Kreative Kue 171 asked for submissions based on this photograph:
My thanks to John W Howell, author of the John Cannon trilogy of My GRL, His Revenge, Our Justice and Circumstances of Childhood, and who blogs at Fiction Favorites, who sent:
Archie by John W. Howell © 2018
“Hey, Archie what are you doing?”
“Oh, man I have this itch that I can’t reach.”
“Itch. You gotta be kidding me.”
“No, I swear. It is driving me crazy.”
“How could that be?”
“I have no idea. There is a spot right in the middle of my back that’s killing me.”
“You better not let the curator see you moving around. You’ll get cashiered. or worse.”
“Any suggestions on getting that spot then?”
“Are you certain you can’t just wait until nighttime.”
“I think I know what the problem is.”
“The sun. It is so hot I can feel something dripping down my back.”
“Oh, now that is serious.”
“Who can we call?”
“You can’t let on that you are alive.”
“Why not? I certainly am.”
“You are made of wax. You know that. To be alive and made of wax is the stuff of horror movies.”
“So what do I do?”
“Can you back up slightly into the shade more.”
“I’m going to melt is what you are saying.”
“I don’t think it is that bad. Just hold on till nightfall.”
“It is just so hot.”
“Come on Archie, stay with me. Hush, here comes the curator.”
“Who left this archer out in the sun? Don’t you people know he could melt. Move him in the shade.”
“How’s that feel Archie?”
“I thought I was a goner. Feels better. The itch is gone. I hope tomorrow is a better day.”
“Let’s hope those guys don’t move you into the sun again.”
“Now I’m worried.”
I’m delighted to welcome Daima Hussain, co-author of Pakistani lifestyle blog Charda Suuraj. My advice? Take a look at Daima’s blog, it gives a view of her country and culture that acts as a balance against the impression we are often given by the news services. Daima was inspired by the image to pen this story:
It’s Always the Prince by Daima Hussain © 2018 Charda Suuraj
“No, no, no, this is all wrong. All wrong!” moaned the prince, pacing back and forth in front of the armory. He shot a baleful glare at his adviser once more and stopping in his tracks; asked in an incredulous yet expectant tone, “Well?! Aren’t you going to do something to fix this?!”
“Yes, your highness”, sighed his long suffering adviser. He was short, pale and sickly looking; having black hair with pale white skin. Just as he was about to open his mouth and say something to the third man standing in the room; he was interrupted.
“Merde! What is wrong this time, then?” spoke the tall and ridiculous looking Frenchman standing in one corner of the room. His name was Armand Bacque and he was wearing an eye-searing red shirt with poufy sleeves and skin tight grey leather pants. He was holding a basket full of odd ends and bobs, like thread and scraps of brightly coloured silk.
“What is wrong? Arfan, he is asking what is wrong! I have never seen such a ridiculous looking costume in my life! Just look at him, he won’t even be able to intimidate a kitten in that outfit! I thought I told you to bring me an expert! I shall be laughed out of my kingdom if my foreign guests see this!” seethed the prince in outrage, waving helplessly in anger at the last man in the room. This man was wearing, what arguably was a typical Western Archer’s uniform.
“You go too far your highness! Why, it is a Masterpiece of design; the bright colour, the bold metallic contrast and that bow just sets it off wonderfully! I even procured a matching helmet and leather detailing! So far you have rejected every design I have come up with – unreasonably, I might add. If you keep insulting my skill, I shall take my expertise elsewhere!” exclaimed the Frenchman, dropping his basket and puffing up in indignation. Arfan opened his mouth to try to soothe the man’s ravaged pride, before being cut off yet again; by the Prince this time.
“A masterpiece of design he says! It looks ludicrous; he looks like he stole a dress from my little sister’s wardrobe! All it is missing is the frills! And it doesn’t even have a pace for his sword! I ask you to design an intimidating western styled guard uniform and you give me this! I refuse to believe that guards in England dress this way, why, no one would ever take them seriously. Our holdings are one of the richest and most prosperous in India . Are you trying to sabotage my father, the Sultan Temur’s image?!” ranted the prince passionately. This whole time the Frenchman’s face had been getting redder and redder, and it seemed to Arfan that he had finally reached critical mass.
“That’s IT! I Quit! No more of this nonsense! I shall take my talents where they are better appreciated! The Prince of Athens has been inviting me to his palace for weeks. I declined him to work for the great Ahmed Khan Sartaj, because I Had heard of your majesty, but it turns out that rumors are just that -rumors!” said Armand, after saying that he kicked aside the basket and stormed out of the room, cursing in French the whole time.
There was a dead silence in the room for a few moments and then the prince said, “A bit high-strung isn’t he, that one? Oh well, since that project was a bust, let’s go to the kitchens and ask them if they are capable of French cooking good enough to impress our foreign guests.” Said the prince, unperturbed and already moving on to his next scheme. Armand, sighed heavily in defeat and followed after him.
“Um, your highness, may I take my leave?” the soldier in the archer’s costume called out after them. Neither of them heard him, the prince busy elaborating on his latest plan and Arfan busy trying to talk him out of it.
Consequently the poor soldier slept in that outlandish costume and later was discovered in the morning by his commanding officer, who was ready to reprimand him severely for abandoning his post. Upon seeing his outlandish garb, however the commander just sighed and muttered resignedly, “The prince, it’s always the prince. Just get back to work, soldier.”
My effort was:
Like all kids, I had heroes when I was growing up. No, not Robin Hood, Ivanhoe or any of that lot; not even Batman or Superman and the other so-called Super Heroes. At first, I went for the action detectives: Simon Templar, Rockford, you know the sort. But it wasn’t the action that got me excited, it was the crime-solving part of the job. If you’d seen me in PE classes, you’d soon have understood that tough-guy physical wasn’t my thing. No, I’d be a Columbo, a Poirot or, these days, probably more CSI than CID. If I were growing up today, my heroes would be people like Gil Grissom from CSI, Jack Hodgins (or almost any of the interns) from Bones, or Tim McGee or Jimmy Palmer from NCIS. Yeah, the nerdy ones. I’ll admit it, intellectual acrobatics float my boat so much more than physical ones ever could.
By my mid-teens, I’d discovered Perry Mason and other courtroom dramas. These examples of the art of adversarial argument sowed the seed that eventually led to my desire to follow a career in the legal profession. I saw myself delivering oratorial excellence in the courtroom, turning the jurors’ minds with a well-crafted argument and winning justice for the oppressed, freedom for the innocent and proper judicial treatment for the evil miscreants that I believed were hiding in dark corners at every turn.
After much thought and study, I believed my calling would ultimately lead me to the bar. No, silly, the one where justice, not alcohol is dispensed. I decided I should study law at university and aim to become a barrister. Again, barrister, not barista! I started frequenting the public galleries of some of the highest courts in the land, soaking up the well-researched and cleverly-phrased arguments presented by the prosecution and defence briefs. I loved the air of superiority these people had about them, aided by the props of gowns and wigs, and the rigidly formal if somewhat archaic nature of the proceedings. It seemed to me that the actors I had been following on the television versions of courtroom dramas had captured the reality with great accuracy. The only difference I could see between the actors and the real practitioners was that the latter didn’t work to a script drafted by others.
Posing as a college news reporter, I secured an interview with a clerk to a senior barrister. What I learned from her transformed my opinions. I shall probably never know for sure if her boss was typical of the profession; I don’t even know for sure if what she said was true, or just something invented to get rid of the unwanted intrusion of a wannabe reporter. What was clear was that, far from representing the brilliance of one person, the notes from which the barrister takes his or her cues, as well as all of the opening remarks and the bulk of the closing statement as presented are the result of long hours of input from an entire team of researchers and what could well be termed copy-writers. After she’d told me that, I asked her what her boss actually added to the case. Cutting through the verbiage, she said, in effect, that the barrister adds performance, drama, pathos, whatever is needed, as well as being able to react quickly if something happens to change the mood of the proceedings. When pressed, she admitted that if, for example, a witness gives testimony that differs significantly from what was expected, or introduces new facts, the barrister would call for a short adjournment, during which key members of the team would go to work. If there’s no time for that, the barristers have to think on their feet.
At that point, in my perception, the distinction between actor and barrister became somewhat foggy. Both work to an agreed script provided by a team of writers, and both have the ability to go off-script and improvise if the need arises. It was also clear that there are many cases where the barrister has to defend someone he or she does not fully believe to be innocent and so their job is to sow doubt through confusion and obfuscation to give them ‘the most robust defence possible’.
I think that was when I decided that, if I was going to go into a profession that required me to stand up and defend that which I don’t necessarily believe – I won’t say lie, that would be a serious disservice to the profession – then I might as well concentrate on my performance and leave others to craft the language. The deeper I looked, the more jobs I found where insisting on saying what you actually mean can be a distinct disadvantage. At one level (with politicians at the top but it’s by no means just them) there’s a refusal to answer questions or a rigid adherence to the ‘official’ line, and it goes all the way down to telling your boss what he wants to hear; like ‘of course I can stay an extra hour – the kids will be fine with their minder’.
My parents tried to tell me that I had made the worst possible choice of career, but my mind was made up. I went to drama school and became a card-carrying member of the thespian community and, like so many members of the profession, spend more time in receipt of benefits than of real money, more time in auditions than on the stage or set. But I persevered. I knew that there would be a role for me – something to get my teeth into so I could establish myself as a name. I tried out for more parts than I care to count, and when my agent called to tell me he’d secured me a period part, I was hoping for a costume drama, a fantasy series like Game of Thrones or one of those royalty pieces that are so popular these days.
I didn’t expect to be dressed as a medieval knight, guarding the entrance to a bloody toy shop!
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 email@example.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 – pingbacks don’t often work.
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.