Ending at the Start

Written by Rob


It seems a day like any other but there is something nagging me; something out of reach, out of sight. I’m uneasy but I can’t tell you why. My room is bright and airy; my bed is warm and comfortable. I’m fully awake, though still feeling tired.

That aroma: what’s that? I know I recognise it. Ah yes, it’s the smell of a hospital; mystery solved. I’m starting to nod off again when a thought assaults me: why does my room smell like a hospital? I prop myself up on my elbows and look around. Now I’m confused – this isn’t my room; this is a hospital. I take in the row of beds, the curtains, the tubes and cables, medical paraphernalia, clip-boards and charts. There’s a nurse looking at me, walking my way.

“Ah, you’re awake again Mr Daniels. How are you feeling this afternoon?” In a moment she’s at my side and rearranging my pillows in an authoritative manner. “Just lie back and take it easy.” She finishes with the pillows, picks up a clip-board, plucks a pen from her breast pocket and sits back beside my bed. “Now then Mr Daniels, what can you tell me about our conversation this morning?”

“Who are you?” I regret it as soon as I’ve said it. To be fair, it sounded rather rude. The nurse has a very friendly, if not jolly, face. I think she has confused me with someone else, though obviously she has my name right. Maybe there’s another Mr Daniels in another ward; it’s not an uncommon name after all.

“I’m Carrie Templeton. I am the consultant neurologist on your case. Do you remember speaking with me this morning?” Consultant neurologist is a phrase that jolts. I’m struggling to make sense of what she’s saying. Case? What case? I’m not a case! I was playing golf this morning, or was that yesterday? If it’s afternoon, why am I in bed?

Carrie continues, “Don’t worry. Everything is OK. We had the same conversation this morning, and yesterday, and every day last week. You suffered a small thrombotic stroke but it has caused damage to a region of your brain called the Hippocampus. You have a condition we call severe anterograde amnesia which means you are unable to create new memories. So every time you wake up, your memory carries on from where it was when you suffered the stroke at your golf club.”

“Yes, I remember playing golf. Is that good?” I ask, more in hope than conviction.

“Yes, that’s very good. Your long-term memory is working well. We’re going to try stem cell therapy to prompt repair to your Hippocampus. But in the interim, alas, we will have many conversations like this one. My colleagues or I have to tell you about your stroke three or four times each day. It is always news to you.”

“Is there an end in sight?”

“The prognosis is favourable. We’ve had some remarkable results with stem cells. I can’t make you any promises of course.”

“Oh, I think you could. I wouldn’t remember, would I?”

Carrie smiles. “Yes, very funny Mr. Daniels. That’s the third time you’ve cracked that one! Now try to get some rest and we’ll begin again in a few hours.”


Rob’s Half Hour Challenge was written on behalf of January’s theme, Beginnings, but we feel it fits perfectly in our themed content for March. It’s a little like Memento, without the ink and tattoos, but much more light-hearted with the wisecrack from Mr Daniels. We wouldn’t mind reading it again and again! If you enjoyed Rob’s piece, why not check out some of his other work, including ‘Coach‘ and ‘Last Breath‘.

Featured Image CC // Kiuko

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The Game – Part 2

Written by Dice

The Game is never really won. The man may think he has succeeded if he and the woman are currently ‘dating’, or ‘going out.’ This is when the opponents are together in such a way that, traditionally, the battle is now concentrated to the two players. Opponents may also be ‘going steady’, ‘engaged’, or even ‘married’, these occur later in the battle; it is a time when the quiet moments are the most numbing, but the battles are fought even harder.

When opponents are together, other opposition is generally silenced when they are informed of the player’s situation with another. There are, however, times when an outside opponent does enter the ring. This is considered as bad form and bad gamesmanship but – in actuality – gives the Game a whole new level. And it’s also becoming an increasing trend in the modern Game.

Battles become more complex during the ‘together’ period, usually more so for the man. The man must now be on guard for a ‘question move.’ As such, this can be a cruel move but is very common. It’s the woman’s way of twisting words so that the man must think on his feet to avoid defeat. Delaying tactics are available but they do not buy a lot of time.

An example of when a question move can occur is when the woman is trying on clothes and inquiring the man’s opinion. Generally the questions can be innocent and calm, such as ‘What do you think of this dress?’ This example is a relatively easy answer, where the man must, in all cases, give positive yet constructive feedback. These are also opportunities for the man to gain bonus points, with comments such as: ‘This one [ie: the dress] goes with your beautiful eyes.’ A comment that would sound ‘cheesy’ to the man, of course, but one that women will love and may concede points in the Game further down the line. This move can also end the question move before it becomes too dangerous.

A question move that turns dangerous can have serious consequences on the man, particularly if he is not alert. If the couple have spent a long day shopping together, for example, the man may become mentally tired which could cause him to be caught off guard. Variations of the question: ‘Does my bum look big in this?’ must always be answered with a firm ‘No.’ A reply that can in any way be linked to: ‘Yes’ is a textbook error on the man’s behalf.

The move and counter sounds trivial to avoid, but a woman can be craftier in applying this move. Continuing on the same theme, a man must be at the top of his form if faced with the ‘Does my bum look bigger in this dress, or the last dress?’ Note the negative state this question takes. The obvious reply would be ‘the last dress’ but this move is a mistake. In fact, it implies that her bum looks big in the current dress and even bigger in the previous dress. No, a man has to be smart and chose his words wisely; his reply must ensure the woman that her bum looks big in neither dress and that he has given an opinion on the current dress. A very well constructed move will result in both the woman being satisfied in the answer, and the woman choosing the dress that the man preferred.

As Valentine’s Day is now well and truly over, Dice’s second part of The Game might just make men question what women really want. No, not the Mel Gibson film, or the one with Colin Firth and Amanda Bynes, either, but one of the man’s own choosing. That niggle of a question, “Does my bum look big in this?” is probably one that only women can answer themselves. Besides, us women prefer to go shopping either alone or with our girl friends, we only drag men along when we don’t want to pay! If you enjoyed Dice’s piece, why not check out the first part of The Game, which we published last month. 

Featured Image CC // Charles Rodstrom

The Game – Part 1

Written by Dice

Both opponents have met and are in place. The stage is set. One side sets up the trap to lure his or her opponent in. But the Game is never completed so easily.

The newest weapon in the Game is SMS. Opponents can make challenges or counter their opponent by sending text messages or ‘texts.’

A ‘text’ bout is dependent on the player’s wit and composure. The player must be able to think quickly – a text takes seconds to reach its destination so delaying tactics are not available to the player.

The man is on the offensive, the woman on the defence. The man thinks he’s being social with his text chat with the typical, ‘How are you?’ and ‘What are you up to?’. This is all very friendly, a neutral stage of the Game if you like. But the Game cannot stay quiet for too long. The woman is most likely to make the first move, since they are known to want to test their opponent. One of the strongest moves a woman has is the ‘Suggestion Tactic.’ Women are experts at applying the ‘Why don’t you do this?’ move.

In this turn of events the man can have a selfish attitude, but to win he must appear as the ‘Gentleman’ and so if faced with this attack, a man has got to think fast. Through wishing to win over the woman, he must admit that he is under the mercy of her needs and must comply or counter with an excuse. Excuses for not complying with the Suggestion Tactic are difficult to design and, with the lack of time between moves in a text war, the man has little time to plan his next move, usually admitting defeat within the current battle.

This move is quick and decisive and, though it is considered the woman’s victory, it comes at a cost. The man does receive a form of point that is mentally recorded by the woman. These can be cashed in by the man, usually at the woman’s leisure in order to win the Game.

Every time we read this short satirical piece, we can’t help but chuckle. Dice’s matter-of-fact storytelling gives it such depth despite its surface context. Texting is such an intricate part of our lives now that we can’t help but be influenced by certain emoticons, the amount of kisses to pop on the end of a text, and so on. The relationship between men and women has never been so complicated. If you enjoyed Dice’s satire, check out some of his other pieces including, ‘The Writer’s Block‘ and ‘The Paper is a Stage‘.

Featured Image CC, woohoo_megoo

Coach

Written by Rob

Happy Hallowe'en! 🙂

A post shared by Colette Stirling (@colette_stirling) on

“FGM to Mission Control, FGM to Mission Control, can you hear me Eric?”
“Loud and clear, Fairy God Mother. How are things Mabel?”
“We have a problem, I’m afraid. I’ve done white mice into horses OK. Glass slippers were a doddle. The frock took a while ‘cos Cinders has not been eating well and I made it a size too big (those ugly sisters are such nasty bitches) but that’s all sorted.”
“OK, so what’s the snag?”
“I can make just about anything out of anything, but you’ve got to give me some sort of a chance.”
“What are you struggling with Mabel?”
“Eric, I’m hanging up my wand if things don’t improve. Time is pressing. The ball will be over before I’ve got this sorted. The National Union of White Witches don’t like me chasing this kind of mission creep. I should not be deviating from the plan.”
“Mabel! Stop wittering and tell me what the problem is.”
“It’s this pumpkin. It won’t transmogrify into a coach.”
“Why ever not? You did it in practice last Thursday.”
“Because some cretin has carved it into a Jack O’Lantern!”

Rob’s HHC was written on behalf of last month’s theme, Pumpkin. It’s such a humorous piece, we couldn’t help but add this into November’s content. While it delivers on the HHC theme, it also gives a good spark in light too. And hey, since it’s in the spirit of Halloween, we’ve added in our very own Inkblots Pumpkin carving as the top image. The good news is we can add this to the Bonfire later, as it’s just started turning mouldy… er, lovely. If you enjoyed Rob’s piece, make sure to check out his other short stories such as, ‘Last Breath‘ and ‘Shot Blast‘. 

Shot Blast

Written by Rob

revenge_show

It may not be to Emily’s taste, but it’s still a neat victory. Image // ABC Studios

Folk speak of watershed, a turning point, epoch, or pivotal moments. Of course, I understand that all of these could apply, but I think they are descriptions to “grab the headlines”. Viewed from my side, the events and trends that came before, made the moment inevitable, and everything that came after “business as usual”.

People like to moan. And there is little people like to moan about more than “the boss”. Derek Peterson’s staff had more excuse for moaning than most. He was moody, ill-tempered, badly organised, erratic, unsympathetic, aggressive and, not surprisingly, a piss-poor manager. But moaning, much as we like to do it, is wasted effort. If you want change, you need to make change. Moaning doesn’t make change.

Decide what you want, find your allies and understand them; recognise your enemies and understand them too; recognise what you can and can’t influence; take a conservative view of your effectiveness; make a plan and stick to it. Remember, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step; it’s not where you start but where you finish that matters; a drip of water will reduce a mountain to sand eventually.

The good news was that Derek’s peers didn’t like him much either. Asking around, probing and prompting, I found thinly veiled resentment amongst the management team of Derek’s access to the M.D., Jeremy Argyle. Just why Jeremy thought so highly of Derek was not only unclear to me but also to his peers in the management team. So potentially, all the managers were my allies. Derek’s relationship with Jeremy was both his strength and his weak spot: break that and he would be lost.

Derek had long been a champion of shot blasting. As business development manager, he liked to boast in all company literature that every piece of steel that left our factory had been thoroughly shot blasted before painting. He was right: it was a quality feature, and our finished cranes always looked better than our competitors’. But it also added to our costs, which made the sales manager’s task more difficult in winning work at a reasonable profit margin, and the production manager’s life more fraught, as shot blasting is very time-consuming. The quality manager didn’t like all the extra paperwork generated by every piece of steel needing a certificate. The plant manager didn’t like trying to keep our shot blast machine operational 24 x 7 x 52. Naturally, the finance manager didn’t like the cost. Maybe, I thought, just maybe, this is the issue that could be used to scupper Derek. But how to get Jeremy to both share the opinion of his managers and blame Derek for its adoption?

So I set about a system of sabotage. Continue reading →

Mirror, Mirror

Written by Rob

snow_white_queen

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” Image // Walt Disney Studios

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”
“Depends what you mean by “fairest”, love. Some folk mean ‘blonde’ when they say ‘fair’. Others mean ‘just’ or ‘sporting’ or ‘egalitarian’.”
“You’re a magic mirror: I’m consulting you about beauty. Am I not the most gorgeous creature in the world?”
“I think ‘creature’ is a mistake, to be honest, love. This is difficult enough without getting non-species specific.”
“All right! Am I the most beautiful woman in the world then?”
“Of course you are.”
“Why ‘of course’?”
“You own me. I’ve made a judgement that you want to be the most beautiful. Therefore, you are the most beautiful.”
“But am I really the most beautiful?”
“Well, I think so, of course, but these things are very subjective.”
“That’s not good enough. I want you to tell me that I’m really the most beautiful.”
“You’re really the most beautiful.”
“But would you still say that if I didn’t own you?”
“Of course.”
“But would you still say that if someone else owned you?”
“Yes.”
“But wouldn’t she, your new owner, I mean, wouldn’t she want you to say that she was the most beautiful?”
“Possibly.”
“So what would you say then?”
“Look love, I’m doing my best here. My job is to please. I don’t know what my new owner looks like. Isn’t it enough that you’re the most beautiful owner I know?”
“Am I not the only owner you know?”
“Well, strictly speaking, yes, but I think you’re beautiful.”
“What’s the point in having a magic mirror, if I can’t get a straight answer?”
“With respect love, you don’t want a straight answer.”

Armed with a half hour challenge, Rob penned this one in last year’s previous writing challenges. However, the sharp wit and comedic tone of the fairytale-inspired piece is certainly a great flash fiction story that had us in hysterics. And what a better way to conclude our month of dedication with a mirror that really only speaks one language – you really are the most beautiful woman (or man, we can’t be gender specific here!) in the world, love. If you enjoyed Rob’s HHC, why not check out some of his other writing with ‘Partridge‘ and ‘Angela’s Touch‘. 

Fetish

Written by Miss Smiley


We don’t usually use videos in our ‘Blots posts but this one is far too cute not to share! All credit goes to Chuck Scott.

 

It’s not like I can really help it. There’s something about completing one of my sneaky little jobs with perfection that makes me shiver with pleasure. It ticks all the boxes.

I stand back, sweating, to admire my handiwork. A perfect job. I grin, satisfied. Look at that finish…

What makes it more satisfying is the silent nature of this particular job. All the bandsaws and the sander I would usually use had to be substituted for stealth mode tools, like files, sandpaper and manual saws. This was the first time I’d done it at night, when they were at home, sleeping.

The pre-dawn light of morning filtered through the windows of the upper floor. Time was now of the essence. In a matter of minutes, the wake-up alarm would go off. That meant it would be roughly half an hour before the owner would be up. Probably just enough time to move this all out of the surrounding areas.

Grinning, I opened the front door and negotiated the flight of stairs through the door.

What a night!

Written as part of the Half Hour Challenge theme ‘Taking Flight’, Miss Smiley’s flash fiction certainly makes us chuckle. Taking the theme in its literal sense, our lovely contributor is a sneaky writer, but that’s why we love her work. If you also enjoyed Miss Smiley’s HHC, you can check out some of her other pieces such as, ‘Inheritance‘ and ‘The Laurel‘.