John gripped the barrier. Will he jumble the words like last time? He wished he wore a clean shirt as sweat was gathering under his armpits. Oh, no! He wasn’t wearing his favourite blue dotted tie, his lucky charm. Yesterday, he spilled coffee over it as he reported the terrorist attack in Spain. Concentrate. He can do this, he has to be professional.
The train blast kept replaying in his mind. The image of those poor, poor children and his distraught sister screaming had kept him awake throughout the night. Traumatised, he clung onto the cold barrier. Lost for words.
Remember the office days with paper and files kept in dusty rooms and cabinets. When people borrowed your pen, just for a second, and you never saw it again. Those were the days before management demanded efficiency and screen time took over. There is no turning back.
It’s those little things I miss, like fiddling with paper clips while I study company reports. Opening bursting folders and laying out charts and graphs all held down with rocks I brought back from a picnic. We were people then and you my gregarious secretary. We once sat by the Thames and drank Bollinger while eating salmon sandwiches for lunch. I asked, and you said yes.
We grew as business partners and you travelled the globe in executive jets. Apart, our love became metamorphic in Cyber Space and on Zoom.
Siri recommends picnic rugs. It’s those little things I miss.
Peacefully sitting beneath the mistletoe Reflecting on the year just passing by Feelings like a last candle burning low Thoughts as dark shadows across the sky And the mistletoe whispers in a breath of air As if an angel came and kissed me there.
Peacefully nodding under the mistletoe Floating in a warmth of hope filled dreams Bright ecstatic friends in a cheerful smiling glow Enthusiastic embraces with jokes and promises As the mistletoe rustles in a bright new year And you, my angel, will always kiss me there.
We were ten-year-olds huddled in a spinning Alice In Wonderland cup at the fairground. Martha, my sweetheart, kept our dream alive, and we created Dolly’s Amusement and Theme Park.
Just one last look. Early morning, quiet, and I feel so proud for the pleasure people get from our dream. Soon, excited children and anxious dads goaded and dared to a ride on the Hell-Coaster will arrive.
We did good, Martha had said. She is calling me.
It is time. I feel my soul discard this body as I journey free and home to the other side. Is that you, Martha?
‘It’s a message, Watson.’ He blew a cloud of hashish smoke. ‘Lord Carmichael will refuse the ransom.’ Watson spluttered. ‘Do you have to?’ ‘Oh, there’ll be no demands.’ Holmes shrugged. ‘The infusion enhances concentration; try it.’
‘Surely the kidnappers know of his Lordship’s wealth.’ ‘My dear Watson.’ He grinned. ‘Look, what do you see?’ ‘They dropped a cord.’
‘Lady Jane is an eccentric intellectual and a fanciful romantic.’ ‘Holmes! She is in mortal danger.’
‘The symbol eight; love and infinite wealth.’ Holmes smiled. ‘A Pearl of the East and a paper boat.’ He laughed. ‘Lady Jane has run off to Hong-Kong.’
I enjoyed the view from the hotel balcony; people watching. A glorious evening, and I watched lovers strolling. Hell! I rushed down the stairs two at a time. Sprinted across the promenade.‘John,’ I screamed. ‘John.’ I leapt onto the beach. ‘Debra!’ I tripped in a castle moat. The pain shot through my ankle. My mouth filled with sand, and I spat and cried. A poodle licked my ears until the owner came to help.
Three hours later, John gasped, looking at my bandages. ‘Let’s enjoy our honeymoon,’ he said and opened the Champagne.
The chimney’s shadow on the lawn signalled gin time. Yahoo! Charlie mixed the drink with tonic and lemon; his hands were shaking and his pulse raced. He needed this rush to suppress his anxiety and to relax. The DTs were horrific at night, locked in his room. Before the programme he drank two full bottles a day to work coherently. It was unfair of Amtrak to fire him; hell, those modern trains drive themselves. He shouldn’t have said that, but it was the colour test that found him out. Being an alcoholic is not as easy as black and white.
Everyone is in hiding, that is what we are told to do. Hide. At night it is worse than ever. It’s an unseen enemy, but I can sense them; watching, waiting, wanting to invade my body. I must fight back, as I did in Korea, for my country. Well, I am watching them too; the specks of lights hovering, menacing, grouping, slowly surrounding me. Wear masks, that is what we are told. I don’t recognise myself anymore, or anyone. Who is who? I can’t stand this confinement, I need fresh air and freedom. I am going out, I’ll show them.
Literally Stories have aired my short story as one of their Sunday re-runs. I must thank them. Their site holds hundreds of worthwhile reads from a variety of writers; you may find yourself engrossed for hours. Every read is free or you may wish to contribute your own story for others to enjoy.