Concrete solution

Kreative Kue 188

Kreative Kue 187 asked for submissions based on this photograph:

Regular contributor John W Howell, author of the John Cannon trilogy of My GRL, His Revenge, Our Justice and Circumstances of Childhood, co-author of The Contract, and who blogs at Fiction Favorites, has been unavailable for a few days. I look forward to seeing him back again soon.

Meanwhile, my effort was:

In concert

I wish you could have come with me, you know.

Well, I’m sure we could have got someone to sit with the kids and the dogs for the evening.

I know. It’s kind of you to let me come, but honestly, it’s not the same without you.

For starters, if you could see the people around me—

I know. I know you can hear everything, but hearing it through the phone isn’t the same as being here, is it?

No. Yeah. I get that. But still.

Of course I did. Let me tell you something. I’m sat here, union flag draped over my shoulders, union flag cushion beside me and a small one in my hand. And you know what?

Well, I’ll tell you. I’m the only one.

No, not the only one here. The only one here with any sort of patriotic symbol.

No, don’t hang up. You’re the only one I can talk to. You should see the rest of them. To look at them, you’d think we’re at a wake instead of an open-air classical concert. I’ve never seen such a miserable bunch.

Yeah, really. Take the woman sat beside me for starters. She was looking cold – well the temperature dropped quite quickly when the sun started to go down – so I offered to share my blanket with her—

Yes, you do. The open-weave one we bought for the kids when they were babies.

Yeah, it is; very old.

I look after things. I have to. You won’t let me buy new all the time, will you? So I make things last. Anyway, I put that blanket over her legs and mine—

Absolutely – it’s amazingly warm. Anyway, the last time I saw the front of her face was when she thanked me; she’s been looking away ever since.

No, not towards anybody. Not even towards the orchestra, just away from me.

Bloody rude, I’d say.

Me? I’m looking at the glass of wine beside me and loving it from afar.

Yeah, I do. Apparently, it’s a tradition that you don’t drink your wine until the orchestra strikes up Pomp and Circumstance.

Dunno. Soon, I hope.

It is a daft tradition. No-one seems to know where it came from or how it started, but people who’ve been coming here for years reckon it’s a thing.

That’s what the emcee was saying. Scotland has ‘Scotland the Brave’ and ‘Flower of Scotland’, Wales has ‘Land of my Fathers’ and ‘Men of Harlech’ and Northern Ireland has—

No, not ‘London Derrière’, ‘Londonderry Air’. But what does England have?

Yeah, I know. Cornwall and Yorkshire have their own, but England? Nothing. ‘God Save the Queen’ is the national anthem of the United Kingdom.

I was just about to say that. A lot of people reckon ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ should be England’s national anthem, and that’s what the emcee said, but its words are too imperialistic – although not as bad as the UK anthem’s – and it’s more British than English. I’d prefer Jerusalem. Nothing militaristic in there, nothing about England ruling the waves or being the master race. Don’t get me started on how many national anthems are more battle songs than anything else – designed to fire soldiers up to march to their deaths, or so it seems. No, I reckon Jerusalem is a hopeful song. It’s not saying let’s rule the world ‘cos we’re great, it’s saying let’s make our country a great place to live.

Yeah, I know it’s a bit religious, but aren’t they all? Doesn’t everybody claim the God they follow is on their side and no-one else’s?

Oh! Got to ring off now. They’re working up to start Land of Hope and Glory. That means I can have some wine, at last.

Yeah. Then as soon as it’s finished, I’ll make my way home.

Probably an hour or so.

Okay. Love you too. Bye.


On to this week’s challenge: Using this photo as inspiration, write a short story, flash fiction, scene, poem; anything, really; even just a caption for the photograph. Either put it (or a link to it) in a comment or email it to me at keithchanning@gmail.com before 6pm next Sunday (if you aren’t sure what the time is where I live, this link will tell you). 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.

Go on. You know you want to. Let your creativity and imagination soar. I shall display the entries, with links to your own blog or web site, next Monday.

Sunday serialisation – A Bump in the Knight, 7.5

In Knight & Deigh, confirmed bachelor and businessman Hannice Knight suffered a back injury that left him without the use of his legs. Sophie Deigh, physiotherapist and recent widow, devoted herself to supporting him.

On his father’s death, Hannice inherited a global business and great wealth. Then, together with Sophie, he embarked on a series of activities designed to give him some of the excitement and the freedoms that he felt he had missed out on, by being tied to his father’s business for two decades.

As Hannice’s body recovered, he became ever closer to Sophie, and found himself drifting into a relationship with her that neither had anticipated or intended, and for which neither was fully prepared.

This book follows Hannice’s new adventures as he tries to juggle business, hedonism, marriage and ultimately parenthood.

But all doesn’t go quite as he had planned…

A bump in the Knight is now being published here as a serial; one part each Sunday.


A Bump in the Knight. Chapter seven, part five

What followed resulted not so much from my misreading of the situation, as from my gender. You see; I was under attack, and my natural reaction was to try to defend myself. I almost found myself shouting back at Sophie, asking her what she had done to help, but thought better of it. Instead…

Matching her level tone, and, on reflection, sounding like a scientist explaining a basic principle to a child, I said, “We should be grateful, my dear, that the garage, which had been closed for goodness only knows how long, had a public phone on the side of it. We should be grateful that the phone hadn’t been vandalised and that it still worked. We should be grateful that, although I didn’t have any cash on me – and before you say anything, I know that’s probably my fault, too – although I didn’t have any cash, the hire company accepted a reverse-charge call. Hell, we should be grateful that there was an operator available who could speak English. We should be grateful that the man from the hire company came quickly, that he had knowledge that allowed him to appreciate David’s condition, and that he not only rushed us through to the hospital but had the contacts and the foresight to call ahead and arrange for Dr Kyriakis to be waiting for us. Quite a lot to be thankful for, don’t you think? Eh?”

“Don’t you patronise me, Hannice Knight. Don’t you dare patronise me. Now get out of here, and leave me to care for my son.”

“Our son,” I said, defensively.

“GET OUT!”

Dr Kyriakis took me by the arm and led me out of the ward. Once outside, he turned to me and quietly said, “Give her a while, Mr Knight. The maternal instinct is strong in that one. She will calm down and feel awful about the way she spoke to you. It’s perfectly normal.”

“She’ll calm down,” I said, “but when?”

“That I can’t say, Mr Knight. I’d like to keep David in overnight, just to keep an eye on him, and I expect Mrs Knight will want to stay with him. If I were you, I’d go back to the hotel now—”

“We’re not in a hotel, we have a villa just outside town.”

“Okay, go back to your villa, get some sleep, and come back tomorrow morning.”

“What time?”

“Any time after nine o’clock.”

“Okay, Doctor.”

“One other thing though, Mr Knight.”

“What’s that?”

“Do check the fuel and fill up before you come. I fear if she gets in the car and sees the fuel gauge close to empty—”

“She’ll blow again.”

“Precisely.”

I left the hospital and drove home, stopping at the filling station to top the tank on the way. I arrived at the villa at nine o’clock, knowing that twelve hours would pass before I could see my wife and son again.

Nine o’clock in the evening on Cyprus is seven o’clock in London, ten o’clock in Dar and three in the morning in Singapore. I went to bed.

I slept fitfully. I knew that this whole sorry situation was my fault, that if I’d done simple, routine things like filling the car with petrol with the same rigorous attention that I give to most other things in my life, none of this would have happened. I gave up trying to sleep at four o’clock, got up, showered and dressed, and placed a Skype call to Danny.

“What news?” I asked.

“Not much. Max is coming with her man next week, to talk about the investment business she runs. I know the basics, of course; it’s been in the annual reports for the past couple of years; but not the detail. In essence, I know what it does, but I need Max to explain how it does it.”

There being little else of substance to discuss, I shut the call down and occupied myself with some household chores that Sophie had entrusted to me.

I knew Max was habitually up and about around six o’clock, which is five o’clock Cyprus time. I left it until seven her time and made a Skype call to her. I’d caught her in the middle of breakfast, but the look on her face told me that she wasn’t put out by my call.

“Do you want me to call back,” I said, “I can see you’re eating.”

“No. I’m about finished. Stay there.” She called Kanene to clear the table for her.

“Hi, Kanene,” I shouted.

“Hello, Bwana Knight,” she replied. “Are you still happy with your home in Cyprus?”

“Delighted,” I said, “Do you have any more work?”

Max answered, “She’s had a couple of small jobs, but nothing substantive since your job. Anyway. I talked to Lindy.”

“Go on.”

“Well. When I mentioned the half-hour phone calls, he seemed to me to go a bit defensive.”

“In what way?”

“It’s hard to put my finger on, but I sensed a wall going up.”

“Go on.”

“He said that he and Tanja shared something special, but wouldn’t enlarge on that. I asked him if they were in love, and he said that most people wouldn’t describe it as that. When I asked him how most people would describe it, he became more evasive and said simply that what they had was uniquely theirs, and it didn’t need or deserve to be reduced to a tired, formulaic classification.”

“What do you suppose he meant by that?”

“Your guess is as good as mine, Boss.”

“Are you happy for this to carry on, during business hours?”

“I tackled him about that.”

“What did he say?”

“His exact words were, ‘I start work at nine in the morning. At that time it’s seven in Amsterdam. I can’t talk to her before then. By the time Tanja gets home in the evening, it’s too late here and I’m too tired to get into a long conversation. So we talk during work time.’”

“How would you describe his tone when he said that?”

“The only word I can think of is defiant.”

“That doesn’t sound like the Lindisfarne Aldredge I knew.”

“Doesn’t sound like the one I know, either, but that’s what it was.”

“You’ll need to keep an eye on that one. How’s his work, generally?”

“I can’t fault him. In terms of efficiency, accuracy, conscientiousness, in fact, every measure I know, he’s as good as he ever was. It’s just this thing with Tanja, whatever it is, and his attitude when challenged on it. I hope I don’t have to let him go.”

“It shouldn’t come to that, Max. Let’s sit on this for a while; Henk is collecting information that will hopefully throw some light on it. We’ll keep it under wraps until we have something substantive from him.”