Which way?

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“Oh, William. Look how beautiful the sky is.”

“What?”

“I said, look how beautiful the sky is. Do try to keep up.”

“You woke me up to say that?”

“You can’t sleep through all of nature’s beauty, William; it’s unnatural.”

“Waking me up to talk about the state of the sky is what’s unnatural. Sleeping is not only natural, it’s essential to fundamental health and wellbeing. We’re supposed to be on holiday, for pity’s sake.”

“You’ve had enough sleep, William. Get up and come outside with me to wonder at nature’s bounty.”

“The only bounty I’m interested in wondering at is the chocolate-coated one filled with desiccated coconut.”

“Oh, honestly, William Bickerson. Sometimes you are so… what’s the word I’m looking for?”

“Tired? Sleepy? Relaxed? Laid back? On holiday?”

“No, dear. Obscure. That’s the one.”

“Do you mean obscure?”

“Yes. Insensitive and lacking understanding.”

“That’s obtuse.”

“That’s what I said, isn’t it?”

“If you say so, dear.”

“Now get up, William, chop chop, and come outside with me so we can marvel at nature’s display.”

“How long have I been asleep?”

“That doesn’t matter, William. Get up. Come on!”

“It matters to me.”

“Why?”

“Because I need to know what to wear. Never mind; let me get my compass.”

“You’re making no sense at all, William. I’m wondering whether bringing you camping was such a good idea after all. How is your compass going to inform your choice of apparel?”

“I need to know which way we are facing; if the sun is rising in the east or setting in the west.”

“I still don’t understand how that will have any bearing on what you choose to wear.”

“If the sun is rising, I’ll need to dress for rain, obviously, but not if it’s setting.”

“Just get up and get dressed, man, for heaven’s sake. What’s all this nonsense about rain? It’s not going to rain.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because the weather forecast…”

“When did you last hear a weather forecast?”

“I listened very carefully to the long-range forecast at the beginning of summer. That’s from our government, William. It’ll be right. The government always gives us reliable information. I’s their job.”

“And what did this reliable forecast say, exactly?”

“I remember very clearly, as I listened most attentively. No significant rainfall this month, the nice man said.”

“Well, I prefer to listen to the farmers. They know their weather patterns and they understand the signs.”

“And what do the farmers say, William?”

“Red sky at night: shepherd’s delight. Red sky in the morning: shepherd’s warning.”

 

This original fiction was written in response to Kreative Kue 388 published on this site earlier this week.

 

Kreative Kue 388

Kreative Kue 387 asked for submissions based on this photograph:

Leopard Tortoise

John W Howell is a multiple nominated and award-winning author who blogs at Fiction Favorites. Details of John’s books can be found on his Amazon author page

60 Minutes by John W. Howell © 2022

“So you are the head tortoise.”

“Yup.”

“I wonder. Do you have a name?”

“I do.”

“Uh, could you share it?”

“Tom.”

“Tom the tortoise?”

“Just Tom.”

“What makes you the head tortoise?”

“Oldest.”

“How old are you?”

“Not sure.”

“How do you know you are the oldest?”

“Been told.”

“By whom?”

“The second oldest.”

“I guess I could ask how the second oldest knew he was the second oldest, but I imagine the answer would be, He was told by the third oldest.”

“Yup.”

“I’m doing this interview for the show 60 Minutes. Ever hear of it?”

“Nope.”

“Our viewers are interested in information about things. For example, we heard you tortoises live a long time.”

“Yup.”

“Erm. Do you have any secrets?”

“Who doesn’t?”

“To a long life, I mean.”

“Stay away from drugs, tobacco, and alcohol.”

“You gotta be kidding. Where would a tortoise get drugs, tobacco, and alcohol?”

“Can’t.”

“So your advice is hollow.”

“Yet I’m the oldest of the old.”

“I suppose you have a point.”

“Damn right.”

“What’s that in your mouth?”

“Grass.”

“Ah ha.”

“For heaven’s sake.”

“You said no drugs.”

“Tallgrass. No news here. Sorry, Leslie.”


My effort was:

Story time

Sit yourselves down now, kids. Grandpappy’s got a story to tell you.

No, Elmer, it won’t be long and boring, and neither was the last one, before you start. Or the one before that, or indeed any of them; and I’ll thank you to confine your rebellious and rude talk to when you’re with kids of your own age. In this society, it’s generally accepted and expected that young’uns will show a bit of respect for their elders. So, sit down, shut up and listen – unless you’d prefer a spell in the hibernation box…

This, kids, is a tale of intrigue and excitement. An account of high adventure and great danger. A narrative, if you will, of extreme derring-do.

I shall speak to you of events that took place when I was not much older than you are now—

No, Henry Junior, you haven’t heard this one before. Why not? Because I haven’t heard it myself yet.

Now. Where was I? Oh yes—

You’re right, James. I hadn’t started, but if you’ll allow, I shall do so now.

Picture the scene. The year is 1922—

Yes, Albert, a hundred years ago.

Indeed I am. I passed my first century anniversary two decades ago.

What’s that? The reason I said my first century is simply because I have every expectation that it won’t be my last.

Yes, Matilda, I plan to live to be at least two hundred years old.

Haven’t they? Then perhaps I’ll be the first.

To continue – the year was 1922, and I had just celebrated my twenty-first birthday. My pappy took me to a drinking house so I could have what he thought was my first taste of an alcoholic beverage. When we got there—

Yes, Marigold, I did say ‘what he thought was my first taste of an alcoholic beverage.’ I said that because, like many of you – okay, almost all of you – I had been getting hold of some illicit booze from other kids for a good while by then.

Thank you, Brian, I remember where I was. When we got to the drinking house, we found it closed. There was a sign outside saying that our local council had revoked the licence to sell alcohol in solidarity with the prohibition movement in the United States. I can tell you that Pappy was far from pleased with that. He liked his drink, did my pappy. Never got drunk, not that I’d noticed, anyway, but he did enjoy a swig or two of an evening. And it looked like he wouldn’t be able to any longer.

He couldn’t understand why I wasn’t as annoyed as he was. When I said, ‘no reason,’ he threatened to starve me until I told him. Back then, you see, it was traditional for young lads to go to the drinking house with their pappies on their coming of age to sample their first drink and be initiated into the joys of alcohol. It was something we looked forward to and Pappy was right to think I’d at least be disappointed if we couldn’t do it.

Yes, Nigella, the age of consent was twenty-one then. Coming of age at eighteen is a relatively new thing.

So, Pappy was wondering how he could mark my majority, given that the drinking house was closed and other methods of introducing young males to pleasures only available to adults hadn’t really hit this town yet. You see, some sort of rite of passage has been a thing with our kind since forever and Pappy felt that he would have failed as a father if he hadn’t done something special to mark the occasion.

We talked about combat of some kind but hey – look at me. Do I look like a fighter?

So, I caved in and told Pappy that a group of older boys had been secretly running an independent alcohol; production facility for some time, and that even though the drinking house was closed, we could still get hold of—

No, Stephen, there were no supermarkets, liquor stores or off-licences back then. The only place you could legally buy alcoholic drinks was the town’s drinking house and even then, you had to consume it on the premises. The idea of drinking at home was something that had never been officially explored.

Unofficially, of course, Gerald’s production facility – he called it a still, presumably because it had never been found and shut down – allowed those of us the know to drink whenever and wherever we chose. However, it was against the law, and that’s where the intrigue, adventure, danger and derring-do come into the story.

But that’s for another time. Rush on home now, kids, your Mammies will have your feed ready, and you’ll need a nap after all this excitement.


Raymond Walker offered this eerie tale of adventure and danger. Raymond is a prolific author whose main web site is at http://raytwalker.com/. Details of Raymond’s books can be found on his Amazon author page

Hymn To Demeter. The Original Thanksgiving. © 2022 Raymond Walker 

“On this night my sisters we give thanks to Demeter the goddess of fertility, we thank her for our strength in adversity. Our daughters were taken from us and sold into servility much as we ourselves were”.

I can only imagine what was said, what form thanksgiving took. No one knows. At that time women held no power other than fertility; they were not taught to read or write and as no male was allowed to attend the festival so no record of “The Thesmophoria” exists other than hearsay.

Yet this “Thanksgiving” was no minor thing, celebrated in the classical world from Sicily in the west to Asia Minor in the east, from Macedonia in the north to North Africa in the South and it is suggested that this festival predated even that arising in the neolithic age. (In Greek terms from 7000-3200 BCE) For the Greeks it celebrated Persephone rising from the underworld and rebirthing the sun. For other earlier races we delve into prehistory. Other than that, thanksgiving celebrated fertility, much the same as it does today in North America and other countries throughout the world


I am old, and have been for many years, hatched on the shores of the Peloponnese I walked for many years, bred, laid eggs in the sand and arid clay and wandered some more until my legs were pulled from my shell and cracked, thrown aside, my two hundred years gone in an instant as the boiling water covered me.

The women of Asia Minor, Greece, Italy, Phoenicia and so many lands had grown together to celebrate their one hold on the world. The power to give birth, to seed the new age of heroes but who is to say that my next clutch would not have given us a hero of the Testudinidae world?
N.B. At feasts Tortoise and Turtle was a firm favourite with the Greeks and Carthaginians.


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Using this photo as inspiration, write a short story, flash fiction, scene, poem; anything, really; even just a caption for the photograph. Either put your offering (or a link to it) in a comment or email it to me at keithchanning@gmail.com before Sunday evening UK time. If you post it on your own blog or site, a link to this page would be appreciated, but please do also mention it in a comment here. Thank you for taking part.

Sunday Serialisation – Back Paige. Chapter eight, part two.

Composing herself, Sarah called her boss.

“You don’t need to tell me, Sarah. I know they’ve asked you to go down to the planet with the mission tomorrow. And before you say anything else, I tried to block it.”

“Why?”

“From my point of view, I need you to concentrate on your real work here. You’ve already wasted too much time on this language nonsense. We still have thousands of items to clean, examine and catalogue, and I can’t spare an experienced member of my team to go off on some frivolous jolly that probably won’t advance our understanding one iota. Remember, Sarah, you are contracted to this project as an archaeologist, not a translator!”

“So you tried to stop it?”

“I did. Unfortunately, I failed. It seems that, although we are none of us members of their military, we are still subject to their silly rules and they, or at least the Admiral and her pet captain, can overrule me. Me, a tenured professor with a full doctorate from one of the top universities in the world. And what has she got? I’ll tell you what she’s got. A pretty face and a knockout body. And if the rumours I hear are true, the ability and the ruthlessness to use them both to get her way.”

“You sound bitter, Professor.”

“I am bitter. I worked hard to get where I am. Nothing was ever handed to me on a plate. And I’m usurped by a floozy who, from what I’ve heard, slept her way to the top.”

“Professor: I’ve studied Miss Smithson’s career. She’s an inspiration to me, and there’s a great deal more to her than you are giving her credit for. By the way, you do know that the ship’s AI routinely monitors all communications, don’t you?”

“I don’t care if it does. I’ve had enough of this lot. I want to go home.”

Sarah’s time working with the AI had given her an appreciation of its reach and of its capabilities. She knew that nothing good would come of that conversation and was not surprised when another priority message arrived. This was from Commander Paige Boyle, head of Administration and Personnel Management. It called Sarah into an urgent meeting in the commander’s office.

This did nothing to help Sarah’s mental state, but she went along and seated herself opposite the personnel supremo.

“Before we start, Sarah, let me just say that you are not under investigation. You probably know what we’re going to talk about, and if you feel you’d like someone independent to support you, you have only to ask.”

“I’m okay, Commander.”

“Good. Now, I understand that your recent work with the AI has given you an appreciation of its reach.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“In fact, in the conversation with Professor Kenyon, which is the subject of our chat, you pointed this out to the professor.”

“I did, in the hope that she would ease back a bit.”

“On?”

“On the statements she was making about the admiral.”

“So we know what we are talking about. Good. Were you aware of these rumours the professor mentioned?”

“I knew they existed, but I’ve never subscribed to them. In fact, I never even heard the detail of it, just that some people said the things Professor Kenyon mentioned.”

“But you have studied her career?”

“Yes, Ma’am. As I have the careers of Admiral Winstanley and a number of men and women from previous times who had overcome their humble beginnings and made it to the top in their fields.”

“And you think Admiral Smithson is one of those?”

“I do. Very much so. When you consider that as a nerd – and I mean no disrespect by using that word, as I’m one, myself – she had to do some pretty drastic things just to be accepted.”

“Yes, I’m familiar with her backstory, too, and that’s one of the reasons I hold her in such high esteem. That and the way she has developed from a mathematician to an effective commanding officer of this project.”

“And her handling of the sickness and the deaths that resulted from it. I am in awe.”

“I think I’ve heard enough for now, Sarah. I just wanted to be sure you don’t share Professor Kenyon’s feelings. I shall need to talk to her next.”

“What’s likely to happen to her? I mean, she is a remarkable woman in her own right.”

“What do you think should happen to her, Sarah?”

“That whole outburst was so out of character for Professor Kenyon. There must have been something behind it; some underlying cause. It was so unlike her. I wonder if she’s just homesick. She did say she wants to go home…”

“That can’t happen. Not yet, anyway. She knows too much; and after her outburst, we can’t absolutely rely on her discretion. Fortunately, it’s not for you or me to decide.”

“Who, then?”

“Under normal circumstances, it would be the commanding officer’s decision, but in view of the circumstances, I shall recommend, once I have all the facts, that the most senior officers on board form a disciplinary committee for that purpose. There should be such a committee anyway, it’s not right that one person should have sole responsibility for dispensing justice on board. Thanks, Sarah. I shan’t be bothering you again about this. Have a good trip tomorrow.”