Kreative Kue 196

Kreative Kue 195 asked for submissions based on this photograph:
John W Howell is the author of the John Cannon trilogy of My GRL, His Revenge, Our Justice and Circumstances of Childhood, co-author of The Contract, and blogs at Fiction Favorites.

The Wager by John W. Howell © 2018

“Let me buy you a drink, my man.”

“That is very nice of you given the circumstances.”

“Ah what the heck. Life is too short.”

“But it seems like one would feel a little remorse.”

“Remorse? For what?”

“Well, it seems like a pretty goodly amount of money.”

“Yeah, but you know what they say, ‘easy come, easy go.”’

“I know if it were me, I don’t think I would take it so well.”

“You have to remember who suggested the wager.”

“That’s true. I guess if you hadn’t prepared yourself to lose you never would have suggested going title to title on a boat race.”

“That part is true. You see I really had not too much to lose.”

“What are you talking about? That is a gorgeous five-masted schooner.”

“You know the old saying, ‘one mans trash, another man’s treasure.”‘

“Yeah, I’ve heard that.”

“See, I have been trying to sell that tub for over two years with no takers.”

“That is surprising. It is a classic.”

“Yes, it is. Loaded with barnacles and filled with woodworms.”

“So you are saying you are glad to get rid of it.”

“You tell me. The last salvage estimate I got was over a million.”

“Someone would pay you a million?”

“No, I would have to pay a million to get rid of it. Now, how about that drink?”

“Now it is my problem.”

“Yup and at a leakage rate of one hundred gallons an hour, I think you better figure out what to do with it. Those pumps are pretty old. Maybe tow it beyond the shelf and scuttle it.”

“Gin on the rocks.”


Meanwhile, my effort was:

Avast!

A sailor from Trincomalee
Set off for adventure at sea,
He sat in the poop
Of a three-masted sloop
With his two mates, Abdullah and Lee.

“We’re making sail for the Antilles,”
Said the captain, which gave Lee the willies.
“We’ll be in good shape
If we go round the cape.”
Does he think we’re a bunch of hillbillies?

They first passed the Cape of Good Hope
Where they were all blessed by the Pope;
But all his best wishes
Won’t wash any dishes
For that you need water… and soap.

They crossed the Atlantic at last,
After many long days they had passed
Eating off dirty plates
And fighting with mates
Till the loser was tied to the mast.

They then tried to make it a race
With a clipper going to the same place.
“We won’t be as fast
With one fewer mast”
Said Abdullah – he of the long face.

Their expressions could not have been blanker
When they saw the damned clipper at anchor.
“The *!#s must have cheated!”
The captain expleted,
“Either that, or their skipper’s a highly skilled navigator, more than worthy of his commission.”


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, 9.3

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 nine, part three

Although we’d agreed that Sophie didn’t mean everything she had said that night, we accepted that there’s no smoke without fire, and even if her reaction was more extreme than it would normally have been, that she said the things she did, signalled to me that these were things that concerned her. That meant that they had to be addressed.

I spoke to Emily (you’ll remember that she is head of HR at Knight Global Trading) and let her know that I would be working exclusively from home from then on, and gave her a list of things I would need from the office to help me. Since before David was born, I had been sharing a PA with Emily, an arrangement that she didn’t feel could work if I weren’t physically there. The only use I had for a PA was to maintain my diary and act as my gatekeeper – never a full-time job anyway – so we compromised. We would have a VOIP telephone installed in my office at Knight Towers. This to be configured as an extension on the KGT switchboard (don’t ask me how, I make the decisions, bigger brains than mine figure out how to make it work), Alan, Emily’s PA, could continue to look after my diary and still act as my telephone and email gatekeeper; I didn’t think I’d need a physical gatekeeper, as Knight Towers is, compared to the central London office, somewhat remote.

We had read thoroughly, all the literature that Dr Lockhart gave to Sophie, and studied the websites. We now have a good understanding of what is happening to Sophie and why, and what steps she can take, and I can take with her, to help alleviate it. What I didn’t find, though, is any advice as to how I should deal with it, how I should react when she’s in a bad mood and taking it out on me – I know she never meant to, that it was all caused by hormone imbalance; but was I supposed to just stand there like a punching bag? Or would that have annoyed her more? Should I have fought back? Or tried reasoning with her, which hadn’t helped so far. The only thing I found that was at all helpful was the old adage, attributed to medieval Persian Sufi poets, “This, too, shall pass”. But that still didn’t tell me whether I should have taken it on the chin (and be criticised for not being a man), reasoned with her (and be criticised for patronising her), fought back (and inflamed the situation) or simply taken my leave (yeah, like that would have helped). The thing was, there was no point asking calm-Sophie what I should do because she wasn’t in control when these things struck. I decided to play it by ear, and just try to be understanding and supportive. She was going through a bad time, and all I was being asked to do was to accompany her.

I tried that for a while and eventually learned that it was easier to roll with the punches, which also had the advantage of, if not shortening, then at least not extending the length of the arguments. Ultimately, I chose to accept being pilloried as a coward, a mouse, less than a man, rather than risk getting into a slanging match worthy of a Presidential debate. It was hard, but realising that the whole business was harder for Sophie than it could ever be for me helped me to keep it in perspective. The most difficult job was explaining to a five-year-old why his Mummy keeps on getting in a bad mood with him, and convincing him that it wasn’t anybody’s fault; not mine, and certainly not his. Eventually, he accepted that, or appeared to, and put on a brave face of dealing with it with equanimity, following his father’s example. I knew for a fact, though, that the number of nights he cried himself to sleep was greater than the number of nights he didn’t – and that’s what was eating me up.

Over the following months, though, things slowly improved. Whether it was down to the changes in diet that one study recommended, to the combination of relaxation exercises and increased physical activity (who knew badminton could be such fun?), to the herbal supplements that Dr Lockhart suggested, or to a cunning mix of all three, I neither knew nor cared. From her point of view, Sophie was more at peace with herself and gradually enjoying life more; from David’s and my point of view, she was nicer and more predictable to live with, more like the old Sophie that we loved so much.

Yes, she still had mood swings, but less frequently and significantly less severe. She was also having to put up with other symptoms of this time of her life – hot flushes, night sweats, memory lapses and so on. There is something basically unfair about life, that in the middle of her life, when she should be at her most settled, a woman has to put up with all this, when a man’s mid-life crisis is often limited to the wearing of gaudy golf trousers and jumpers, and driving a red sports car. Oh yes, and some chase after younger women, but the least said about that, the better, eh?

Hybrids part 105

a tale in weekly parts

(formerly Albert and Jarvis)

Albert, Jarvis, Trevor, Eos and Dawn

In episodes 1-88, Albert and Jarvis told the story of a bitek construct that had been in the lives of the Grahamson family for three generations. Appearing in the form of a shepherd's hut (Jarvis) and its elderly occupant (Albert), an earlier experiment had resulted in the birth of Aloysius, a non-manifesting human/bitek hybrid. Alice and Alex, the two children that Aloysius had fathered with his wife, Magdalen, displayed strong bitek capabilities from an early age, though Alice was significantly more precocious than her younger brother. Albert and Jarvis nurtured and enhanced these capabilities through many adventures until the point where, to prevent a global catastrophe, the two needed to act together. The action needed more power than the two possessed. To produce stonger hybrids, Alex's seed was used to produce a young in a distantly related hybrid female in another dimension, while Alice was impregnated using her own bitek components. Albert and Jarvis absented themselves from the lives of the Grahamsons to allow Alice's pregnancy to progress in a safe, normal environment.
You can see the full story so far at this link.


Episode 105

Madge returned some minutes later with a tray of tea and biscuits. She poured a cup each for her husband, children and grandchild and took her seat at the table. Zak was deep in conversation with Alice and Alex, so she decided to hold her tongue for a while.

“You said your relationship with the Eddies was closer than Albert’s,” Alice said, “How would you describe it?”

“It is,” Zak replied, “much closer. I would describe it as symbionic.”

“Symbionic?” Alex asked, “Don’t you mean symbiotic?”

“By definition, a symbiotic relationship exists between two different organisms living in close physical association or between different people or groups. It could, I suppose, apply to machine intelligences or other techno-mechanical constructs—”

“Like bitek—”

“Or mostly bitek, but we thought our relationship deserved a better word; like symbionic.”

“And just how close is it?” Al asked, trying desperately to keep up with the conversation.

“It’s hard to describe, Granddad.” Zak paused. “Okay. When you hurt yourself; say by sticking a needle in your finger, what hurts?”

“My finger, of course.”

“But where does the pain actually register?”

“I think I see where you’re going with this,” Madge said, “the pain registers in your brain. Your brain tells you that it’s your finger that’s hurt.”

“Exactly, Grandma. It’s not a very good example, but we and the Eddies are as close as your finger and brain. Zara and I are, too.”

“How do you mean?”

“If either of us pricks a finger, we’ll both feel the pain. That close.”

“Like the Borg?” Al said.

“What?” everyone else asked.

“You know. Star Trek. The Borg collective. They are all part of a single hive mind.”

“Well, yes. I suppose so, except we don’t lose our individuality. Think of it as a little bit like a Prime Minister’s cabinet; all individuals, but giving the same message and acting as a coherent unit.”

Al laughed. “Not in this bloody country, they’re not,” he said, “but I think we get what you mean. When I speak to one of you, I speak to all of you, sort of thing.”

“Well put, Granddad.”

Madge looked at Zak and said, “Never mind all that, Zak. I’m interested in this housekeeper robot you said about earlier. Tell me more.”

“Sorry, Gran. I shouldn’t have said that. They don’t exist yet. I guess I’m still new at this time malarkey.”

“But they will exist in the future?”

“Probably.”

“Can’t you be more definite than that?”

“Would you prefer probably not?”

“Probably not. Is that because the future’s not certain?”

“Time is like a tree, Grandma. We’re on the trunk. In front of us are branches, any one of which we might follow. Every time anyone makes a choice, it takes us down a different branch – like a fork in the road. Every branch has branches and so on until you reach the twigs. Standing here on the trunk, we may be able to see what each branch and twig looks like, but we never know which one we’ll end up on. It depends on thousands of choices made every day by billions of people – as well as other factors that people can’t even foresee, let alone control.”

“Like the butterfly effect?” Al offered helpfully.

“If you like.”

“So no help for me around the house for a while then?” Madge asked.

“You’ve always got me, Grandma,” Zak said. Madge smiled. You know the kind of smile that you make when you know you ought to smile but really, I mean really don’t want to? That kind of smile. “Let’s all get some air,” she said.

The family got up from the table and trooped out of the house, followed by three dogs each of which displayed a lot more excitement than was seemly. They walked around the garden until they came to the leylandii, behind which Jarvis had been parked, if that’s the right word to use for a bitek unit. The patch was bare grass with a three metres by two metres hard standing that Al had constructed during one particularly wet autumn when he thought that there was a risk of Jarvis getting bogged. Of course, at that time he had no idea that Jarvis was anything other than the old shepherd’s hut that he appeared to be.

“Never seen this patch without the old hut,” Al said.

“Are you wiping a tear from your eye, love?” Madge asked.

“Course not, woman. Bit of hay fever,” he lied.

“It’s alright to be sad, Dad,” Alice said, “we’ll all miss him, you know. None of us has any experience of life without Albert. Except for Mum, of course. But he’s been in our lives from the very start. All of us.”

Madge hugged Al and drew their children in. There had to be a period of adjustment, of grieving, for all of them.

Alex and Alice were aware of  the goings-on beyond the leylandii involving three dogs and one bitek construct that was also a ten-year-old child. Zak may be a super-powered post-human with the ability to converse natively with the three dogs, but he was also in the body of a pre-adolescent boy. Outwardly, everything was calm and quiet, but a look around the hedgerow would have revealed three dogs performing stunts that are physically impossible for dogs, aided and abetted by a lad whose maturity, judgement and moral compass were, at best, works in progress. Not only were they performing these deeds, but they were also, judging by the output from their brains, loving it.

Alex wandered around to where the activities were taking place.

“Zak,” he said, “are you sure dogs are supposed to be able to do that?” At the time, Ixus was lying on her back, Chav was balancing on his nose, bouncing up and down on her nose, and she was making running motions that had Isaac doing a passable impression of a hamster in a wheel, flipping over, too.

“Sorry, Alex. Can you take Isaac?”

“How?”

“Hang on, I’ll pass you control.” Alex became aware that his link with Isaac had strengthened, and he somehow felt that he was mentally holding him. “Now think him off Ixus and gently pop him back on the floor.” Alex did as Zak asked and mentally carried the puppy away.

“Wow!” he said, “That’s amazing.”

“Can’t you do that already?”

“I don’t know if I can or not, Zak. I’ve never tried it before.”

“Well, you can now. Can you lift Chav off, too?”

“You mean you put him there but can’t get him back?”

“Oh, I can, Alex. I just thought you’d like the practice,” Zak replied with a grin.

Alex raised Chav from Ixus, who immediately flipped and tried to lick Chav’s nose. Chav hates that and began growling. Alex raised him half a metre and held him there until he calmed before putting him back down on his feet.

Did you know we can do telekinesis?” Alex sent to his sister.

In theory, but I’ve haven’t tried it since we reactivated,” she replied.

Zak’s eyes glazed for a moment. “You can now, Mum,” he sent.