All You Need Is Love

Ryuichi holds Keiko’s hands. The lights of the Seven Eleven, the cheap beer, the guilt whirl out of time with the jazz music from bars. ‘I left because things changed,’ he says.

‘You left because you changed. I’m the same.’ Keiko closes her eyes. A moped hums past splashing the smell of petrol and rain. ‘I forgive you. But why did you come back?’

Ryuichi lights a Lucky Strike, leans against a car and stares at the web of wires connecting the apartments and offices, at the stars caught between them — like faded dreams in the night. ‘I forgot something. Come with me. We’ll go to Kyoto, watch real stars from the mountains, where the air is clear.’

A plane thunders above as Keiko laughs and shakes her head. ‘You were always a dreamer, ever since we were kids. Always chasing something, and never knowing when you’ve got it.’

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to: What Pegman Saw – Tokyo
Image: Google Maps

The Case of the Smoking Dragon

Cops wanted to talk. Reckoned I had something to do with the old man.

‘The guy was wired.’ I lit a cigarette with another. ‘Said his life’s in danger, then blathered on about demons.’

‘Demons?’ The kid took notes.

The old one’s clenched up and pissed.

‘I ignored it,’ I said. ‘Got some drinking in at Eddie’s. Then this chick, she’s shaking right? Seen demons at East Side, she says, where them murders happened.’

‘You didn’t call us?’

‘I needed the drink money,’ I shrugged, ‘so I pay the guy a visit. Landlady’s bleating about the smell. I break down the door.’

‘It was bolted on the inside,’ the kid reads from his book. ‘But no fire.’

‘I’m getting to that, kid.’ I took another drag, the taste made me sick.

‘There was no fire,’ I said, ‘but everything reeked — like burnt meat.’

‘Coroner said his heart burned — to a crisp. How’d you do it!’ The old guy grabbed me.

‘It was a dragon!’

I needed a drink. But the kid’s curious. ‘Dragon?’

‘A wooden dragon. It was on his chest, breathing smoke.’

‘Bullshit!’

‘Where’s the dragon?’ said the kid.

‘It flew away. God’s honest truth, the thing grinned and flew away.’

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to: Sunday Photo Fiction – February 19th 2017
Image credit: A Mixed Bag

What Dreams May Fall

One winter’s evening, in a village that never slept, it snowed children’s dreams and soon the streets gleamed with sweet, brightly coloured dust, the forests shimmered and sang, and the rivers froze over and glistened like candy. That night, the villagers dreamt the most magical, vibrant dreams in years. But as they slept, roused by the glow and strains of happiness, the things that had kept them awake stired once more; in every bedroom, creatures emerged from the cold, hungry dark, stretched out, and fed until the dreams became nightmares; and when they were full, scurried back under beds and into cupboards where they lived — where they continue to wait for sweet dreams to wake them again.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to: Three Line Tales, Week Fifty-Five
Image by: Edwin Andrade


Thanks to Sonya for organising and coordinating these three line tales each week.

The Drifters

Emma watches her husband sail away.

Each time he drifts into the fog, he returns a different man — as if the mist keeps something behind.

His growing restlessness had imposed itself upon their dreams. And in the mornings, they talked as if the fog didn’t exist.

Faint mist encroaches the shore, drifting over and into littered bottles as they helplessly watch each other disappear. Emma closes her eyes against its grey interminable sadness and mystery, hoping he will return happy, fearing he may be lost forever, knowing the tides of unspoken love between them will soon be enshrouded completely.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to: Friday Fictioneers, 17 February 2017
Image by: Liz Young


Thanks to Rochelle for hosting these Friday Fictioneer Challenges.

The Death of an Affair

Norah and Yevgeny laugh and chat over coffee and heart-shaped waffles, their usual corner booth is decorated with red paper hearts, the sun is shining, and the jukebox is playing Marvin Gaye; it should be the perfect Valentine’s Day, but Norah senses something wrong — the blonde waitress is new, the park jogger in purple has just run past again, and the blind man from the subway is standing across the street.

Yevgeny finishes his waffles, pats his mouth with a napkin, and takes Norah’s hands, he tells her Moscow has authorised her defection, and promises they’ll go to South America someday, but his altered inflection, his tight grip, and the slight clench in his jaw confirms her cover has been exposed.

Yevgeny takes deliberate sips, finishes his coffee, grips Norah’s hands, and, as the waitress flips the door sign, laughs and sings, I heard it through the grapevine and I’m just about to lose my mind, ‘honey, honey,’ he shakes his head, ‘we’re just pawns in this game, nothing matters in the end. But it still breaks my heart we must finish like this. I loved you’; time is running out — the blind man is crossing the street, the waitress is reaching for something in her apron — Norah tells him it was just her job, it was nothing personal; and as his fingers tremble and his left eye twitches, as sweat forms on his temples and his breath quickens, Norah tells Yevgeny she’s sorry it must end like this, it’ll be painful but quick, and she loved him too.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to: Three Line Tales, Week Fifty-Four
Image by: Roman Kraft


Thanks to Sonya for organising and coordinating these three line tales each week.

Love in a Harsh Climate

They watch another dome being evacuated. This one was overrun by illegally engineered animals in the night.

‘That’s where the old cinema was,’ says Jack as people continue to flood out.

He remembers the old days, being shuffled between underground shelters while offices and homes were demolished to make way for the biomes. The aquadome sits on the site of his old factory, where another tanker pulls up ready to transfer whatever life could be rescued from the sea.

‘I miss the old days,’ says Jack.

Mary coughs, swallows blood, and runs her fingers over the synthetic plants. ‘Time heals everything,’ she says, ‘soon as the bio-plants survive out here, things will pick up again.’

The nitrogen dioxide forecast wasn’t good and Jack’s chest hurts already. ‘I wish I could change everything,’ he says.

‘But we can’t,’ says Mary. ‘They said it was just scare stories, love. Nobody believed them.’

They hold hands and gaze at each other through their respirator masks. He’ll tell her about the eviction later — no point upsetting her now. Maybe a move will do them good, it’ll give them a new start, another chance of recuperation and life — whatever that means now.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to: Sunday Photo Fiction – February 12th 2017
Image by: Sascha Darlington.

Intolerable Love

‘Madar, I can’t,’ says Ester.

Another crowd below. So many protests, but what will it change?

The intimacy of her mother’s tears over the phone, the loneliness already setting up home in her voice.

Her father was improving; she spoke to him last week. And now he was dead.

‘Madar,’ says Ester, ‘If I leave they won’t let me back.’ The hospital, her patients relied on her, but so did her mother.

A woman holds a big heart — a universal symbol of kindness and love — and yet all Ester sees is the emptiness of it. ‘Madar, I can’t.’

(99 words)

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to: 100 Word Weekly Writing Challenge —Week 5
Image by: Andreas P.


Thanks to Bikurgurl for hosting 100 Word Wednesdays.

The Inevitable Tide

Olivia adjusts her paper crown and pulls her mother’s trench-coat like a cape over her shoulders. Her throne is borrowed from the kitchen, her sceptre a branch.

She imagines the courtiers sniggering. Her reproachful mother — ‘Acting’s foolish. Be practical like your sister’; her father reminding her girls could never be kings.

Her heart quickens, brown waves foam and rush towards her. Olivia grips her sceptre and delivers her lines with majestic authority as the waters tumble closer.

She loosens her grip. A smile signifies the rehearsal’s success. She’ll show them tomorrow that she can turn the inevitable tide.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to: Friday Fictioneers, 10 February 2017
Image by: Ted Strutz


Thanks to Rochelle for hosting these Friday Fictioneer Challenges.

The Wheels Beneath

Helen stared at its absence between the cedars; the silence — interwoven with the chirps of cicadas — and its gentle glimmer of hope moved towards her, like early morning light, as she scrubbed the dishes.

It had carried them to church, on honeymoon, vacations when they still had vacations, they named their girls after it — the eldest now in college, the youngest determined to repeat her parents’ mistake.

Everything was new then; barefoot on her mother’s porch under an unending sky of summer stars as the smell of corn drifted in; sixteen with wild dreams, which his proposal — on one knee, a bottle a bourbon in one hand, a ring outstretched in the other — promised to fulfil.

The truck coughed into the yard in a cloud of acrid smoke and interrupted her reverie. This emblem of discord, with its body crumbling beneath whatever veneer remained and its wheels which kept turning and threatened to never stop, occupied its space again.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to: FFfAW Challenge-Week of February 7, 2017
Image by Mike Vore.

All the Old Bottles

‘I’ve finished it, Grandpa,’ said Maisie.

Dennis took the small ‘For Sale’ sign Maisie had decorated with flowers and borders.

‘Oh, that’s beautiful. Thank you, sweetheart.’

Maisie knelt down, pressed her face against the glass, and stared at the strange, faded bottles.

‘I thought you liked them,’ said  Maisie.

‘I did. But sometimes grown-ups need a bit of a clear out.’

‘Like a spring clean?’ said Maisie.

‘Yes, like a spring clean,’ said Dennis.

‘They look old,’ said Maisie. ‘Where’d you get them from?’

‘Different places. I had a friend. Before your daddy was born. We had this beat-up camper. We’d travel the country, buy a bottle from each state, take photos of us drinking ’em, and keep the bottles as a reminder.’

‘Shouldn’t there be more?’ she said.

‘We didn’t finish the trip.’

‘Why?’

‘My friend, she, she couldn’t go on anymore.’

‘Did she die?’

‘No. She just didn’t want to. The 7Up bottle was the last one, from Wyoming.’

‘Oh,’ said Maisie, ‘that’s sad. I’ve made some lemonade, would you like some?’

‘Yes, sweetheart,’ smiled Dennis, ‘I’d love some.’

‘I’ve only got glasses though,’ said Maisie.

‘That’s okay. A glass will be fine,’ said Dennis.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to: Sunday Photo Fiction – February 5th 2017

Back to Dreams, Back to Reality

Something was clearly wrong because for the past week Nigel had been startled from uneasy dreams by the sound of a little Stormtrooper jigging at an easel on his bedside table.

‘Lego, Lego. Turn away and blast the door, I don’t care what they’re going to say. Let this Stormtrooper out. The war never bothered me anyway!’ It pirouetted, flicked its tiny brush, and splattered Nigel with invisible ink.

Nigel wiped his face, ignored the hallucination, settled back into his uneasy dreams, and felt relieved when the familiar clop of the goatmen’s hooves and their bleating woke him later that morning as they unfastened his straps and served him his usual breakfast of fish heads and tails.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to: Three Line Tales, Week Fifty-Three
Image by: Daniel Cheung


Thanks to Sonya for organising and coordinating these three line tales each week.

Care Brings Love

We marched on in. Behind us came Factory Commander Summers. Benches filled the room and went on into the dark corners. They had these big devices on ’em where old geezers huddled under yellow lamps. And on the walls sat the biggest, brightest News Feeders I’d ever seen.

‘Now I’m sure all you young ones are eager to get started. And I don’t blame you! This is an exciting time in your lives!’ said Commander Summers. ‘You all understand why you’re here — to make a true difference to our great nation, to make our nation great again. You’ll each be assigned a mentor who’ll assist and train you from now on. Now let’s see,’ he looked at his list, ‘Simon Smith?’

‘’ere Commander.’ I raised me hand.

‘Simon, good to have you on board son. You’re going to be a true asset I can tell. A champion in the making!’ He put his hand on me shoulder, ‘You’ll be with Jim. Jim’s one of our most experienced — a real hero. You’ll do well with him I’m sure.’

Jim was old, outta breath, and smelled like the soured milk nana used to drink. As I sat at the bench next to him, the News Feeder came alive.

‘Millions celebrate as challenges overcome on the Southern Borders’, the woman on the News Feeder said and smiled. There were crowds of happy people and a graph came up with a big red line rising diagonally across the screen. ‘That,’ she continued, ‘is the love of the nation, and it’s all because of you.’ She pointed a finger at me. It made me happy. ‘It’s because you create with care that we have so much love to give.’

The blue glow of the News Feeder lit a large poster next to it. It showed a family holding hands and smiling as the sky lit up all red and orange like behind ’em with black smoke reaching up. I thought of mom and dad and Sally.

Sally had just got a job with the Pleasure Division. She didn’t come home much. When she did, she came dressed in fur coats and pearls, but she didn’t look much pleasured. They say the Pleasure Division is important though, it keeps the soldiers happy and happy soldiers make a happy war.

‘What does that poster say?’ I asked Jim.

‘We’ll get you started off on something small, shall we?’ said Jim and handed me a pair of tweezers.

‘Why are they smiling?’ I said.

‘I take it you’ve learned about detonator basics already.’ Jim rummaged around in his toolbox.

‘That’s a great question Simon! Well done!’ Commander Summers was next to us holding his hands behind his back and smiling. ‘We all need reminding of this, even some of the old timers here,’ he said winking at Jim. ‘Tell me Simon, how do we defeat hate? How,’ he repeated, ‘do we defeat the poisonous, destructive hate of our enemies?’

‘With love,’ I said.

‘Exactly, Simon! With love,’ said Commander Summers. ‘The only way to defeat the hate of our enemies in these… “challenges” we face, is with love. Pure and simple love. And this poster serves as a reminder of how important you can be Simon. What the poster says is: “Care Brings Love.” You!’ he turned and spoke to everybody. ‘Each and every one of you have the capacity to bring love by crafting your devices with care.’

Jim explained me the basics of making warheads. It’s a wonderful skill to have. It makes you feel good making ’em. In the old days, they were done by machines. Machines were good but lacked feeling and such important devices have to be crafted with care.

‘Right, take this with your tweezers,’ said Jim. He held out a small, square, metal chip. ‘Now place it in the small holder here.’

‘What’s this for?’ I said.

‘This chip measures the positive impact of the missile on groundfall.’ said Jim. ‘That is, how effective and well made it is. At the end of each month, the positive impact is tallied up and a prize goes to the person who’s had made the most positive impact.’

‘We get prizes too? It’s great we can make a difference,’ I said.

‘Yeah, it’s wonderful,’ said Jim.

‘I guess we’re lucky now. Have you ever won a prize?’ I said.

‘Lucky? How’s that?’ said Jim.

‘Well, I heard in the olden days, kids were sent to torture camps called shools. Is that true?’ I said.

‘They were called schools, not shools,’ said Jim.

‘So it’s true? They used torture kids? I heard they used to be chained to desks for hours and beaten until their hands bled. Did they make you go to ‘em Jim?’

‘It was nothing like that. We don’t talk about that anymore.’

‘I think it’s better we’re allowed to make things now,’ I said. ‘I just want to make people happy.’

I wanted to make mom and dad happy again, and Sally happy. If I worked with enough care at Ballistics, they said I could go work in Chemical or Nuclear where I could make a real positive impact.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
Image: Pasture Fire by Andrew Dyer / CC BY

At Beauty’s End

I understand the risks. Watering flowers at windows while tan-clowns howl momma’s old songs, and business boys smear their laws against buildings and batter tramps for sport.

They’ve burnt all the trees so books can’t be printed, they say. And soon they’ll beat me and seize my plants. I’ll lie. If I say they’re money plants, maybe they’ll let them survive.

The curfew is almost here — legions of new boys are already shrieking on the stairs. I lie on my bed and watch my white orchid turn red, reflecting fires from another horror-bus below.

Something will be less beautiful tomorrow.

(100 words)

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to: Friday Fictioneers, 3 February 2017
Image by:  Roger Bultot


Thanks to Rochelle for organising and coordinating these Friday Fictioneer Challenges.

A Shot in the Cold

The rain had stopped. Cold sun bled between the trees.

‘Killer instinct,’ his father whispered, ‘is what’s made me who I am today.’

But all Scott saw was an alcoholic, diabetic divorcee.

‘You’re the hunter or the prey. Now pull the trigger.’

The rifle’s heaviness surprised him. His grasp was unsteady.

‘Choose one. And shoot.’

‘I can’t,’ said Scott.

‘Yes, you can.’

The stock felt warm on his cheek, the trigger cold against his finger.

Scott steadied the sight. And squeezed.

The shot echoed and released birds as the frightened deer ran past the splintered tree into the cold light.

(100 words)

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to: 100 Word Weekly Writing Challenge —Week 4
Image by: Andreas P.


Thanks to Bikurgurl for organising and coordinating these 100 Word Wednesdays each week.

Beauty and Sadness

Isabel had endured two cold seasons and lost contact with friends, and despite her children’s treats of fancy restaurants and theatre shows, everything remained silent and tasteless since her husband’s death.

After two weeks of refusing her children’s calls, and two weeks of sleepless pondering, Isabel needed escape and packed Daniel’s old suitcase in the night before booking herself on a flight to wherever the pin landed on the map.

But Rome’s lively reminders filled her with sadness so Isabel decided to visit the countryside instead and discovered the peaceful village of San Quirico, where after a day of pleasant walking, she reached a small, delightful chapel high in the fragrant hills overlooking the Tuscan countryside; as Isabel rested in the shadow of a tree — tired and drunk on the beauty and sadness of memories, like fine wine — she tasted tears and smiled as she watched Daniel walk away over the rolling, gold and green fields while the warm sun drifted slowly to sleep behind the hills.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to: Three Line Tales, Week Fifty-Two
Image by: Ales Krivec


Thanks to Sonya at only100words.xyz for organising and coordinating these three line tales each week.

Backwards Through the Tunnel

My train was delayed
Broken down in tunnels where rats played,
I was a commuter without a fare —
Sometimes I wonder if I was ever there.

I’m trying to get better now, in every way I know how:
In waiting rooms waiting for the smell of bleach and death,
In boardrooms with game show junkies competing for breath,
In a reliable Japanese saloon on a lane that never moves,
Killing myself slowly with fast food in a service station built in ’72.

Life used to be simple, like child’s play,
Full of snakes and ladders until someone took the ladders away,
A Game of Life where life was still a concept with a finite stack of cards,
A Disney picture puzzle where all the pieces fit together,
A Mousetrap in a crazy old house until the mice took over.

I blacked out in a meeting
Bathed in the heavenly glow of a PowerPoint slide,
Had an epiphany about corporate deployment strategies.
When the doctors had done their drinking,
I walked home on streets no one else could see
Full of unwanted dreams of promotion and publicity.

My train is delayed again,
Maybe there’s still time,
While the ghosts in their carriages dream,
I could walk backwards through the tunnel
And smile a smiling scream.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to daily prompt: Simple
Image: Follow the Light by  sanpani / CC BY

The Secret Lovers of Logic

The secret lovers of logic
Conceived tomorrow’s pleasures
Under electric shadows
In room number seven.
He stretched out on sheets of rust,
Watched the stars burn and said: ‘I think the manager’s dying.’
The dogs were digging at the rain again —
Dark waters in his head.
‘I don’t think he existed.’ she said,
‘It’s lucky we paid in advance.’
He kissed the scent of musk on her thighs,
His fingers teased the moon’s twisted gaze onto her breasts;
Reminders of the deception of pleasure —
A promise paid in advance
At the raging gates of love
Where the snake drove the screw further
Into the broken spirit.
And at ten she said:
‘The only hell is this hell.
(There will be no eleven.)
Here in this motel,
In this dark mouth of pills and tar,
There is no fall like our fall my dear.
Now open your arms my love
For the gleaming storm of heaven.’

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to daily prompt: Ten
Image: bangkok by Roberto Trombetta / CC BY

Memories Are Bad for Your Health

‘We’re going to be late,’ said Richard. He checked his watch again and lit a cigarette.

‘It’ll be fine. Sit down. The show doesn’t start till three. I just want to stop here for a few minutes.’ Carly sat on the bench and looked down over the city from the east side of Memorial Park.

It was a city she knew well, where she was born and where she and Richard had now settled. But it was a changed city in much the same way she was the same girl who grew up in it. Spring had always enchanted her with its promise of rebirth. The winter had been warm, some flowers had become confused by it and bloomed early and she wondered if they would survive now the temperature had dropped.

‘You said you’d give up for new year,’ Carly reminded him and waved the smoke away.

She never liked Richard’s smoking and although she tolerated it because she loved him, she could never endure the taste of it when they kissed.

‘We all need something to keep us going.’ Richard shrugged, smiled and took another drag.

‘Am I not enough?’ Carly nudged Richard in the arm and some ash fell on his knee.

‘Oh, you’re too much sometimes.’ Richard winked and looked at his watch again.

Carly pulled one end of her scarf and drew the knot tighter around her neck. Her mother had knitted the orange and cerise scarf for her before she left home for university and it was frayed at the edges now. Richard hated it and said it looked ugly.

‘We really should be going. Do you want to see him first?’ said Richard. He extinguished the cigarette and put his arms around Carly.

‘Yes,’ said Carly. She smelled the tobacco smoke on Richard’s clothes and watched as the city below continued to move with life. ‘It was a spring day when we buried him. But warm. I didn’t really understand how to feel about it back then.’

A woman walked past with a labrador and greeted them with a smile. The dog reminded her of Stanley — of when he came back. That was a spring day too. They thought he’d gone missing but he turned up one Saturday morning. They’d just finished breakfast when they heard his familiar bark outside. Her father washed him and they took him for a walk together. That was before her father got sick.

‘I really wish you wouldn’t smoke,’ said Carly.

‘I’m trying to cut down,’ said Richard as he checked his remaining cigarettes in the packet.

‘They said his heart was because of cigarettes. I remember when they wheeled him into surgery. He held onto my hand and cried. That was the first time I remember seeing him cry. It was a hot summer. We went to Cornwall. I remember seeing that big, red scar on his chest. It stretched from his throat to his abdomen and had these little red pits where the stitches had been.’ Carly turned to Richard and laughed. ‘He looked like Frankenstein’s monster on the beach with his shorts. I’ve got a picture somewhere.’

Richard lit another cigarette and swapped sides so the smoke didn’t blow onto Carly.

‘But he continued to smoke and kept saying the same things you say about how it kept him going. But, the ironic thing is, it didn’t.’ Carly’s tears felt cold in the wind. ‘I was devastated. Absolutely devastated.’

Richard took a handkerchief and dried Carly’s tears but smoke drifted into her eyes.

‘They said it was an overdose. Mom had found him. That he got depressed. We thought it was because he found it difficult to find work after the surgery. But Mom said later that he always struggled with his mood and that’s why he smoked. She said it helped him. Then it kind of made sense. Sometimes he used to sit there and say nothing. Just stare. And sometimes he’d disappear. Mom used to tell us he was away on business. I guess she was protecting us. I found out later he’d been in a psychiatric hospital.’

‘I’m sorry honey. But he loved you, a lot. That’s the important thing,’ said Richard.

‘It doesn’t help the fact he’s gone,’ said Carly.

‘I know. Come on. We should get going,’ said Richard as the smoke drifted between them. ‘Don’t keep thinking about it. Memories are bad for your health.’

‘But there’s another reason I want you to stop smoking,’ said Carly.

‘Come on Carly. Not the money thing again.’ Richard stood up and stamped his feet against the cold.

‘It’s not the money,’ said Carly. ‘I’m pregnant.’

‘What?’

‘I found out this morning. You’re not upset?’

‘No! How can I be? Oh! That’s wonderful.’ Richard extinguished the cigarette and hugged her.

‘So you’ll quit smoking now?’ They kissed and Carly tasted tobacco smoke again.

‘Yes! Definitely,’ said Richard.

As they walked through the park towards the cemetery, Carly noticed some of the trees had started to blossom despite the frost. She smiled at the thought that the world would soon be bathed in the promise of beauty again. A change was in the air — she could smell it.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to daily prompt: Devastation
Image: But I’m always dreaming, even when I’m awake. by Joe Diaz / CC BY

Warning Signs

he just went in, i told him, i said to him, i remember, i was almost in the water, get out you silly bastard, stop it!’ i was mad, i was shouting, ‘stop playing games, it’s not funny!’, but it just drove him on, he was laughing, said he needed a swim, i remember, his coat, it got snagged on the wires, he got stuck, couldn’t move, and then, he kinda… he kinda turned around, like he was gonna come out, but he just freed himself, i should’ve gone after him, maybe if i’d… but… he just laughed, he laughed and grabbed onto the rails, onto the wires and laughed, i couldn’t do anything! i just watched! the water was up to his neck, he just went out, holding the rails, he went out, i kept shouting, i couldn’t do anything! i told him to come back, i told him… but he wouldn’t… then he started swimming, and laughing, and then, oh shit, oh god, i just watched, i just watched, i couldn’t do anything, i couldn’t… i should’ve, but.. oh god… i.. i just watched… i should’ve stopped him, somehow, the stupid bastard, i just watched him! and then he stopped laughing… he started shouting, but i couldn’t help, i just watched… he was waving his arms, splashing, just splashing, in the water, and then… oh shit… it happened so fast, it… it just went… quiet… he was gone…

i can’t believe it… i can’t believe he did it… the idiot, putting up stupid signs like that, why, why bother with the barbed wire and a sign like that, like that! ‘no entry, ‘danger’, ‘deep water’, to someone like rob, that was like giving him a big red button and telling him not to press it, of course he was going to! he was always messed up i guess, like there was something inside he needed to get rid of, i still can’t believe he did it… that he wanted to…

The policeman places his hand on my shoulder, turns to mom, shakes his head, and tells us to get some rest, that the divers will continue for another few hours; As I watch one of them resurface from the lake, I stare again at the stupid sign trying to make sense of the words, but nothing makes sense now, not the stupid jetty, the stupid wires, the stupid sky with its stupid stars, the stupid water lit by all the stupid headlights from the stupid cars in this stupid world — nothing.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to: Three Line Tales, Week Fifty-One
Image by: Sean Tan


Thanks as always to Sonya at only100words.xyz for organising and coordinating these three line tales each week.

A Purple Glint of Paint

Our families’ traditions had been connected for centuries. We commissioned the paintings and the Arringtons maintained them. But Father had explained to me that they weren’t just paintings, they were special pieces that demanded careful alterations between the seasons to bring out their best qualities. But only special artists like the Arringtons could see and tease out these changes.

He came by at the start of each season, and just before he arrived, the servants would remove and lightly dust the huge collection of oil paintings from the walls of our home and place them on the cloth-laden floor of the great hall.

The first time I met him, I had sat at the drawing room window awaiting his arrival since breakfast. And then I saw his black Morris Oxford approach as it kicked up large clouds of dust from our tree-lined, gravel driveway. The car stopped in front of the house and a tall man with round glasses stepped out. It would always strike me how someone so acquainted with the nature of beauty and the intricacies of colour dressed so drab.

On this particular day he wore simple, brown woollen trousers, a tweed waistcoat and matching cloth cap. He rummaged in the back seats of his Oxford before pulling out a large, brown leather case. As he walked past with the case in his hand, he pushed up his glasses and gave me a nod with a slight smile. I followed him in and watched as Father greeted him and directed him to the great hall.

I peered out from behind the hall’s oak doorway and watched him tip-toe and rearrange the paintings on the floor. He made deliberate adjustments to the spaces between the frames and peered at the paintings as if looking for some tiny, lost thing among them.

He finally settled down on his knees in front of a painting of a country scene. The painting showed a large sycamore arching from the left, framing a church with a crooked spire in the distance and on the right a lone figure was standing on the river bank.

‘If you want to make yourself useful,’ he said. ‘Fetch me the amethyst.’

I said nothing and ducked back behind the doorway.

‘You do know what amethyst looks like don’t you?’ he said without looking up. I thought perhaps he was talking to an assistant whose arrival I hadn’t noticed.

‘It’s the medium purple,’ he said. ‘Not too dark, not too light. The name’s written on the tin. Come on then.’ He looked at me and flicked his head towards his leather case which sat open at the edge of the room.

I approached the case with caution while Mr. Arrington continued to stare at the painting. I looked inside the case and saw a large collection of small tins of paint of the most impressive and wonderful colours I’d ever seen. The colours were so bright and unreal it was as though he had captured a rainbow and bottled the colours. Each metal tin was only a few centimeters high and sat in neatly arranged rows; on the front of each was a small fingernail sized sample of colour along with their name neatly printed on a tiny white label.

My eyes darted between all the colours until I found the amethyst, I carefully removed the tin and handed it to him.

‘Thank you,’ he said.

He prised open the tin with a small flat blade and dipped a tiny brush into it so only the smallest amount of paint was visible on the brush.

‘Detail is shy,’ he said. ‘You have to tease it out, discover it. It doesn’t always want to be found, it would rather hide away. But if you look carefully, with patience, you not only discover it, you nurture and encourage it and then it rewards you. Does that make sense?’

I nodded without having understood a word.

He dabbed some amethyst onto the face of the figure on the river bank.

‘This gentleman here,’ he indicated with his brush, ‘has a purple glint in his eyes because amethyst signifies sobriety. And since the death of his wife, time has healed his heart enough for him to travel the river again. Do you see that?’

I nodded, but all I saw was a grubby face without any detail.

Each season Mr. Arrington came back and repeated the routine of rearranging and scrutinising the framed paintings in the great hall. And I continued to help him fetch the paints whose names I became familiar with as he continued to carefully pick out details few others could see like a bergamot in a lemon grove or a single mulberry on a hawthorn tree. Then I started noticing them too. By looking past the pictures and understanding what they signified I came to appreciate them. And in doing so, I realised that just because somethings went unnoticed, it didn’t make them unworthy — if anything it made them more special for those who did notice.

Then one day, just after the war broke out in ’39, Mr. Arrington came by unannounced. However, this time he was dressed in a soldier’s uniform rather than his usual woollen trousers and waistcoat. He called me into the great hall stretched out his leather case of paints in front of him.

‘Here take this,’ he said.

‘Why?’ I said, ‘Won’t you need it?’

‘I might be gone a while. But I’ll be back,’ he said.

I took the case reluctantly, it felt heavier than I expected and had to use both hands.

‘Back when? What shall I do with it?’ I said.

‘I’m not sure when I’ll be back. Just keep it safe,’ he winked. ‘And don’t forget to look for those details, in everything, not just in pictures,’ he said, ‘You understand the importance of detail now?’

‘Yes,’ I said.

‘Good. I’ll see you soon lad. I’ll just say goodbye to your father and I’ll be off.’

I sat on the steps with the case of paints resting on my lap and watched Mr. Arrington drive away with his car kicking large clouds of dust into the air. And as I watched the dust gather, form, and swirl before they settled, obscuring his car as it continued along the path, I thought of those large clouds, of how they were made of small pieces of grime and dirt, of how the grime was formed from smaller things we couldn’t see. And as his car disappeared through the gates and the dust settled as though he was never there, I looked up at the sky, at the clouds, of the uniqueness of each white wisp above my head and thought about the paintings again; I thought about a small, purple glint in a grieving man’s eye and of how father never talked about mother’s death; I thought about that lone bergamot in a lemon grove and the single mulberry on a hawthorn tree, about myself in this big house, and of the outside world, of the beauty in all things, but of the sadness too; and as I opened the case and gazed at all the wonderful colours, I thought of Mr. Arrington and all the other soldiers, in all the countries, going off unnoticed into war — of how some will die without anybody seeing them die and how one day everything will be forgotten.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to daily prompt: Panoply / Aesthetic
Image: Purple Water Drop by Phoebe / CC BY

The Passenger

A ship in the night aligned its cargo to the stars.
But nobody heard or saw its departure.
With thoughts of a new century,
Of new memories to be made,
In the silent house
Everything became dust.
Black river, dancing
With a bottle in the mirror,
Waiting for the invitation to come.
Like a sigh lost in the wind
Or a wilted flower born of dreams,
In the too long, the only escape is
Nowhere.
Age changes us —
Belief and time are linked,
But your life is now an empty platform
In the morning.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to daily prompt: Invitation
Image: The Train Station by Jake Stimpson / CC BY