Saturday, February 27, 2010

Skeleton Stories

Week 5 of my on line writing course has moved on to skeleton stories – bare bones stories. No subtleties, straight forward motives, a linear narrative and morality seen in black and white. A beginning, middle and an end and not too much fleshed out, I guess. I wrote my story and posted it.

As a writer you invent people all the time, or places or objects. What is especially great is when the things you invent are convincingly real. I can remember in a Faithwriter’s challenge describing a sculpture in a gallery. So convinced were the readers that they wanted me to either post a photo of the sculpture or tell me which gallery it was in so they could visit. It didn’t exist in real life and, yet again, I wished that I had a more tactile talent so that I could actually create it.

Here’s my skeleton story – If you think you have read it before, I did borrow the story idea from a past Faithwriter’s challenge. Don’t you think my ibby worms are gorgeous?

The Laughter Thief

Zandrick woke up one morning to discover his deep throated belly laugh, the one that made his side ache and his eyes water, had gone missong. He looked under the chairs and around the table. He checked the books on the shelf, all sixty two of them. He even looked behind the tapestry above the fire place.

From noon till dusk he visited some of his favourite places to see if he had left his laugh somewhere. He checked beside the bench beneath the chestnut tree in the village green. He had been watching children stamping in puddles and joined in their laughter. He searched carefully but his laugh wasn’t there. He walked beside the river, watching the sun wink at him on the water. He’d laughed at butterflies and the summer sunshine warm on his back. His laugh wasn’t in the grass by the bank. He looked under the bridge where the men in the barges walked their feet along the low curve of the tunnel roof but his laugh wasn’t there either. Finally, he went the hat shop on Briant Street. All the ridiculous hats he had tried on were still on their stands. The mirror on the counter was still there. He opened a few of the drawers, stuffed full with ribbons, just in case his laugh had somehow fallen inside, but it wasn’t there.

Head hanging heavily like a millstone, Zandrcik walked wearily home. He stopped off at the shop to buy a small pork pie.

“Not another one that can’t raise a smile!” said Picclalet from behind the counter. “I do declare we must have a laughter thief in our midst!” Counting on his fat sausage fingers, Piccalet listed all the people he had seen that day who had lost their laughs.

Now, Little Couton, just beyond the bend in the river, had been plagued by a laughter thief last spring. Someone had snuck into people’s houses and stole their laughter while they slept. A good thief could make a great deal of money selling laughter to people who had nothing to laugh about.

Zandrick quaked at the thought of his own deep throated belly laugh booming out of someone else’s mouth, making someone else’s sides ache and someone else’s eyes water. What he needed was a plan to catch the thief. He stared at a tiny spot just above Piccalet’s left eyebrow. Then, he had it!

“A large can of ibby worms, please!” Zandrick tipped a pile of coins onto the counter.

Ibby worms, hailed as the fishermen’s friends, giggled hysterically when tossed into water. The fish swam close to see what was so funny, and all that was needed was a net to scoop them out of the water. Everyone knew that fish caught smiling tasted so much better than one’s caught with a line and hook.

Zandrick threw his worms into a large bucket of water, and ran behind a stack of wood beside his back door. The worms began to giggle. Raucous laughter spilled from the bucket filling the air.

Suddenly a dark shadow slipped in through the open gate drawn by the laughter, just like the fish in the river. Zandrick was upon him, engulfing him in the folds of the tapestry taken down from above the fireplace.

The scuffle was short. Zandrick struck the thief solidly on the head with a piece of wood and began to peel back the folds of the tapestry. A wiry little fellow with thick bushy eyebrows was clutching a big black bag. The thick material of the bag muffled the sounds inside. Zandrick opened it, careful not to spill any of its contents. There were a dozen light titters, a loud ho ho, a playful ha or two, a sprinkling of mirthful hee hees and a couple of snorting honks. There in the bottom of the sack Zandrick could hear his own deep throated belly laugh, the one that made his sides ache and his eyes water.

Monday, February 22, 2010


One day
He will lean close
And whisper in my ear

And all the rumbles
And buzzes
And bells
And howls
And hoots
And hums will

It has been a particularly bad day today. Perhaps it is my cold that had raised the volume of the ringing and buzzing. The background noise that I can usually live with took centre stage. All other sounds were mere whispers in comparison. People can’t hear the sounds that I hear. They don’t realise that they have competition for my attention.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


“In the vast expanse of a timeless place, Where silence ruled the outer space…” are the opening lines to Carman’s “The Champion”.

When I first moved up to Inverness, I came as part of a gospel outreach team. Someone in the church was into mime, so he choreographed a mime to “The Champion”. It sets the battle of good and evil, Jesus and Satan, in a boxing ring. There’s music in the background and a Charlton Heston-like voice over commentary. I got to be a demon stalking around the stage threateningly, when I would have preferred to be a saint looking pious and holy.

Last night I had a dream in the genre of Carman. It featured the same kind of music in the background, and the voice commentary – given by the actors involved rather than Charlton Heston. It was a church group performing it, in a very small room. It was just early days of a rehearsal. No one really knew their lines – well, the one person that didn’t know their lines was me. I had a whole scene to myself – I was playing God. I was being prompted by the director, who had to virtually recite my lines for me, and have me repeat them after her. She seemed a little bit annoyed that I didn’t know my lines like the rest of the cast. I told her that I was older than the rest of the cast, and that as God I had a lot of lines to learn.

I decided the night of the next rehearsal to ad-lib rather than go with the lines I was supposed to learn. I knew vaguely the main points and the order in which they came. It was a memorable performance. I used all those big words – omniscient, and omnipotent, and I had a Charlton Heston boom. But there was something more than just the words. I was speaking truth to the audience. As I was walking the stage, my spirit was searching for just the right words to say.

It wasn’t a performance, but there were people sitting in the seats. There weren’t many seats, but they were all full. I turned to one person, and as if I were speaking personally as God, I told them that I had been their watching as they were formed in their mother’s womb. Nothing about them was hidden from me. To someone else I told them that there was no one else qualified to sit on the throne of heaven but me. They thought that Satan was an equal adversary, like matched fighters in a boxing ring, that he was qualified to rule – but he wasn’t and would never be. I really wish I could quote line for line, rather than the sense of it. It was spine tingly awesome.

I woke up, most miffed to not be there anymore. I closed my eyes and tried to will myself back into my dream. It didn’t happen.

“What was that all about?” I asked.

“Heaven,” came the reply. “Everyday you need to parade heaven before a watching world, through your words and actions. There is no stage – just your neighbourhood, your workplace, your home. There is no audience – just the people you meet every day. They need to encounter a God that is omnipotent, a God that watched them being formed in their mother’s womb, a God that will not share power and glory with another. They need to see the amazing greatness of God – through you.”

Sunday, February 07, 2010


This is part two of one of my assignments for a creative writing class. Part one was to write down ten things that made me angry this week – not in a short few words, but a little more descriptive. Part two are the things that made me glad. Here we go:-

• Someone wrote to ask my permission to use one of my poems in a sermon they were going to preach. They have just got back to me that the congregation appreciated the simplicity and depth of the poem.

• The sound of Joe’s voice on the telephone brings a smile to my face.

• My sister in law has a small cottage industry – although she lives not in a cottage at all, but a flat in Glasgow. She compiles hampers – lots of little gifts and nick-nacks in a pretty box, cellophane wrapper and a big bow. She gave me a pamper hamper. From the top of my head (shampoo) to the sole of my foot (a pumice stone) I am ready for pampering.

• I sat down this morning, and asked God to talk to me through His word and He did! The passage was so familiar, and as with all familiar things, I wondered if I would see something new and challenging – and I did.

• Dunfermline 2-4 Celtic means that my husband is glad, which in turn makes me glad. Watching Celtic play is never easy on the heart. My fears for Tony Mowbray’s job security were unfounded.

• I saw my friend Kathryn today. I had been praying for her regularly, and from what she shared with me, some of my prayers for her were spot on. The temptation to isolate ourselves when things are not going well, is something that we all have to deal with.

• Playing footsie in bed with Joe, wrapping my toes around his, what delight!

• Snowdrops in my garden tell me quietly that winter is nearly over and spring is most definitely on the way. It reminds me of the last verse of a poem I wrote:-

Beneath the cosy coverings
Of hats and scarves
I catch the scent of new growth
Discarding the layers
I skip and dance through puddles
And spring rainbows

• Discovering that not all birds fly south in winter. Not for me a glimpse of a single robin posing on a snow-decked gatepost as I walked to church this afternoon, but a whole tree’s worth of birds, sitting on branches, swapping noisy gossip. It was a bit like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s film “The Birds” minus the silence and the threat.

• I ate a Bounty Bar! My only regret is that I wasn’t standing in front of the weight machine at Tesco when I did it.


One of my assignments for a creative writing class was to write down ten things that made me angry this week – not in a short few words, but a little more descriptive. Here are mine:

• A paper aeroplane lightly tossed from the back of the room, retrieved and unfolded revealed itself to be the last page of someone’s workbook. The single passenger on the plane, seated in economy class was a well chewed blob of chewing gum.

• No one asks to borrow a pencil anymore. It has to be a “writing implement”. And they have to ask for it in French. And they stick it in their pocket afterwards and walk away with it.

• The car (why doesn’t someone just steal it?) is booked in for major surgery and an MOT tomorrow. There was almost a confession box feel to the encounter with the mechanic. “Forgive me, Mr Mechanic, for I have sinned…It has been almost one year since my last MOT…I confess that I have neglected to check the tyres regularly or top up the oil. There may be little or no anti freeze in the water and the last time the car got a decent wash was some time in the summer…”

• By the time I had meticulously untied all the knots between the plastic carrier bags of the Chinese takeaway order, everything had gone cold! And the diet coke was missing!

• No one seems to be reading anything that I write!

• A curious flashing green light on the new telephone ignited in me a sense of panic that refused to be ignored. The instruction book to tell me what to do was nowhere to be found.

• I haven’t won the lottery. I never win the lottery. The winning numbers edge up close to my numbers, touching sometimes, but they are never my numbers. The advert that says “It could be you!” should tell the truth and confess “It’s statistically unlikely to be you.”

• Those individual portions of tomato ketchup, brown sauce, mayonnaise or mustard should be replaced with the bottle version. This morning, while trying to wrestle open a tomato ketchup one, the sachet split open, spitting sauce bullet-speed not on to anyone’s chips, but across the table and into my hair!

• The weight machine at Tesco not only got my weight WRONG – two pound heavier despite being mostly good - but it also managed to knock of an inch from my height. Apparently I am shrinking, but not where I want to be! The scales are NOT my friend.

• Ross County pounded Sterling Albion with a 9-0 victory. I support neither team but feel rather like Sterling Albion these days. There may be no own goals, but a lots of the enemy’s shots are on target and hitting the back of the net.

• Silence angers me. That you never told me…that I never asked…that I never told you…that you never asked…that we never spoke at all…and all the time I had the answer to your needs…and you had the answer to mine…but we struggled on alone.

The things that maade me happy, the second part of the assignment, are on their way....