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In a word: Incline

When you first think of this word, it is with a slippery slope in mind.

I’ve been on a few of those in my time.

And while we’re on the subject, those inclines measured in degrees are very important if you want a train to get up and down the side of a mountain.

For the train, that’s an incline plane, the point where traction alone won’t get the iron horse up the hill.

Did I say ‘Iron Horse’?  Sorry, regressed there, back to the mid-1800s in the American West for a moment.

It’s not that important when it comes to trucks and cars, and less so if you like four-wheel driving; getting up near-vertical mountainsides often present a welcome challenge to the true enthusiast

But for the rest of us, not so much if you find yourself sliding in reverse uncontrollably into the bay.  I’m sure it’s happened more than once.

Then…

Are you inclined to go?

A very different sort of incline, ie to be disposed towards an attitude or desire.

An inclination, maybe, not to go four-wheel driving?

There is another, probably more obscure use of the word incline, and that relates to an elevated geological formation.  Not the sort of reference that crops up in everyday conversation at the coffee shop.

But, you never know.  Try it next time you have coffee and see what happens.

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Writing about writing a book – Day 2

Hang about.  Didn’t I read somewhere you need to plan your novel, create an outline setting the plot points, and flesh out the characters?

I’m sure it didn’t say, sit down and start writing!

Time to find a writing pad, and put my thinking cap on.

I make a list, what’s the story going to be about? Who’s going to be in it, at least at the start?

Like a newspaper story, I need a who, what, when, where, and how.

Right now.

 

I pick up the pen.

 

Character number one:

Computer nerd, ok, that’s a little close to the bone, a computer manager who is trying to be everything at once, and failing.  Still me, but with a twist.  Now, add a little mystery to him, and give him a secret, one that will only be revealed after a specific set of circumstance.  Yes, I like that.

We’ll call him Bill, ex-regular army, a badly injured and repatriated soldier who was sent to fight a war in Vietnam, the result of which had made him, at times, unfit to live with.

He had a wife, which brings us to,

Character number two:

Ellen, Bill’s ex-wife, an army brat and a General’s daughter, and the result of one of those romances that met disapproval for so many reasons.  It worked until Bill came back from the war, and from there it slowly disintegrated.  There are two daughters, both by the time the novel begins, old enough to understand the ramifications of a divorce.

Character number three:

The man who is Bill’s immediate superior, the Services Department manager, a rather officious man who blindly follows orders, a man who takes pleasure in making others feel small and insignificant, and worst of all, takes the credit where none is due.

Oops, too much, that is my old boss.  He’ll know immediately I’m parodying him.  Tone it down, just a little, but more or less that’s him.  Last name Benton.  He will play a small role in the story.

Character number four:

Jennifer, the IT Department’s assistant manager, a woman who arrives in a shroud of mystery, and then, in time, to provide Bill with a shoulder to cry on when he and Ellen finally split, and perhaps something else later on.

More on her later as the story unfolds.

So far so good.

What’s the plot?

Huge corporation plotting to take over the world using computers?  No, that’s been done to death.

Huge corporation, OK, let’s stop blaming the corporate world for everything wrong in the world.  Corporations are not bad people, people are the bad people.  That’s a rip off cliché, from guns don’t kill people, people kill people!  There will be guns, and there will be dead people.

There will be people hiding behind a huge corporation, using a part of their computer network to move billions of illegally gained money around.  That’s better.

Now, having got that, our ‘hero’ has to ‘discover’ this network, and the people behind it.

All we need now is to set the ball rolling, a single event that ‘throws a cat among the pigeons’.

Yes, Bill is on holidays, a welcome relief from the problems of work.  He dreams of what he’s going to do for the next two weeks.  The phone rings.  Benton calling, the world is coming to an end, the network is down.  He’s needed.  A few terse words, but he relents.

Pen in hand I begin to write.

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

In a word: Stern

It’s what I’d always expected of my teachers, having to stand up the front of the classroom and look like they were in control.

These days, not so much, but back in my day, teachers, and particularly the men, were to be feared, and stern expressions were the features of an effective teacher.

So, in this context, it means a hardness or severity of manner.

Whilst in a sense that was frightening to us kids, another form of the word also can be used to express a forbidding or gloomy appearance.

Grandfathers also have that stern look, but it’s more forbidding, more authoritarian, more severe, more austere, well, you get the picture.  A six-year-old would be trembling in his or her boots.

There again, in facing up to either possibility above, you could stand firm with a stern resolve not to buckle under the pressure.

Of course, not a good idea if you’re facing a tank (with a stern-looking tank master)

Then…

If you’re standing at the end of the boat, not the front, but the rear, you would be standing at the stern of the boat, or ship.

Oddly, when issuing instructions to go in reverse, not something you would say if you were on the bridge, you would instead say, or possibly yell, full speed astern, because you’re about to hit an iceberg.

Or some idiot in a jet ski who likes to think he or she can beat the bullet (or 65,000 tonnes of a ship that has very little mobility).

Searching for locations: Oreti Village – No two sunrises are the same – 2

Oreti Village, Pukawa Bay, North Island, New Zeland

On the southern tip of Lake Taupo

Our first morning there, a Saturday.  Winter.  Cold.  And a beautiful sunrise.

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This was taken from the balcony, overlooking the lake.

The sun is just creeping up over the horizon

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It gradually gets lighter, and then the sun breaks free of the low cloud

It lights up the balcony

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And the trees just beyond, a cascade of colorful ferns.

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It looks like it’s going to be a fine day, our first for this trip, and we will be heading to the mountains to see snow, for the first time for two of our granddaughters.

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to write a war story – Episode 17

For a story that was conceived during those long boring hours flying in a steel cocoon, striving to keep away the thoughts that the plane and everyone in it could just simply disappear as planes have in the past, it has come a long way.

Whilst I have always had a fascination in what happened during the second world war, not the battles or fighting, but in the more obscure events that took place, I decided to pen my own little sidebar to what was a long and bitter war.

And, so, it continues…

 

Jack was the first to realise that Marina was coming back, hearing her outside long before I did.  He stood up and looked in the direction of where he expected to see her.

A minute later she appeared, looking and sounding out of breath, as if she had been in a hurry? 

Chased, or had some urgent news?

“Is everything OK?” I asked, waiting till she came in and shut the door behind her.

The building we were in used to be a factory or a repair shop.  The strange smell I’d picked up a few hours ago was that of machine oil.

“We need to have a chat with the two who picked you up.”

“Where are they now?”

“I’ve organised to meet them at another facility we have.  Not everyone comes here.  It’s why we are still here.  Francesco nor any of the resistance he took with him were aware of this location.

I considered myself lucky to be among the few.

“Is there a reason why I need to be there?”

“Yes.  But it’ll wait until we get there.  Let’s go.”

She had barely got in the door, nor caught her breath.  It was just enough time to collect a spare clip of ammunition for a gun she had on her, but I couldn’t see.

I followed her out into the darkness, not realising it was night, for the first time since I’d arrived, and once outside, realised that it was an underground bunker rather than a building on an allotment, so it couldn’t be easily seen from any direction.  It was surrounded by trees and bushes, looking as though they had not been tended properly for some time.

It was as much as I could see, close by because it was a moonless night.

We went up some stairs and came out in a clump of bushes, and walked several yards where there was a disguised walkway zig-zagging through the bushes.  It, too, would be hard to see from a distance.  When we came out the other side, I could just barely see a car parked under a tree, looking rather worse for wear, and I thought it had been abandoned there. 

When Marina told me to get in, I realised it was, like everything else, well disguised.

The surrounding area was that of forest and farms.  It was hard to imagine that this part of the world was in the grip of a world war, and not too far away, there was the castle, and further north, the Germans and what was left of the Italian military forces dug in for a last-ditch effort.  The tide was turning, but ever so slowly.

It was hard to imagine just how dangerous it was for those defectors to try and get through without being shot.

And, just for good measure, Marina said, there were quite a few soldiers, disguised as ordinary workers who had infiltrated the villages, and surrounding farms, and reporting back what they saw and heard.

We were, in going about in the vehicle, attracting unwanted attention, but it was why we were doing this at night, she said, perhaps gleaning from my expression the fact I was worried about getting caught.

“The people at the castle tend not to go out at night for fear of being picked off.  I’m surprised you didn’t learn this when you were there.”

“I suspect the suspended any activities from the moment I arrived.  One of the prisoners told me that all movements of people had stopped, and they were waiting to be shipped out.  Obviously, they thought I might discover what was going on.  They definitely stopped me from going below the main floor.”

“I was told you have some knowledge of the castle layout?”

“Some.  We have old plans back in London, but I suspect those would be out of date now and since the German occupation.  The only time I got to look downstairs was when I tried to escape and found an old below ground exit, then when they locked me in a cell, and then when I was set free.  It matched much of what I remember seeing on the plans.  But, I suspect there’s more because I didn’t get to see the holding cells with the other prisoners.”

“Perhaps Carlo can help you with that.”

“We spoke about it.  I think he’s going to pay them a visit and exact revenge.”

“I told him we have to wait for some reinforcements.”

“No word from London?”

“Not yet.”

We stopped and parked the car between a church and what was left of what might have been a rectory, set aside from some other buildings that looked like part of a village.  It was not that dark that I couldn’t see that several of the buildings had been bombed, minus roofs, and one had the front section reduced to rubble.  No attempt had been made to clean it up.

“German tanks,” Marina said.  “An early landing party of your army parachuted in about a kilometre behind the church.  The local commander mobilised his forces and chased them into those buildings, which, at the time, housed four families.  They were given the option to surrender.  They didn’t, so the commander gave the order to raze the buildings to the ground, with them in there.  Along with the four innocent families.  No one survived.”

“The church?”

“The commander thought it would be bad luck to destroy the house of God.  The soldiers should have hidden in there.  They shot the priest anyway.”

It seemed odd to me that any sort of group would parachute into this part of Italy for any reason, castle withstanding.  There was, as far as I knew, nothing of interest or importance here.  Perhaps I’d ask when I made it back to London.  If I made it back.

I followed her through the rubble and in through a side entrance to the church.  Inside it was dark, and Marina was using her torchlight sparingly in case someone was watching.  From what I could see, the inside of the church was untouched, but everything was covered in dust from disuse.

“No one thought to send another priest?” I asked.

“No.  When they heard what happened to the last one, they decided to wait until the war was over.  Besides, with everything that’s happened, the people around here believe God has abandoned them.”

Perhaps he had.  I know that I wasn’t all that religious to begin with, but a lot of people I knew had lost their faith in a God that allowed such tragedies to happen.

We passed through a door at the back of the church, behind the nave, and into what looked like the vestment room.  To one side was another door, and then steps down.  The church had a cellar.

At the bottom of the stairs, there was a large storage area lit by a portable lantern.

Carlo was standing to one side, his weapon ready to use.

Opposite him were a man and a woman, the woman I’d seen before, she was the one who shot me with the tranquilizer.  The man, I’d not seen him before.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 51

We have a possible situation

I was walking slowly along the passage leading to the elevator on my way back to the bridge when the First Officer’s voice broke my thoughts.

“Captain?”

“Number one?”

“Could you come to the bridge; we have a possible situation.”

“On my way.”

A ‘possible situation’ for Number One that could mean almost anything, from an engineering calamity to a standoff with 100 alien battleships.  I was hoping for the calamity in engineering.

When I arrived on the bridge it was calm.  Was I expecting panic?

Number one stood, relinquishing the captain’s chair.

“On screen,” he said as I crossed the deck to join him.

A magnified vision of three alien spaceships appeared ahead.

“Between us and the Princesses home planet.  If we can see them, they can see us.  I suspect they knew we were coming.  I’ve slowed down to give us some preparation time.”

Of course.  Given her reservations about going home, the time she’d been away, the fact she had been living with the enemy, and the changing of power, it was not dissimilar to events that had happened through history on our own homework.

Was it too much to expect things would be different, and better than what we had?

“What do you think, friendly or hostile?”

“We should treat every encounter as hostile until proven otherwise.  A friendly response would not be three ships blocking our path.”

My sentiments exactly.  “General and team to the bridge.”

A few seconds later, “Acknowledged.”

“How far away are they?”

“We could be there in 30 minutes,” the navigator said.

“Can we scan for life signs, weapons, anything?”

“Not until we’re closer.  From here all we can see is their ships.”

The General and three others that made up his bridge attack team arrived on the bridge.

“What do we have?” He asked as he crossed to his station.

“Three ships waiting for us.”

“Same as the last vessel we encountered?”

“We have to get closer.  You better get ready for a fight.  I don’t think these people are going to be as friendly as the others.”

“You have information on these people.”

“Only from what the princess told me.  They have been constantly at war with themselves and others, with ever-changing governments.”  It had painted an interesting picture and one that might leave them battle-hardened or battle weary.

“Same old same old then.” 

It was, at times, no different from where we came.  Even with lessons learned from the past we still had pockets of war between stronger and weaker countries, these days mostly over dwindling resources.

“Let’s just hope their weapons are not superior to ours.”  It was a thought that I should have kept to myself.

“I’m sure we are as well-equipped as we possibly can be, given we had no idea if or what we would or could be up against.  The weapons are far superior to anything we have back home.”

Which had been the reason why in the first instance we didn’t know about, and once out here, could not get close enough back in each orbit to use them.  Our masters had theoretically considered everything.

Those weapons included nuclear-tipped torpedoes designed to travel through space, high-intensity laser beams that would cut through almost anything, including the alien alloy that this ship was constructed of, and a defensive tool, the ability to absorb shock waves and explosions and laser beams, what might be called shields.

The limited tests back home showed they worked, but out here in space against aliens with superior technology, w we were you to prove their worth.

Perhaps today would be the day.

“You have the bridge Number one.  Stay on course and speed and let me know when we are either hailing range.”

That would give me about a half hour.  I had more questions for the princess.

© Charles Heath 2021-2022

‘Sunday in New York’ – A beta reader’s view

I’m not a fan of romance novels but …

There was something about this one that resonated with me.

This is a novel about a world generally ruled by perception, and how people perceive what they see, what they are told, and what they want to believe.

I’ve been guilty of it myself as I’m sure we all gave one time or another.

For the the main characters Harry and Alison there is others issues driving their relationship.

For Alison, it is a loss of self worth through losing her job and from losing her mother and, in a sense, her sister.

For Harry it is the fact he has a beautiful and desirable wife, and his belief she is the object of other men’s desires, and one in particular, his immediate superior.

Between observation, the less than honest motives of his friends, a lot of jumping to conclusions based on very little fact, and you have the basis of one very interesting story.

When it all come to a head, Alison finds herself in a desperate situation, she realises only the truth will save their marriage.

But is it all the truth?

What would we do in similar circumstances?

Rarely does a book have me so enthralled that I could not put it down until I knew the result. They might be considered two people who should have known better, but as is often the case, they had to get past what they both thought was the truth.

And the moral of this story, if it could be said there is one, nothing is ever what it seems.

Available on Amazon here: amzn.to/2H7ALs8

You learn something new every day (2)

I got a call this morning from my brother who has been delving into the places we have lived over the years, including those before we were born.

My recollection, hazy at best, is that my father’s parents lived in Camberwell, a suburb of Melbourne, and the boys, those that survived the war, lived there too. He had three brothers, I think, and a sister. From what I’ve read, his older brother was a sensible chap and the peacemaker between him and his parents.

Later one of his brothers went to Sydney, his sister lived among orchards our Ringwood way, and another, much later, moved to Queensland. We very rarely, if ever, saw them, and the last time I did with most in one place, was after my Grandmother died. I do remember Dora, the site, visiting us once, and being young at the time, she seemed a very forbidding woman.

But, this is about where they lived.

My father, presumably before and immediately after the war, at home, and my mother at her home in Pakenham. There her father ran a service station and motor mechanic shop and was well known. Their house, at the time, was built over the road, just a short walk from home to work. The place, the first time I saw it, was a mechanics dream, with old cars and car parts outside and inside garages, and a woodworking shop with every tool imaginable.

Once the place had very elegant gardens, but by the time I got to stay there, in the 1960s, it was all overgrown, and the house was in disrepair. My mother’s brother lived there with my grandmother, and he was a fearsome, huge man who said little. All I knew about him was that, a) he was the one who found his father after he had killed himself, b) he liked fishing and went to a place called Corinella, and c) he was a mechanic like his father.

So, at some point in 1948, my father must have up and left, perhaps after an argument with his parents, and moved to Keiwa House, Bogong, where the Snowy River Hydro-Electric Scheme was being built, as a projectionist, bringing films to the workers in Town Halls.

As I’ve said, my mother stayed in a boarding house for ladies during the week and went home on weekends. I have the first letter that my father wrote to her and references the fact he went calling on her, and she was not there. We’ll never know what she thought, but there’s a second letter, after she wrote back, so a friendship was struck. He told her, almost in minute detail, what he was doing, and presumably, she told him about hers.

A year later, they married.

Now it gets interesting. We both thought that their first house, after getting married was in Carrum. It wasn’t. In the pile of letters were references to the family staying in a rented flat in Camberwell.

Sometime after that, there is a contract for a war service loan in relation to a property in Carrum, which turns out to be the first house they lived in, and where my brother, born in 1950) lived, and where I lived after I was born in 1953. I have interesting if vague memories of this house, and of the people who lived behind us because we could climb through the fence into their property. We knew them during, and after living in Carrum.

Now, today, some interesting new facts came to light about the Carrum house. We always assumed we owned it, but it seems that we didn’t. A copy of the title for that property never had the name Heath on it, so did we rent it? More information is required, and we need to dig deeper. Let’s hope there are no skeletons there.

And something else came out of a discussion with the daughter of my mothers sister, that it was believed my mother’s parents bought them a house in Chelsea, but my father, apparently, refused to live in it and sold it.

OK, I never claimed that my father was the sort that might have accepted charity, so perhaps in a moment of madness, he lost the plot. The question is, what happened to the money?
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An excerpt from “Betrayal” – a work in progress

It could have been anywhere in the world, she thought, but it wasn’t.  It was in a city where if anything were to go wrong…

She sighed and came away from the window and looked around the room.  It was quite large and expensively furnished.  It was one of several she had been visiting in the last three months.

Quite elegant too, as the hotel had its origins dating back to before the revolution in 1917.  At least, currently, there would not be a team of KGB agents somewhere in the basement monitoring everything that happened in the room.

There was no such thing as the KGB anymore, though there was an FSB, but such organisations were of no interest to her.

She was here to meet with Vladimir.

She smiled to herself when she thought of him, such an interesting man whose command of English was as good as her command of Russian, though she had not told him of that ability.

All her knew of her was that she was American, worked in the Embassy as a clerk, nothing important, who life both at work and at home was boring.  Not that she had blurted that out the first tie she met, or even the second.

That first time, at a function in the Embassy, was a chance meeting, a catching of his eye as he looked around the room, looking, as he had told her later, for someone who might not be as boring as the function itself.

It was a celebration, honouring one of the Embassy officials on his service in Moscow, and the fact he was returning home after 10 years.  She had been there one, and still hadn’t met all the staff.

They had talked, Vladimir knew a great deal about England, having been stationed there for a year or two, and had politely asked questions about where she lived, her family, and of course what her role was, all questions she fended off with an air of disinterested interest.

It fascinated him, as she knew it would, a sort of mental sparring as one would do with swords, if this was a fencing match.

They had said they might or might not meet again when the party was over, but she suspected there would be another opportunity.  She knew the signs of a man who was interested in her, and Vladimir was interested.

The second time came in the form of an invitation to an art gallery, and a viewing of the works of a prominent Russian artist, an invitation she politely declined.  After all, invitations issued to Embassy staff held all sorts of connotations, or so she was told by the Security officer when she told him.

Then, it went quiet for a month.  There was a party at the American embassy and along with several other staff members, she was invited.  She had not expected to meet Vladimir, but it was a pleasant surprise when she saw him, on the other side of the room, talking to several military men.

A pleasant afternoon ensued.

And it was no surprise that they kept running into each other at the various events on the diplomatic schedule.

By the fifth meeting, they were like old friends.  She had broached the subject of being involved in a plutonic relationship with him with the head of security at the embassy.  Normally for a member of her rank it would not be allowed, but in this instance it was.

She did not work in any sensitive areas, and, as the security officer had said, she might just happen upon something that might be useful.  In that regard, she was to keep her eyes and ears open, and file a report each time she met him.

After that discussion she got the impression her superiors considered Vladimir more than just a casual visitor on the diplomatic circuit.  She also formed the impression the he might consider her an ‘asset’, a word that had been used at the meeting with security and the ambassador.

It was where the word ‘spy’ popped into her head and sent a tingle down her spine.  She was not a spy, but the thought of it, well, it would be fascinating to see what happened.

A Russian friend.  That’s what she would call him.

And over time, that relationship blossomed, until, after a visit to the ballet, late and snowing, he invited her to his apartment not far from the ballet venue.  It was like treading on thin ice, but after champagne and an introduction to caviar, she felt like a giddy schoolgirl.

Even so, she had made him promise that he remain on his best behaviour.  It could have been very easy to fall under the spell of a perfect evening, but he promised, showed her to a separate bedroom, and after a brief kiss, their first, she did not see him until the next morning.

So, it began.

It was an interesting report she filed after that encounter, one where she had expected to be reprimanded.

She wasn’t.

It wasn’t until six weeks had passed when he asked her if she would like to take a trip to the country.  It would involve staying in a hotel, that they would have separate rooms.  When she reported the invitation, no objection was raised, only a caution; keep her wits about her.

Perhaps, she had thought, they were looking forward to a more extensive report.  After all, her reports on the places, and the people, and the conversations she overheard, were no doubt entertaining reading for some.

But this visit was where the nature of the relationship changed, and it was one that she did not immediately report.  She had realised at some point before the weekend away, that she had feelings for him, and it was not that he was pushing her in that direction or manipulating her in any way.

It was just one of those moments where, after a grand dinner, a lot of champagne, and delightful company, things happen.  Standing at the door to her room, a lingering kiss, not intentional on her part, and it just happened.

And for not one moment did she believe she had been compromised, but for some reason she had not reported that subtle change in the relationship to the powers that be, and so far, no one had any inkling.

She took off her coat and placed it carefully of the back of one of the ornate chairs in the room.  She stopped for a moment to look at a framed photograph on the wall, one representing Red Square.

Then, after a minute or two, she went to the mini bar and took out the bottle of champagne that had been left there for them, a treat arranged by Vladimir for each encounter.

There were two champagne flutes set aside on the bar, next to a bowl of fruit.  She picked up the apple and thought how Eve must have felt in the garden of Eden, and the temptation.

Later perhaps, after…

She smiled at the thought and put the apple back.

A glance at her watch told her it was time for his arrival.  It was if anything, the one trait she didn’t like, and that was his punctuality.  A glance at the clock on the room wall was a minute slow.

The doorbell to the room rang, right on the appointed time.

She put the bottle down and walked over to the door.

A smile on her face, she opened the door.

It was not Vladimir.  It was her worst nightmare.

© Charles Heath 2020

A photograph from the inspirational bin – 11

I remember hearing one day, a line from a poem, ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’.

Little did I know at the time it was the first line of a poem by William Wordsworth, and mentioned something else, daffodils, and I had a moment where a memory came back from when I was about five, gathering daffodils in a field behind the house we lived in.

But, how often is it we look at clouds and try to make them into something else we’ve seen before?

Clouds are the subject of many conversations, like he’s got his head in the clouds, not literally of course in this instance, just that he, or it could be a she, if far removed from reality.

Dark clouds are associated with ill will and infamy, e.g. he was born under a dark cloud. I heard my grandmother use that expression once, and wondered what she meant by it, because, being a child, it was a literal interpretation, that dark clouds brought heavy rain, and he go ‘very wet’.

I’ve been caught out by dark clouds too, misjudging how long before they arrive, and it always seems like next to no time before you, and the washing on the line get a thorough soaking.

These days, the cloud now means something else entirely, though based on an old analogy, that we store our computer files in the cloud, which simply means at a remote location on someone else’s computer. With file sizes the way they are, it’s not practical to store them on our own smallish computers.

And, isn’t it fun when you are flying through the clouds?

Not!

In those cases, going up or going down in a plane, it’s a very bumpy ride, and isn’t it quite strange when you are flying above the clouds, or can just see mountain tops appearing through the blanket of white.

Of course, you can have your head in the clouds and not be off with the fairies, if you are on a mountain when the clouds have come down so low you can touch them. Sometimes it’s called mist or fog, but there are such things as low clouds. I’ve seen them.

And, as for a single cloud as inspiration…

The story starts,

I was sitting down in a quiet corner of the park, the sound of children playing just audible in the background, along with a lawn mower, and the distant sounds of civilization.

I wanted to get as far away as possible, but in the concrete jungle that was not possible.

IT had bene a difficult morning, juggling customer complaints with the the call from the girl I thought was the one, but who had decided we were going in different directions and it was time.

Yes, we were literally going in different directions, she was heading off to Boston to start a new job, one that she only just decided to tell me about.

Was I disappointed? Just a little. Was it inevitable? My best friend thought so, and had said he had noticed a change in her. I had too, but was hoping it was a passing phaze.

I looked up, and there was a single cloud moving slowly across the sky, perhaps chasing after others that had passed before it.

Was it an omen. Would I become like that cloud, alone, always chasing after the impossible dream?

My phone vibrated, and I took it out. A message.

It was from the girl once of my dreams. I had not expected to hear from her again.

It was a short message, just one word.

“Help”

© Charles Heath 2021

Inspiration, maybe – Volume 1

50 photographs, 50 stories, of which there is one of the 50 below.

They all start with –

A picture paints … well, as many words as you like.  For instance:

lookingdownfromcoronetpeak

And the story:

It was once said that a desperate man has everything to lose.

The man I was chasing was desperate, but I, on the other hand, was more desperate to catch him.

He’d left a trail of dead people from one end of the island to the other.

The team had put in a lot of effort to locate him, and now his capture was imminent.  We were following the car he was in, from a discrete distance, and, at the appropriate time, we would catch up, pull him over, and make the arrest.

There was nowhere for him to go.

The road led to a dead-end, and the only way off the mountain was back down the road were now on.  Which was why I was somewhat surprised when we discovered where he was.

Where was he going?

“Damn,” I heard Alan mutter.  He was driving, being careful not to get too close, but not far enough away to lose sight of him.

“What?”

“I think he’s made us.”

“How?”

“Dumb bad luck, I’m guessing.  Or he expected we’d follow him up the mountain.  He’s just sped up.”

“How far away?”

“A half-mile.  We should see him higher up when we turn the next corner.”

It took an eternity to get there, and when we did, Alan was right, only he was further on than we thought.”

“Step on it.  Let’s catch him up before he gets to the top.”

Easy to say, not so easy to do.  The road was treacherous, and in places just gravel, and there were no guard rails to stop a three thousand footfall down the mountainside.

Good thing then I had the foresight to have three agents on the hill for just such a scenario.

Ten minutes later, we were in sight of the car, still moving quickly, but we were going slightly faster.  We’d catch up just short of the summit car park.

Or so we thought.

Coming quickly around another corner we almost slammed into the car we’d been chasing.

“What the hell…” Aland muttered.

I was out of the car, and over to see if he was in it, but I knew that it was only a slender possibility.  The car was empty, and no indication where he went.

Certainly not up the road.  It was relatively straightforward for the next mile, at which we would have reached the summit.  Up the mountainside from here, or down.

I looked up.  Nothing.

Alan yelled out, “He’s not going down, not that I can see, but if he did, there’s hardly a foothold and that’s a long fall.”

Then where did he go?

Then a man looking very much like our quarry came out from behind a rock embedded just a short distance up the hill.

“Sorry,” he said quite calmly.  “Had to go if you know what I mean.”

I’d lost him.

It was as simple as that.

I had been led a merry chase up the hill, and all the time he was getting away in a different direction.

I’d fallen for the oldest trick in the book, letting my desperation blind me to the disguise that anyone else would see through in an instant.

It was a lonely sight, looking down that road, knowing that I had to go all that way down again, only this time, without having to throw caution to the wind.

“Maybe next time,” Alan said.

“We’ll get him.  It’s just a matter of time.”

© Charles Heath 2019-2021

Find this and other stories in “Inspiration, maybe”  available soon.

InspirationMaybe1v1

The first attempt is exactly that, a first draft

That’s what it feels like after you’ve put words on paper.

The story is there waiting to be written, I know where it’s coming from, I know where I want it to go, but the words are not working.

I read it once, yuk, I read it twice, it’s begging me to press the delete button.

Now!

This is how it looks:

My life was going nowhere.  If I took a step back and took a good, long, hard look at it, what could I say was the one defining moment?

There was no defining moment.

I’d bounced around schools till the day I decided I was not cut out to learn anything more, or perhaps the teachers had given up trying to impart knowledge.  Whatever the reason, I dropped out of college and drifted.  Seasonal laborer, farmhand, factory worker, night watchman.

At least now I had a uniform and looked like I’d made something of myself.

Until I went home.

My parents were distinctly disappointed I was not married with children.

My overachieving brother always said I was a loser, and would never make anything of myself.

My ultra successful sister, married into a very wealthy family, had the regulation 2.4 children and lived in the lap of luxury, mostly pretended I didn’t exist, didn’t invite me to the wedding, and I had yet to meet the husband and children.  I guess she was ashamed of me.

This year I was avoiding going home.

This year I volunteered to work the holidays.

Yep, time to walk away and do something entirely different, like wrapping Christmas presents, my second favorite job to mowing the lawn.  Maybe if I contrive an accident with the lawnmower …

Back in front of the page, some hours later, an idea pops into my head.  The story continues:

It was 3 a.m. and it was like standing on the exact epicenter of the South Pole.  I’d just stepped from the warehouse into the car park.

The car was covered in snow.  The weather was clear now, but more snow was coming.

A white Christmas?  That’s all I needed.  I hoped I remembered to put the antifreeze in my radiator this time.

As I approached my car, the light went on in an SUV parked next to my car.  The door opened and what looked to be a woman was getting out of the car.

“Graham?”

It was a voice I was familiar with, though I hadn’t heard it for a long time.

My ultra successful sister, Penelope.  She was leaning against her car door, and from what I could see, she didn’t look too well.

“What do you want?”

“Help.”

My help, I was the last person to help her or anyone for that matter.  But curiosity got the better of me.  “Why?”

“Because my husband is trying to kill me.”

With that said, she slid down the side of the car, and I could see, in the arc lamps lighting the car park, a trail of blood.

To be honest, it needs some more thought.  IT’s got the makings of a story, but the MC shouldn’t come across as a hopeless case, he just needs to be, in part, a victim of circumstances, some of which he has to own.

But, as they say, anything on paper is better than nothing on paper.  Tomorrow, or the next day, I will edit and rewrite and see what happens.

Stay tuned.

© Charles Heath 2020