This week’s picture prompt for Friday Fictioneers flash fiction showing an entanglement of trees and their roots is interesting for me. I spent some time trying to determine what the type of tree it was. I came up with–an American Beech or possibly Eucalyptus.
Legend tells of a Green Man and of an underground city dripping with gold and silver. Myth requires the first born in spring as a sacrifice at the roots of the great, grey tree to fertilise the forest and ensure an abundant harvest from our fields.
Everyone in Cronbourne keeps clear of the tree in May and we wear a sprig of silver birch to deter evil.
Martha laughed and went searching for hidden treasure. We continuously called and heard her mobile ring within the tree.
The autumn harvest was excessively rich that year.
This week’s photo-prompt , thanks to CE Ayr, has a sense of isolation and one I am sure many people are feeling in the present atmosphere of Covid restrictions. At the same time there is a sense of peace in the image that I feel when walking along a quite beach early in the morning, preferable on a Caribbean island rather than along a cold, wind swept coast.
John relished the solitude of his dawn stroll. He walked and breathed in time with the natural rhythm of the waves as he listened to the soft adagio whoosh of water washing along the sand. His mind relaxed and emptied of all invasive thoughts as he concentrated on the peace of the moment. Mentally refreshed and calm, he felt prepared with emboldened fortitude and leadership expected from a head teacher.
His knees trembled as he watched. After an enforced break, over excited, chattering children arrived as their pale-faced parents waved anxiously from the gate. He wiped his forehead and smiled.
Not as expected, but the rent is cheap and suddenly available. Sally checked the agency’s note. The landlord, Mr Bates, had the keys; she knocked. It’s the top flat. She followed him into a tiny room. You’re beautiful. He scratched his beard. Sorry! A pretty view. See the park. Oh yes, nice. Is that jasmine shampoo? She moved to the exit. No, no, this way. A dark bedroom with narrow windows, a carpet stain and a new mattress. He scratched at his neck. Should we forget about this month’s rent? She smiled. Maybe not, as my boyfriend would kill you.
This week’s picture prompt, thank you Dale Rogerson, reminds me of the odd freak snowfall we sometimes get in May. Also, how sometimes we get caught out by a sudden spring frost that decimates the border flowers planted out the week before. Weather around the world follows a similar pattern each year, yet nature surprises us with unpredictable events. Nature loves us, really.
We had held hands on the veranda listening to Spanish guitar music, watching the meteors streak across the night sky. We had bread with bratwurst dipped in Dijon and drank Pilsner. One shooting star momentarily lit up the entire street and Baxter scampered indoors whimpering, Caroline followed to calm our Labrador. It was a hot summer with an uncomfortable, sweaty night, but in the morning, I woke to a sharp frost with a snow-covered garden. I saw footprints leading to the rose-bed, then stop. By midday the snow had gone, as was Caroline and Baxter. It has been three years.
This week’s picture, to me, is a reminder of the Burma -Death Railway built with forced labour by the Japanese Army during WW2. It is estimated that 90,000 labourers and 16000 allied prisoners of war died during it’s construction. The brutality of the period reverberates with us still, in books and in films. One film, The Railway Man, is an adaptation of the account of a British Army Officer, Eric Lomax, captured and tortured by the Japanese. Years after the war Lomax confronts his Japanese counterpart and they become friends. As they say; time heals. Perhaps, but only for some.
My story has nothing to do with that tragic period.
Their shift had ended 200 years ago, and the bearded miners packed the “Journey’s End” pub. The flaming fire warmed the room, but at midnight the atmosphere turned sullen.
John sipped his ale.
Outside, a train screeching to a halt stirred all the men to drink up and leave. John followed them into a fog of hissing steam that obscured a locomotive. The miners climbed into the carriages, and the engine pulled away in the dark above dilapidated tracks. John marvelled at this silver miners’ mystery.
He returned indoors to his bitter ale, and the crowded pub of bearded miners.
When I opened the photo prompt this week I saw the humour of having such a robust security device. Yet, I noted the craft in the metal work so my story recognises this skill. Having worked with metal I understand the satisfaction of creating aesthetic pleasing items, no matter how simple they look.
Below the story I have added a crafted bespoke gate, which we fitted for a customer.
My story contribution to Friday Fictioneers reflects how the apprentice system needs resetting in this technological age.
A Chance Opportunity
Elliot hated the written blacksmith test. The pen snapped in his hand and he slammed the desk. ‘I’m sorry, sir. It don’t make sense.’ he said and wiped his eyes.
Mr McKay looked over his newspaper. ‘Take your time, lad.’ He watched as Elliot clawed at his hair. He was the worst-case illiterate and innumerate of anyone in the rehabilitation class. Words and letters jumbled around in the boy’s mind. However, he expressed eagerness in his eyes and was a skilled metalworker.
“A last chance,” the judge had said. “Join honest society and make use of your pilfering hands, constructively.”
‘Water, is the sustenance of life.’ Father Van Gory preached. Melba and Cheryl were at the back as usual, knitting. ‘Any time now,’ whispered Cheryl. ‘You’re mean.’ ‘You mustn’t tell.’ Cheryl dropped a stitch. ‘It’s only vinegar.’ ‘Serves him right.’ Melba stared at the priest. ‘Him rubbing salt in folks’ wounds.’
‘Alcohol,’ Father Gory pointed at the Bible group, ‘is a mean spirit.’ He picked up the bottle of water. ‘Let us pray and seek forgiveness.’ He took a large mouthful, then spluttered and sprayed it over his notes.
Cheryl dropped a stitch. ‘Immaculate,’ whispered Melba. ‘Let him seek forgiveness.’
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.