Friday, 12 October 2018

Surpassed and surprised again!


Despite last week’s horrible words – unfortunate rather than deliberate, I promise you (and they caused me a lot of trouble) – you all came up with as much top quality entertainment as ever, for which I sincerely thank you - I did fear I might have driven you all away. Rest assured, Patricia has been carefully schooled in the art of choosing words apt and challenging while I’m on holiday in Australia, a couple of weeks of which will be spent riding pillion on a 45 year-old BSA, far too rattley to risk taking my Chromebook on.

Such was the length of my short-list this week that I resorted to possibly unethical methods to reduce it, and ruled out the three who featured last week, which let me put David W’s epic ‘When we die in dreams’ in second place and  name Patricia as winner for ‘Opposites Attract’, a stunning example of her ability to pull the rug from under my feet.

Words for next week: queer  north  rowan

Entries by midnight* Thursday 18th October, words and winners posted Friday 19th
*GMT or Patricia’s preference
  
Usual rules: 100 words maximum (excluding title) of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above in the genres of horror, fantasy, science fiction or noir. Serialised fiction is, as always, welcome. All variants and use of the words and stems are fine. Feel free to post links to your stories on Twitter or Facebook or whichever social media you prefer.


123 comments:

  1. Considering the nature of an ambush [Threshold 224]

    Unwelcoming but not murderous. Nevertheless I was not about to dismiss them as harmless, despite the queerness of their garb – hessian-wove cloaks and throat bindings in emulation of some quasi-Northmen mythology. Their rowan sticks, from the runes carved thereon, were ceremonial, not staves.

    We had, in our journeyings – near two years – come across many such groups, eager to embrace religion or power or simply a peaceful existence without interference. Such was rarely achieved without fighting for the privilege and I guessed we’d come too close for them to be easy about our intention.

    Come to that, what was Raven’s aim?

    [Not cheating, I promise - 'rowan' inspired by the superfluity of berries under my feet every time I step out the front door. Familiar enough, I hope to the rest of you.]

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    Replies
    1. A good and well written story should be able to be 'dropped' into any setting and that's what you have. Your description could be put into any genre setting with no changes needed.

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    2. There is such a sophistication to your writing that I admire. Another nice piece adding to the overall wealth of this story.

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    3. What was Raven's aim indeed. Such roll off the tongue, superb language skills you have. The concept of a peaceful existence, rarely achieved without fighting is so intriguing.

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    4. I adore the description of the people at the beginning. Something about 'hessian-wove cloaks and throat bindings' has my imagination sparking.

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    5. I'm with Zaiure who picked up the very bit that enchanted me, too.

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    6. Thank you kindly all. Hopefully, by the time I return I'll have some idea of Raven's intentions.

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    7. Love the epic feel to this, which I would have zoned in on even if you hadn't referenced Norse mythology. This is a most intriguing turn of events. Must we wait for your return for a continuance or will you keep us up to date from the road?

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  2. Cold

    "Rowan, are you queer?"

    "That's an inappropriate question, Lily."

    "Well, I just wondered."

    "Don't worry about it."

    Silence.

    "It's just you never made a pass at me."

    "Do I seriously need to tell you you're being silly?"

    Silence.

    "It's cold."

    "I know."

    "I hate the cold."

    He took her hand in his.

    "Did the sun go out? Everything's cold and dark."

    He squeezed her hand.

    "Tell me something."

    He sighed inwardly. They were still headed north.

    "Why have you never tried to sleep with me? Am I hideous?"

    He sighed. "No. You're not hideous."

    "What is it then?"

    "You're dead."

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    Replies
    1. Oh - such a brilliant kick in the gut in the final two words! Enviably clever.

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    2. There goes the bar again and me not able to jump more than 2 feet. Very well done story, RJ.

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    3. Lilly was silent for a few moments, digesting Rowan’s statement.

      “But if I’m dead, how can we talk, silly man?”

      “Well, we’re not really talking, Lilly. It’s more of telepathy thing.”

      “Oh Rowan, that is too queer. Why would you and I be talking if I am dead, as you claim? Shouldn’t I be playing a harp in the clouds with the other angels? Where are we going anyway? Why North?”

      Rowan, hesitated for a brief moment. His throat began to close and tears sprang to his eyes.

      “Because I have always loved you, and I couldn’t let you go.”

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    4. Really entertaining throughout. I suspected something when Lily wondered if the sun went out and then you hit me with it. Nice one.

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    5. @RJ I loved the dialogue between the two characters with the carefully placed breaths and pauses. They both came alive (haha) for me. I also enjoyed the surprise at the end.

      @David A very interesting idea with the telepathy, and I'm very intrigued what exactly is waiting for them north.

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    6. these are good! very enjoyable, very well written.

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    7. Jerry and I have done this before, chain stories. It is a lot of fun, at least for me.

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    8. It's inevitable, I suppose that both the stories of R.J. and David should fall within the same realm of comments. Did you guys collaborate on this? The installments compliment each other very well and make for an interesting new slant on submissions in this forum. You two may well have opened up a whole new genre for us. Love the concept and love the execution. Will there be more?

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    9. Actually no. No collaboration at all. But we have written together before and our styles do mesh well, I think.

      As David said, in a former group we used to do chain stories where each writer would take turns adding to a story.

      As for more, who knows? It's a fun twist on writing.

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  3. Jeffrey here. Congrats to you Patricia for such a great story and Dave W. your story was awesome as well.

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  4. Narrow Minds

    In the remote northwest corner of the Manistee National Forest, the Hyatt Brothers backfilled their latest excavation. They’d divided the makeshift graveyard into quadrants; a separate spot for prostitutes, queers, derelicts and druggies. They were tackling societal problems one homicide at a time, offering evolution a helping hand.

    Acting on an anonymous tip, Rowan County Sheriff Barnes stumbled upon the site. He fumbled with his gun as Earl Hyatt came from behind with a mallet. The sheriff dropped face first in the dirt and George Hyatt grabbed a shovel.

    “Which quadrant?”

    “Stick him with the queers. He’s probably one anyways.”

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    Replies
    1. Brilliantly slick operators - both you and the Hyatt brothers.

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    2. Why do I have a gut feeling as to where that anonymous call came from. Enjoyably written and with good use of the prompts.

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    3. Malevolent in all the pleasant ways, John. Good job!

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    4. Creepily satisfying, John! A very creative entry!

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    5. Creepy and clever. Excellent idea with the use of burial quadrants.

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    6. lots of nastiness, always a good thing... says someone with a kindle crammed with crime thrillers right now...

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    7. Very clever with that touch of humour that appears to be your trademark in many instances. This could have been an aside scene in "Deliverance." It has that kind of feel to it.

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  5. Rainbow Warrior-4

    Valen followed the Pazuzu’s path north until he saw a queer sight. Two scared kids under a net of rowan branches.
    “It’s safe, the demons are gone,” he said as he kneeled in-front of them.
    “Who might you brave kids be?’
    “I’m Todd and this is my sister Martha.”
    “A pleasure to meet you.”
    Martha’s eyes widened. “You’re a Rainbow Warrior! Your helmet has seven angel feathers on it. Are they really of different colors?”
    “Yes, one for each of the colors in a rainbow, gods promise of protection.”
    “You can see in colors!? What’s it like?” Todd curiously asked.

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    Replies
    1. You had no trouble jumping that bar! I agree, that last line breaks the heart.

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    2. You nailed this with that splendid last line, Jeffrey

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    3. There are worse things than being color blind, but heart breaking none the less. A nice encounter between the characters. Well done.

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    4. An interesting and sad scene. I love the idea of the warrior's helmet.

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    5. Indeed, that final line certainly tugged at the heartstrings. So delicately put and yet carried such a punch. Very nicely composed.

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  6. LAUGH-IN

    Thunder growled ominously; wind tore madly through the trees. The storm that had been rumbling menacingly to the north had arrived. Randy glanced at the window, which blinked with brilliant light then turned black. The power shut down, ruining the rerun of Rowan and Martin’s LAUGH-IN he had been watching.

    Then came the queer,guttural laugh that always made his heart a riotous acrobat. It was happening again, just as his murdered wife had augured.

    His mind plummeted into the nothingness of lunacy.

    ***

    Randy lay quivering on the floor.

    The attendant chuckled. “You’ve been watching LAUGH-IN again, eh, Randy?”

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    Replies
    1. No need to worry, no Flying Fickle Finger for this story. I enjoyed how your imagery set the table for this story and the very good use of prompts.

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    2. 'heart a riotous acrobat' such a brilliant image.

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    3. It seems Randy may be the victim of a haunting and it's likely he deserves it. Good story.

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    4. plenty to brood on here, always good.

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    5. 'Heart a riotous acrobat' is my favorite phrase as well. An excellent setting of tension, fear & madness.

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    6. To echo Zaiure, the "riotous acrobat" reference to a beating heart is an excellent description. I liked the otherworldly feel to this coupled with the always ridiculous hilarity of the "Laugh-In."

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  7. Sing No More

    The further north they hiked the more queer they felt. As if the world had tilted at a severe gradient and they were walking on the downslope. The wind seemed to tumble the clouds backwards in a sky as pink as a hog’s innards.

    With ears plugged they came to an islet set within the grey sheets of an icy pond. On this islet a raggedy shrub which looked like a wind raked Rowan.

    Amundsen brushed frost from his beard.

    “That can't possibly be the infernal singing-ringing tree,”

    The dwarf hefted his axe.

    “We'll soon find out.”

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    Replies
    1. Axes and trees, this never ends well. The story, however, ended very well.

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    2. Lovely imagery, evoking the terrain.

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    3. The setting here is so well done, I can feel it as I read.

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    4. killing trees rather than people, not sure which is worse!

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    5. An exceptionally fine opening paragraph to a well-crafted tale, David.

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    6. I love how you described their surroundings. It has a very surreal quality.

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    7. Such a very vividly descriptive piece, this was a visual feast. Again, yet another tale with an epic atmosphere this week. Sad that a singing tree will sing no more.

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  8. Cripplegate Junction/Part 160 - Off The Mainline

    The Rail Yard, north of the Arches, was the Junction's cemetery for (among other things) obsoletions. Though in a state of disrepair, it held a trove of miscellany. A true mishmash.

    Here (to list but a few items) could be found a trolley from Elsie's Dairy, cans of Kit-E-Kat (empty and rusted), a birdcage (missing its door), a broken hobby-horse, an incomplete chess set and stainless steel tea urn (left upside down).

    Most prominent was an antiquated Rowan Railcar. It radiated with a queer and disquieting presence.

    Inside were the decomposed bodies of a mamma cat and several tiny kittens.

    ----------------------------------------------------------
    To read the earlier installments (a suggestion only) which led to this point in the tale please visit:
    http://www.novareinna.com/cripplegate.html
    A link to return to "The Prediction" can be found on the site. Thank you.
    ----------------------------------------------------------

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    Replies
    1. All descriptive narration and a reminder that a cemetery isn't just for the living. Fortunately this lovely story won't end up there.

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    2. Another whose choice of imagery and clutter both sets the scene and smoothly inserts the prompts.

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    3. Oh all the lovely language in this, the one that really resonated with me was the incomplete chess set. Nicely done.

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    4. It's always fascinating to come across discarded items, and I love how my imagination sparked with your descriptions. I am very intrigued by the railcar.

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  9. Squatter’s Rites-9

    “Love, why the queer look?”
    “Your eyes are large enough for me to see our souls”
    “Something else is getting pretty large,” Fortuna said with a wink.
    “I think I love you.”
    “In seven weeks? That’s the rowan schnapps talking.”
    “No it’s not,” Dave kissed her belly, slowly moving north.
    “Do we still have any mint honey?”
    “You have a penchant for interesting uses of food.”
    “Did you use a love potion on me?”
    “I couldn’t nor would I. Love potions only make someone open to the idea, the decision always rest with the individual. To answer your question...no.”

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    Replies
    1. Ooh, romance and sex, two of my favorite things... good read.

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    2. I love the line 'Your eyes are large enough for me to see our souls'.

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    3. A most erotic episode. Seems I remember you saying you had ventured into the realm of erotica at some point. You obviously have a knack for it.

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  10. Change of focus [303]

    Despite Balincek’s haughty attempt to intimidate, Yanno discerned uncertainty beneath their north-cold greyness. But, from the way his eyes flicked east and west, not entirely from himself.
    He risked a lie. ‘You have my wife –‘
    ‘Queer she never said so –‘
    ‘Mother of my son.’
    Balincek seemed as fearful as he about the gun-toting youth, shoulders twitching as if from a plague of ants. Nervousness explained when he snapped, ‘Rowena, remember that gun’s loaded! To Yanno, pride curiously marbled with apology, ‘My daughter –‘
    The gun swung round, was pointed at the father. ‘It’s Rowan!’ snapped the androgynous teen.

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    Replies
    1. A change of focus indeed, Sandra! I wasn't ready for that change. "Plague of ants" is splendid!

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    2. Nicely describe and wonderfully set up for the last line.

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    3. good one, Sandra. You manage to maintain a very high standard week in week out. It must reflect in your other writing, this constant level of excellence.

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    4. You don't want to trifle with a gun toting, androgyny fueled teen, that's for sure. A really innovative addition to the story line. I enjoyed it.

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    5. Always packed full of tension! I really loved the descriptions 'shoulders twitching as if from a plague of ants', and 'pride curiously marbled with apology' was particularly lovely.

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    6. What a marvellous grasp of the English language you do have. You always manage to convey much with a minimum of words. Another episode packed with anticipation for what is to come.

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  11. Last Respects

    We buried Grandpa today.

    In the north pasture, like he always said he wanted.

    We put a picture of each of us in the grave with him, along with his hunting knife and rowan walking stick. It was a queer feeling, knowing we'd never again hear that tap-tap-tap of his cane coming up the wooden stairs.

    We buried Grandpa today.

    He wasn't dead.

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    Replies
    1. Ah ... and I'm sharing editing space with you for a few weeks ... ?

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    2. And my sympathy for the family just went up in smoke. Very nice, Patricia.

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    3. I don't see what everybody's so excited about on here; the old man had to go sooner or later.

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    4. I'm sorry you failed to find it at least entertaining, John. (Insert sad face here...) I will have to try harder.

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    5. Oh my, that was a chilling ending. Just when I was feeling sorry for everyone!

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  12. Kursaal (Episode One Hundred Thirty Four) - "Filipendulous"

    Since the murder of her daughter, Lucy, Mrs. Pepperdyne had been a bit queer. A little peculiar. She complained the weathercock atop her thatched roof constantly pointed north, wind direction notwithstanding, and birds refused to sing in her garden. She nailed rowan sprigs above her doorway and hung wind chimes in windows to protect against evil.

    Now, Libby (Lucy's twin) and Libby's pup, Lulu, were missing. Nobody had the heart to tell Mrs. Pepperdyne (who apparently hadn't yet noticed) for fear she would have a total breakdown.

    Or lose her tenuous grip on reality.

    Or something even more disastrous.

    ---------------------------------------------
    To read the earlier installments (a suggestion only) which led to this point in the tale, please visit:
    http://www.novareinna.com/kursaal.html
    A link to return to "The Prediction" can be found on the site. Thank you.
    ---------------------------------------------------------

    NOTE: Mrs. Pepperdyne, her twin daughters Lucy and Libby and Libby's pet dog, Lulu, have all featured in previous episodes.

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    1. Title as intriguing as the ending.

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    2. When it rains it pours, another great story and poor Mrs. Pepperdyne

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    3. definitely an intriguing title and clever story.

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    4. I don't recall how Mrs. Pepperdyne featured in previous episodes, but there seems to be a sinister, underlying bit of pent up menace to come. Nicely done.

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    5. You are setting us up for future disasters in splendid fashion, Patricia.

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    6. I am so intrigued by those final lines. What might happen? And I love the description of how Mrs. Pepperdyne was preparing the house.

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  13. On the Road North [6 - Sayla]

    The evening sky had a queer plum-yellow tint to it on the day Sayla found herself riding north with Warden Draeyn. She had no idea if she could trust the man, but she could not ignore the map, or the hastily penned note from Kalen inside its edge. Follow Draeyn, Sayla, it had read. My life depends on it.

    “I prefer traveling at night,” the Warden called back to her. His massive, black stallion snorted, perhaps in agreement.

    Sayla eyed the rowan trees along the road’s edge. “Isn’t it more dangerous?”

    The Warden’s laugh boomed. “Only if you’re a bandit.”

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    Replies
    1. 'plum-yellow tint' - perfect, and a beginning with a multitude of possibilities to dfollow.

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    2. simply written, with powerful images coming out of it.

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    3. The warden sure is a confident fellow. I'd much rather face a bandit in the daylight. Superbly written and so easy to read.

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    4. Very well written with good imagery, prompt use and plum-yellow is great combination.

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    5. This moves SO smoothly along, Zaiure. You make the reader's job very easy.

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    6. This was overflowing with brilliant imagery. I find that comment on danger only becoming moreso "if you're a bandit," to be quite ominous. As always, your writing draws us in and holds us until the very end...which inevitably comes far too soon.

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  14. The Mad Italian 77
    It would seem there is a witch hunt going on in parliament, as well as the entertainment world, to the point when a rowan tree would be useful to defend them all, or at least those who need defending; the women. It seems queer that no one has stood up to these men before but I am consoled by the fact the damning report was compiled by a woman. It has brought a northerly chill into the chamber with the immediate effect of causing the Speaker to decide to retire next year. For small mercies we must all be grateful…

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    Replies
    1. I'm sure the Italian did not face the scrutiny of today's world. But times change, hopefully for the best.

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    2. There's a president who would like the Mad Italian. Unfortunately as long as people repeat themselves, so will history.

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    3. Please thank the Mad Italian for me in appreciation for his nod to the continuing plight of women and their driving passion to be heard regardless of the consequences. In a salute to Leonardo's insight, I say with conviction "You go, girl!"

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    4. I love the line 'It has brought a northerly chill into the chamber' and its use in this piece.

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  15. Stop the Week, I want to get off (18)
    There’s nowt so queer as folk, so the saying goes. It’s been proved by the anecdotes I have for the book. Ever do they surprise me in the shop, here on holiday but with their constant ‘where we come from’ as if north is a strange world. Methinks it is…
    I’m wondering if there are rowan trees on the farm where the barn is situated. Shaun battles to cope with my mediumship, if he had protection he might feel better… while I look for protection from the northerners… one lives in East Cowes and talks of ‘home’ all the time…

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    Replies
    1. I enjoy your tales of the heart. It must be hard to think of ways to use the prompt words and remain true to your lifestyle revelations. I don't envy Shaun and his battles with coping with your mediumship, but I bet there are few dull moments.

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    2. Another enjoyable slice of life. I enjoy how your and Shaun's love of the store comes through.

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    3. Your concept of 'North' amused me. When in Orkney we frequently point out the distant mountains of Sutherland and Caithness 'down South'.

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    4. "Nowt so queer as folk." Now that's a phrase I haven't heard in years. I'm with Sandra in a person's concept of "north." When I was a girl in London, it invariably meant Lancashire where some maternal relatives lived and seemed to refer to everyone as "our kid." I simply adore these little vignettes and would miss them so much if they weren't posted every week.

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    5. I enjoyed this discussion of home and the barn on the farm.

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  16. Sandra and John enjoyed tea at a riverside inn. The rowans on the north bank rattled in the breeze, creating a queer din when combined with the rushing current.

    “Tell me again why you never declare yourself the winner,” John said.

    “There are just too many talented writers that deserve it more than I. Plus my pride won’t let me do it.”

    “But it’s not stubbornness?”

    “Definitely not.”

    “What if,” John said. “You were to come up with a masterpiece. One hundred words of pure bliss.”

    “Perhaps I’d give myself an honorable mention.”

    “But not the winning entry?”

    “No, it wouldn’t comply with my style.”

    “But it’s not stubbornness?”

    “Definitely not.”

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    Replies
    1. 'Stubborn'? My best friend accuses me of such, but naturally I deny. In truth it just don't seem right to declare oneself a winner; as I've said before, to have others read and comment is reward enough.

      I'll let you know when the novel into which Pettinger forced his way is deemed fit for public consumption. Fingers crossed sometime next year.

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    2. Stubborn...no, a perfectionist would be a better description.

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    3. Love this dialogue!

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    4. Your entry is right on, John. I wold have declared Sandra the winner many times.

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    5. Who among us would not have declared Sandra the winner at one time or another? Indeed, I've often asked her to bend the rules on that point and she has always refused. But now I'm holding the reins..... (insert snicker...) But, as to John's story this was an absolutely perfect sentiment of what we all feel.

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    6. I loved this, and the description at the beginning had a lovely use of sound to convey the scene 'The rowans on the north bank rattled in the breeze, creating a queer din when combined with the rushing current.'

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  17. I will return tomorrow with comments and to let everyone know about time deadlines. Since I'm several hours behind GMT in my location, please expect a few variations from the accepted norm. Although I will try not to stray foo far from the target. AND please bear with me while I muddle my way through this. I am no Sandra (either in competency or in talent), but I will do my best to be a reasonable substitute until the real deal returns. And may the gods and goddesses have mercy on us all...!!!

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    Replies
    1. Patricia, I have every confidence in your ability to run this place for a few weeks. As for talent, yours, like many here, serves to both delight and spur me on.
      And do feel free to change the time to whatever suits you.

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  18. Well said, Patricia. Looking forward to your stewardship. Have mercy.

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  19. Jeffrey here on my phone. Mercy has little to do with it.

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  20. The Adventures or Rosebud, Pirate Princess #151
    An Old Friend Returns


    Meanwhile, at Cecily’s Castle, there was a curious sound. It seemed to be a queer mix of crackling and roaring, almost like a fire. And the northern rowans were indeed on fire but nothing else.
    Just as Natasha set down a great shape threw the entire castle in shadow. Rosebud looked up in shock saying
    “Cecily? Cecily! How are you here?”
    “Sorry for the fire, I burped. I’ll put it out.”
    “I thought you were dead! Where have you been?”
    “I’ve been here, these two weeks at least, before that I was stuck in some cave for a long time.”

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    Replies
    1. Enchanting as always. What a whimsical world this is and so very different from anything else this forum has to offer.

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    2. I enjoyed the arrival of Cecily and the mention of her burp made me laugh.

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    3. Always an enjoyable continuation. Patricia's whimsical is very apt description.

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    4. Cecily well worth keeping an eye on.

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  21. sorry a late entry - had a busy week

    The lost

    They came from the north; from the holes of death.
    They swam the stream and the mist
    and came to the meadow of the thick sky-grass and the blue.
    But it was cold where roots of the rowan tree twisted the earth
    And the roof above was made of bones .
    Here, queer folk played dark dirges; shining wires snared all life ,
    And the death-dance lured them home into shady fog filled spaces.
    Home to the silence of the mark and the rule
    And the drowning pull of lifeless velvet air.

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    Replies
    1. It seems to be a sad lament of a dying culture. Nicely done, Terrie.

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    2. Beautifully composed and sounded to me like something of a tribute to a druid nation or something similar. Very atmospheric. Not an easy feat to accomplish.

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