June 2018 Competition

Fri, Jun 1 2018 02:45pm IST 1
J.net
J.net
810 Posts
Telling it how it is can be difficult enough, but I want you to tell it how it isn't. This month's theme is Unreliable Narrator.

You are free to choose any topic or genre, but it must have an unreliable narrator. They can be out-and-out liars, perhaps somebody too proud to acknowledge a truth, or not fully understanding a situation, like a child totally oblivious to the gravity of goings on around them (eg, Boy In The Striped Pyjamas) - your call.

Extra points for stirring emotion, whether it be laughter, anger or sobbing my way through a stack of tissues. Also for clever disguise of the truth.

To help with richness or detail, I'm setting the maximum word count at 500.
Fri, Jun 1 2018 04:30pm IST 2
poggle
poggle
142 Posts
Hello J.net,

I would enter to please you (you look such a nice, pretty lady) but uh ... I'm no good at writing. So I'll watch from the sidelines and be impressed.

Sincerly,
Poggle
Fri, Jun 1 2018 04:31pm IST 3
poggle
poggle
142 Posts
and I can't spell sincerely!
Fri, Jun 1 2018 06:08pm IST 4
J.net
J.net
810 Posts
You should see me at full moon, Poggle Wink Please feel free to enter a story though - I'm betting your underestimating yourself.
Fri, Jun 1 2018 09:27pm IST 5
Daedalus
Daedalus
871 Posts
This is excellent for me, as I have lots of experience with being unreliable
Fri, Jun 1 2018 10:24pm IST 6
J.net
J.net
810 Posts
*you're*

- and same here, Daeds :)

Fri, Jun 1 2018 10:28pm IST 7
MosquitoFB6
MosquitoFB6
223 Posts
I too have plenty of experience of being unreliable. I think I'll tell you the story of how I singlehandedly caught a Yeti with nought but a shrimping net Laughing
Mon, Jun 4 2018 11:43am IST 8
J.net
J.net
810 Posts
Hope I've made the theme clear enough to all - please let me know if not. To help, I've tidied up my original post.
Wed, Jun 6 2018 04:49pm IST 9
Philippa
Philippa
1668 Posts
Great theme. Will ponder.
Wed, Jun 6 2018 06:15pm IST 10
Daedalus
Daedalus
871 Posts
The Bishop and the Crystal

Vanity, saith the preacher, vanity!

These were the vaunted last words of my uncle, the bishop. I’ truth he said more, but seems meet to leave his worldly utterances here. As he himself was unclear at the end whether he was alive or dead, who am I to draw the line? His words must stand as his memorial, and be proof against the ages. His words, and his tomb of course. His tomb and the crystal. Yes, that which you see before you, in mine uncle’s hands. Remarkable, isn’t it?

So kind he was to my mother and my brothers. We never knew her of course, nor our father, who we heard died young, but she was passing fair and ‘twas kind for the bishop to take us into his household. A kind man, he prayed daily for the salvation of the weak, that they would, through poverty and hardship, find God. No, there was not a man nor woman in the earthly realm did my uncle not want the best of. You see before you my uncle – his statue – holding the very world, for the very world was his dearest concern. The riches and power belonging to others vexed him sore. There is naught that the Lord might give that He might not also take, and so lived my uncle. Such fellows with their jewels and gold and land must ultimately, by being stripped of them, be enriched.

What crystal is it? The globe mine uncle holds in his hands? Lapis Lazuli, you say? You have a keen eye. See how the blue shines with the sunbeam from the aery dome, how the veins of gold run through, signifying the love of our Lord and my uncle. And the columns, peach blossom marble all? ‘Tis for the glory of the Lord only. My uncle was so pious and humble that his crystal is a painted boulder, columns not marble but cheap stone. See how the paint flakes. Ah God!

Listen not to those prideful souls who tell you my uncle ordered the ‘world’ carved from a crystal “big as a jew’s head! blue as the vein o’ the Madonna’s breast!” that he buried in his vineyard lest ungodly hands steal it before his passing. Listen not to those praters who tell you his sons took the marble, the lapis lazuli, when he died and sold it. He had no sons, being a man of the Holy Church. Except, in a sense, my brothers and I of course.

No, if there had been such a crystal, his soul would be paying now in Hell, as in the painting on the North wall – the judgement of the unholy. Listen not to those who tell you the figure there roasted on the flames resembles my Uncle. For had there been such a crystal, and had there been any sons, they would have surely been directed to sell it to feed the poor. And to admit to such a thing? Vanity!

---

500 words not including title

Thu, Jun 7 2018 02:09am IST 11
Mat
Mat
67 Posts

500 Tears

Yes, I am a very tiny girl and tomorrow the doctors will, well I don’t know exactly. But my arms are both green and black, and not in a good way like Mummy says at Reggae Saturday playschool but that rusty nail it felt so much fun to scratch it up and down, and up my arms, and they are now so stinky. What will happen to my arms I said to the doctor? And also I am excited to ride my pony, my pony Adolphus is waiting for me in the meadow, please don’t cry. Cry a little bit actually before the next paragraph because Adolf, for short, he is a Shetland pony, hungry and thinking about oats and sugar lumps, I think he does and when I’m not riding Adolphus I am playing at the piano or creating like mummy and daddy are all the time in our artistic and artist family because we are rich actually, princesses and princes because grandad bought a house in Berrylands during the some point after Margaret Thatcher came to rule. My keen interest is also politics, I am ‘precocious’ says aunty Theatre for a seven year old.

‘What is the doctor going to do to my arms, mummy?’ I said.

‘They are flying your arms to an orphanage for poor children,’ she said to everybody on Twitter.

‘But why both my arms mummy?’

And that’s why the people came up with an answer to all our problems because Setchel was away at school and he doesn’t play rugger or do much really except for cross-country running so they said he might give one of his arms to me in a ten hour operation. But I cried because his arm is very long but then ‘dammit’ said the consultant and now they are giving both of Setchel’s arms to me and he will just have to run cross country without his vest, or something else because his vest would slip down, in fact he might be disqualified, nobody thought of that.

Imagine what it will be like with my long arms?

My old arms, they said they would pack them among cold coca cola bottles, and export them as I said before, maybe one of the pilots might make a joke with my stumpy little arm and shake an engineer’s big hand with my little hand, or even drop it, make it fall off for a joke and the air hostess would scream so they probably won’t do that joke.

Still I am rather happy that my old arms will make friends with people and my new arms will be so good for cuddling mummy and daddy and Adolphus and not Setchel who can run around without any arms, nobody likes him anyway, In fact I hope he dies and then we could keep his head, store cutlery and pencils in his skull, and that would look really nice in the dining room, and Adolphus could have his stupid bedroom.

Love Sarah

Thu, Jun 7 2018 05:34pm IST 12
Hil
Hil
1082 Posts

When George Nice bit my arm, Mary Pepper took me to Mrs Tracy and Mrs Tracy wiped a freezing cold thing on my arm and then she phoned our mummies and told them about the Bite. Then she told Mary Pepper to take me back to the playground and look after me. George Nice had to stay indoors.

‘Can you do a roly-poly?’ I said to Mary Pepper.

She laughed and her eyes crinkled. ‘Course I can.’

‘Can we get married?’ I said.

She laughed even more and her hair danced. ‘OK, Henry, we’ll get married.’ She put her arm round me and it hurt my sore arm, but I decided to be brave and not mind. Sometimes you have to not mind things if you’re married. Mummy said so. So I may as well start practising.

Mrs Tracy had told Mummy that there was a bite mark but the skin wasn’t broken. I didn’t know skin could break. I thought it was only bones and hearts.

The next day I made a ring for Mary Pepper out of a piece of silver paper I found down the side of the sofa. When I went out to play I hid it behind my back because that’s what you do if you’ve got a surprise for someone. I know because Daddy hid flowers behind his back once when he came home after Mummy had red eyes and a sniffy nose and kept hugging me when I didn’t need a hug. He said surprise and swished the flowers at her. She said yes it was a surprise I thought we loved each other and then she went upstairs for a long time. Daddy put the flowers on the worktop but he forgot to put them in water and after a few days they went brown and dry, so I put them in the bin because I was being helpful. Maybe brown dried up flowers is one of the things you have to not mind.

I found Mary Pepper. ‘I’ve got you a present.’ I pulled the ring from behind my back.

‘What is it?’

‘A ring. We’re going to get married.’

Laura laughed, but Mary Pepper took it and said, ‘It’s lovely.’

Later, I couldn’t find Mary Pepper so I asked Laura where she was.

‘Ha! Mary and Matthew in the tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!’ she sang.

I don’t know what that means.’

Then I saw them. Mary Pepper was on the bench with a big boy. Their heads were touching and they were laughing.

‘It means Mary Pepper loves Matthew James.’

‘Shut up, Laura.’ Mary was laughing.

I looked at her hands. ‘You’re not wearing the ring. You said we could get married.’

‘She didn’t mean it.’ The big boy poked me in the tummy. ‘You’re way too young.’ He put his arm round Mary Pepper. She pushed him away, jumped up and ran off with Laura. I walked away rubbing the place where the boy poked me.

I tried not to mind.

Fri, Jun 8 2018 01:27pm IST 13
Athelstone
Athelstone
1575 Posts
Being Frank

Hetty looked pretty special sunbathing without her vest on. Ivy might be fine and dandy in somebody else’s garden; in mine it had torn the fence apart so I was hacking the damned stuff away along with strips of my fence panels when I realised I could see into Hetty’s garden.

Let me tell you about Hetty. We’re pretty good friends – have been for years. She’s a doctor at the Health Centre and as I’m kind of in the trade too, working at Boots, it was natural that we should get to chatting. Course, most of it was about my Athlete’s Foot, but I was amazed at how understanding she was, what with her being so much younger than me. That was it: the start of a great friendship.

And I understand her too. She’s a super person: kind, intelligent. I’d say loving, in a way that doesn’t seem that fashionable now. And good looking. Oh yes, she’s a looker is Hetty. There’s many a man would tip his hat in her direction given a chance. I know I would – that’s if I could be sure it wouldn’t spoil our friendship. And talking of friends, she has so many. Mainly young folks like herself. She even seems to be putting somebody up at the moment, because I’ve seen that Amanda from the Sports Club leaving quite early a couple of mornings.

We don’t chat as much as we used to now. But that’s only natural; we’re both busy people. And it’s a relaxed kind of thing – not like we’re avoiding each other. That’s one of the things I admire about her most: she’s so straightforward; what you see is what you get. The other day we met in the street and by way of greeting she said, ‘Mr. Parker’. And that was really nice – a sort of jokey greeting instead of her normal, ‘Hi Frank’. So I responded in kind with, ‘Dr. Bennet,’ instead of ‘Hetty’. I love that. It set me up for the day. Set me right up.

So there I was, able to see into her garden. I have to say it was well cared for. Quite traditional with steps down from the patio to a lawn. Lots of trees and foliage all around: very secluded. Then she appeared at the patio doors with a drink and a book. She had a towel over her arm. She went down onto the lawn, spread the towel and sat down to read. After a few minutes she took a sip of the drink. Then, without warning, she pulled off her T-shirt – and she had nothing on underneath it. She must have stayed like that, reading and occasionally sipping for another half hour.

I won’t say anything, obviously. She’d be embarrassed. But I love her freedom. I love the mind that can make choices like that – the intellect that can hold down a demanding job and then relax so completely. I’ll pretend it was just for me. Perhaps it was.



500 words excluding title
Sat, Jun 9 2018 05:28am IST 14
Sandra
Sandra
2183 Posts

Ill-met in Sainsbury’s

I recognised the child: smaller and still innocent version of his father. Not that I’d ever known the father that innocent. Her, the mother of his son, I’d never seen so much as a photo of – i

‘Hi,’ I beamed, ‘I don’t need to ask, you’re Si’s wife, yeah?’

‘Er ... yes –‘

The merest fraction short of And who the hell are you? A tiny creasing between her eyebrows, frowning at her own ignorance as much as at me.

‘And this is Si’s son? Si told me there couldn’t be any doubt. I can see what he meant, That ... cheeky grin. How old is he now?’

‘...Ten months. And a bit –‘

‘And still the sleepless nights? Teething I suppose.’ “Teething”? I’d not a clue. Except most men complained of wives too tired to do much more than lay there uncomplaining. Ask me it’s been ten months or more since she saw the inside of a hairdressers.

She’d realised – as I should bloody hope! – I wasn’t asking from any sense of sisterly concern. Checked me over, knew I took more care of me than she did her black-haired child, and correctly calculated I was wearing more than Si earned in half a year. I swear I saw her eyes turn green with jealousy.

I pointed – nails flashing silver stars – to the child, ‘Another sign of whose son he is! Determined to get what he wants.’

She twitched her trolley sideways to prevent child grabbing the tins on the shelf. In doing so her sole bottle of cheapo red tolled to the edge. Gazed longingly through the wires – hark at my imagination! – at the four top-shelf ones in mine.

I laughed, “ingenuous” I think the word is. Pointed to them and said, ‘Si’s favourite, yes? I like to keep a bottle in for when he comes –’ “Comes” A good place to stop. A good time to put my hand over my mouth, cat-out-the-bag style.

Cat certainly had her tongue. I saved her struggling. ‘How is Si? Still working hard? Long hours?’ That his usual reason.

‘You’re not a colleague?’

‘Me? Good heavens no! We’re just – as they always say, don’t they? Always make it sound a lie – just good friends. Have been for ages.’

‘... Ages?’

‘Must be ... fifteen years? He’s never said?’

I knew he hadn’t.

‘Not so much as ... what is your name?’

I trilled. Sickening, I know but ... ‘Oh, he’ll know who I am.’

If I told her my name, he’d likely never speak to me again.‘

And speak was all he had done, for the past ... fourteen years.

[438 words]

Sat, Jun 9 2018 11:32am IST 15
John Alty
John Alty
37 Posts
I'm not sure if this qualifies, but here goes:

The Job
We arrived in Clifton, New Jersey, in the late morning. It was grim; shuttered store fronts, stained sidewalks, broken glass, fast food litter. A mantle of destitution hung over the place. We had no way of knowing for sure if we were close to the address so Max decided I should ask a passer-by. The first one I approached couldn’t speak English; the second one couldn’t speak. A third native weaved into view and I approached him, asked if he knew the location of the recently burnt-out offices. As I spoke his face contorted, his brow furrowed, his eyes closed. Either he was concentrating very hard on what I was saying or he was trying to release an obstinate fart. Whichever end his reply came from I knew it would be unhelpful. Walking back towards our vehicle I noticed beyond it a building with black streaks above two of the windows, like smudged mascara. There was a shade pulled over one window so the building looked like it was winking at me. That had to be it.
“Not the most salubrious of neighbourhoods, is it?” I offered as Max pulled up outside a low-rise office block.
“The man we want doesn’t do salubrious, apparently.”
“You think he’s here?”
“You heard her. His office was torched but he still lives and works in it.”
Her was our boss, she’d sent us on this escapade. Max and I fixed problems. We made them go away. For a fee.
On the second floor I stood to one side of the door, reached over and rapped on it.
“Why didn’t you just ring the bell?” asked Max.
I didn’t answer. There was no answer from the door either. I banged on it again.
“Stay here and wait for him” said Max, “There’s something I need to check downstairs.
Five minutes later he was back.
“Where’d you go?”
“Checked around back. There’s a separate feed so I’ve shut it off. Save time, we’ve got to get this done, then head over to Fort Lee and do that guy we missed yesterday.”
He rang the doorbell. The sound of rattling chain and shot bolts was followed by the door opening. A small man in dark trousers and a white singlet stood in the doorway.
“You guys the plumbers?” he said.
“That’s right. I understand you’re having a problem with your toilet cistern.” said Max, and then to me: “OK, kid, go down to the truck and get the tool box.”
As I walked down the stairs I reflected, not for the first time, that plumbing had to be the most exciting profession of them all.

Mon, Jun 11 2018 12:06pm IST 16
Raine
Raine
988 Posts
Mirror, mirror. (441 words)

There are two things that tell me the truth. They are the only things. People lie, and these are two of their lies:

‘You need to eat some cake.’

‘You don’t need to do this, you’re beautiful.’

I think of the muscle of their tongues making these words, forming them wetly and breathing them out full of saliva and used up air. Nausea clings to my throat.

There is a burn beneath my floating ribs. I think of those bones, floating, and the burn is an accolade, it is my body encouraging me, helping me, praising me. Not quite a truth because it says I am surely safe now, but it means that there is more to do, always more I can do.

Here I am now, in the empty classroom, everyone else gone to lunch, and because I know they’ll lie, I lie first, and they leave. I turn the apple in my hand, thinking of that word, masticate. Isn’t it the most awful word, all pulpy and wet? I am going to have to masticate this apple, and I wish I was strong enough not to. It will sit in my stomach like a brand, it will taste of fear. Perhaps just half of it? Perhaps that’s a good compromise. But quickly, before anyone comes back. If they see me eating, they will say, ‘Is that all you’re having?’ and they will mean, ‘God, you are such a glutton, it’s disgusting.’ I’ll hide my face and want to cry, shame will burn in all my bones and I will want to sink into the walls so that no-one can see me, no-one can despise me.

I am too weak, giving in to my own body every day, defeated by the bile in my stomach that makes me put something into it. Apple flesh as white as my flesh is red. These muscles beneath my skin flex like slugs and if they just demanded less then I could be so much more. I could be beautiful and clean and perfect. Perhaps that, surely that will be good enough.

I am nearly there. I thought I would be safe when I got to 7, but not yet, not quite yet. I am still so full of flaws. Perhaps 6 and a half? Perhaps 6?

The scales tell me the truth, they measure exactly the distance between failure and success. One day, one day when they say to me ‘Well done girl. You’re safe now,’ I will look into the mirror and it will tell me the truth too. ‘You’re perfect now,’ It will say, ‘They will love you now.’

Thu, Jun 14 2018 10:36pm IST 17
Knicky Laurelle
Knicky Laurelle
89 Posts

Language

--

Verbatim

We are family. We will always be family.

I tower over her, six feet two inches of barking-mad, manufactured aggression. I am angry because I tell myself I should be, but what I really feel is embarrassed.

The child in her arms alternates between crying and laughing, upset by the commotion we’re making, amused by our ridiculous, exaggerated facial expressions of Adult Seriousness.

Everything this short, brown woman has ever meant to me flashes across my mind - girlfriend, best friend, wife, savior, traitor, roommate, family. All of it surges like acid in my veins, tumbles as expletives from my mouth, hemorrhages like someone gutted the future, all its potential miscarrying … abortive, stillborn.

You are my one. My favourite person in the world.

As she glares up at me, features sharpened by fury, lips trembling with heartbreak, I know our friendship is destroyed, and the absurdity of why this is happening would’ve made make me laugh out loud, if my heart wasn’t breaking too.

To have survived so much together: the divorce, her infidelity, my unemployment and depression, with such quiet dignity and genuine affection for one another, only to be undone by the frustration of a miscommunication so small, it doesn’t even warrant mentioning; Absurd.

Stop this, I want to yell, as I call her a fucking cunt in front of her mother. Her screams are guttural, animal, as she grabs a pot off the stove and flings it behind her in my general direction, striking her own mother in the process. She storms up the corridor with the baby in hand, telegraphing her intent to slam a door. I mean myself as much as I do her, as I storm up the corridor after her, blocking said door with a closed fist. Stop this.

You’re still my favourite person.

I can’t stop. Pride pushes me into the room to loom over her, except I’m not proud of myself at all. She’s threatening to call the police, have them put me out on the streets, to take my power away.

“You need a home!” she screams, voice shredded from the force of trying to raise it over mine. “You can’t live here anymore!”

But you’re my home. You’ve been my home for ten years. You’re supposed to be my home until death do us part, fuck the divorce.

I know she won’t forgive me. She doesn’t forgive anyone, doesn’t know how, and she has held lifelong grudges for far lesser infractions than this. Her mother follows behind, pleading that we don’t do this in front of the little one. The child isn’t even mine. I can feel the ears of the neighbors straining, listening for more.

Surely so small a thing couldn’t be the cause of this much pain, this rusted nail driven into wood meant to build a better, less bitter, house. How did we get here? I don’t know myself. I continue to loom, unsure of what I’ll do. Am I insane?

I love you.


500 words including title

Wed, Jun 20 2018 09:40pm IST 18
J.net
J.net
810 Posts
Bump
Thu, Jun 21 2018 03:23pm IST 19
Kuzza
Kuzza
2 Posts

The Trial

I stand in the dock. Twelve pairs of eyes fix on me.

'I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.' A solemn expression on my face. Head slightly bowed. Eyes front, holding the usher's professional stare. It's important to give the appearance of telling the truth. Especially when the rest of your life is on the line.

'Stop bloody lying,' my ma used to shout. 'I know you took money from my purse.'

'You're a no good liar, Tommy,' my teacher used to say. 'I know you hit Jack.'

'Nobody believes a word you tell them.' Officer Jones, shaking his head. 'I know you stole Mr Franklin's car.'

On it went, throughout my life. Always being blamed for things that I didn't do. Well, perhaps that isn't the whole truth. A slip of the tongue, an innocent exaggeration, a turn of phrase. It doesn't prove anything. What I actually meant was that most of the things that I was blamed for I didn't do. Probably about eigthy-twenty, if you want to get into percentages. Eighty per cent it wasn't me, just to clarify. At most seventy-thirty.

It used to drive Sarah mad.

'I'll be back by ten.'

'I've only had a couple of pints.'

'I didn't get the email.'

'I thought that you were supposed to be looking after her.'

'Me, have an affair. You must be joking.' I got properly indignant about that accusation.

'It won't happen again.' Blood dripping from her mouth.

Sarah left me. She took our daughter with her. Haven't seen them in years.

But that's the past. I'm a reformed character now. A paragon of truth.

She was sitting alone at the bar, looking around. I went over, said, 'hello,' offered to buy her a drink. She said, 'yes,' one thing led to another. We go back to her flat. Haven't done this in ages. I'm shaking as we take off our clothes. What a body she's got.

'Is it your evidence Mr Bacon that at no point Miss Delaney told you to stop?' She's a stuck up git, my barrister. But she looks and talks the part. Good to have a woman on your side at times like this.

I turn towards the jurors, raise my head, pull myself up straight and say, loudly and clearly, 'That is correct. It was all consensual.'

395 words.

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