Reckoning

The sculpture tumbled to the wooden floor. One leg snapped at the knee and pinged against the skirting board. The neck severed and the horse’s head flew across the hallway to land at his mother’s feet.

He heard her tut and saw the slight shake of her head, reminiscent of every time she caught him doing something wrong when he was a kid.

He was surprised the wreckage wasn’t worse. Only three pieces and the breaks were clean enough that it would be easy to fix.

Too easy.

He raised his booted foot, looked directly into his mothers eyes and stamped hard on the horse’s torso.

The sound of breaking was muffled but the outcome was much more satisfying. The main body of the horse had splintered into pieces, each no larger than his thumb.

For a moment his mother didn’t move.

Then she raised her own foot, smiled and stamped down on the horses head.

“That’ll teach the bastard. Now let’s cut up your father’s clothes.”

Why do I love you?

“It’ll all end in tears.” That’s what my mother said. She didn’t like me flirting with older men.

You and me have had more than our fair share. We’ve had fifteen years of fighting – all because you don’t know when to stop.

You ignore me – I shout – you carry on – it gets out of hand.

And then – SMACK.

Lots of tears – sorry – I still love you.

I’ve loved you since the very first moment I saw you. Even after you almost killed me. I remember waking with pain from stitches, groggy from the loss of blood. You stayed next to my hospital bed for two weeks, looking innocent and charming all the nurses.

But now you’ve been disappearing out the door every night. I guessed what you were up to.

All those nights out with the girls – teenagers – I’m not daft – I’ve seen it all before.

I’d lie awake listening and hoping you’d come back home to bed.

Then suddenly, you were back – back in my arms looking for forgiveness. We cuddled like we used to, and you fell asleep with your head against my shoulder. I should have guessed you’d gone too far again.

I found your test result showing positive. That’s it – your wild life is over and it’s time to take responsibility for what you’ve done. I still love you and always will; that’s what mothers do.

Golden Cap

The teenagers run up the slope, overtaking the Four-Legged-Woman and the Man-with-a-Hump.

They are both excited. The holiday caravan is just down the path at Seatown. The caravan has belonged to the family for years so they can holiday any weekend the weather looks good. Fred would come every weekend if he could, sun, rain or wind. Maybe hailstones would stop him.

Fred looks at his cousin and nods to the right. A sweaty man has arrived at the top of Golden Cap hill with an overflowing back pack and two walking poles. They could christen him the Four-Legged-Man-with-a-Hump but instead choose to name him the Serious-Man. He smiles and waves at them.

He’s earned his name. The South West Coast path is England’s longest path. Fred and his cousin are only walking a tiny part of it, but the Serious Man looks, and smells, like he’s started in Somerset and doesn’t have far to go to complete the full 630 miles.

Golden Cap is the highest point on the whole of the South Coast. In the distance Fred can see the Isle of Portland sticking out into the sea. Poole harbour is just beyond.

He turns the other way and looks back along the ups and downs of their trek. John is still plodding slowly up. He’s going to take ages to reach the top. Fred doesn’t want to wait.

He’s full of energy and wants to run down the meadow. Buttercups have turned the whole slope into a golden carpet that looks almost a solid yellow. Fred knows that once he gets into the meadow the colour will break apart into yellow spots dotted around the lush green grasses.  He can also see purple dots caused by the flowers of green-winged orchids.

Fred looks at Perry for permission. Can we? Should we? Perry, the older cousin gets to decide – wait or run on?

Fred sees Perry look at John and then in one sudden movement he’s off. Leaping down the hill and charging through the grass stems. Fred shouts and follows.

They run full speed down the slope. Past a family group they name the Gaggle, around a Slow-and-Steady couple, almost knock over the Man-with-tubes-on-his eyes and have to wait impatiently at the style for the Lady-with-inappropriate-shoes to get out of their way.

Neither of them looks back. John knows the way. He’ll get home eventually.

Fred wins. He does one victory lap of the caravan and flops on the neatly trimmed lawn. Both their chests are heaving from the effort. Fred closes his eyes and is almost asleep by the time John arrives.

John fumbles his keys out of his jeans and opens the caravan. Fred and Perry lie where they are.

“Here you go. I bet you are thirsty.”

John places two bowls on the grass. He hopes none of the staff saw them running through the caravan park by themselves. Next time he’ll put the leads on before they go up Golden Cap.

Sharing smiles

Frost on my daughters window. © Peter Richardson

“Come see.”

I’m not awake and already I’m dragged from my bed to look at something only a four year-old will find interesting.

“What?”

“The window,” she says. “On the window.”

She’s built a tower with her table and chair, climbed up and opened the blind while I’ve been peacefully sleeping. I wish she wouldn’t do that. One day she’ll hurt herself.

“What?”

“The pattern.”

I take a closer look at what I’ve mistaken for condensation. It’s frost, but not like any frost pattern I’ve ever seen before. There are swirls and curls glinting and reflecting the rising sun. There are spirals like some kind of ice-fern and sparkling feathers of light.

“Don’t touch it,” I shout.

I dash down to my studio and grab the first camera I see. I bound up the stairs and find her huddled on a bean bag with tears bulging at the edge of her eyes.

“What’s up?”

“I touched it. Will I die?”

I laugh – but she’s serious.

“No of course not.”

“But you said don’t touch. You said it was dangerous.”

“No… I just didn’t want you to damage it.”

“Is it a sleeping ice-dragon?”

The sun has sent a red glow of fire into the frost.

“Yes. But it won’t hurt you. Ice-dragons are very kind, especially red ones.”

She sniffles and has one of those conflicted faces only kids can manage – a massive smile but tainted by the sadness still clinging to her eyes.

I wipe her tears on my pyjama sleeve.

“I was worried you’d wake the dragon. It will fly away soon anyway,” I say. “They always do when the sun comes up.”

Her face sinks into sadness.

“I’ll take a picture. To keep forever,” I say.

I smile and she smiles back – right up to her eyes.

My camera clicks on the smile and only then do I turn to the dragon. Another click and everything is captured – safe in the camera, and even safer in my memory.

Twitter stories – very very short stories

Stories inspired by photographs. All photographs © Neil Richardson

If only the remote control had a button to switch off insomnia. Then I wouldn’t have to watch such rubbish.

She wanted to lose pounds – he wanted to gain them. Fortunately she was the banker and he was the gambler.

Loneliness forced him to conform but the constraints were too great. He never would be a square peg, or a round hole.

She liked taking risks. He liked taking chances. They made a great pair – and had a full house

Research told him “cyclist are cool & get dates.” He got a sore bottom and sour grapes.

link to the research

Andy resigned.
Proudly.
His son had won again but for the first time Andy hadn’t lost on purpose.

The snug dog looked sweet curled on the chair. The roast beef was gone; only the smug dog knew where it was.

“Which nuts do mice like?”
“What! You’re feeding it?”
“No way – deciding how to bait the trap.”

His dad was his hero. He could do everything. He was a superstar. Until… his dad said NO

He felt bound by his words. But what he said and what he meant weren’t the same. She should understand.

Computer keyboard

Every day he typed the story of his life. Until he realised he had no life.