The word you’re looking for is ‘bracing’

I was really proud of my entry in June’s Scottish Book Trust – 50 Words contest. I even thought it was better than the story chosen as the winner. I suppose that’s fair; we’re entitled to disagree on such things.

I’m less confident on this entry — it’s supposed to be inspired by a trip to the seafront. I was captivated by the idea of a beach scene turned sinister by a viking raid. I’ve not done the best job of conveying that here, but they’re not all going to work. I suppose.

&c.

The breeze builds, spinning a parasol planted in the sand, a defiant banner in a war against the North Sea, so that it falls. A beachball is dislodged, severed, to roll free and bob on water turned to blood in the sunset. A longboat drifts away, its raiders victorious.

Make Like a Tree

Despite my best efforts to the contrary, I’ve managed to (yet again!) enter the Scottish Book Trust’s 50 Words competition. It’s been a nice series of exercises and I feel like it’s spurred me to write more elsewhere.

The prompt for this one was to write a story that takes place in an enchanted forest.

&c.

One morning we noticed that the trees had all gone, pulled up their roots and creaked away in the night.

Why did they leave? There was an explanation etched by a branch in the turf.

Not that any of us could read Treelish.

You Must Give Me the Recipe

For the fifth month, albeit only just under the wire, I’ve entered the Scottish Book Trust’s 50 Words competition. There were a great many variations of this over the past few weeks, but I hit upon a… formula that I enjoyed. Sadie also seemed to enjoy it.

&c.

You Must Give Me the Recipe

Saute steaks in butter.
Rest.

More butter.
Sweat shallots.
Add mushrooms, more butter, garlic, Worcestershire, mustard. Brandy. Ignite!
Add cream.
Thicken.

Season to taste.

Pour sauce over steak, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

If not the cyanide in the salt-shaker, perhaps heart disease.
She was nothing if not patient.

Switching Tracks

Yet again I entered the Scottish Book Trust’s 50 Words competition. April’s prompt was to write a story set in a train station. I found this to be more challenging than previous prompts; Sadie really seemed to enjoy it.

If nothing else, I am enjoying the participation in these contests as a starting point for creativity.

&c.

Travellers, clustered like meerkats, peering at the departure board. Amongst them, one couple. Two lives. Two suitcases.

Incredible, how much of one life fits into a suitcase.

He goes to the ticket counter, returns to her side.

Two lives. Two suitcases. Two tickets: one single, one return.

Campfire Stories

I have succeeded at entering every Scottish Book Trust’s 50 words competition of 2017. March’s contest featured a prompt that required a campfire to be in the story. Sadie told me this was her favourite so far. I expect the next one (April’s) will be less speculative fiction-y.

&c.

The survey craft streaked across the sky like a comet before touching down. As it cooled, hisses and pings filled the deserted clearing.

“Imagine,” she announced. “The first humans on Earth since the Diaspora!”

They spread out, scanning.

“Uh… Ma’am?”

“Yes?”

He pointed.

The last embers of a campfire smouldered.

Speak his name

Two years ago today my favourite author died. So today, I thought it might be worthwhile to post an extract from one of his books. And, I thought, since I’m a teacher, I would post the extract from Wee Free Men where the travelling teachers appear.

I’m grateful that I’m not an itinerant teacher any longer.

&c.

And that was the trouble. If you didn’t find some way of stopping it, people would go on asking questions.

The teachers were useful there. Bands of them wandered through the mountains, along with the tinkers, portable blacksmiths, miracle medicine men, cloth peddlers, fortune-tellers, and all the other travellers who sold things the people didn’t need every day but occasionally found useful.

They went from village to village delivering short lessons on many subjects. They kept apart from the other travellers and were quite mysterious in their ragged robes and strange square hats. They used long words, like corrugated iron. They lived rough lives, surviving on what food they could earn from giving lessons to anyone who would listen. When no one would listen, they lived on baked hedgehog. They went to sleep under the stars, which the math teachers would count, the astronomy teachers would measure, and the literature teachers would name. The geography teachers got lost in the woods and fell into bear traps.

People were usually quite pleased to see them. They taught children enough to shut them up, which was the main thing, after all. But they always had to be driven out of the villages by nightfall in case they stole chickens.

Today the brightly colored little booths and tents were pitched in a field just outside the village. Behind them small square areas had been fenced off with high canvas walls and were patrolled by apprentice teachers looking for anyone trying to overhear Education without paying.

Balloons at Sunset

I’ve been fairly consistent in my entering of the Scottish Book Trust’s 50 words contest. I entered February’s, which features an image of balloons over Myanmar at sunset and asked for a story inspired by the image. In another show of consistency, I was not the winner.

So it goes.

&c.

We were drifting heavenward.

The plague would soon spread and before long it would leave only a wasteland below. It didn’t look so bad from up here.

For the moment, we watched the sunset and held each other, carriers and oblivious.