Bitter Lies

I thought I’d share another story.  This is one of the first short stories I’ve written.

Frank sat in his hotel room, his head in his hands. He felt he was on a slippery slope. What was he doing here? Who was he kidding? A woman like that would never give him a second glance. A fifty year old man with a paunch. He must be so deluded to even think she would. He looked at his watch for at least the tenth time since he’d arrived here. 

 

He stood up, walked to the bathroom and doused his face with cold water. Feeling a little better he went back into the bedroom and moved to the door that led to the balcony. Opening it, he stepped outside. The cool April air refreshed him, calmed his nerve a little. 

 

“What am I doing here?”, he asked himself. Shaking his head, he reflected on the events of last night. Chatting to her online. The beautiful blonde woman who had captured his heart. “What is she going to think when she sees who I really am?” 

 

Frank was a used car salesman. A failed used car salesman. He had made only one sale in the last two months and just got fired. And now here he was kidding himself that a looker like that wouldn’t just turn right around and walk away once she’d clocked him. Shaking his head, he walked back into the hotel room. 

 

To distract himself, he flicked on the television, turning to the news channel. He tried to lose himself in the reports but they were the usual crap of murder and mayhem and only made him more depressed.

 

Finally, he called room service and ordered a double brandy. Maybe a bit of Dutch courage was all he needed. He looked at his watch yet again. She would be here in ten minutes, if she was on time. Frank made a vow to himself there and then never to do this again.

 

There was a knock on the door and a voice shouted “room service.” 

 

That was quick.

 

He opened the door, took the drink, and gave the waiter a dollar tip.

 

Walking back to the bed, he sat and took a long gulp, gasping as the drink burned in his throat. Then the warmth sank to his stomach. God that felt better. 

 

He opened his briefcase and took out the photograph he had printed of the woman he was here to meet. They had been talking to each other for a month before deciding to meet. He had sent a photograph of himself when he was twenty years younger, and much better looking. Her photo showed she was in her thirties, long slim legs that wouldn’t quit. A nice firm bust displayed in a tight t shirt. His mouth watered just looking at her. Why would she even look twice at him? He gulped down the rest of his drink, and then sat there just thinking. Finally he made a decision. He packed away the photograph and left the room. He took the elevator down to the lobby. 

 

Frank rang the bell at the main desk. The receptionist, a pretty brunette, popped up from behind the desk.

 

“Sorry, I was just rearranging some files. How can I help you?”

 

“I had a change of plans” he replied. “I guess I won’t be staying for the night. How much do I owe?”

 

“I’m sorry to hear that” replied the receptionist. “I’ll only charge you half price for the room and for the drink. I’m afraid I won’t be able to do fairer than that.”

 

“That’s okay, I figured I would have to pay something.”

 

“Can I ask what the reason is for your early departure?” enquired the receptionist. “Was there a problem with the room?”

 

“Oh, no, the room was fine. The problem is with me” Frank laughed a little bitterly. “I was just deluding myself about something.”

 

The receptionist gave him a strange look but accepted his offered credit card and put the charge on it. “There you go” she smiled handing the card back. “Have a nice day.”

 

“Thanks, you too” he smiled, putting his credit card away. He turned away and barely glanced at the frumpy looking blonde that walked past him on her way to the reception desk.

 

Sighing to himself, Frank walked out of the hotel to get back to his dull life.

 

*************************

 

The receptionist smile brightly at the blonde who looked in her fifties. “Can I help you?”

 

The woman smiled back. “Yes I’m looking for a Frank Webster. He should be here already.”

 

The receptionists’ smile faltered. “Oh, I’m afraid you just missed him. He just checked out less than a minute ago.”

 

The blonde woman thanked her and turned to walk out of the hotel feeling totally deflated. She reflected on the whole scheme. “Who was I kidding” she asked herself. She figured he must have seen the photo she had finally sent him this morning. The one of how she looked now. If only she hadn’t used that 30 year old photograph of her when she first started chatting. He must have seen the new photograph and been totally disappointed and left.

 

“Boy I was really deluding myself!” she thought as she walked out back to her dull, boring life. 

 

Advertisements

Crossed Wires – a short story

“It’s this way.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

Alice looked at the map. “Yes,” she snapped. “I do know how to read a map.”

 

“Okay, okay, no need to get tetchy.” Jack turned the wheel hard to the right, steering the old camper van onto a narrow gravel road. “This just doesn’t seem right. I mean, we’re not even on a proper road.”

 

Well, you wanted to get off the beaten track,” his wife reminded him.

 

“Not this far off the track.”

 

The van bounced over potholes hidden by the gravel. 

 

“I hope the suspension on this old crate is up to the job,” he grumbled. “This thing has seen better days.”

 

“Oh quit grumbling,” said Alice. “You’re the one who wanted to go camping.”

 

“Yeah, and you’re the one who booked it. We must have taken a wrong turn. There’s nothing out here.”

 

Alice traced the line of the road on the map with her finger. “It looks like the site is just another mile ahead. If we go two miles without finding it, we’ll turn back.”

 

Jack glanced sideways at his wife. “Is that your way of admitting you’re wrong?”

 

“I’m never wrong,” Alice sniffed. 

 

Jack shook his head. “You women always say that.”

 

“Although, I will admit I may have made one mistake in my life.”

 

“Go on then, I’ll bite. What was that?”

 

“I married you!” Alice winked at him.

 

Jack glared at her for a moment then laughed. “Yeah, yeah, I don’t know how you put up with me.”

 

“Two large gin and tonics every night. Nothing else would do it.”

 

The old van bounced over a particularly large pothole. Jack’s head hit the ceiling. “Ow. Dammit.”

 

Before Alice could say anything, she spotted two buildings ahead. “See? What did I tell you? I’m never wrong.”

 

“We don’t know if that’s the right place, yet,” Jack reminded her.

 

“Of course it is. You just don’t want to admit I’m right.”

 

Moments later it became obvious they’d found the camp site, as tents came into view.

 

“It looks very basic,” Jack commented. “There doesn’t seem to be much of any amenities.”

 

“Well, you wanted to get away from it all,” Alice reminded him.

 

“Yeah, yeah, you said that already. It’s just that I don’t fancy driving along this road at night. Not that there’s anywhere nearby to drive to.” He noticed something and slammed his foot on the brake, throwing them both forward against their seatbelts.

 

“Jack! What do you think you’re doing? Have you lost your mind?”

 

“Something’s not right.” Jack leaned forward, peering at the campsite ahead.

 

“What on earth do you mean?”

 

“Well take a look at those two over there, walking to that tent.”

 

Alice followed the line of his arm as he pointed to the people he meant. They were facing toward her and walking to a large four man tent. They were a man and a woman, walking arm in arm. Alice could clearly see the woman’s breasts, bouncing and unfettered. And she could see the man’s… “Oh! They’re naked!”

 

As the middle-aged couple looked around they could see other people similarly unclothed.

 

Jack turned to his wife. “What was the name of the campsite you booked?”

 

“Back to Basics, “his wife answered in a small voice. 

 

“And where did you find this camp?”

 

“On a camping website. I called the number shown on the site. I said we were looking for a back to basics sort of camp site.”

 

“Well, didn’t they give you any other information?”

 

“Only that it was very secluded and private.”

 

“I can see why.” Jack nodded to the camp.

 

“What do we do now?”

 

“I guess we go in. I don’t see that we have any other choice since there’s nothing else for miles around. Besides it’s going to be dark soon. No wonder this place cost so much.”

 

“I can’t go around naked in public,” his wife shrieked.

 

“We’ll just have to hide out in the van. Like I said, it’ll be dark soon anyway. Nobody will be able to see much. We’ll just stay for tonight and try to get some money back tomorrow. This is some vacation. At least you can’t say you’re never wrong any more.”

 

Alice huffed and folded her arms over her chest. 

 

Jack drove up to the main gate. If nothing else, it’d be something to tell his friends about at the bridge club.

 

A Different Perspective

Pete Harrington stood watching his ten year old son, Jake, kick his soccer ball around on the soccer pitch in the park. He rolled his shirt sleeves up. It was unusually warm for early October, and he hadn’t had time to change out of his suit. After coming home from work, Jake had harangued and harassed him to take him to the park. All Pete had really wanted to do was put his feet up and open a nice cold beer. But since he wasn’t going to get any peace, he’d agreed. At least the beer would wait until later. Sometimes this kid was way too hyperactive for Pete to handle. He could barely keep up with the boy. Had he been that energetic when he’d been Jake’s age? He’d forgotten what it was like to be young. Working all the hours God sends just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table tended to do that to you. It’s typical, he thought to himself. You spend the best years of your life working your ass off trying to make enough money for a comfortable life and then you never have time to do anything with the money you earn. 

 

“Hey dad, wanna kick the ball around with me?” The skinny fair-haired boy looked hopefully at his father. 

 

“No, it’s okay son. You go kick your ball around. Show me what you can do. I’ll sit on that bench over there and watch you.” 

 

The disappointed look Jake shot at him was like a kick in the teeth. But it didn’t stop Pete turning away and trudging to the bench. Someone was already sitting there, an older man, maybe in his late fifties, with salt and pepper hair. Pete nodded to the man before sitting on the other end of the bench. They sat in silence for a moment.

 

“That your kid?” The older man finally asked. 

 

“Yeah, he’s a real soccer nut. Wants to run around with the ball all day long.”

 

“What’s his name?”

 

Pete hesitated, unsure whether he should answer. Why was this stranger so interested in his boy? “His name’s Jake,” he finally said.

 

The old man turned to Pete, and with a low chuckle said, “Relax, I’m no predator. My name’s Darryl by the way.”

 

“I’m Pete. I just wasn’t sure why you’re so interested in my kid. You can’t be too careful these days.”

 

Darryl sighed. “A truer word never spoken. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you uneasy. My wife and I moved here recently. Your son sure has a lot of energy.”

 

Both men watched Jake run full pelt from one end of the pitch to the other, controlling the ball perfectly. Pete sighed. “Yeah, you’re not wrong there. To be honest he gets a bit too much for me sometimes. Tell you the truth, I’d much rather be home right now, nursing a beer. But Jake was very insistent that I take him here. He’s trying out for the school soccer team. So…do you have kids of your own?”

 

Darryl shook his head once, but didn’t say anything.

 

“You didn’t want any?” Despite his initial suspicion, Pete found himself becoming genuinely curious about this stranger.

 

Darryl sat silent for a moment. “We tried. God knows, we tried. At first we tried the natural way, but as the years passed with no success we realized we were going to need some help. We went to a fertility clinic. We tried artificial insemination, IVF, nothing helped. The IVF was the worst. We tried five months in a row. That was the worst part. I had to stick a huge needle in the top of my wife’s butt every night for weeks. It hurt her so much and I hated doing it. It would all have been worth while if it had given us what we both so desperately wanted.” The old man’s eyes took on a faraway look, clearly recalling that painful time. “We tried everything we could, until our funds ran out. Then we just had to accept it wasn’t God’s plan for us to have children. That was the hardest realization I’ve ever had to make.”

 

“I’m sorry to hear that. It must have been a tough thing to go through.” Even as he said it, Pete knew how trite his words must have sounded. But what else could you say? What do you say to anyone who’s going through a tough time? ‘I’m sorry.’ The truth was there was nothing else you could say. “Didn’t you try for adoption?”

 

The older man shook his head. “I was open to the idea. But Muriel? She wouldn’t hear of it. She wanted a child of her own, and that was that. Nothing would change her mind. Well, I’m retired now, and all we have is each other. No kids to visit us, no grandkids to spoil. And everywhere I look all I see is fathers with their children. I love to watch them interact, but it’s like a dagger through the heart at the same time. All those things I’ll never experience. I come out here sometimes because I just have to get out of the house. Muriel’s cold to me these days and the silence gets me down so bad.” He turned his body slightly to face Pete. “Son, I know you probably work too many hours a day. And I know when you get home you’re probably tired and the last thing you feel like doing is running around after Jake. But if you could spend just one day in my shoes, I know you’d see things differently. Because I’d happily trade places with you. Wouldn’t even need to think about it. That boy clearly loves you and he wants your attention and he wants you to interact with him as much as you can. It’s easy for me to say this I know, but appreciate him as much as you can because there are a lot of us out there who can’t have what you have. And believe me, it hurts like hell.” He stood up, nodded to Pete, and slowly walked away. 

 

Pete stared after Darryl for a moment, thinking over what the old man had said. Then he turned to watch Jake dribbling with the ball toward goal. He stood up and walked onto the pitch. “Hey, Jake. How about you go in goal?” 

 

Jake stared at his father in surprise for a moment. Then he grinned. “Sure, pop!” 

 

“And afterward, we’ll go get some ice-cream and rent a movie. Whatever you want to see.”

 

It was funny how he’d never noticed before how a child’s smile of joy could light up your heart. What else had he missed out on? He resolved then and there to never again take his son for granted. It had taken a chance encounter with a complete stranger to give him a whole new perspective on life.

 

Classical Inspiration

Image

I was listening to some classical music earlier.  I do that a lot these days.  I just can’t get enough of it.  Anyway, as I was listening, a sentence just popped into my mind. 

“Are you ******* kidding me?”

I didn’t react, I just waited to see what would happen next.  A brief conversation exchange went on in my head.

This happens to me fairly often.  Don’t worry, I’m not really crazy.  I don’t think I am, anyway.

I’m a writer. 

Ask any writer and they’ll probably tell you the same thing happens to them.

I hope.

Anyway, what often happens is a sentence, or a piece of description, or, like today, a fragment of conversation will just pop into my head, often when I’m distracted by something entirely unconnected to writing.  The most annoying time it happens is when I’m in the shower.  You might be surprised by how often that happens.  It must be something about the water hitting your head, maybe invigorating the brain.

The snippets usually relate to something I’m working on.  Or sometimes they’ll inspire a whole new story.  Which can be really annoying when you’re already working on something and you suddenly have this sexy new idea knocking on your brain, demanding to be let out.

So far the story seems to center around a young man who’s having a bad week.  He went on two job interviews, missing out on both.  His girlfriend just left him.  He’s behind on the rent and the landlord is making threatening noises about eviction.  So he decides to wallow in misery by playing a depressing piece of classical music.  I googled the most depressing classical music and one piece that came up a lot is Bach’s Come, Sweet Death.  Not only is the title ideal, the music itself definitely fits the bill.  But, hey, if anyone knows of a more depressing piece of classical music then please feel free to suggest it!  So the idea is a rough and ready heavy metal fan who died has been sent to be a guardian angel for someone who’s a classical music buff.  Should be an interesting mix…

I’ve already blogged about how listening to classical music helped me with my editing last week, even leading to a huge breakthrough on chapter one, something that had been bothering me for a long time.  It seems classical music can also inspire me in my general writing and story ideas.

Classical music: It’s not just for listening to.  Apparently.

Writing By The Seat Of your Pants

A strange thing is happening with my latest writing.  When I wrote my novel, Psychic Witness, I pretty much mapped it out so I knew what was going to happen.  There were a few surprises, but nothing major.  I was in control and I knew what was going to happen next.  I’ve been stuck in editing hell for a while now.  I haven’t touched the manuscript in weeks.  I’ve missed writing so much but I can’t bring myself to touch this story right now.  I don’t know what the problem is.  I think it’s something with my main character.  I just can’t seem to get into his head.  I’m thinking right story, wrong character?

As I wrote in my last blog, I bought a set of five notepads on Friday with the intention of writing some short stories to blast through my block and get me writing again.  Well, that very night two names popped into my head from nowhere.  I wasn’t even thinking about writing.  In fact I was watching an episode of Doctor Who!  I grabbed one of the notepads intending to just write the names down so I wouldn’t forget them.  Then a scene came fully developed into my mind of two men standing in front of a steel door that led to some sort of vault.  One of the men had used a pass card to try to get into the vault.  But it hadn’t worked and in fact it set off an alarm. 

Naturally I started writing.  What came out was an intense chase scene that ended with them jumping off a ledge to fall fifty feet into a lake to escape their pursuers. That’s how I left it that night as it was late and I was tired.  The next day I continued writing and the pair’s dash to safety continued only to end with one of them being captured.  The other escaped into a forest.  The strange thing is I don’t know what is going to happen next until I pick up a pen and actually start to write.  I had no idea one of them was going to get caught until it happened.  It wasn’t something I’d considered.  I don’t think I can even plan ahead because whatever I think is going to happen probably won’t even be close when I come to write it.  It’s almost like reading the story.  I have no idea what’s going to happen until I actually write it!  This short story is also threatening to grow into a full blown novel.  I sense there is a lot more to this story to come.

Has this happened to you?  Is this how you write?  As someone who usually plots an outline, even just a vague list of plot points, this style of writing is very liberating and even exciting.  It’s also a bit scary.  What if the story just runs up against a brick wall?  What if I write the characters into a situation that I have no idea how to get them out of?  At this moment I have no idea who these two men are.  Are they good guys or bad guys?  What were they after in the vault? All I know is the story that I thought was going to be a sort of futuristic heist tale seems to be heading into the fantasy realm.  Not something I have any experience of writing.  Though I do enjoy a good fantasy story.

The main thing though, is I have rediscovered the joy of writing.  I no longer look at the computer and think I should get back to writing.  I AM writing and it feels great!

Unblocking The Muse

I’ve been stuck in editing hell for too long and it sapped my will to write.  Yesterday I bought five notepads from Staples for a dollar each.  Last night I started writing a new short story.  It felt so good to finally be writing again.  I have no idea where this story is going or even why things are happening yet.  I’m enjoying the ride.  It’s a bit like reading a story.  I get to find out what’s going to happen as I write.  With my novel I plotted every detail of the story so I knew everything that was going to happen.  Writing without any kind of plot or idea where you’re going is kind of scary, because what if I write myself into a corner and have to go back and rewrite?  Yet it’s lso liberating, because I’m finding my writing is more fluid, more organic. 

Last night these two characters came to my mind with a situation.  So I grabbed one of the books and started to write. 

For anyone who’s stuck on a story and has writers block, sometimes simply starting a short story can unblock you.  The most important thing is to keep writing.  It worked for me.  Later I’ll return to this world I’ve just created and see what happens next.  That’s the best thing about being a writer.  Creating a world and seeing what happens next.