A Christmas Trick or Treat

A Christmas Trick or Treat

145 Pine Close is occupied by two witches. Marbella is the younger of the two, with fiery red hair that tends to literally set alight when she’s angry. Her eyes are a vivid blue which pierce the souls of those who look into them, making it impossible for them to lie to her. She’s a playful soul and uses her magic largely for her own entertainment (and sometimes to get revenge on those who irritate her). Her older sister Anabelle, works as a lawyer and wears half-moon spectacles to make her more intimidating, although her eyesight is perfect. Despite appearing to be in her early thirties she is, in fact, two-hundred and twenty one – with an emphasis on the twenty-one if you ask her.

Marbella came home from work in a mischievous mood. Her office arch-enemy had come into work that morning to find a confidential file floating above her desk. She’d snatched it out of the air and replaced it in a drawer, but when she poured her coffee later on, she found her mug had developed a tendency to pour its contents onto vital papers when she wasn’t looking. Of course nobody believed this, and to onlookers it seemed that she’d entirely lost the plot. That ended up as the official reasoning for her suspension. Time out for her health.

Marbella couldn’t contain her glee, but her sister hadn’t been quite so impressed with the trick.That night, while Marbella slept, Anabelle slunk downstairs and placed a locking spell on the front door. The next morning, the redhead found herself unable to leave the house, and set fire to the coat rack in her rage. After hours of boredom and anger she decided to leave a little trick for her older sister. A festive treat should do the trick: after all, who better to define a new kind of trick-or-treat than a witch?

Without moving from the armchair she heated the oven and stirred a batch of gingerbread. When the batch was mixed, she approached the bowl and blew into it. A witch’s’ breath meant life, everybody knew that. She used her hair, still smouldering, to light a cigarette and smoked it through the window as the biscuits baked.

When Anabelle arrived home, the smell of freshly baked goods still echoed through the flat. She smiled and closed her eyes, she knew Marbella would forgive her. Slowly, to savour the smell, Anabelle walked into the kitchen and picked up a little gingerbread boy. Her sister had iced denim trousers and a Christmas jumper onto him, completed with a grinning face. For a moment, Anabelle thought the biscuit winked at her, that the grin was a little unfriendly, but she disregarded it and closed her eyes as she pushed it into her mouth.

She screamed. As she’d gone to bite the biscuit, the biscuit had bitten back! Anabelle dropped her attacker as her sister appeared, laughing, in the doorway.

“Got you!” She sang, grinning cruelly at the woman who’d kept her on house arrest all day long. Anabelle healed her lip without moving and glared back at her sister.

The next day, Anabelle moved out, leaving an enchanted snowman melting on the living room carpet to say her farewells. Marbella stared at it in disbelief and wandered halfheartedly into the kitchen to make breakfast. She produced a sharp intake of breath when she opened the cupboard to find her cereal box torn open, dribbling its dwindling contents onto the shelf. Her first thought was ‘mouse!’ but after a speedy ‘reveal’ enchantment, that fear was disproved and she was back to square one.

She cleared the mess and made toast instead. A tiny twinkle of guilt, barely noticeable, began to burn in the back of Marbella’s brain. She enchanted a lamp stand to keep her company with chatter, but really she may as well have been talking to herself. That evening, Marbella opened the fridge and set about making herself dinner.It was a complicated meal and she’d chosen to cook it the human way, mixing with her hands rather than her brain. Part of the way through her culinary practice, Marbella went to scoop her onions into the frying pan, only to find that half had gone. Minutes later, her knife had moved across the surface to the other side of the room.

This continued while she cooked, and then into her meal. Every time she glanced away she found parts of her dinner had vanished. Then her wine glass tipped itself over. As red wine soaked into her white skirt she caught a glimpse of something in the corner of her eye. Something tiny and brown with iced denim trousers and a Christmas jumper. That Gingerbread beast!

Squealing in frustration she dived after her creation, but missed, colliding with the floor face first. She chased the outlawed biscuit around the room for forty-five minutes before she finally caught it. He dangled in the air, his foot pinched between her dainty fingers, begging for mercy.

“Lemme go you! Lemme go! I aint done nothing, only what I was told!” She scowled at the little man and her hair launched a few flames into the air.

“What you were told?”

“By the other lady. She made me do it, said I’d go back to sleep if I stopped!”

“Stopped what?”

“Annoying you… sorry… Told me to eat stuff, steal stuff, basically cause mischief… teach you a lesson.”

“Right. Well the thing is,  brought you to life you silly creature… only can put you back to sleep again. So you wanna stay awake? You don’t be causing any trouble, you hear?”

The little gingerbread man nodded enthusiastically and sighed as she stood him on the floor at her feet. She enchanted a new batch of gingerbread and crafted it into a house as it floated in the air, keeping a stern eye fixed on mischievous chap sat at her feet. She placed him the house and sent a thought to summon her sister.

When Anabelle arrived, she thought it might be a trick and took each step warily. Each bite of her dinner was consumed with an eye on the gingerbread house which stood on a coffee table in the corner of the room. When her sister’s distraction became too much, Marbella decided it was time to apologise, and she did so. She looked her sister in the eye and told the story of what her biscuit had done. She apologised for causing trouble and always bringing chaos into their lives. By the end of the meal they were friends again. Older sister, still slightly wary of the younger, but forgiving all the same.

They allowed the Gingerbread Man, now named Kermit, to live in his minuscule Gingerbread house in the corner of their flat for the rest of their lives there. Neither of them ate, or baked, gingerbread again.

 

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Wings.

Wings.

When he looked, it wasn’t there.

Gabriel took a seat on the edge of a cloud, dangled his legs off the edge and buried his head in his hands. Around him, the class buzzed with excited A.I.T (Angels in Training) who were about to get their big wings; they’d seen it.Gabriel had failed. This would mean getting held back a year… again.His Junior Wings felt his sadness and drooped at the tips.

As the sky turned to dark grey between the slats of cloud, a figure crossed the horizon to approach the boy who still wallowed in his disappointment.

“Didn’t see it, huh?”

The voice vibrated off every surface until its repeating sounds danced in the air. Gabriel wiped the tears from his face and looked up through puffy eyes at the stranger. He was a balding man in his early forties with round glasses pushed close to his eyes, instead of wearing wings he’d wrapped himself in a white blanket that appeared to have been fashioned from the clouds.

“Nope. Didn’t see it. Didn’t hear the voice last time either, but I’m trying… I guess I’m just not cut out for the big wings.”

With the last word Gabriel’s tears returned, painting darker droplets on the clouds beneath him. The man sat beside him, draping the edge of his blanket around them both.

“What d’you want most in the world? Is it your wings?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“Maybe it doesn’t. Humour an old stranger?”

“I guess not my wings… I want people to be loved most of all. But I can’t do that without my wings.”

“Sure you can.”

The man reached inside of his cape and pulled something out, keeping it clutched inside of his hand. He opened his palm and held a minute key out to Gabriel. It emitted a slight glow and quivered when he picked it up and examined its every angle.

“When everyone else looked as instructed, you hesitated. Not out of disinterest or laziness but you saw something, what did you see?”

“How d’you know that?”

“What did you see, Gabriel?”

“A little girl, crying. She’d torn her wing.”

“Yes…”

“So I went to help her, showed her where her teacher was.”

“And then you were late back. You didn’t see it.”

“No, and now I’m going to get moved back a year. Who are you anyway? How d’you know my name?”

“I’m what everyone saw of course. But you stopped to help someone in need, to be kind and loving. That’s more important than blind obedience.”

Gabriel turned the key over in his hand and smiled.

“Really?” He turned back to the man.

But when he looked, he wasn’t there.

 

While trawling through magazines and prompt books looking for inspiration I found this, an old competition that has since ended. The challenge to begin and end a story with the line ‘when he looked, it wasn’t there’. I’ve changed the word ever so slightly but this is what I’ve come up with. It’s turned out sounding a little deep and religious but it wasn’t really meant that way at all. I guess Gabriel and the mysterious man took over their story this time…

 

 

Grey Clouds

Grey Clouds

Take One.

I’d been at school less than thirty seconds before I saw the dreaded sight in my classroom. She stood with her mum, a stupid fake tear rolling down her cheek and lips quivering; they call them crocodile tears and I can see why – for me, her tears are dangerous. My teacher looks concerned, his baby-shaved face pulled in at the centre creating train tracks of worry between his bushy eyebrows.

I wondered what it was this time. Last week someone had stolen a water balloon from the Science cupboard and I’d got the blame. Another time they said I’d kicked someone and a cross dinner lady with sharp, angry eyes followed me all lunch time, arm in arm with the auburn haired liar.

Rain poured out of grey clouds that gathered overhead. I wondered why they wanted to be here, I definitely didn’t! But I was glad they came because their fat drops of water were useful for hiding the smaller, saltier ones falling out of my eyes.

 

Take Two.

I’d been at work less than thirty seconds before I saw the dreaded sight through the glass walls of the boardroom. Alex stood there: jet black suit and condescending salmon tie to remind all spectators of his sexuality. I never cared who he loves, or what gender they are, but since I rejected his advances it seems he’d rather come to work if I didn’t arrive. My boss stood to attention opposite, his hair holding so much wax it stood straight with him and his pale cheeks the colour of the aforementioned tie – probably a reaction to some sort of awkward accusation he would now have to deal with.

I wondered what it was this time. Last week he’d found homophobic notes (written in his own swirling hand) stuck on a post-it on his desk; of course I’d been blamed. Another time some of my paperwork had been stolen and I’d spent a week catching up under the steaming angry glare of my boss.

Rain poured out of the sky to knock on the windows as though it was requesting entry, I couldn’t see why it’d want to come in here – I’d rather be anywhere else. I looked at my busy desk and its coating of papers which were today’s workload, it seemed like a desert island with the surrounding desks a hostile armada. I wondered how long I’d survive.

 

I saw a writing exercise in a magazine where you change a detail in a story and see how its impact changes. I thought it was an interesting opportunity to compare bullying in school with the same situation as adults in a workplace. The first take is a personal memory and the bullying I faced at school was harmful to my development and a horrible experience. Luckily I haven’t been bullied as an adult, but from this exercise I can see it must be terrifying.

Advice for children and parents

Advice for adults

 

Grandmother’s Inventory.

Grandmother’s Inventory.

Why it was there I don’t know, but there was a spring weight crouching on the ground among the roses.  My Grandmother had been a strange woman but I can’t think why she would have kept such an old, rusted and clearly broken weight… and as to why she kept it in her garden, well that’s a whole other question.

It was slightly hidden by two frayed feathers, and perhaps she’d forgotten it was there or something. I pursed my lips together and squeezed my eyes into tiny slits on the emotionless mask of my face, I’d never know now. All of the questions I had for my Grandmother would remain unanswered forever.

Once composed I scribbled Spring Weight into the inventory and impulsively bathed it in yellow highlighter ink. As I looked up from the page a moose wandered into the garden, or else I imagined it, but I swear I saw its one ear twitching and a space where the other had once been. It smiled at me, or so it appeared, with soft doughy eyes that clearly wanted something.

It jumped at the road of an aircraft thrumming overhead, and ran away without giving me another look. The aircraft engine filled the air with its sound as it soared past, lower than usual in the sky and as I watched its blurred grey shell shoot through the air I wondered whether the plane was her’s too, she certainly had her fair share of odd possessions.

I turned back to the inventory and scribbled MOOSE .

 

I did this exercise at ‘Neptune’s Last Stand’ Creative Writing Group. It’s a quickfire writing exercise where we have to incorporate a random selection of objects or words into our writing. You can find more information and writing from the group here.

Neptune.

Neptune.

With a firm tug she pulled the bell rope artfully downwards until it emitted a perfectly timed chime. It was heavy, and at sixty years old she felt the ache of strenuous exercise like an uncomfortable heat in her arms. She reminded herself that she was the Lion Goddess: strong and powerful, Queen of the world… she would not grow old and give up.

However, shortly after her empowering thought she started suddenly and did the unthinkable – she dropped the bell rope! She’d left the doorstop in the living room door. This doesn’t sound like much of a worry; but she could picture her daughter’s fish Neptune swimming peacefully in his bowl, completely unaware of the cat who now had access to the room.

Panic flew through her mind like paper aeroplanes, never stopping long enough to form a solution. The cat would be circling the bowl and getting ready a tasty lunch treat. There was nothing to be done – her daughter’s fish would just have to be a tasty meal for the cat.

 

I did this exercise at ‘Neptune’s Last Stand’ Creative Writing Group. It’s a quickfire writing exercise where we have to incorporate a random selection of objects or words into our writing. You can find more information and writing from the group here.