Quick Stories #10 Don’t Touch

Image © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was to write about a character using one main Sense throughout as their habit or quirk. 

Don’t Touch

When she finally left the confines of four walls, the coronavirus played havoc with Alva’s uncontrollable desire to touch things.  Touching was curtailed now she had to steer clear of a global pandemic.  More rules, wear a mask, keep your distance, use stinging hand sanitiser and avoid frowning people when she hovered too long over an item.

Neighbours gossiped, asked “Why does she do it, why doesn’t she stop?”  Alva would touch anything to get a sensation through her fingers. As long as something was within arm’s reach, she would touch it.  Uninvited, raising eyebrows and brashly crossing social boundaries, she would slide her hands over both public and private property. 

Alva looked back on moments of craving, her compulsion led to some embarrassing and hurtful situations.  She had stroked art gallery statues and let her fingers trail down their finely carved contours regardless of “Do Not Touch” as security guards marched towards her.

Park rangers were unforgiving when this random woman stuck her fingers into the wire of the exotic monkey enclosure.  The screeching was so loud, zoo visitors stopped in their tracks.  Alva was screeching along with the monkeys.  She nearly lost a finger that day and left the zoo via the first aid room and a rabies shot.

A mere glitch on the tactile radar which didn’t stop her caressing the shiny bonnet of a new car while the owner was inside.  On hands and knees, she loved the feel of cold marble floors; the juxtaposition of gritty sand; the fur of her neighbour’s fluffy cat Fluffy.  Best of all, the soft skin of her first granddaughter. The parents nervously hovered around when Alva visited unexpectedly but she put it down to new-baby nerves.

Alva touched the foggy glass of refrigerator doors in the supermarket, the round shiny apples, the springy bread rolls, and habitually opened egg cartons to fondle the smooth eggs.  Egg shells are an optical illusion, they cracked easily often speckling the front of her clothes.  As always, she purchased the carton of eggs at the checkout, along with the seven or eight other items she had lingered too long over in the fresh food aisles.

As a toddler, Alva was not allowed to touch anything for fear of disease.  Her chubby, exploring fingers were denied the grasping of matches, silver cutlery, dog food, shiny beads; the feel of feathers or a squishy banana.  Mother laced white cotton gloves on her hands, forbidding tactile experiences.  “Don’t touch this, don’t touch that!”

Outside the supermarket, Alva ran her hand along the rough bricks of the building, around the sturdy white poles in the carpark, and even debated whether or not to touch the hot metal railing of the trolley bay.  A quick palm slide.  The burn made her feel present, in the moment.  Heat on her skin always satisfied her sense of unity, completion, perhaps even closure. She smiled at the helper waiting beside the van.

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #9 Cheers Dears

Café Noir et Blanc, Joinville-le-Pont 1948, taken by Robert Doisneau (1912-1994) a noted French photographer who had a poetic approach to Paris street photography and later became a pioneer of photojournalism.

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it. I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt (above) is a black and white photograph.

Cheers Dears

There had been bitter discussions over the guest list regarding Roderick’s brother Ivan, the odd sheep of the family, and whether or not he should be invited to our afternoon wedding.

I thought Ivan, while not fully conversant with wedding etiquette, well, any etiquette really, was an all right sort of fellow who could knock back a sherry with the best of us.

Roderick joked that he was the only person who had ever seen Ivan take a bath; one bath.  Ivan was perpetually in transit to and from distant coal mines.  No perks, just Black Lung, high risk, low pay.  Whereas Roderick had chosen banking, and naturally I was pleased with his substantial wages.

Over family luncheon, Roderick tabled the No-vote and Ivan replied “I’ll find a way.”  Mother had stifled a nervous giggle; I remained silent.

Ivan’s occupation had not dimmed his wits and I personally think that’s why Roderick’s family shunned him.  He could be too sharp with his tongue and cut too close to the bone.  Roderick said he spoiled things.  Strangely enough Ivan never aimed an acerbic comment in my direction.   

Our big day arrived and the ceremony was only slightly marred by Roderick inexplicably going red in the face and choking during the vows.

Afterwards, our wedding photographer suggested something casual.  Something along the lines of newlyweds imbibing a fortifying drink.  The cosy bar where we first met was chosen for its location halfway between the church and reception rooms.

Stephen, the best man, hurried us through the narrow streets as shoppers stopped to smile or offer a cheeky comment.

I sensed somebody was following us but I couldn’t pinpoint anyone when I looked back.  “Nerves,” I thought, squeezing Roderick’s damp hand.  “Guests to greet, boring speeches, cake to cut.”

My bridesmaid Ethel is a teetotaller and declined to accompany us.  Wisely as it turned out.  The gritty pavement ruined the soles of my satin shoes and the hem of my gown.  I knew Mother would be distressed, aggravating her heart condition.

On the way into the bar, I snagged my bridal veil on something, the door handle perhaps, and Roderick untangled it with a tut-tut of exasperation.

We ordered our drinks, and one for the photographer. While Stephen chatted up the barmaid, the photographer positioned himself further down the counter, clicking away.

“Oops,” I said during a playful attempt to give Roderick a sip of my drink.  Liquid dribbled onto his hand-made silk cravat.

He tut-tutted again, grumbling “Don’t want to look like Ivan on my wedding day.”

I raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow.  “Our wedding day, husband dearest.”  Under my breath I muttered “Here’s to Ivan…”

During our bridal waltz, news came that Ivan had been killed when a tunnel collapsed on the early shift. A week later, our agitated photographer said “No charge”.  Roderick was distraught. Ivan looms in every photograph in our wedding album.

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #8 Something Lost Something Found

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was Something lost something found.

Something Lost Something Found

When I lost someone precious, I discovered something unique. Inside. I found a hidden strength; strength I never knew existed within my core being.  Compassion, knowledge, insights into human nature, a powerful understanding of the love, the joys, the sorrow of being alive.  I look beyond the grieving widow, the crying child, the unhappy workers, and I see what is really going on beneath the surface.  I’ve been there, experienced the hurt which shows on the faces of struggling men and women.  Yet humanity so often hides behind a mask of stoic resignation, and this is accepted.  When humanity rises up and protests at the injustices, it is not accepted.  Because it causes disruption; it causes people to think, compare, feel uncomfortable.  Next time you lose something, think about another person who has nothing left. Their despair at seeing everything destroyed in horrific circumstances; knowing they will never see another, never be the same again; family, home, job, life.  I have had that happen to me.  It is painful, it scars your heart, your soul for eternity.  I carry on but it will always be with me, that’s why I see it in others.  My hope is that one day when you too connect with that something within, you grow stronger in the knowledge of humankind.  Thus, when a person masks their heartache and begins to stumble, you understand, you can reach out.  After loss, empathy is found.  Use it wisely, young one. 

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #7 Artist as a Child

Moggill Farmhouse Brisbane Queensland © Elle 2019

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the three prompts (courtesy of AWC Furious Fiction) were 1. The story’s first sentence must contain only four words. 2. The story must include something being shared. 3. The story must include the words paint, shift, wave and toast.

Artist as a Child

His pose seems unrehearsed.   Gavin sits with one shoe raised on the chair, leg bent.  His elbow rests on his elevated knee, arm dangling.  A persuasive artist, gallery patrons arrive and gladly absorb his relaxed aura.

This unperturbed look is the impression he gives to anyone who doesn’t know him better.  Apart from guest appearances, he is an horrendously difficult person to be around.

Oil paint, turpentine soaked rags, brushes, and canvas torn from frames habitually litter the studio floor.  Thus I dispute the saying “order out of chaos”.  If Gavin could do that, he would never paint a single picture.

One of his latest, and most important works, was completed in an afternoon of ranting and raving when a courier delivered the right set of three wooden easels wrapped in the wrong brown paper.

“It’s for an art installation.  It has to be unwaxed brown paper!”  He paced the concrete floor.  “The whole idea is to paint in situ.”

The courier didn’t want to understand the significance.  He was already backing out the door, having encountered Gavin’s artistic temperament once before.

“Take it up with the boss,” he said, sliding our huge door shut with a thud.

Gavin pulled irritably at the neckline of his t-shirt which had seen better days, soon to join the castoffs on the floor.  “Sabotaged!”

“I can order a roll of brown paper from the newsagent.”  I tried not to sound too down-trodden.

Gavin hissed “Elle, I don’t want stuff they cover school books with!”

I let my office diary drop, scattering a zodiac of tiny seed pods across the work bench.

“Improvise, Gavin.” I said calmly.  “You may find it works better without the absorbency.”

I dabble, you see, landscapes.  His eyes lit up and I almost heard his brain creak.

He accepted help to shift the easels closer to the window for natural light, jostling unfinished works aside.

We share the art studio, an unusual arrangement for siblings considering one is famous and the other does not want to be.

I had declined to organise tonight’s chat and chew platters, believing that I already fill the role of sales and booking manager so catering was a bit too much.  The honorary title of art advisor suits me.  Nowhere does it state I must “arrange tiny scraps of organic food on dry toast.”

When our spendthrift patron Lady Augusta arrives, she gives me a quick wave before aiming straight at Gavin to discuss her eighth portrait sitting.  Goodness knows where these works end up.

Gavin quickly grabs an illustrated catalogue, head down, apparently ready to discuss technique with a notable art critic. He tells the critic “They want me on the cover.” I wince.

Guests are moving aside as Lady Augusta swoops, all fluttering chiffon and swinging pearls. Nevertheless the exhibition is a success and I sell my lone painting; at the evening’s highest price.

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #6 Walk in the Park

Moreton Bay fig tree © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it. I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was Pain.

Walk in the Park

The temperature was cool and pale winter light shone from an almost cloudless grey sky.

“Nice day for a walk, ” thought Janet as she drove into the carpark, “and coffee at Beans if I get that far.”

A knee injury had confined Janet to the house.  A foolish accident sustained while moving furniture.  A mere second which had induced weeks of debilitating pain.  She cautiously manoeuvred out of the car.  Elasticised support around her left knee bulked out her grey slacks giving the appearance of elephantiasis, but comfort overrode vanity.

Janet tested the weight on her knee.  It twinged but held.  She walked slowly along the ancient tree-lined avenue.  Her pace increased when she noticed murky clouds gathering in the distance, threatening.  An abrupt gust of wind buffeted her, bringing a drop in temperature and moisture in the air.  The sudden change made her head swim.

Disconcerted, she stopped.  “This is weird.”   

Regaining equilibrium, Janet lurched forward and glanced at the old Moreton Bay fig tree overhanging the path, leaves rustling and branches swaying.  She had the ludicrous feeling that the tree was getting ready to walk across in front of her.  A dry rustle came from behind.  Half her senses screamed “Don’t turn around”, the other half wanted to know what was going on.  Cold wind and grit stung her eyes but Janet turned to look.

The primeval trees were blending into each other, meshing their long heavy branches across the avenue, blocking her route back to the car.  Adrenalin rose, overruling the growing throb in her knee.

“Need shelter… Beans café.”

She spun back to confront the old Moreton Bay fig.  Its leaves whispered around her head, a long tree root tugged her leg.  She panicked, stumbled, and cried out as her knee gave way.  The wind moaned through the branches, whipping up foliage and twigs, encircling her body.  She heard a crack, the sound of splintering wood, crashing, falling.  Green, then black, followed by bright lights and two voices asking the same question over and over.

“Can you hear me, Miss Gallagher?”

Equipment beeped, the bed was hard, Janet was back in hospital with a reassuringly numb knee.

“What happened?” she croaked.

The doctor and nurse exchanged glances.

“You were in the park,” said Nurse, “and lost consciousness when a tree branch almost crushed you.”

The doctor air-patted near her shoulder.  “Nothing to worry about.”

Nurse grinned.  “The ambulance driver said you were wrapped in greenery, heaven knows why.”

Janet knew why.  The Moreton Bay fig had tried to warn her, tried to protect her from the deadly branch.

“Presumably,” said the doctor, “you had accidentally taken a double dose of pain medication for your knee.  Your GP did stress caution because it can cause disorientation.”

“Or worse,” intoned Nurse.

Janet nodded vaguely.  As soon as she was discharged, she would go and thank that Moreton Bay fig tree.

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #5 Reconcile or Reject?

Highrise apartments with tennis courts at Cerulean, Main Beach Gold Coast Australia, an apartment project designed with the owner-occupier in mind. Image supplied by Cerulean Main Beach. Information https://www.therealestateconversation.com.au/news/2018/07/16/owner-occupancy-the-rise-apartment-design-changes/1531702806

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was Fork in the road.

Reconcile or Reject?

“Julian Wentworth is a pain,” thought Karri. 

She actually heard him say that he was the best looking bloke in the building.  The junior girls in the office loved him and admitted to having his business card pinned to their bedroom walls alongside Duran Duran posters.

They thought he was hunky, his hair so stylish, his suits so well-tailored.

“And he never has smelly breath.”

When Penelope whispered this in the tearoom, everyone squealed “Ooh, how do you know?” and she blushed scarlet.

To prevent her stuttering reply, Karri jumped in. “He’s so up himself I don’t think he knows it’s daylight.”

Blank looks turned on her, followed by the cold shoulder.

Karri swigged the remains of her Nescafe and returned to her desk.  She had a secret.  Julian Wentworth had been asking her out.

Nobody on staff knew Julian had initially invited her for an after-work drink on Friday.  Karri shuddered when she thought what could have happened but didn’t.

She sensed his neediness.  Julian was only keen on one thing; cajoling his way inside her apartment on Riverside Drive. 

Grateful for the building’s strong security, Karri muttered “He won’t get his hands on my assets.”  She certainly didn’t want his fingers running over Grandma’s porcelain figurines.

The other office secretaries believed Karri was so lucky teamed with Julian.  He was the principal of the rental section of Frederickson Real Estate, the avaricious bastards she worked for, and he was always hunting for prestigious rental properties. Obviously he wanted to scrutinise her prime real estate, her inheritance.

When she bumped into Julian outside her local bakery on Thursday, he had insisted on walking her home until she snapped “Get real”.

At work on Friday, she told him to “Go jump”, and later to “Get lost” regarding Saturday night dinner.  He was not easily dissuaded and had suggested tennis on Sunday afternoon.

Surprise, surprise, the tennis courts were close to Karri’s apartment.  She enjoyed social tennis and had accepted.  Now she looked glumly at her canvas tennis shoes.  Julian would own an ergonomic pair, teamed with ultra-white shorts, and a tight top with a crisp collar and sporty logo.

She laughed, picturing him posing in front of the mirror then arriving late.

He was at the main gate on time but they couldn’t reserve a court.  The tennis centre had just closed ranks for an Under 12s tournament.

Ungraciously Karri did not offer her home for coffee so they walked to the nearest café.  She noticed envious glances from female customers and sat down hugging the tennis rackets.

Her gaze snagged on an attractive bloke in tennis gear sitting in the corner.

He sipped from a teacup, covertly watching Julian at the serving counter.  Distractedly he put the cup down on top of his cheesecake.

“Oh, hell,” Karri thought as Julian fumbled with the payment, jaws clenched.

Her mind clicked; she could see it was decision time. “Which road is it going to be?  Reconcile or reject?”  

Julian turned quickly and walked straight over to Mr Cheesecake.

“Anthony, old friend, how are you?”

Anthony pushed back his chair and rose to embrace Julian.

“Oh, Jules, I’ve missed you so much,” he beamed. “How did you find me?”

Julian looked across at Karri.  “That lovely lady lives nearby.”

They hugged again, and an elderly man at the next table dabbed his eyes with a serviette.

Another look from Julian conveyed an apology and Karri realised he must have discovered Anthony had moved into her apartment block.

She waved away his life of subterfuge.

Three’s a crowd; she could sacrifice a coffee. Anyway, her tennis shoes pinched.

“See you Monday, Jules.”

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #4 Buzzing

Hillside residence in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (source unknown)

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt words (courtesy of AWC Furious Fiction) were to include an attic or basement, an insect, earth, wind, fire and water

Buzzing

“It’s in the attic,” she said, a note of desperation clinging to her words.

“Brisbane houses don’t usually have attics.”  I pictured her old home, the corrugated iron roof shimmering like fire in the afternoon sun.

“You know, that bit in the rafters with the twirly vent.”

“Why don’t you ring a pest controller?” I said, jaw tightening.

A gusting sigh.  “I did.  They can’t visit until Thursday and I’ll be driven mad before then.”

I imagined her tugging at her hair, bunching a fistful.

“Okay, I’ll come over.”  Firmness was needed.  “But I’m hosting a workshop tonight.”

“That’s great, David.”  The chirp was back in her voice.

I cleared my throat.  “How big is this wasp thing anyway?”

“I can’t tell.”  A pouting tone with a double meaning.

Her woman-child habit irritated me into bravado. “A squirt of insect spray should take care of it.”

“What if it doesn’t die?”  Her voice dropped a notch.  “What if it has wasp babies?”

“Jeez, Lettie, I’ll be over in twenty minutes.”

She bolted down the pathway to greet me and stopped suddenly.  A puff of wind raised dust around her bare feet as she pressed a finger to her lips in a hush gesture.

I could hear it.  An intermittent buzz, like the starter of a fluorescent tube on the blink.

“Might be electrical, we’ll have to be careful.” Deflection from a bloke afraid of bugs.

We walked down the uncarpeted hallway to her austere kitchen.  Set into the ceiling above our heads was a square manhole cover.  The sound of buzzing intensified.   

“Please be careful,” she whispered, pointing to a ladder.

“Why don’t you go first?” I half-teased.

Something changed, her body stiffened.  I saw emotions cross her face until she settled on anger.  “You always disappoint me!”

Before I could placate her, before I could berate myself yet again for being a miserable letdown, Lettie had dragged the ladder into place and climbed towards the hatch.  She opened it with a violent shove and the air crackled.    

Her slim body was half-way through the opening when I yelled “Wait, I’ll do it!”

I heard a girlish squeak, and my own voice shrilled “What?”

“Your turn, David.”  She descended, face aglow. 

The buzz from a thousand imaginary bees drilled into my skull.  I wondered what I would find; what I would do if I did find something.

I raised my boot to the first rung, the ladder seemed too small, the opening too high.

Once my head and shoulders breached the cavity, I heard water dripping somewhere in the gloom.  Ah, I saw a blinking light on a damaged possum deterrent.  Seconds later I heard a whooshing sound.  I lifted my arm but before I could move, two chains bearing a large silver blade swung down towards me.

The buzzing stopped.

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #3 Fair Enough

Missing Out © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was Missing Out.

Fair Enough

My sister wants to be called Garet, and I say “The end bit of your real name?”  I count to five.  She doesn’t hit me.  “Why not go for something different?” 

She pulls a face, accentuated by squinting into the morning sun beaming through the kitchen window.

Undaunted I continue “You’re called Margaret, right.  It might be hard for people to cut off the first part.  Why not the dual purpose name Monica? Get it?”

“Sounds like an English teacher,” she huffs, missing the point. 

“Yeah, you’re not brainy enough.”  I duck the paperback she aims at my head.  It tumbles to the floor and our dog Loopy senses conflict.  He hauls his arthritic body off the floor and lopes from the room.

Garet twirls a lock of hair, she’s in another place.  Possibly Zone One, the Plaza hair salon which radiates militancy.

Theatrically I gasp “You’re not planning short back and sides?”

“Not too short,” she says airily, “and a different colour.”

She holds up her phone, the image makes me blink.  “Wow, purple bleeding into fluoro green.”

“All the girls at school have short hair, like, I mean, really short hair.”

I lean forward.  “So instead of remembering all that stuff Mum and Dad say about being an individual—”

She cuts me off “That’s fine when you’re an adult and your high school days are behind you.”

My mouth won’t stay closed.  “Do those dimwits in your class use a social scale based on hair styles?”  

Garet flares “Of course not!”

“So why do it?”  I kinda know but want her to admit it.

“You know why.”  She picks at her nails, glaring.  “To fit in.”

“And?” I raise my voice an octave, my eyebrows go with it.

“It’s complicated.”  Garet stacks her cereal bowl on top of mine.  “The fear of missing out.”

My two hands slam onto the pine table before I can stop.  “Missing out on what?  Art gallery trips, tapestry classes?”

She flinches “I want to be part of the volunteer group visiting sick children in hospital.”

Instantly I regret my outburst.  Until she adds “There’s some pretty cool interns who hang out with the volunteers in the canteen.”

Fair enough, I can reason with that. Tragically I was overlooked for a hot new soccer team. Now I won’t put my hand up on Sports Day because of that fear, that stab of rejection.

“Garet,” I say condescendingly, “go a full makeover but don’t forget that your family loves you, okay.”

“Thanks, Bro.”  She actually blushes saying that, then twirls her hair again. “I’ll think about it for another week before I tell Mum and Dad.”

“I won’t breathe a word.”

I figure she’ll come home this afternoon with crazy coloured hair.  Fear of missing out makes a person irrational; like wasting money on a soccer club tattoo.   

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #2 Final Frontier

Scientific device © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write whenever I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it. I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words. For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was Space.

Final Frontier

Fran ripped off the velcro strap so violently it took a tuft of her hair with it.

She dropped the VR headset onto the work bench and almost tapped the flashing message on her wrist screen before remembering she was no longer authorised to communicate.

Tord’s on-screen decree was absolute: Shutdown.

She was back in the real world, a contemporary world with little social consciousness, running on limitless personal greed, and no respect for history.

Money flowed through unnamed corporations with anonymous board members and spies controlled by the malignant régime of vigilante ruler, Tord, who leeched the economy of countries world-wide and left billions starving.

Fran spent two claustrophobic years in this grey-walled bunker recreating virtual realities of those countries before the takeover, demonstrating to Tord how nature was exhausted; Earth could no longer be sustained.     

Now those desperate years of work would be erased.

Fran spoke to her roving virtual assistant, a small round device, and issued one command; one irreversible command.

The VA argued with her but Fran was adamant.

“Erase internal and external data and activate equipment meltdown.”

She patted her agitated assistant and suppressed a pang of guilt at the VAs inevitable termination.

“Sorry, Beep.”

Fran unlocked a drawer and seized a new prototype, a machine gun-shaped molecular transporter, just as the security door crashed open.   

“Tord’s here! What are we going to…?”  The voice stopped.

Fran swung around to face her colleague Angelo.  “It’s your day off, Ang, forget about work.”

His eyes grew dark as he walked slowly towards her, arm slightly raised, ready to grab the glowing transporter.

“Please don’t do it, Fran.”                 

She moved back, but he lunged and grabbed the end of the device.

At that moment a thickset man strode through the open laboratory doorway.

“Stop, you idiots!” Tord bellowed. “That biomolecular thing is worth millions!”

His bodyguards shouted but as Tord stepped closer, he tripped.

Tord staggered forward and grabbed Angelo’s arm and Fran’s hand.  She was holding the transporter in a vice-like grip and Tord’s added pressure activated the transference trigger.

The air hummed and vibrated around them, turning everything blue then blindingly white.  Their mouths gasped for air as they travelled through time and space.

Steadily their senses cleared and Angelo discovered what had tripped Tord.

It was Beep, and the VAs Echidna mode had been activated.  It didn’t take long for Tord to start shrieking.  Metal spines were embedded in his ankle, rapidly injecting Quill-Still.  He would be asleep in seconds.

“Good,” thought Fran, as he sank to the ground unconscious.         

All they could see stretched out around them was a vast, empty desert of ochre dust.  The sun was high and the temperature melted the horizon.

Angelo shaded his eyes.  “Looks like 2041 to me.”

“I didn’t manage to set coordinates,” sighed Fran.

She handed him the transporter, removed her lab coat, and carefully rolled an exhausted Beep into the pocket.

Angelo tapped the screen.  “Reset to last week; Tord never visited, body never found.”

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #1 Wrong Agenda

Boardroom photograph by S O C I A L . C U T Brisbane based creative agency specialising in a social media first approach Unsplash image

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was three names Beverley, Johnno and Smith.

Wrong Agenda

When Smith, the Big Boss, walked into the boardroom everyone was stunned. Beverley, Sales Manager, and the assembled staff hardly knew where to look.

A business man at the wrong end of his fifties, who wears a suit on his day off and never drinks coffee, is not the sort of person you would expect to walk into an annual general meeting with purple hair.

Branch Accountant, Johnno, was the first to recover.

“What the hell happened to your hair, Smith?”

Air was suspended in several lungs, waiting for the backlash, as Smith placed his sleek laptop on the wide polished table. He unbuttoned his charcoal grey suit jacket.  He shook it carefully and placed it on the back of his executive chair before sitting down to adjust his brilliant white cuffs.

By now a modicum of control was coming back into the astonished and amused faces around the room.

Strangely, Johnno appeared to be unconcerned at possible retaliation. He was already tapping his keyboard and pretending to shuffle through notes.

Beverley peered sideways and surmised that Johnno was on social media. She watched his keystrokes and smothered a sly grin. Publicly admiring Johnno for his clever mind and ruthless behaviour at tax time, privately she loathed his unpleasant temperament.

Stealthily, Johnno began to manoeuvre his laptop into a position where he could take a snapshot of the boss.

“Two important words,” boomed Smith, “Fundraising for charity.”

The staff blinked as one.

“Three words,” corrected Johnno.

Smith raised his eyebrows, fortunately their natural grey, as Johnno back-peddled a little too elaborately.

“And those three words are Well Done, Smithy.”

“Give him enough rope…” thought Beverley, and said out loud “Which charity benefited from your rather colourful transformation, sir?”

Smith was about to reply when Johnno, being the accountant that he was, asked “How much did you raise?”

Beverley thought this was rather blunt from a contender for the new State Manager position.

Ignoring Johnno, Smith cast his eyes around the room.

“I raised $2,450.35. My hairdo is the result of my granddaughter’s first attempt at up-styling.”

The boardroom tittered in response; Johnno was busy texting under the table.

Beverley received a subject heading Purple People Eater and another Sure Looks Strange To Me.

Smith continued “She needed a volunteer so I put my hand up, more’s the pity.” Polite throat-clearing emanated from the executives, many of whom had encountered his granddaughter and her office décor ideas.

“Two good deeds then!” exclaimed Beverley, giving a rousing wave of her arm. Johnno quoted her on Twitter with a photo of a chimpanzee offering a high five.

“Buckle up, guys,” rumbled Smith, “this session is going to go off with a bang.”

During lunch, Johnno found out his photo of Smith’s hair had gone viral. Next day he received his notice of termination and discovered the new State Manager, the only person he’d ever liked, was Beverley.

Maybe she didn’t like chimpanzees.  

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward