Flash Fiction: No Way Out Part Three: Godsend

So, do I carry on with my story about Bill? For this week’s flash prompt, Charli asks us this:

‘In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that has an expectation met or missed. It can be an implied expectation to your reader, or a character’s expectation for an outcome. Think of how expectations can direct a story.’

I thought I’d continue with it if there is an interest.  As a reminder, you can read parts one and two here: No Way Out and No Way Out Part Two: The Yellow Boat.  Here is the next installment:

No Way Out Part Three: Godsend

“Bill! Let me in…!”

Laura’s frantic knocking on the front door shattered Bill’s silence. What the…? Panic struck as he grabbed the hose, throwing it back behind the freezer while kicking the scattered toys out of view.

“Bi i i i i i i l…..” screamed Laura. She stopped in stunned silence to the creak of the garage door as it opened and Bill walked out. Turning on her heels, she rushed over.

“Thank god! I’ve been trying to call you, why didn’t you pick up…?”

“I’ve…Laura… there’s something …”

“What…? It’s Joey, you have to come, it’s bad…”

 

Posted in Flash Fiction | Tagged , | 38 Comments

Crazy Alien: Bite-Size Memoir

Whenever I think of anything to do with immigration, I get a shiver of crazy.

My first brush with American immigration happened when I turned up alone at Dulles International Airport newly arrived from London. It was 1980, my boyfriend was seriously ill and I was desperate to get to Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland where he was being treated.  There was no time to complete the paperwork for an extended stay, so I took my chances.

Unfortunately, the immigration office at passport control was not impressed and I was hauled off into a side-room for a grilling.

Thankfully I was able to corroborate my story, thanks to a call to my boyfriend’s mother who was staying at a motel close to the hospital.    With strict instructions to attend the Immigration Department in Los Angeles within a specified time frame, I was allowed to travel on with a stern warning that I was lucky not to have been deported.

One Crazy Chick - Suffolk, 1970's (c) Sherri Matthews

One Crazy Chick – Suffolk, 1970’s
(c) Sherri Matthews

Indeed. I was extremely grateful for my lucky break.

In my own private mayhem, I struggled with my heavy luggage while fumbling about for the right coins with which to make a phone call for a taxi.  Finding an AT&T phone booth but not knowing the difference between a nickel and a dime,  I had to ask the guy in the next booth for help.  I got it right eventually.

Even though I lived in California for twenty years, married to an American, I  lived and worked as a ‘Permanent Resident’, retaining my British citizenship.   It amused me that after going through reams of paperwork, medical tests, background checks, interviews, proof of marriage and financial support, not to mention a few fees to pay for the pleasure,  all I got at the end of it was a small, laminated card, the all-important  ‘Green Card’.  Even though it is actually white.

What really made me smile though was my ‘official’ title, spelled in big letters above my photograph, which read:

‘Resident Alien’.

As such, my status as a ‘resident alien’ allowed me everything except the right to vote and attend jury service. A shame really, as I was summoned three different times but each time I had to decline.  A shame because I have never been summoned back in Britain.

So why this post?  It’s great to have Lisa back again with her Bite-Size Memoir challenge which she is running fortnightly  (do we still use that word?) for the time being (lovely to see you Lisa!). Her prompt of ‘crazy’ reminded me of my many immigration misadventures – they obviously left their mark – but it is a very different kind of alien that I write about for the ‘Bite’, in 150 words no more, no less:

Crazy Alien

During the summer of 1979, a special event came to Ipswich. My boyfriend and I had been intrigued for weeks by the mysterious posters plastered all around town announcing the next big film. The black background with a strange, egg-shaped thing suspended in the middle was compelling enough, but what really had us going were the words:

In space no one can hear you scream’.

The Odeon cinema in Ipswich had one, huge screen with graduated seating and an usherette selling Kia-Ora orange juice and ice cream at the intermission.

The big moment arrived. Glued to the big screen, the atmosphere electric, we watched, terrified, as John Hurt writhed in helpless agony. When the alien ripped out of his chest, I was out of my seat and down on the floor, flinging my drink all over my boyfriend who thankfully, was laughing hysterically.

Nothing like a bit of shock value.

Posted in Bite Size Memoir, Memoir, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 56 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy

There is a certain curve of a well-traveled road that even now occasionally fills my dreams.  I have no idea why and sometimes years go by when I do not dream about it, but when I do it brings me a strange comfort. Four years ago while driving through a village in Suffolk, I found this curve in the road and in its instant familiarity and recognition, I knew exactly where I was.

The curve in the road - Suffolk October 2011 (c) Sherri Matthews

The curve in the road – Suffolk October 2011
(c) Sherri Matthews

How many times had I cycled past this curve on warm, summer days on my way to school a couple of miles from where I lived?  Or watched it pass by as I observed it through the fogged up windows of the bus on stark, winter mornings?   One or twice I had trudged through the snow that lay in drifts up against it on my walk home when the bus didn’t stop at all.

Field in a Suffolk October, 2011 (c) Sherri Matthews

Field for a Suffolk October, 2011
(c) Sherri Matthews

In all the places where I have lived, no matter the highs and the lows, the joy and the pain, there is a place that caught the imaginations of my heart long before I left the girl behind.

This girl was a day dreamer who longed for things yet to come, things she knew nothing about. She dreamed and hoped for a future as yet unknown as she strolled across the open countryside stretched out as far as she could see, breathing in the pure air that brimmed with the glow of good health.  At these times she knew that she was stronger than anyone gave her credit for.

Long before she crossed the shining sea, before she lavished her children yet to be born with the love that overflowed from her heart to theirs, she pondered her days in the lonely hours.  She watched silently as the brown field caught fire, burnished with the kiss of an early sunset as tears drenched her pale cheeks. In the deepest silence of the natural beauty surrounding her she found solace, and the reprieve she dreamed of.

View across the bay at Los Osos, California 2013 (c) Sherri Matthews

Dreamy view across the bay at Los Osos, California 2013
(c) Sherri Matthews

It was at these times that she knew her life would never be the same, from the time of that very first betrayal.  Yet she knew she would survive.

Where will you dreams take you? Selworthy, Somerset, England, October 2011 (c) Sherri Matthews

How far will your dreams take you?
Selworthy, Somerset, England, October 2011
(c) Sherri Matthews

  Because she was strong and she never stopped dreaming.

Posted in Creative Writing, Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 76 Comments

Flash Fiction: No Way Out Part Two: The Yellow Boat

Last week, I wrote No Way Out in response to Charli’s Facing Fear prompt. Some of you asked if I was going to continue this story but at the time, I wrote it as a complete 99 word flash with a tragic end for Bill.

Since then, and for some strange reason, I have not been able to shake this story off.  I have to say that ever since I started writing flash fiction, this is the first time this has happened and it has taken me by complete surprise.

More comfortable as a memoir and creative non-fiction story writer,  fiction pushes me way out of my comfort zone. Yet with flash I love that I can give the story free rein, relishing the fact that it has a tight word limit.  Somehow, this enables me to write with less constraint and I have found this whether writing a 50 or a 500 word flash. Still though, the thought of writing a novel paralyses me.  Hopefully that will change one day, but meanwhile, here is Charli’s prompt for this week:

‘In 99 words (no more, no less) include a yellow boat on a river. Be creative with the phrase. It can be about a yellow boat or it could be the name of a band or brand of toothpaste. It can be included in the setting or be the adventure.’

Here then is my continuation of Bill’s story in 99 words:

No Way Out Part Two: The Yellow Boat

Pulling the garage door shut behind him, Bill reached for the hose pipe hidden behind the freezer. Shoving one end into the exhaust pipe, he trailed the rest into the car with him.

The hose caught on something: he tugged hard, sending a box of old toys crashing down on the garage floor.

“Shit…!”

Sweat snaked down his back as he stepped out of the car, almost crushing the toy boat at his feet.

Bill froze.

The memory of his son and their day together on the river in their yellow boat met him in the cold, dank silence.

Posted in Flash Fiction, Writing | Tagged , , | 66 Comments

A Sign Of Things To Come

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge prompt is ‘Signs’.

WordPress kindly let me know that Girl In A Pale Blue Dress was my 200th post, a good sign that I’m still managing to blog away.

Then I thought of the plight of my poor rambling rose: it succumbed to the first signs that our autumn is well underway as the first storm of the season brought it down, despite it having survived the vicious storms all last winter.

It went from this:

Rambling Rose at the front of the house earlier in the summer in full bloom (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Rambling Rose in full bloom at the front of the house earlier in the summer
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

To this:

Rambling Rose down (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Rambling Rose Down
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

I had planned to cut it back anyway but this called for a more severe approach.  Hopefully by next spring it will recover, in fact I have it by good authority (my mum) that it will.

But for now it looks like this:

 Poor Rambling Rose.  I knew her well... The outside lamp behind it was pulled right out by the weight of the branches but that is now fixed. (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Poor Rambling Rose. I knew her well…
The lamp behind was pulled right out by the weight of the branches but is now fixed.
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Thinking then about literal signs, I thought about a few that I have taken during my various travels. This one for instance caught my eye, taken at Goodwood Festival of Speed:

(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Can you think of a better way to keep calm than killing zombies? (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

And these:

If you are hungry after enjoying all that free beer – in the shed? – you can always pop over to the delightful seaside town of Budleigh Salterton in Devon and grab one of these for lunch (subject to availability of course):

Budleigh Salterton, Devon (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Budleigh Salterton, Devon
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

If shellfish isn’t your thing, you might want to hop across the pond to California and fill up on the best burgers ever at In-N-Out…

In-n-out Burgers, California (c) Sherri Matthews 2013

In-N-Out Burgers, California
(c) Sherri Matthews 2013

An invigorating walk in the English countryside might be a good idea after eating all those burgers. The only problem is, which way do you go: left or right?

Overlooking Mintern Magna, Dorchester (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Overlooking Mintern Magna, Dorchester, May 2014
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

There is another sign that I will never forget: the one and only American stop-sign.

It didn’t take me long to get used to driving in California on the wrong right side of the road.  It took me longer to get used to the stop-signs that appeared at one intersection after another, so very different to the roundabouts we have in the UK which are designed to keep the traffic moving.  That’s the plan anyway.

The constant stop/start at four-way intersections got me rattled at first, because nobody seemed to know who should go first.  My father in law had the perfect solution to this: he didn’t stop at all.   How he never had an accident or got pulled over I’ll never know.

One blue-sky Sunday morning with my kids piled in my car, I headed out for church.  Approaching an intersection only minutes away from my destination and noticing that it was completely clear, I slowed right down at the stop sign, almost came to a stop, I say almost, then drove on.

That’s when I saw the flashing blue lights in my rear view window.  But then I should have known because this particular intersection happened to be right in front of the local Police Department and I had driven on that very street a thousand times before. So I pulled over immediately and awaited my punishment. My kids, who up until that moment were creating merry mayhem, now sat in wide-eyed silence.

The police officer walked over to my window and I couldn’t help but think of Eric Estrada except this cop didn’t have a motorbike and this was no TV show.  But he was wearing sunglasses.  He asked for my driving license and registration which I nervously handed to him saying nothing.   Then he said:

“Ma’am, do you know that you just committed a moving violation by not coming to a complete stop at the stop-sign back there?”

That Stop Sign

That Stop Sign

I gulped and felt my cheeks burn.  I had driven since I was seventeen and never had so much as a speeding ticket, never mind a violation.  What could I do but admit my crime?  After all, I was guilty and only had myself to blame.

“Yes Officer, I do realise.  I am very sorry Officer and it won’t happen again.”  And then, in the best English accent I could muster in the hopes that he might think I was a foreigner and therefore didn’t know any better, I added:

“But you see Officer, we are late for church!”

He looked first at me a little aghast and then leaned in to look closer at my children, still as posts and eyes like organ stops as if for verification that I was telling the truth and I think then he had mercy on me.   Standing back up he said:

“Ma’am, at this time I am only going to give you a warning but next time you make sure to come to a complete stop at a stop-sign, as not doing so is an offense with serious consequences.  You have a nice day now.”

“Yes Officer, thank you Officer, absolutely Officer!”

And with that, he headed back to his car, turned off his flashing lights and drove off.  I thought about giving him a little wave as he drove past but decided against it, thinking it probably wouldn’t be a good idea.

Hugely relieved and turning to the kids, I told them that all was well and not to worry, mommy wasn’t going to be hauled off to jail anytime soon.   The irony wasn’t lost on me when, arriving at last at church, upon being asked if everything was okay by the door greeter, my eldest son replied, “Mom got pulled over by a cop for not stopping at a stop- sign.”  Sinner that I am.

And the moral of the story is?  You might be interested to read fellow blogger Nicholas’s post for that one, particularly the last paragraph.  But if you do decide to drive through a stop-sign, you better make sure it isn’t right in front of the Police Department.

Posted in Family Memoirs, My California, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 84 Comments

A Spider Bite And A Flash Fiction

The fear of public speaking is stronger than the fear of death itself, ‘they’ say, but in my research for this post I discovered something very interesting: according to an online article which cited the results of a recent survey in America, we are now more likely to fear losing everything on our computers than our date with the Grim Reaper.

So when Charli asked us in this week’s flash fiction challenge to show a character confronting something worse than death, I immediately thought of some deep-rooted fears of my own. For instance, my fear of wasps.  And snakes creeping into my bed. And dentists. Not to mention rusty old shipwrecks.

Funnily enough, I’m not too bad with spiders until I got bitten by one a couple of summers ago.  Naturally, I would have expected this to be far more likely in California but this was in England.  While living in California,  I was not only deathly afraid of being swallowed up by an earthquake but also of coming eyeball to eyeball with a Rattlesnake or a Black Widow spider, courtesy of watching all those wonderful BBC nature programmes.

When the children’s uncle came to visit, he always took me aside to warn me of the dangers of these venomous beasts that apparently lurked in the woodpile at the end of the garden right next door to the chicken run.  We never did find a Rattler there but I did come no more than a hand’s-width away from a Black Widow.  We managed to capture it in a glass jar and when we turned it over and saw the tell-tale red ‘egg-timer’ on its belly, I seriously thought I was going to be sick.

So it wasn’t funny when one day, back in  non-venomous England, I sat down on my garden chair only to be stung, most painfully, on my, ahem, bum.  I shot out of my chair fully expecting to see the crumpled body of a wasp, the thought of which gives me chills even as I type this. Instead I watched in horror as a spider scuttled away in between the wooden slats of the chair.

I rushed into the shed to grab a jar whereupon I managed, somehow, to capture the dastardly offender as evidence.

Spider wrapping up a wasp (and no, this isn't the one that bit me!) (c) Sherri Matthews 2012

Spider wrapping up a wasp (and no, this isn’t the one that bit me!)
(c) Sherri Matthews 2012

Now this bite grew in size and was seriously painful.  Aspie D (my daughter), seeing my panic, did what she always does in a crisis: she took to the internet.  Fingers flying so fast that they blurred into one, she soon enough found some information about my symptoms and they didn’t sound good. By now convinced that I had been pumped full of venom (after all, I was feeling a little faint you know…) and needing emergency treatment immediately, I called hubby and he rushed me to A&E (ER).

So there I was, not long after,  in the rather embarrassing position of having to pull down my drawers for a Spanish doctor (female, thank God)to examine the offending bite while explaining to hubby what to look for should it spread into an infection.  (Apologies if too much information.) Still, the kindly doctor told me that I had done the right thing and in the end no harm was done.

Oh, and the spider? The doctor said it wasn’t harmful so hubby let it go,  hoping it wouldn’t show up again anytime soon.  And I no longer sit down on that chair without a cushion. Not ever.

…………………………………………………

I have written about these fears light-heartedly but some fears are no laughing matter.  What fears lurk in our hearts in the dead of night when we can’t sleep, when we worry about unpaid bills, our troubled children, our unhappy marriages or our health?  What fears are to some, worse than death?

Here then is my flash (in 99 words, no more, no less):

No Way Out

Bill leapt out of his seat like an escaped animal as the letter landed on the front door mat. Hands shaking, he ripped open the envelope.

In large, red letters the repossession order stared back at him like a snake about to go for his throat. Rooted to the spot, he fumbled for his mobile as it vibrated into life.

“Bill? Did the letter come…? Bill? Are you there…?”

Bill stared into silence and hit ‘End’ on his phone as he tossed it into the bin. There’s no going back now he thought, as he headed for the garage.

 

 

Posted in Flash Fiction, My California, Nature & Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 117 Comments

Summer Spotlight: Sherri Matthews

Sherri:

My lovely friend Jill is kind enough to allow me to hijack her blog today as part of her Summer Spotlight series. Thanks so much for having me Jill :-)

Originally posted on Jill Weatherholt:

Greetings everyone from Jolly Old England! Thanks so much Jill for including me in your wonderful Blog Spotlight. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about old friends and making lovely new ones shining brightly beneath your summer spotlight. I’m honoured to be here amongst such fine company: after all, if someone had told me a couple of years ago that I would be writing on a blog, I would not only have laughed my head off but would also have asked, “What’s a blog?”

Blogging didn’t exist when, as a teenager, I hid away in my room furiously scribbling away at my angst-ridden poems and crazy song lyrics (none of which ever saw the light of day I might add). When I was twelve, I wrote a short story entitled ‘The Telephone’, but when I read it out to my family they all laughed and I don’t blame them. It was…

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