Wednesday Write-in #79

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Welcome to the Wednesday Write-in!

Welcome to the Wednesday Write-in. This event runs every week to help any and all writers take control of their productivity and imaginations. Please join in; we’d love to read your work.

Prompts

strawberry  ::  tag  ::  code  ::  lower reaches  ::  hideaway

Guidelines

There are no rules, but here are some guidelines:

  • 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 have time for (but we won’t shout at you if you don’t).
  • If you want to write a poem, a script, or something completely different, feel free.

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47 thoughts on “Wednesday Write-in #79

  1. The Con
    The woman delved into the lower reaches of her capacious handbag, searching for the note with the code. She’d been told to memorise it, but she knew what she was like with numbers so she’d written it down. She couldn’t stand here rummaging; she’d have to find somewhere to sit so she could go through the bag properly. Maybe there was a café further down the road.
    He had clocked her from his hideaway in the empty shop across the road from the bank. He hadn’t been told to expect a woman, and especially not one as conspicuous as this one. She stuck out like a beacon with that mass of strawberry blonde hair and her faux fur coat. Now she was moving off, but he’d tail her. He’d stick to her like a security tag on an expensive dress. They didn’t go far, but if she wanted a coffee first that was fine by him. He took a seat where he could watch her without being directly in her eye-line.
    She finished her coffee in a leisurely manner then set to work emptying her bag bit by bit onto the table. The mobile phone, the cosmetic purse, comb, sunglasses, wallet, diary, pen, crumpled tissues and receipts. Watching her, mesmerised, it seemed like a magician’s trick as more and more items emerged, even a coloured scarf. Ah, she smiled, there was the piece of paper with her pin number, now she could go to the ATM and get cash. She really should try and remember it. But she didn’t need it just yet as she still had the hundred she’d been given for the job. Easy money. Just hang around outside the bank for a few minutes then go and have a coffee.
    Back at the bank a young man punched in the entry code and slipped inside. The diversion tactic was money well spent, a drop in the ocean compared with what he’d be raking in.

      • What shop-lifting? Just the normal contents of a woman’s handbag! And just once and no!! Sorry you didn’t get it. Maybe the title should have been The Decoy. The woman was paid to look suspicious outside the bank so the watcher followed her, leaving the coast clear for the young man to get into the bank unseen.

    • Excellent! The old ‘diversion’ tactic working like a dream yet again. I really enjoyed this story – it’s really imaginative, and very well described. I particularly liked how you used the prompt ‘tag’; that was a touch of brilliance. 🙂

    • Great twist. The diversion tactic effectively distracted me too! You always use the prompts in such an original way, well done.

  2. Cakes 79 Feb 19th 2014
    Prompts
    strawberry :: tag :: code :: lower reaches :: hideaway
    Found
    I looked out across the bridge where it must have happened, her body was found further down the lower reaches of the river. She still had the briefcase chained to her wrist but no identification tag. At first the boatman who discovered her thought it was a log washed down after the recent storms. He said he was surprised when he realised it was a human being lying face down on the muddy bank and he called the police immediately.
    Later the following day I got the job of going down to the morgue to identify her. She was on the dissecting slab covered with a white sheet and they pulled it down to let me look at her face.
    ‘Yes that’s her no doubt,’ I managed.
    That strawberry birth mark on her shoulder, still red on the white drained body that had been so beautiful to me as we made love in our own private hideaway. Nobody knew about our relationship, it was forbidden in the code of behaviour book they gave out to all new spies.

  3. Strawberry Fields For a Short While

    Down by the strawberry field, tucked away in a corner, is my hideaway. My secret cliff-top den. The public pick strawberries without a thought for the hardened mud path that snakes around the nettle bed. If you look over there, you can see a wire fence, see where the mud stops. That wire is old and if you press it down to step over, it squeaks. But you will never know that. You won’t see the rusting sign that once told of Danger! The pine trees skirting the field are so close together it doesn’t look like you can get through. But you can. To the left is my secret space. I’m going there now. It’s calm. The air is pure. I hear the buzz of insects. I hear the seagull. I smell salt on my skin. I need my hideaway. I crawl under the fence and tear flattened plantain with my knees. Pineapple weed clings to life. I tug at a stalk. Pungent and strong I crush its yellow head, roll it between my fingers. I inhale and float back to being seven. I’m now hidden. Completely. I hear distant voices; I know they are cramming their mouths with crimson hearts and I crawl to the edge.

    • Such an evocative piece – I really admire how you use scent and taste and memory in this short flash fiction. It really appeals to the senses, almost poignantly so given the subject matter, and your narrator’s actions. It celebrates the loveliness of life just at the point when – we assume – it’s about to end for your character. Excellent. I loved the touches like ‘plantain’ and ‘pineapple weed’ – really gives a sense of place to your work.

    • I love the vivid nature of this, it also feels very poetic. The imagery you create using all of the senses is so evocative that the reader can feel exactly what the hideaway is like without ever having to find it. Well done very powerful writing.

  4. Hi. Another short one, I’m afraid.

    The killer had again attached his own toe tag to the body.
    ‘Strawberry blonde. 1.5.13.’
    With the first body, the detectives thought it might be more significant, a code leading to a clue of some sort.
    It wasn’t.
    ‘Dirty fair. 8.5.13’ allowed them to see how literal he was being.
    They were looking for a lock-up or shed as he needed a workspace for what he was doing
    or, perhaps, someone was offering him shelter.

    But the young girl didn’t know that the table at which she sat opposite him each evening; the surface at which they ate; the place at which she completed her homework and drew her stick men with stick children in the stick sunshine was his workbench, and his hideaway his human veneer.

  5. Pingback: Strawberries | patrickprinsloo

  6. Hi everyone,
    Scribbled this out yesterday and didn’t get to type it up til now. Apologies if there’s any typos, a bit rushed and used a different pc.
    Looking forward to reading the rest later.
    Strawberry
    We found her in the fields of Wexford. She stalked us for a while before we noticed her bright eyes like headlights in darkness peering out at us.
    As we progressed along the furrows, crouched over picking only the perfectly ripe ones, she got closer to us. She had bright red hair and her round cheeks were sprinkled with constellations of freckles. Our fingers still plucked at the juiciest red ones as we shouted hello to her but she scarpered off when she realised we saw her.
    Our fingernails and the creases of our hands were stained black from harvesting, our clothes were sticky and stiff where the juices of our bounty had dried. They say it’s the sea breeze that keeps the frost at bay and the summer sun that warms the soil and ripens the fruit that works like a magical combination to produce the most delicious crop in the country.
    We happily spent our summer stooped over the mounds plucking. We brought enough home to Mam to make jams and tarts and all sorts of wonderful concoctions. What we couldn’t carry home the farmer paid us for, a few pence per bucket. Hardly worth the effort but we were here for the fruit not the few worthless pence.
    Since the new regime, money had little value, well coins anyway.Rich people didn’t want to bother with the shrapnel. Our world had been stratified, everyone officially classified, put into categories. A sheet of paper could be deemed to be worth millions while abandoned children shivered in ditches without a blanket to wrap around themselves and died of starvation.
    In a world of extremes, we survived in the middle. Daddy was away fighting. There were eight of us children and Mammy, we all contributed to our survival. We understood patience and knew that if you wanted something you usually had to wait for it. I knew that curiosity alone would coax the little girl from her hideaway. We ignored her long enough for her to realise that we were no threat to her. I watched her get closer out of the corner of my eyes, over my stooped shoulder, avoiding looking at her directly.
    The redness of her cheeks reminded me of the warmth of a robins breast and she moved like one too, with twitchy little hops and eyes watching, rotating, preparing to flee.
    Once she had braved our presence, the excitement she felt to be around other children was evident in the uncontainable bursts of her erratic rhythms, her sudden skipping and jumping. When we asked her what her name was she said she didn’t know. We presumed she was shy or didn’t want to tell us or didn’t understand us but no she didn’t know her own name.
    She wasn’t good at talking. When we asked her where her mammy and daddy were she shrugged her shoulders and said
    “No know.”
    Like us all she was wearing a tag, but unlike us she was an orphan. Her tag was different to ours, a different colour made from a different type of metal but instead of her name on it, it was a code which was impossible to decipher because it was bashed and damaged so the original shapes of the symbols were distorted. This poor creature clearly came from the lower reaches of society. Money wasn’t wasted on the quality of metal used in their tags because they weren’t expected to survive long enough for it to matter. I had heard lots of horror stories and when I thought of her parents I thought first that they must have perished in the workhouse and then all sorts of horrible images flashed, evictions and fires and being locked into a church before it was set on fire and screaming, lots of screaming.
    When I asked her where she lived, she darted to the corner of the field. We followed her through the gap in the hedge, untangling ourselves from its claws as she scarpered ahead. She flit off up a path through some trees and then over to a crumbled wall where a sheet of galvanised leaned like a half tent.
    We didn’t know what mammy would say but we brought her home with us that evening.
    “Oh Jesus Christ Almighty. What have ye gone and done now?”
    We all tried to tell her together at the same time, all eight of us shouting, that the little girl had no mammy or daddy to mind her and that she needed us to look after her because she’d no house. We all jumped up and down a bouncing cacophony of pleading. Please can she stay.
    Mammy let her stay the night while she thought about it.
    The next morning the little girl stood silently cuddling one of Jenny’s teddy bears, swaying from side to side. Before Mammy had the baby fed we were clawing and pleading with her.
    Please, please, please can she stay pleeease.
    “I’ll have to have a word with someone about it but this country and the state it’s in, everyone tagged and bagged before we’re even dead, sur ya can’t leave a child abandoned like that. It’s a disgrace. They just don’t care. Lining their own pockets.”
    And then mammy was off on one of her rants again about the new regime and how it’s domination and segregation, tagging people to make it quicker to round everyone up.
    “Does that mean she can stay?”
    We didn’t know what she was on about. New regime , olden days, all irrelevant to our short lives. We were children, we lived in the now of things, experiencing every ounce of excitement available to us.
    As soon as we knew that Mam was on our side and she was going to let her stay with us, we launched ourselves straight at the little girl. We put our arms around her and we all jumped up and down in unison to the same joy. She fit right into our dance beyond language, her big eyes sparkling as she sprang up and down in our embrace.
    “Yeaaay.”
    We jumped and jumped, the electricity of it flexing through our muscles. We jumped and jumped an jumped some more until we were all out of breath. We jumped and jumped until we couldn’t jump anymore and decided that the little girl’s name would be Strawberry.

      • Thank you, glad you enjoyed. I think I’d enjoy revisiting this and it does feel like the beginning of something so maybe I will. Thanks for the encouragement.

      • Thank you. I think both of our stories focused on that theme of compassion in a brutal world!

    • This was great. I found it very moving, actually, despite the terrifying nature of the totalitarian state your characters find themselves in. It just goes to show that humanity can still exist, despite brutality – or, even, the worse the brutality, the deeper the humanity.

      Just one thing, in terms of structure: I found it a bit clunky how you introduced us to the little girl first, and then spent some time world-building, before bringing us back again to the little girl. Other than that, I think this was a wonderful piece of writing. Well done!

      • Thanks. You’re spot on about the structure. I sneaked out of a toddlers slumber party to scribble down what I thought would be a 2/3 sentences but it ended up being 7 pages long! I went off on a major world building tangent! This is it typed up exactly how it occurred to me so it’ll need an editorial overall when I get some time! I enjoyed writing it so I am looking forward to revisiting it. Thanks for the constructive feedback I really appreciate it.

      • Thank you. Delighted you like the last sentence, that was what was in my head before I started writing!

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