A Year In The Life Of Howard McAllister

March 2020 – Howard found a sext-message on his girlfriend’s phone from some guy named Nick

April 2020 – Howard lost his wallet and had to wait for two weeks for a replacement bank card

May 2020 – Howard found a strangely shaped mole on the side of his torso

June 2020 – Howard lost his grandfather who had been in ICU being treated for Covid for eight weeks

July 2020 – Howard found a new route to work that meant not passing the hospital where his grandfather died

August 2020 – Howard lost his face mask on the way back from shopping in Westfield. He was not allowed on the bus and ended up walking home in the rain.

September 2020 – Howard found his boss snogging one of the cashiers in the stock room

October 2020 – Howard lost the chance to see his parents because he had a cough and a temperature

November 2020 – Howard found a note from his girlfriend saying she could not take any more and was moving out

December 2020 – Howard lost any glimmer of confidence in the government as Christmas was cancelled for London

January 2021 – Howard found a twenty pound note underneath the sofa cushions

February 2021 – Howard lost his job when the store closed and everyone was made redundant

March 2021 – Howard found an online support group whom he could talk about his dark feelings

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his little post is my response to this week’s FANDANGO’S FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE

It’s A Pea-Souper

As soon as I saw Fandango’s picture prompt in this week’s FANDANGO’S FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE, I thought to myself, “That looks like a pea-souper”. What is a pea-souper? The link below takes you to the Wikipedia explanation:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pea_soup_fog

Have you ever been in a pea-souper?

When you feel your life has become a pea-souper…and you are lost in fog so thick that you can barely see your foot in front of you, without knowing how you became so lost and not knowing how to get out of this pickle – do not despair.

Look up – even in a thick fog you can see the stars.  Take the next step in front of you. Then take another small step. Someone can see exactly where you are, how you became lost in this fog, where you have been wandering and what you need to do to get out of the fog.

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This was my response to the picture prompt provided in this week’s

FANDANGO’S FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE

FFFC

I painstakingly produced this post using the block editor and it was an interesting learning curve for me…to say the least. Is that a nice way of putting it?

No electronic devices were harmed in the production of this post…despite the frustration of the user, who was trying to make sense of the block editor.

The Lantern

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My heart was beating as I listened to my grandmother tell me about how for years she was secretly courted by a wealthy young man, despite his family being dead against their relationship.

During all those years that he and I snook away for romantic rendezvous…

We ne’er showed

Our secret code

At his abode

…to any other soul. It was a mysterious unspoken language between he and I. All those years when we were kept apart by the most miserable of circumstances, his rich aunt who detested that my father was a mere tradesman. She announced our union would be a disgrace to the noble bloodline from which she descended, and forbade him to see me.

However, with his encouragement Auntie would go away for the occasional trip to Lyme or the New Forest on one of her little vacations. My beloved would always hasten to give me that sign, so that I knew that apart from the servants, he would be alone at home and could receive me…

I’d see that light

That meant we might

Make love that night

…and I would rush down to the manor house, squeeze through the gap he had created in the perimeter walls and make my way through the pristine gardens. I had to climb the trellis erected for the wisteria, to reach his balcony. He would be there waiting to lift me over the stone balustrade.

It was terribly exciting, terribly romantic. He would kiss each one of the scratches I had incurred in my climb up over the gnarled twigs that scraped against my soft skin. He would hold me in his arms, whispering to me that it was agony not being allowed to see me.

Eventually your Grandfather spurned his rich aunt’s wishes in choosing to elope so he could marry me. In outrage, his aunt cut him out of her will. Your grandfather gave up his inheritance for me.

After his crabby aunt had passed away, he went to visit his second cousin who had received the inheritance and made just one request. Your grandfather asked for the lantern that hung in the porch on the south side of the house. His request was granted, and we fixed it up in the vestibule here at the cottage we raised our children in.

The lantern that for eight years proclaimed the message I was longing for:

“The coast is clear

You need not fear

Come in my dear”

 

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This was my response to FANDANGO’S FLASH FICTION Challenge:

Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #71

Let Me Know When It’s Over

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Since they told me to STAY AT HOME and self-isolate due to being over seventy and having angina, I have remained hidden away. I’ve lived on baked beans and tinned macaroni cheese for the past twelve weeks. The only company I have had is a little brown mouse that creeps in at night to stay warm and safe from the night owls.

Now they tell me that since I shut myself away, the whole world has gone crazy. I had no idea I made that much of a difference. Perhaps I should get myself back out there and spread a little love and kindness everywhere I go.

Or maybe I will stay within my interior rooms and let this corrupt world dismantle itself. Please knock on my door and let me know when it is all over. I’ll emerge when you tell me it is safe to do so.

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This ickle post was written in response to FANDANGO’S FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE:

Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #69

FFFC

The Spread

I had this morning off work, which gave me some extra time to catch up on a few things, including reading posts from other WordPress users. One of the posts I noticed was FANDANGO’S FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE. The picture prompt he gave us incited my thoughts…in a non-fiction direction…as you will see from my ramblings below the image.

Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #61

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A lot has happened in a short time hey! We have all seen dramatic events that we probably never imagined at the start of this year. One thing that has amazed me is the speed of this whole situation.

First of all the speed of the …you know… itself. When I looked at the photo Fandango provided us with, it helped me appreciate just how a virus can spread quickly. There are so many connections between people.

Coffee Shop, Shop, Coffee, CafeI think of my movements on an average day back in January, before our world changed. I could set off from my little nest and stop by one of the coffee shops on the high street. I would stand in a queue with half a dozen other people, and behind us would sit other customers perched on wooden chairs drinking their espresso and reading the paper.

Then I would head down to work. The closer I would get to work, the more people there would be. I would pass hundreds of people in just a fifteen minute walk. It would not be unusual to stand shoulder to shoulder waiting for the traffic lights to change with a group of thirty or forty people.

Oxford Circus Street Tube, Rush HourAt work, I would mix closely with both my colleagues and patients. After work, I would often head straight to the tube station and find myself squished on an underground train with scores of other people all racing across London at rush hour. I would enter a building with a hundred volunteers waiting for me to conduct a health and safety training session on an upcoming project. Lots of shaking hands, hugging and kisses on either cheek. Then some of my good friends and I would head out to a local eatery for some dinner.

After my journey home, I would often nip into the supermarket to buy some cashew milk or a tin of chickpeas. The back home walking along bustling pavements with drinkers and diners spilling into the road.

Piccadilly Circus, People, Crowd, BusyAnd here in London, all those hundreds of people I was in contact with on a daily basis, they are a snapshot of the whole world. I may have heard ten or more languages spoken throughout the day, for there are over three hundred languages spoken in London. Often I have no idea who lives here, or who is a tourist visiting London sites for fun. I have no idea where they have been or how many people they have been in contact with.

It’s so easy to envision how very quickly a virus can spread here.

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But there was another thought that came to my mind. How incredibly quickly news spreads. Both accurate and inaccurate news. How quickly anxiety spreads, fear spreads, panic spreads.

Berlin, Christmas MarketA virus can clearly do a lot of damage in a short space of time. But what I have suddenly realized is that when information goes viral, it can spread like wildfire. We have seen the world change in a short time. We are hoping that the damage is not insurmountable. We are hoping to see a limit to the extent of hardship people suffer due to their livelihoods being discombobulated so quickly.

But what could the future hold? If media reports, sensationalist claims, propaganda spread with the kind of speed we have seen of late – what rash acts might be carried out?

It pays to be well rooted, and strong like a well-established tree. Do not be easily shifted by the flames of propaganda. For it can do more damage than we may comprehend right now.

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This was my response to this weeks FANDANGO’S FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE.

FFFC

How Close To Being Shattered Are You?

The adage featured for today’s FANDANGO’S FEBRUARY EXPRESSIONS is:

People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones

As soon as I saw this expression, I was convinced I have written on this subject before, and it turned out I had. The post below was also prompted by Fandango, and as I am very tired, I thought you might let me off giving it another spin;

I saw the picture prompt from Fandango earlier. It made me think of one thing. Throwing stones…glass…glass houses. You should not do it! I knew that expression meant something but I could not remember exactly it’s wording or what it meant. So I did what many of us do when we are looking for answers – I googled it!

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Aron Jäger@unsplash.com

“people who live in glass houses

should not throw stones”

Amongst the various definitions and explanations Google showed me where these:

  • Hayley Williams – Sarcastic Diva

    we should not criticise others, because everybody has faults of one kind or another.

  • if you don’t take criticism well, don’t criticise others, especially not for faults you yourself have (you are likely to receive criticism in return)
  • we should be careful how we treat other people (with our words and actions) because we can all be easily hurt
  • we should not say insulting things to other people because they could easily do the same thing to us
  • we all have faults and weaknesses, who likes it when someone else points out all our faults to us?
  • people (including ourselves) can be as vulnerable as glass, “throwing stones” in the form of criticism can shatter someone

I will leave Google’s helpful explanations there. But it did bring back to my mind that there are many people who are so close to breaking. The last thing they need is criticism. If we had any idea of what was going on in somebody else’s mind and heart, we might be a lot more cautious with our words. If we had any idea of how pain-staking it is to rebuild a person who has been shattered and now lies helpless in a million jaggered pieces that are painful to touch.

Words can heal or harm. Words can crush. Caramel was crushed by words. It’s taken a lot to get over that. NO GOING BACK! I have built wooden shutters over all of my glass windows. I don’t intend to let anyone shatter me again. Close the shutters the moment someone tries to attack. Protect the highly polished and beautiful glass inside that is also very fragile and extremely precious.

But I am not always aware of those throwing stones at me. How close are they to being shattered? I should be very careful in what I say. Sometimes maybe the best reaction is just to ignore the stones and not react at all. Keep the wooden shutters firmly closed and wait until they are bored and have moved along. Hope they won’t go through the experience themselves of someone shattering them to pieces. I would hate to hurt anyone the way I have been hurt.

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This was my response to FANDANGO’S FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE:

and is also my reSponse for today’s FANDANGO’S FEBRUARY EXPRESSIONS:

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My Brother’s Bedroom

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When I saw the picture for this week’s  FANDANGO’S FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE, I thought of a real life experience from my past. The picture reminds me so much of my brother’s bedroom. I remember committing an act of theft and to make matters worse, I followed that with an outright dishonest lie of denial. I was only around five years of age at the time. I still remember it thirty years later!

It all started when I went into my brother’s bedroom. Now I was very aware of the rule that my parents had set. We were not allowed to go into my brother’s room without his permission (a rule that had been made after previous invasions). But I broke this rule and crept into my brother’s room.

I was fascinated by my brother’s belongings. He was eight years older than me. He was a very good artist. He had these little bottles of ink and tubes of gouache on his desk. I could not resist playing with them. I also found his magnifying glass and played with that until I was bored. Then I noticed next to the lamp on his desk there was some money. I took it. It was not a huge amount, perhaps £2 or £3. I slipped out of my brother’s room before I was discovered, thinking that I had got away with it.

Some time later, I heard a sound that always made me and my sisters excited. I rushed to my parents and asked them of we could have an ice-cream from the ice-cream van which was playing it’s song in the street outside. My parents said not this time. Then I asked if I could go and buy one for myself with my own money. They asked where my money had come from.

I lied, “I found it.”

“Where did you find it Mel?” they asked.

“It was on the floor outside.”

“How much did you find Mel?”

I told them how much I had and I could see my brother shooting looks at my parents. They did not react. They started to ask me if I had been painting that day. Well, I did not have any paints. There were paints at school, but we did not have any for us little ones at home. So I told them it was my felt-tips. I should have known right then that I had been caught out.

“Mel…have you been into your brother’s room?”

“Noooooo!” I fibbed again! My brother looked so cheesed off. But he waited for my parents.

“It’s just that when your brother went into his room a while ago some of his inks for painting had been spilt on his desk and chair and on the carpet. There was also paint on the handle of his magnifying glass. Is there any possibility that you might have been there – just for five minutes?”

Then came my denial, “It wasn’t me. I didn’t go in.”

“There was some money missing from his room as well.”

…well, I couldn’t bear it much longer. I came clean. I admitted that I had been in my brother’s room and took the money. It took me longer to admit that I played with his inks though.

Family, Mom And Daughter, Baby, GirlI remember vividly how my parents tried to reach my heart in their effort to help me understand why what I had done was wrong. I remember their patient way of sitting down and asking questions to determine how much we understood our own actions and whether we appreciated why what we had done was wrong.

I am so glad that my parents did help me to reason as a very small child on what was right and wrong. When I had done something that was wrong, they helped me to understand why it was wrong. They helped me to see that I had a choice: would I repeat my action? or next time I had the opportunity, would I choose to shun the wrong thought that had come into my head? They helped me to see I could learn to control any wrong thoughts or desires, and that there is a special happiness from choosing to do the right thing. I learnt that life is so much happier with a good conscience. An inner judge that says “Well done Caramel, good girl!”

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Even though it is not fiction on this occasion, this was my response to FANDANGO’S FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE:

Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #48

FFFC

Don’t Burst My Bubble

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The phone-call I received…it produced a huge swell of hope and relief and gladness in my heart. I guess it is very fragile, very delicate, at the moment. So for lots of reasons, I am going to hold it all within for the moment. If I told my family, if I told my friends, if I wrote about it on WordPress, I expect I would receive many varying opinions. Others, including those who care for me, might want to burst my bubble.

I do realize that I need to keep my head on and stay in control of my emotions. But I know me. I don’t give up hope easily. For years it has weighed on my mind that there was somebody, a person who I loved, with whom I had a rift. The peace between us was disturbed.  I have pushed on with life, with a heavy burden on my heart.

And now…there is an exquisite rainbow coloured bubble hovering in my heart that has lifted it, lifted me, and I am frightened that if I share it with everyone who knows me, there will be some who will try to burst it.

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This was my post in response to FANDANGO’S FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE:

Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #31

FFFC

Is It Too Late For Us?

Is it too late for us?

Is time really up for us?

They keep saying time heals a broken heart, not this one.

Is it too late to try?

If we made time to try?

They say people in love need to spend quality time together.

Is it too late for love?

Or is it time for love?

Because I fear on my dying day, my one regret, is that I didn’t love you enough.

times up

Mike at Pexels.com

This little post was inspired by my ex-flatmate Jack. You know the story. But it was also my response to to the picture from FANDANGO’S FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE:

Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #30

FFFC