100-word Challenge

I found myself wondering just how much of a story could be conveyed within a strict limit of 100 words (excluding any title) – so thought I would give it a try…

Telling the time

Horse races marked the passage of time; one of the few things he and his father shared as he grew up. At Doncaster, the Lincoln heralded the start of Spring, the St. Ledger the end of Summer. What was it about Doncaster and the seasons? He had been there once, disquieted by the cavernous betting hall buried beneath the stands.

Places and horses made an impression on him; time less so. Years blurred into one, all those Springs and Summers. But there could only be one Troy, one Rheingold, living on within him and outside the constraints of time.

17th September, 2017 – 99 words

Wallpaper (2)

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. She knew that. But when faced with such a scene, how was it possible not to judge, to draw conclusions? They tell men to look at the mother before marrying the daughter; perhaps, they should tell women to examine their betrothed’s bachelor pad before taking the plunge. If his were any kind of preview of the future she could expect…

He had given her a key smilingly, with confidence. As she left it on the sideboard and let herself out, she was sure very soon he would wish he hadn’t.

6th June, 2017 – 100 words

Wallpaper (1)

Everything in the room was geometric, straight. The wallpaper, a blur of triangles – white, three shades of grey, and amber – set the tone. Close up, the shapes were hypnotic, but as a backdrop they became a blend that accented the sharp, minimal, functional Ikea furniture (all in white, grey and black). There were no concessions to anything remotely spherical except in the rug before the wood-burner: a pattern of three interlocking circles, like an unfinished Olympic flag, an orange ring echoing the amber triangles on the wall. It was a room you wanted to take an eraser to.

23rd May 2017 – 99 words

The Blackwood Convention

One of their guiding principles was that they would refrain from being too formal: “it will constrain us”, they said. That they started doing particular things in particular ways was probably inevitable, however.

Although George was no longer with them, they still followed the approach he had introduced when it came to discussing their work. “Three minutes, no more. Keeps it fair.” And though George had taken his stopwatch with him – metaphorically at least – Trevor had brought something to do the job in its stead. It wasn’t the same of course, but neither was that first meeting after George’s funeral.

20th May 2017 – 100 words

Carbon Dating

He looked up. This new woman’s name badge said ‘Jill’, but that wasn’t necessarily her name.

At the bell, she pressed on, checking her crib sheet to ensure she was asking the right questions. Always the same questions. Luckily five minutes didn’t last long.

After ‘Jill’ had gone, he sensed another presence.

“Jimmy” – a voice full of familiarity and sadness.

He looked up, afraid to use her name after all this time.

“Oh, Jimmy. I’m so sorry.”

A sudden noise made him glance away. Looking back, she was gone – and another person was heading towards their five minutes with ‘Richard’.

15th May 2017 – 100 words

The Natural Light Alarm Clock

The advertising promised it would reacquaint you with your natural rhythms – and as spring turned to summer, that was what she found. Gradually she awoke earlier, feeling fresher, more energised; her days became longer, fuller; her enthusiasm and drive became infectious.

As summer passed, things changed. The clock woke her later and later; her energy drained. No longer the night owl she had once been, the shortness of her waking days began to cripple her. One Monday – late again for work – she lost her job, and in October, when the clocks went back, she stopped waking up at all.

14th May 2017 – 99 words

Hollow Words

Although she believed passionately in communication, she spoke very little. People mistook that for shyness or reticence, ignorance or arrogance. It was just one of those things, of course. She found most everyday conversations vacuous and empty of meaning; they were essentially pointless, leading nowhere, contributing nothing. And language, the ability to convey and share emotions and knowledge – important things! – mattered too much to her to dilute on trivia.

She was never aware of the price she was paying. At her funeral the church was virtually empty with just a few family there to listen to the Vicar’s hollow words.

28th April 2017 – 100 words

Searching for Simon

Even after all this time there was still a part of her hoping that one day their paths might cross again. They had become disengaged, drifted apart – almost lost – rather than consciously breaking away in any emotional sense, so she never really knew exactly where she had stood. Although it was too late now, she felt the need to understand what he had felt for her, what might have been possible between them.

She hated the word ‘if’; it was diseased, cancerous – especially when applied in a self-inflicted fashion to one’s own past – yet it haunted her always.

25th April, 2017 – 99 words

Fear (or Politics)

“When people are afraid,” he said, “they turn their backs on what they know to be right, become Followers, and seek leaders and solutions that promise to take their problems away from them. They give up some of their freedoms in exchange for what they believe to be security and protection.” Shaking his head sadly and full of regret, he walked away.

He had spoken thus in the certain knowledge that he was a free man and at liberty to do so. But they executed him for his views, and now the people are more afraid than ever.

17th April 2017 – 98 words

Lucca

From the top of the Guinigi Tower hardly any roads are visible. Instead, all you can see are church towers and the haphazard pattern of terra cotta roofs jostling against each other, misshapen rectangles in an image that might have been a Klee-Cezanne collaboration. Against a wash of umber, peach and magnolia, a green tree-line defines the boundaries of the city; segregation of the elegant and the brash. Loving the old, you walk the walls as if in defiance of the new, your gaze ever inwards for that is where the romance and the past lay.

12th April 2017, 98 words

The Silent Type

He couldn’t recall when he had stopped speaking. It had crept up on him, borne from an ever-increasing ability to live life with a single mouse click: like, share, post, love. Anything and everything had become possible – and fast – and without the need for any tangible personal commitment. So when he met Georgia he was lost. She was vivacious, lively, gregarious – all traits made perfect through her voice. She talked and sang all the time; this was how she touched people. And though she looked upon him fondly, when he said nothing, she simply turned and walked away.

10th April, 2017 – 99 words

Dawn Chorus

The first note of birdsong in the morning. Have you heard it? How it comes suddenly, breaking the silence? Yet it comes softly, nervously, tentatively as if to ask “Now? Am I the first? Are we ready?”. Then that small fragment of bravery is taken up, expanded; others join to reply “Yes, Yes, Yes!”. And they are positive voices, committed to the potential of the day.

Still tired, often they would sit together in the half-light, cradling tea, and listen for that overture, each of them wanting to say “There! I heard it first!” and thus embrace everything.

9th April 2017, 99 words

Male Model

He looked too crisp, too coordinated, like someone who had escaped from the front cover of an out-of-date men’s fashion magazine. He seemed to have taken ownership of a complete tonal range and then embarked on a crusade to shade the world accordingly. Nothing clashed; each crease was perfectly sharp. And he walked like a man who had discovered the secret to the universe. What he didn’t realise was that his sublimity clashed with everyone else’s reality in such a way as to render the actual impact he made the complete opposite of that to which he aspired.

7th April 2017, 100 words

A Perforated Soul

A scruffy young man, tattooed about the neck, pushing a BMX, limps badly, unable to put weight on his left heel as if his shoe has been penetrated by the mother of all nails. He could – or should – be going to the Doctor’s, but he doesn’t look the sort; he looks disenfranchised, an outsider without access to facilities most take for granted. By choice or accident? I suspect both, though which came first? People give him a wide berth as he slips on the kerb. Fear and caution is only natural when there are too many unanswered questions.

5th April, 2017 – 98 words

Unveiling

When the fog finally lifted the world looked different. Perhaps it was the way in which the land emerged, slowly divesting itself of the cloak it had been wearing. Because it happened in slow motion, you were forced to focus on one thing at a time: a church spire, or the tops of the trees down by the river. It was only then that you realised you had never looked at the trees properly, the way the branches fanned, or how the leaves moved with the smallest puff of wind. Fog, it seems, gives us something to be grateful for…

2nd April, 2017 – 100 words

The Benefactor

He always wanted to be seen as a benefactor rather than a refugee – though many struggled to see beyond their first meetings with him. They would, of course, acknowledge that he had gone on to do many great things, not just for himself but for his new family and, finally, for the community in which he settled. He used to say that ‘home’ was the most important word in the world, and that everything he did was in celebration of it. Which meant that he never forgot his past; he simply remembered it in a different way to everyone else.

30th March, 2017 – 100 words

The Apartment on Faustus Street.

The apartment had two entrances, one either side of the nondescript pink-lit establishment below, which it straddled like a railway footbridge. In past lives these had been used as ‘In’ and ‘Out’, but for its present purpose only the former was necessary. People did leave, of course, but he knew that once they had met him – and once they had struck their own particular bargain – they were his forever. A small window display presented a magical mix of lights, smoke and mirrors; and in promising exactly what his clients wanted to see, it was a hook that seldom failed.

25th March, 2017 – 100 words

As a Young Man

As a young man he was attracted to girls on the fringes; pale, troubled, unique. He called them ‘quirky’ and later, as he became ever more serious, he would see their restoration as a kind of quest – because he thought he was saving them. That was his mission. What he failed to realise until much later – until too late, in fact – was that with each small adventure, they would take something from him, something vital and precious, until he too became pale, troubled and unique, and in need of saving.

23rd March, 2017 – 90 words