I work alongside a sixteen year old girl who is having a difficult time in her personal life. She left school this year, and this is her first job. She is currently caught up in a situation that no teenager shoud have to experience – hell, no adult should either.
I say this because it is her story (for want of a better phrase) that has passively inspired the last couple of days of writing. I didn’t even know I wanted to write something about it… but 1300 words on a document on my phone later, and I realised I had something to say. It started out as stuff that I wasn’t sure I had a place for, but over the course of that feverish flurry I managed to come up with a structure and glue the tale together, so less than forty-eight hours after I started writing, what I have so far is a fairly cohesive narrative that won’t take long to close off.
So, while I do sympathise with this girl in the real world, her distress has allowed my imagination to wander and perhaps gifted me a pretty good (dark) short story in the process.
So after my friend was agreeable to a proposal last weekend I figured I would go ahead and ask the same question to The Girlfriend© and see what happened. As it turned out, she quite liked the idea as well, so on September 12th, twenty-one months to the day since we got together, she has now been fully upgraded to The Fiancée©.
I wanted to add a little fun into the proposal, so I wrote twelve (not too difficult) treasure hunt style rhyming clues that led all around the house and eventuallly back to me, where I was waiting for her so that I could pop the question. You know, the usual hiding places – in a book, zipped inside a sofa cushion, tucked inside a bag of frozen peas…
I can’t recall what I said twenty minutes later once all twelve clues had been deciphered, but after a speech which I decided not to write down beforehand for fear it would sound rehearsed, she gave me an answer to the only part of the moment that I can actually remember.
We have spoken quite openly in the last couple of months about getting engaged, and with our holiday to Croatia next weekend almost upon us I know she was convinced it was going to be happening on a sandy beach on the Dalmatian coast. However, I decided I had heard about that happening far too often and I didn’t want to be someone else who did it that way.
So now we can both relax in the Croatian sunshine, and enjoy the first steps of this new chapter together.
Word count – 3,200
Night Surf is set in a post-apocalyptic world, and centres around a few young characters who have made a life for themselves on a beach. I know, the post-apocalyptic landscape is one of those genre tropes that every horror writer has to go through at some point. Yes, even me.
We find out that most of the global population has been wiped out by a particularly aggressive strain of flu, and we meet a handful of the teenagers who are left behind as a result of their immunity to the virus. And we don’t really get much else, but that’s all right.
This is an easy read, at least partly because it doesn’t try to do anything outside its wheelhouse. As with many of King’s earlier stories, it is very thin on plot and depth, but in a strange way it is refreshing to read something from him that is this… sparse. It’s short, so there is simply no space to get crazy with any extraneous details.
This is another one I can say yes to, and the best story in Night Shift so far.
Things have changed a little these days, but I am old enough to have grown up in a time when having female friends at school meant you had to be gay, although I’m not and I did. Still do. In fact, I don’t have any male friends left from my days in the classroom, just a few girls that I still count amongst those close to my heart.
Over the weekend one of those girls got engaged, and I could not be happier for her and her husband-to-be. I have known her for the best part of three decades and I have not seen her smile more than I have these last few years. She has found someone special, and we should all be so lucky as to find the same.
True friendships are rare – certainly much less common than movies and television woud have you believe. I’m not talking about the rejects you hung about with as a teenager, or the kids you played hide and seek with before that. I mean your adult friendships. These are not the people who like your selfies on Facebook or Instagram, or the ones you share a cigarette or coffee with at work: they are not your friends.
A friend is there for you when you need someone to listen, or when you need a shoulder to cry on. A friend will have your back when others will not. A friend has money for you if you find yourself without. A friend will have the guts to tell you you’re being an idiot, when you are. And a friend will stand by your side when nobody else will, through the sadness as well as the laughter.
And you will be that person for them should the need arise.
All that being said, you likely have fewer friends in your world than you think you do. But if the people in your life tick most of those boxes, you’re on to a winner, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few.
And this is one of them.
No names required: she knows who she is.
On a whim, I joined the library last week. Or, perhaps more accurately, I rejoined the library.
A long time ago I was banned from the library. I had my card stripped and my picture was put up in all the local branches, advising the librarians that I was not to be allowed within ten feet of a book. I’m not sure when the ban was lifted, but the council lost about two decades worth of my business.
The library is a strange place, and sadly somewhat of an anachronism in 2019. People don’t read anymore – certainly not the way that they used to. Okay, they still read in the same way, but… well, you know what I mean. It’s just not cool these days. Everyone has a laptop or a phone or a tablet to steal their attention, and even if they do feel the itch to read, those tools will scratch that itch too.
But now I can go back to the way it was meant to be – reading old, coffee-stained, dog-eared paperbacks, with pages folded down and notes written in the margins.
Recently I got my first speeding ticket. Ever. I was doing forty in a thirty, so we’re not talking Fast and Furious levels of acceleration here, but still: rules are rules. It was my fault – no excuses – I’m just disappointed I got one after so long on the right side of the law.
I was caught on a road that I travel along fairly regularly, and I know where all the cameras are. I must have been distracted. So my momentary lack of concentration has cost me £100 and three points on my licence.
Hopefully traffic violations are not like buses, otherwise I’ll expect another in pretty short order.
So, with the socket from the first extraction healed over nicely (well, as nicely as a hole in your mouth can heal) I went back to the surgery for my hygienist appointment a few weeks later.
The girl with the tools started on the top row as she said they were the worst affected by plaque. I couldn’t disagree. Once she got started it took a while and it was quite painful, but I just let her do her thing and didn’t argue as it was entirely my fault I was in this position in the first place.
Now, it was my understanding that all my teeth would be cleaned in this thirty minute block set aside for me. After all, I had paid £55 for the privilege. It never crossed my mind that this valet service would take place over two sessions. I thought that telling me to make another appointment was just a wee bit on the cheeky side, but I wasn’t in any position to say otherwise.
So there I was a few days later, getting my bottom row of teeth cleaned, but another £55 lighter. Admittedly, at the end of it all, my teeth did look a hell of a lot better than they had going in, but this was beginning to feel like being held up at gunpoint.
But there was only one more step to go – the second and last extraction – and then I’d have the perfect smile they promised me.
It was a promise, right?
… to be concluded…