January 16, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a lady shadow. Who is this person and why do they lurk in the shadows. What is the tone and setting for your story? Go where the prompt leads!
I had just moved from the PC to my writing chair to try and get my head around a book review I was working on.
Things were going well when I happened to look up from my work to look out of the window in front of me.
Something had made me put down my pen, and I looked for the reason.
I scanned the garden and all the trees I could see without standing up; they thrashed about in violent gusts of wind. Further down the garden, almost too far for me to focus on, the row of bird feeders was doing a roaring trade with the local birdlife.
I love to watch the birds in our garden, mainly small ones like sparrows, bluetits and the odd robin. It’s like a mad rush hour as they take in turns to land on the feeders, pecking furiously at the fat balls. They seem to prefer these to the seed I also supply.
I became aware of other activities closer to my window and switched my attention to the shelf with the row of bonsai trees. A male blackbird with shiny black plumage and a vivid yellow beak was perched on one of the pots and viciously pecked at the carefully cultivated moss that snuggles around the base of each tree.
We were just a few feet from each other, and I knew he was watching me, but he carried on with his mission. By the time he had visited all the trees on the shelf, it looked like a battleground with lumps of moss scattered everywhere.
Later, I was asked why I hadn’t tapped on the window to stop the destruction, but what the bird was doing was perfectly natural, and if he had removed any insects that might have harmed my trees, I would be in his debt. Moss is so easily replaced.
Sharing those moments with Mr Blackbird was magical, and I will remember them forever…
Wishing you all a very happy Monday…
A Day Remembered
A few years ago now, Jaye and I decided to visit a zoo; it was more like a safari park without the need for a car. Jaye read that there would be a display by an orca, a black and white whale. The Ying and yang of the ocean, I call them.
When we arrived, we found that this would take place at 2 o clock that afternoon.
We walked around for a while. Jaye found a group of people listening to a man talking about one of her favourites. He was holding an arachnid, a huge orange and black spider. Of course, she wanted to be able to hold it right after he had said that it could shoot stuff from its black bulbous backside that would irritate the skin. Plus, it had a venomous bite.
Jaye tried to get me to take it from her hand. No chance, I thought. What if it is fed up being poked, prodded, and decided that I was the one to take a bite out of?
I watched her cooing over it like a fluffy white rabbit. Finally, I told her I had to find something with fewer legs. Walking around with 2 o clock in mind, we found one of my favourite animals. The sloth.
I thought cats were laid back and knew how to relax. This beautiful creature takes the biscuit. They live life in the slow lane, plus they only need to pee once a week. These days I could do with that skill.
A few paces along, we found the pandas lying on their backs as though sunbathing. We stood watching, and I swear they didn’t even blink.
I walked away, thinking they looked like stuffed toys and were not very entertaining. Whenever I see them on TV, they roll around and practice play fighting. Maybe they were tired.
Next, we found the giraffes, magnificent animals. I wouldn’t want to get on their bad side. I kept my distance while Jaye fed one, remembering when they get fed up being stared at, they spit at you. I didn’t fancy walking around for the rest of the day with gloop all over me.
Further along, we found a moth-eaten gorilla. Nothing like the one I fell in love with while visiting Regents Park Zoo with my husband. His name was Guy. People would throw their cigarettes at him; he would place it between his fingers and pretend to smoke it. After a while, he would turn to his audience and let out a stream of hot water, letting them know what he thought of the faces staring at him.
He sadly died while having a tooth removed. A short while later, I heard he had been stuffed and displayed in a glass cage at the History Museum. Something told me I had to say goodbye to the beautiful creature I had fallen in love with, and standing there, lost in his eyes, I was in a world that only he could explain.
Next, we came to the snake house, something else I am fond of. Skipping past the bats, not one of my favourites, I made my way outside.
We found the camels. Desert taxis, I call them. Snooty-looking devils that can spit for the fun of it.
It was time to make our way back to the small pool. The first three rows were full of people. Fools, I told myself. Steering Jaye to the sixth row, I had no intention of getting soaked when the whale dove in and out of the water.
When the display was over, the whale would hug the poolside, and we were encouraged to touch it. Its skin felt like a rubber tyre. Jaye was at the mouth end, her hand in its mouth, touching its tongue between a magnificent row of white teeth. God, what if she made it gag, and it snapped his mouth shut on her hand?
Before persuading her that it was almost time to go home, there was one more stop. I’d heard they had an elephant. King of the jungle in my book.
We found him alone on a small island, chained to the wall, swaying back and forth. I knew this meant he was very unhappy as they are pack animals and need company. Why was he chained to a wall by himself? I couldn’t stop my tears. I wanted to pull the chain from the wall and set him free. But I knew it would take more than that. He would need care for a long time if he were to recover. This is proof that all creatures should live in their own environment.
I drove home, compiling a letter of complaint in my head, hoping that someone would see the error of their ways and get him the help and companionship that he needed.
My day out remembered…
©AnitaDawes2022 All Rights Reserved
For the visually challenged writer, the photo is of a woman with a pensive expression on her face as she sits upon a large, mossy rock deep inside a forest.
She was starving and very cold.
Her feet hurt, bleeding in several places from stumbling on the sharp stones scattered about in the woods. She didn’t know why she ran to this place every time her life became too hard to bear.
There were no answers here; she knew that. No help either. Just the soul-shattering proof that she really was lost and far beyond help.
She had been here so many times, always ending up feeling far more alone than ever. She strained her ears, hoping to hear a bird song or the stealthy movements of a passing creature, but there was nothing.
Maybe today, there would be a breath of wind to move the branches above her head, letting her know the world was still out there.
But this place seemed as dead as her soul.
As she stared at a large oak, the fallen leaves around the base of the tree began to move. So, something did live here, or were they merely visiting, like she was?
A small grey squirrel appeared as she watched, his tiny hands clamped around an acorn. He suddenly stopped, his fluffy tail twitching. He wasn’t looking in her direction. Did he know she was watching him?
He slowly turned his head and stared at her. His dark, beady eyes seemed to twinkle, and she wondered what he thought of her. He slowly nodded his head as if he heard the question, possibly acknowledging another lonely soul?
This thought caused her to look away in shame, and when she looked back, the squirrel had gone. That was when she realised he wasn’t lonely. He had a purpose.
Something she needed to find…
Sorry that we missed a day yesterday! I wonder what you think of Linda…
I found the Rose and Crown too smoky.
Pushing open the door, I remembered Brian had thick, blond hair, a crew cut back then, dark blue eyes. Making my way to the bar, trying to look without swivelling my head too much. Wouldn’t want anyone to think I was about to spew pea soup across the bar or speak in tongues.
It was the eyes I noticed at the corner table. I sat opposite Brian, holding out my hand. He stood, shaking my proffered hand.
‘I’m glad you came.’
The blond hair had vanished, a shiny dome in its place. That makes it sound as if he was doing an impression of St Paul’s. I remembered the whispering gallery when mum took me. I wondered what thoughts were running around inside that dome that will never get said that evening.
He ordered drinks, reminiscing about the old times. The past doesn’t interest me. I could feel boredom creeping over me like unwanted ivy.
About an hour in, I made my excuses. ‘I have a big lunch meeting tomorrow; I need my shut eye. Been nice catching up.’
I stopped myself from saying we should do it again. He stood; I could feel him watching as I left.
It wasn’t exactly a lie. I do have a meeting my boss wouldn’t want messed up.
On my way home, I scolded myself a little. I could have given Brian more time.
I didn’t have to be in work that morning, the boss wanted me fresh for the meeting with Peter Westwood. I chose to wear my pencil skirt, long sleeved pale blue blouse, three buttons undone, showing just enough cleavage. If his eyes drop below my face, I will know something about him. A gentleman never lets you notice his eyes wandering. He is practised, he can do it without staring. This one knew the rules. Not once did I see his eyes wander. Deep brown, like chocolate buttons. Thick black hair with a slight kink trying to be a wave.
He is polite, stood shaking my hand, letting me sit before he did. His voice is deep. Not down in your boots deep, just enough to be sexy. Which I very much found him to be. ‘Would you like to order? I have to admit I am ravenous.’
He spoke naturally, which put me at ease.
We spoke while eating, which surprised me. I had to admit his book idea didn’t go down well with me. A teenage story of murder come whodunnit with a prize, if you entered of a replica of a jewelled dagger.
Knives and guns are all wrong, I told him. I couldn’t in all consciousness work with his ideas. I wondered what my boss would say if he was standing right behind me. I could almost hear him screaming between clenched teeth.
‘Maybe it could be a magical mystery tour around London where the reader could track the perpetrator, and the winner could have lunch with you.’
He must have liked the idea, for he stopped chewing, took a swig of his white wine. ‘That a much better idea. I could run them all over London, then back to Mayfair to the Silver Spoon.’
Before leaving, he gave me his card and his ideas for the sketches he wanted in the book. A young man with a book and pencil in his hand, roaming through London, hoping to win a lunch date with his favourite author.
He offered me a lift back to work.
I told him I was working from home today.
‘Home it is then.’
He sat in the back with me, my skirt riding up more than I would normally like. This time I didn’t tug it down. I couldn’t tell if he noticed the amount of leg on show. ‘Ask your driver to turn left here. I’m the one with the monkey puzzle tree out front.’
Turning to face me, he asked if he could come in for coffee. ‘I think there is more we can do.’
I will let you know tomorrow what he had in mind…
© Anita Dawes 2021
“What’s your name,” I ask the old man, sitting on the park bench feeding the pigeons. I liked the look of him. Small, with a slight hunched back, snow white hair and the beginnings of a beard.
“My name, do I have a name?”
“Everything has a name.” My reply did not fuel the conversation. Something about the way he moved his hands, the way the small bag of seed did not empty, the way the trees around us held their breath. The silence and the sharp pain at the back of my head, stirring, waking something in me.
“You are Merlin.”
“Am I?” His blue eyes sparkled with the mischief of a five-year-old child. “Yes, you could be right. My memory is not as it should be these days. I have little to offer you, young man. You are wondering who you are.”
“Not true, I know who I am.”
“Do you know when you are?”
“Yes, I am here, in the park, talking to you.”
“Look around you, do you see what lies before your eyes?”
I looked and the trees parted, like an ancient curtain being pulled aside. Wondering if I had named him wrong. Could he be Moses with no sea to part? He split the trees. I saw a castle, dark jagged rocks surrounded by vast ocean. I look again at the old man. I could see a tear in his eye, the smell of apples filling the air.
He vanished. The air had taken him. It looked for all the world as if I sat there, talking to myself.
I cried out, “Merlin, where are you?”
Rushing through the trees, calling again, I heard his voice.
“Here I am, look again…”
© anita dawes 2020
I love watching the birds in my garden.
This year, we have more birds with the feeders, including red kites in the skies above. The robin with his wonderful red breast and skinny black legs is my favourite.
Jackdaws with their pale blue eyes can look a little menacing, especially after watching a punch up one afternoon between three of them.
The thing I like best is watching the birds pulling twigs from the trees for their nest. They can be so fussy, dropping all the ones I don’t like on my lawn.
It’s a similar story from my front window.
Across the road, we have three hazelnut trees. Here I can watch the building of a nest. The resident blackbird loves to dive into the bush below beside the tree.
One time, trying to take a chosen twig with him, he left it sticking out like a flagpole.
I must confess; I know nothing about owls apart from what I see on TV.
Silent when flying for their food, their cry haunting, like the cry of the lost, still wandering the afterlife for a home.
Their beautiful eyes give off a sense of loneliness, but maybe that’s just me and the strange feeling I receive when watching them.
Our feathered friends, a reminder of days walking with dinosaurs…
© Anita Dawes 2021
This week’s prompt ~ Appointed
For visually challenged writers, the image shows the black silhouette of a crow perched atop a blackened and dead-looking tree. In the background the sky is blue and the trees are decked in the full green leaf of summer…
Worry is a terrible thing, it steals the quality of life from right under your nose, reducing your world into a place of doom and gloom. We have been sitting on a massive worry these past six months and have refused to start the new year until we had good news.
I have desperately tried to keep everything normal, finish my WIP and keep the website going, but have to admit it was a poor imitation of the real thing, and I apologise for that.
I have not been sharing much of this with our friends and followers and this may seem strange after all your incredible support when Anita had that massive heart attack in 2020. Your love and good wishes pulled us through that terrible time, but when disaster struck again last year, it seemed far more serious, and we really felt that talking about it might make it worse.
Anita’s heart is still severely damaged, and despite having two stents and a pacemaker fitted, it only barely functions. When a series of lumps started to appear around her neck last year, the alarm bells started ringing again.
Because of the raging virus and all the hospital delays, it took months to have the lumps investigated. The consultant mentioned cancer and after deliberation, they finally decided to remove part of her thyroid. Surgery was a problem as they didn’t think her heart was strong enough, but they said that delaying it was not an option.
A nightmare time for all the family, especially Anita for she can’t abide hospitals at the best of times. My sister has never been ill and to be struck down by two life threatening illnesses almost at the same time seems very unfair. She made it through the surgery without incident, but we had to wait two agonising weeks to get the results of the tests.
By this time, we were all terrified and sick with worry, dreading the news.
The day of the appointment, I felt sick to my stomach but somehow kept a smile on my face. I think I held my breath when she was called into the consultants office, but five minutes later the door opened and she rushed out of the room, a massive smile on her face. We watched in amazement as she ran out of the ENT department to a standing ovation from the nurses.
By this time, we knew the news must be good, but I wanted to know how good. Just before we all reached the lifts, I caught her arm and made her stop walking. ‘Well,’, I said and waited.
She stood there and laughed at me, and I didn’t think she was going to say anything.
‘THERE IS NO CANCER,’ she shouted.
All the way home in the car, she kept saying those words, and her relief was wonderful to see. Despite the odds, her poor old ticker had survived the surgery and she was cancer free.
But four days later, we had to rush back to the hospital, as Anita was having trouble breathing. She is now back home, but it seems that worrying isn’t going anywhere after all.
She is looking better, although still very weak and breathless much of the time. The list of her medications grows ever longer, but … and you may have noticed this, none of what happened has stopped her writing her poetry.
Now all I have to do, is get my own head back together!
It was my habit to take a short cut through the woods on my way back from the shops, as it always seemed quicker that way.
It was also a much better walk, with the sunlight filtering through the branches and the dark green shadows beneath the trees.
I thought it a magical place, and once saw my first green woodpecker there. I often wished there were a bench as I would have liked to stay awhile and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.
That day though, it turned out to be the wrong place to be.
I had barely reached the first tree when the strong flapping of wings somewhere above my head, stopped me from walking any further.
The sound of flapping wings became louder as several large black birds swooped down and attacked me. Disorientated, confused and more than a little scared, I waited for them to leave. I had no idea then what they were, but now I’m sure they were ravens.
When the first set of claws raked through my hair, instinct made me start running. Not easy to do, as they were all around me, clearly upset by my presence. I was in the middle of a nightmare, with no idea of what I had done to make these birds so angry.
Once clear of the woods, the ravens stopped attacking me and returned to the clearing beneath the trees. I stood still to catch my breath and watched them, wondering why they had behaved like that.
Most of the birds returned to the trees, still shouting the odds, but two of them seemed to be looking for something on the ground.
That when I saw what they were looking for.
A baby raven was hopping about in the undergrowth, struggling to fly, and failing miserably. I knew the parents of this baby would stay with him until he managed to take off, feeding and encouraging him, the rest of the flock on guard duty.
This was the reason I had been attacked, and suddenly, I wasn’t scared any more…
© Jaye Marie 2021
A Picture paints a thousand words
Time has run out, the clock no longer ticks
Who lies beneath the weeping angel?
The stone etched name, faded, lost to history
I look upon her weeping form, her personal story aching to be told
Her face too young for tears so painful
Her beautiful hair is folded back, like wings that no longer fly
Yet there is a deep need to spread them, to be lifted once more
To reach home, warmth, comfort, a safe place to be.
I found myself wishing she could open her eyes
Are they blue, brown, or green with shards of light?
Would I fall in love, would her voice be soft, laced with music?
I didn’t come here to fall in love with a stone angel
I could hear her heart beating from a long distance
Her need to tell me about her yesterday’s swept over me
A feeling of standing too close to the fire…
Stepping back from her image as if touched by a flame
The light fading, I whispered, I will return tomorrow
reminding myself I was here to investigate the death of Joseph Frost
who died in 1832 at the age of twenty-eight.
Are her tears for one whose life was too short?
Returning now to the hotel, I wondered by whose hands she was made
Had they wept their own tears during the long hours of work?
Stories begin to fold into each other, blending, losing time
After eating a good supper, I slept, dreaming of my stone angel
How easily she had become mine.
She tells me the body that lies beneath her tears has returned to earth many
The soul that travels through these lifetimes belongs to her when she was
ore than stone. When she walked beside him.
She had hoped her tears would wipe away the years, yet eons have passed
nd stone she remains. Fantasy of an overworked mind, you might say. My mind tells me there is more to it. Our dreams may well be linked to stories yet to be told.
Like the feelings that triggered them that night. The ticking clock may have stopped for Joseph Frost, but my clock is ticking. Time is on my side, or so I believe.
With that in mind, I made my way back to my stone angel. She will be waiting after all.
Mulling over a conversation heard over breakfast, someone asking about the graveyard on the hill and my stone angel. As you might expect, my ears stood to attention. It appears the lady asking the questions wondered if there any stories about the stone angel standing over Jasper Frost’s remains.
Have people reported seeing her, kneeling beside the grave, minus her wings?
I felt my heart skip a beat to think my angel might have been flesh and blood at some time. I couldn’t let myself dare believe she might be real in my here and now.
As I walked, the sun warmed my back. The day would be good.
I told myself, reaching the great iron gate, that I entered the land of sleeping souls. One could say the land of the dead, only it is in the wrong place. It should be below my feet. Much further down than six feet.
I’m not saying that everyone lying here belongs in the land of the dead, or hell for that matter. Thing is, I don’t believe in heaven. So if souls exist, I had to wonder where did they go after the body gives up? Do we return to some great supermarket, waiting to be dished out again?
Not a bad idea, when you think sometimes you get two for one in the shape of twins. Then there are the broken souls, who seem to have come from a bargain basement garage sale. I often feel less than my full self, as if something may have been left behind when they sent me to meet my mother. I have no idea what I am talking about, or where these thoughts come from in the first place. Thing is once they enter your mind you are stuck with them. You end up shoving them around, like cold food on a plate. The fork in your hand, shifting strange thoughts from one side to the other, until your mind clicks back to the present and that moment when your thoughts become one delicious blank. Your sudden release sets of a rethink. You boil all down to one thought, what am I doing with my life?
The black marble headstone shone in the morning sun. Dark beacons of light for a small part of the day.
Slowing my stride, to read a few words. Sentiments the dead will never hear. Written by tear stained faces who no longer visit.
There she stood under the morning sun. A part of my mind hoped her tears would have dried, trying to imagine her happy with a smile on her beautiful marble face. Her tears remain, her body warm to my touch. Is the sun trying to give her life, to bring her back to the one soul she seeks to be with?
If only there was a way for the clock she holds to begin ticking. Old time returning widdershins. I know marble can never become flesh, no matter what kind of backward magic is tried.
Yet I hoped she lingered somewhere, waiting to receive a miracle and meet the one sweet love. To touch lives again, all pain of separation forgotten.
I wished my angel farewell, saying I would return someday to sit with her again. I have a love waiting, a home to go to.
That night as I lay waiting for sleep, I wondered how old my soul was, how many lives I may have touched. Did I, at one time, hold the hand of my stone angel? Am I the one she sheds her tears for?
Are we all twisted out of time…?
Just another ordinary day, she thought, as the kettle began to boil for her first cup of tea. Nothing planned or expected, so nothing much to look forward to.
Moving to the office, she switched on the computer to start work and while she waited for the machine to boot, she turned her attention to the world outside the window as she sipped her tea.
No sunshine today.
The skies were grey and a fine, almost invisible rain was slowly drenching everything. Glistening raindrops dripped from the branches of the trees. A gentle breeze making these diamonds quiver before falling.
She became aware of a soft gurgling sound as the rainwater found its way from the gutter and down the drainpipe to the gulley just outside the window.
If only everything could be washed away so easily, she thought, thinking of a few things she could do without…