the water filling the empty space; there was a blue tinge to the deepening liquid. He lifted his face and stared at the one looking back at him. The furrows on his forehead looked agricultural now, and the two lines running either side of his nose down to his jaw were growing wider. Under the phosphorous spotlights of the en suite bathroom his eyebrows appeared streaked with flashes of red. The coarse hair jutted out at random like worn copper wires. Two dark smudges of skin lingered under his tired eyes; they reminded him of the shoe polish stains his father used to discipline him for. He banged his clenched fist down on the mixer tap to stop the flow.

    Torturing the suspects had taken its toll on him as much as them. Dealing with the treasonous scum everyday had finally begun to eat into his consciousness. His heart was rotten, black, destroyed from the perpetual evil he and his team had wrought upon the enemy.

    He bolted upright, his frame covered in an unpleasant sweat; the fluorescent green hands on the bedside clock read three twenty six am. The past was coming back to haunt him almost every night. The same face kept returning into his mind’s eye. Like an egg timer the face slowly filled the empty space in his head. No matter what direction he lay, it kept filling up with the terrified face.

    When the Hercules transporter had reached a sufficiently high altitude the loading bay doors opened, the prisoner was offered one more chance to speak. The captive, his body shivering in the biting cold atmosphere of twenty two thousand feet, said nothing. Weakened by sleep deprivation and a cocktail of chemical injections, the man could hardly stand. A red light flashed on and Baxter manoeuvred the hostile captive towards the rear of the plane. The man’s hands and feet were bound with transparent nylon cable ties.

    “Last chance,” he shouted; the turbulent air catching his words and sucking them away into the emptiness.

    Outside the dusk was turning into darkness, far below lay the mid-point of the Pacific Ocean. A single star on the horizon where the day met the night caught Baxter’s eye.

    He walked to prisoner to the edge of the loading ramp, his own harness like an umbilical cord, kept him attached to the fuselage.

    “Anything?” Baxter shouted once more as if to convince the prisoner, but the man’s gaunt face looked back, with a vacant stare.

    The red light above the jaw like doors blinked twice before turning green.

    Baxter shoved the detainee forward; he held him by the shoulders, balancing him over the edge.

    Then he let him go.

    • Really well written, gripping, and emotionally engaging. I enjoyed your story very much, especially your use of the prompts.

      The only thing that jarred for me was your description of the wash hand basin in the first line – I thought there were too many adjectives, and that ‘basin’ would’ve done just as well. But it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story. Well done.

    • Very tense. Descriptions are great. I like the action filled material, too. I think you handle that very well.

  2. Just time for a short one. Mmm, Redbush tea..

    A rotten copper with shoe polish on his face fell from high altitude last night. His career was said to be irrevocably tarnished.

    Steve 🙂

  3. Caroline couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She was mortified. Her Jamie stealing? So it was only a pack of sweets, but it was still theft. She put the phone down after mumbling an embarrassed goodbye to the headmistress and turned to Mike.
    ‘Mike, did you hear all that? What are we going to do? Jamie could grow up to be a criminal! He could end up in court; you could try him!’
    ‘No, Caroline, I would have to recuse myself.’
    To Caroline’s amazement she saw that Mike was having difficulty keeping his face straight, then he gave up and cracked up with laughter.
    ‘What’s so funny, Mike? You, a big shot magistrate, and you don’t think it’s a big deal that our son could become a criminal?’ Caroline was cross.
    ‘Let me tell you something, my love. Do you know what made me become a lawyer in the first place? I was Jamie’s age when I was caught stealing a pack of sweets.’
    ‘My God, you’ve kept that quiet all these years!‘ Caroline said. ‘Go on, confess.’
    ‘OK, here’s my life of crime cut short. Ed and I had no pocket money left and we really wanted the sweets that came with a football card, remember the ones kids used to collect? Well, we were desperate for the card more than the sweets, so Ed distracted the shopkeeper while I grabbed the packet and put it in my pocket. We thought we were so clever, but we’d only got to the corner when a copper appeared in front of us, all smart and shiny, you could smell the shoe polish. He gave us a right bollocking and told us how we could end up like bad apples, rotten to the core. We certainly never did it again.’
    ‘So you’ll talk to Jamie? But you’d better not tell him that story.’
    ‘Leave it to me. I’ll put the fear of God in him – and I promise not to laugh!

  4. Pingback: Fallible Opinions - Wednesday Write In #37

  5. Here’s my one for this week.Apologies if it’s a bit long. looking forward to reading everyone else’s!
    I have to do this before it’s too late. I have to at least try.
    I grow more despondent, too weak to feed myself properly. Connections grow more insubstantial. I only feel attached to my own thoughts, my body won’t work properly any more. I don’t feel I belong to it. My frame barely moves, slumped in this bed, forgotten, going numb and weak. I can feel death creeping up on me. I can feel my flesh going slowly cold, like the way the cold draws in around you once the sun sets.
    I haven’t seen Amber for a while now. I don’t expect to hear her high pitched greeting again. I’ll miss the gentle warmth of her fur in my palms and the vibrations of her purr and the pressing of her little head pushing against me. I can tell by the smell that she’s gone. Not even she can survive here.
    I can’t go in. I can’t. If only I could go in.
    I look down at my hands, they feel so useless. My dexterity is reduced to a shaky index finger, accustomed to adhering to the odd stray crumb to deliver to my tongue. I slowly rotate my hands, on the back stretched over a protrusion of veins; there is a blanket of liver-spotting. The skin is leathery and wilted, my fingers crook into my palms. My wrist is decorated with the orange metallic lustre of the bracelet sent to fix all my woes. Useless bit of rubbish, magnets me arse.
    “What do I want the likes of that for?” I said to my son when he rang me to see if I got it.
    “You have to believe in it for it to work, Ma.”
    “That’s called a placebo effect, Son.”

    My children would be ashamed of me if they saw the filth I live in. The house is unrecognisable. It’s strange how it sort of builds up. One day it’s just pockets of clutter here and there and suddenly you are out of your depth and unable to cope. I got too weak to carry any of it out. I can’t let my children see this.
    I remember the first time I felt ashamed of my father.
    “I managed to sell some copper.” He announced to my mother.
    It was a phrase he often used. Whatever it meant, my imagination always flashed an image of a bobby tied up and gagged standing in a shop window with a ‘for sale’ sign hanging around his neck. I knew it meant he got money, most likely by illegitimate means.
    We had been asking for things and were fed with the standard response of “There’s no money” for so long now that the utterance of good news from Father had us all excited and full of commotion. We flew around the house with arms outstretched, hyper on the prospect of sugar, humming aeroplane noises. For a short while, we existed at high altitude with all of the side effects, the shortage of oxygen, the breathing faster, the higher heart rate.
    We knew there was something important happening when the boots were getting a lick. The muck had been shook and scraped off the boots. They were washed and dried and grey looking. Now Father smoothed and spread a generous layer of shoe polish onto the toes of his boots and was working it into the leather, rubbing it into all the cracks. We settled down and listened to him whistling through his chipped front teeth as he worked. As we watched his circular buffing we dreamed of all the nice things we could finally have now that he had money. I just wanted ice-cream.
    Me and Mammy waited up for him to come home that night. She fell asleep but I waited for my ice-cream, struggling against heavy eyelids. I was woken by the clank of bottles in a plastic bag, Father stumbling in the door and Mammy going up to bed. He just passed out. I checked his pockets to see if he had anything else for me but they were empty. I even removed his shiny boots to look for the hidden treasure. There was no money there either. His round belly rose and fell with each of his croaky snores and I felt ashamed of the man who drank all of the money and left nothing for us.
    I still don’t know what he meant by that phrase. Sometimes I wonder if I ever really knew the man at all.
    I suspect poor old Amber got locked in the kitchen. I haven’t been there in weeks now. I can’t get in.
    I’m so desperate I’ll try anything. The bracelet has turned green. As I said, rubbish but I have to put my faith in something and if believing that this discoloured copper will work, will make me stronger then that’s all I have left. It’s that or be found here a rotten carcass buried beneath the rubble of decay and bacteria and contamination and waste.
    My breathing was shallow and indecisive but I had made a decision.
    Hands on blanket, the flesh pockmarked, I imagine them working to do the most complicated things. I make them remember their capabilities and achievements. I remember the magic I had taken for granted. On the brink, nearly there with eyes closed tight, imagining my body, charged with electricity snapping inside like sparks crackling. Gnarled arthritic fingers grasped the walker with everything they possessed. My ears ring as I stand up and I can feel my blood pressure increasing.
    Using the walker, I make it to door but the journey swallowed a wealth of time and strength was depleting fast. I lean my weight against the door to steady myself for a brief reprieve. My breathing faltering, dust catching in my throat, I push on. I have never had to try so hard to do something before in my life. I began wondering what crime I’d committed to warrant such punishment. There must be a reason for everything. Why have I ended up here like this slowly rotting away, my life is disappearing, blurring at edges and breaking up in my fingers?
    When it was time to face it, I knew the truth. I could feel my personality diminishing behind a veneer of resilience and fortitude. My pride, it would always come down to that.
    My son suggested a nursing home on the way home from the hospital after my stroke. But I wanted my own space.
    “I don’t believe in them.” I told him. He looked at me like the stroke had damaged my brain so I explained or ranted as he called it.
    “Nursing homes are a social construct, a place to put us all. I won’t be fooled into the illusion of independence, out of sight out of mind, created by a politician in a mad bid for votes, get rid of all those old people holding everything up, must get them off the streets, inefficiency, a threat to economy, a danger to our country, get rid of them.”
    I knew I wouldn’t be able to open the door by myself. It was time to swallow my pride. When I got to the hall table I phoned my son.
    With an effortless wiggle and a shove, my son opened the kitchen door.
    The heat hit first, stomach threatened to turn. My instinct to retreat had to be overcome and I forced myself to step into the bitter overcast room. I could almost see the cloud of death hanging thick in the yellow air.
    I put a blanket over Amber to allow her some dignity and then I accepted my son’s offer to move in with him and his family.

    • ‘The magic I had taken for granted’ sums it all up. It is such a real and terrifying prospect you depict. The descriptive language is excellent. It is a very sad tale. I do like the copper bracelet and the link it provides to her memories.

    • Well written (a bit long?) and you made me feel really uncomfortable which was no doubt your intention. Sad story. Poor Ma, poor Amber. Hope things get better for Ma. Son will be happier.

  6. Sorry this is late. It was very last minute which probably shows in the quality, but I enjoyed doing it so I thought I’d just put it up. Looking forward to this week’s stories.

    I try to isolate and roll my hips like the instructor says. But my middle is like a corpse’s, a dead weight that I can’t coordinate.
    Look sexy. Sexy look.
    I partner Embarrassment, and we shuffle around out of time, stepping on each other’s curled toes.
    But the Lothario of the class steps in. Makes me his project. His face with its streaky copper coloured tones says he’s set to thrill – the Du Beke of the community hall performing charitable deeds for the middle aged frump. He looks at me with eyes that say he’s beautiful. As polished as his shoes, he can swivel on his leathery sole.
    We embrace.
    He leads and I lunge like I am in the gym.
    I consider hopping on his shoes and being a puppet to the music but I think better of it.
    He sweeps and I stumble.
    He takes to dragging me across the room, we cover a distance that my own feet can’t take credit for.
    He has underestimated the challenge, so we are on the spot now. His arms swish and his head whips. I sway a little to show willing. But he is not finished with me yet, he has one final flourish up his silky sleeve and, now, I am leaning backwards in his arms. His parting gift to me.
    In the next number, Embarrassment turns to Self-deprecation and we laugh at our rotten rhythm, and negotiate the room in our own offbeat way.

    • I really enjoyed this, especially the line about the class Lothario making your character ‘his project’. Such an effective line!

      Great work. And I particularly love that your character carries on dancing in her own way at the end! 🙂

      • Thank you very much. I did enjoy writing it. Glad you like the ending. It took me longer to write than the rest of the story!

      • Thank you. (Yes, very educational!) Enjoy France. Maybe try romancing The Muse while you’re there!

  7. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit
    my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyways, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

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