I listened to a poem this morning penned by the Welsh entertainer Max Boyce. Entitled, When Just The Tide Went Out he wrote it in tribute to the NHS and frontline workers in the UK who are so valiantly fighting to keep the corona virus at bay.
After hearing it through the first time I played it for my wife, and, only a few lines in, I couldn’t stop myself from crying.
The swell of emotion took me completely by surprise, but it was acute and visceral and has left me thinking about it for the rest of the day.
Ah but you’ll miss it when they’re gone.
To some degree at least.
As a general rule I tend to shy away from re-posting old stories but for some odd reason this one has been nagging at me for the last couple of days so while I’m busy with some new things I hope to like here’s an old thing I actually do like. As always with these things there’s a little bit of history threading its way through a whole heap of fiction…
“We’re really so sorry Craig. She was an amazing woman.”
“The best of the best.”
“She was so sweet, so gentle. We all loved her.”
“Amy was one of a kind, she didn’t deserve for this to…”
“I broke your pie dish.”
That one simple truth banished the spell of unending platitudes. Caught me off guard. “Sorry, you broke…?”
“The pie dish.” Deb looks at me and makes a circle with her hands. “Round thing. Generally used for the carrying and serving of pies.”
“I told him it wasn’t on the menu but he said I should speak to you.”
“It’s fine, don’t worry. He’s been coming here for as long as I can remember.”
Harry Shaw didn’t hear the conversation from the kitchen but he was confident of the outcome. His starter portion of veal tonnato on a Thursday evening was the ballast that held the unravelling of his life firm and steady. He was as much a part of the A Tavola furniture as the black and white shots of spaghetti-eating celebrities that filled most of the walls. For Harry, Thursday nights offered up the perfect mix of ambience and peace. Enough noise for him to bask in the warm, familial murmur of a well run machine but not the overt harshness of a full house weekend.
It’s always nice to have an excuse to scribble some words on a blog post – and today’s excuse is to tell you that I’ve got a brand new piece up on Literally Stories.
A Single Grain Of Salt is a story that has been trying to get written for a couple of years without a whole lot of success. For me, this often happens when a tale has a link to reality, and particularly when it relates to an event that still haunts me despite the fact that tragedy was avoided.
“All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small
All things wise and wonderful
The Lord God…”
“I was told I should report here. What do you need me to do?”
“Shovels are over there, buckets are behind you. Dig or help carry it away.”
“Each little flower that opens
Each little bird that sings…”
“I’m sorry Mrs Jones but you’ll have to move back. They’re going as fast as they can.”
“I just need to know if Tommy is OK. He is OK isn’t he? He said he was feeling sick this morning but you know what they are like on last day of school…”
Three quick moments of inspiration. I hope you enjoy them.
Gold – for my parents who celebrated fifty years of marriage over the weekend
Silver – because…well silver’s just lovely
Bronze – for a friend I lost a quarter of a century ago
Snazzy title though it is, it’s not the actual title of the 150 (fine, 148) word story that I will shortly be cutting and pasting into this very post.
The pinch part refers to the word that needed to be included in the piece.
The failure part refers to the fact it was not picked as a weekly adhoc fiction entry winner.
The a and of are just there to bludgeon the other words into a cohesive, if somewhat unwilling, whole.
So here is my pinch of failure – Anna Beginning.
“Will you be back?”
“I don’t know.”
Except she did know. Anna always knew what came next. I’ve never been so assured. It was as much as I could muster to fumble out an “OK.” and watch her open the door. Watch her turn and gave me a smile reserved solely for the pitied. Feel the cold night air rush in, ushering out the warmth of her.
My eyes open and my head is thick. Not as thick as my hair must feel now that the twin sisters of sand and salt have done their work, but thick all the same. Tiny grains shift against my scalp in the breeze but I’m too full of slumber to worry overmuch. I lie back against the sand. Close my eyes.
The beach is quiet now. The laughter and shouting, the frenetic madness of noon has dissipated like the heat of the day. I can see the sun dipping over the water if I raise my head a little. Golden puddles melting into the horizon. For a moment the world is aflame and then twilight succumbs to night.
“…and when I asked him if he had any banking experience do you know what he said?”
Toby grins. Waits for the punchline.
“He said…and I quote…” Alan straightens his tie, leans back for effect. “He said…I’ve had a savings account since I was fifteen.”
Alan Ward is not the kind of boss who waits for subordinate approval. He’s a table thumping, bellowing roar kind of a guy and stays true to form. “A savings account? If the little shit had managed a current account I might have employed him for the hell of it.”
Toby shakes his head. Rueful smile, thinks about what to say. Settles for an agreeable but flimsy “Savings account!” and another head shake.