“Trouble in Store” – Short stories my way: Setting the scene

I used to like writing short stories, somewhere between two and five thousand words, but, in the end, it was too much hard work.

No chance of getting into stride with a location description, no real chance of giving a background to a character, it was simply a case of diving straight in.

But …

I’ve been thinking about writing a short story, starting it with a short succinct sentence that will set the tone.

Something like:  “Jack was staring down the barrel of a gun”

What then?

Should he start analyzing what sort of gun it was, did it have a light trigger, was the person holding it shaking, a man or a woman, or a child?

Location, in a house, a disused factory, a shop, a petrol station, the side of the road.

So, where was Jack?

Something like:  “He had gone down to the corner shop to get a pack of cigarettes.”

For himself or someone else?  Is it day, is it night, or somewhere in between?

Something like:  “He had to hustle because he knew the shopkeeper, Alphonse, liked to close at 11:00 pm sharp, and came through the door, the sound of the bell ringing loudly and the door bashed into it.”

So, Jack’s state of mind, he is in a hurry, careless coming through the door, not expecting anything out of the ordinary.

How would you react when you saw a gun, pointed at Alphonse until the sound of the door warning bell attracted the gunman’s attention?

Is it a gunman?

Something like:  “It took a second, perhaps three, to sum up the situation.  Young girl, about 16 or 17, scared, looking sideways at a man on the ground, Alphonse, and then Jack.  A Luger, German, a relic of WW2, perhaps her father’s souvenir, now pointing at him.”

The punch line:  Cigarettes can kill in more ways than one.

The revelation:  The corner store also supplied the local drug addicts.

The revised start is now:

Jack was staring down the barrel of a gun.

He had gone down to the corner shop to get a pack of cigarettes.

He had to hustle because he knew the shopkeeper, Alphonse, liked to close at 11:00 pm sharp.  His momentum propelled him through the door, causing the customer warning bell to ring loudly as the door bashed into it, and before the sound had died away, he knew he was in trouble.

It took a second, perhaps three, to sum up the situation. 

Young girl, about 16 or 17, scared, looking sideways at a man on the ground, then Alphonse, and then Jack.  He recognized the gun, a Luger, German, relic of WW2, perhaps her father’s souvenir, now pointing at him then Alphonse, then back to him.

Jack to another second or two to consider if he could disarm her.  No, the distance was too great.  He put his hands out where she could see them.  No sudden movements, try to remain calm, his heart rate up to the point of cardiac arrest.

Pointing with the gun, she said, “Come in, close the door, and move towards the counter.”

Everything but her hand steady as a rock.  The only telltale sign of stress, the bead of perspiration on her brow.  It was 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the shop.

Jack shivered and then did as he was told.  She was in an unpredictable category.

“What’s wrong with your friend?”  Jack tried the friendly approach, as he took several slow steps sideways towards the counter.

The shopkeeper, Alphonse, seemed calmer than usual, or the exact opposite spoke instead, “I suspect he’s an addict, looking for a score.  At the end of his tether, my guess, and came to the wrong place.” 

Wrong time, wrong place, in more ways than one Jack thought, now realizing he had walked into a very dangerous situation.  She didn’t look like a user.  The boy on the ground, he did, and he looked like he was going through the beginnings of withdrawal.

 “Simmo said you sell shit.  You wanna live, ante up.”  She was glaring at Alphonse. 

The language was not her own, she had been to a better class of school, a good girl going through a bad boy phase.

Nest time, point of view.

© Charles Heath 2016-2021

Searching for locations: The Yu Gardens, Shanghai, China

The Yu Gardens or Yuyuan Gardens

The Yu Gardens (or Yuyuan Gardens) are located at No. 137, Anren Street, Huangpu District, very close to the Old City God Temple, in the northeast of the Old City of Shanghai at Huangpu.

Yu Garden was first built in 1559 during the Ming Dynasty by Pan Yunduan and finished approximately 1577, created specifically as a private garden of the Pan family for Pan Yunduan’s parents to enjoy in their old age.

Yu Garden occupies an area of 5 acres, and is divided into six general areas:

  -Sansui Hall which includes the Grand Rockery was originally used to entertain guests,

  -Wanhua Chamber is a delicate building surrounded by derious cloisters,

  -Dianchun Hall, built in 1820, includes Treasury Hall and the Hall of Harmony,

  -Huijing Hall which includes Jade Water Corridor.

  -Yuhua Hall which is furnished with rosewood pieces from the Ming Dynasty, and,

  -The Inner Garden with rockeries, ponds, pavilions, and towers; first laid out in 1709.  As the quietest part of Yu Gardens, it includes the Hall of Serenity and the Acting and Singing Stage.

The Mid-Lake Pavilion Teahouse, within the gardens, is the oldest teahouse in Shanghai.

A centerpiece of the gardens is the Exquisite Jade Rock, a 5-ton boulder that was originally meant for the Huizong Emperor (Northern Song Dynasty from 1100-1126 AD) but was salvaged from the Huangpu River after the boat carrying it had sunk.

These gardens house a lot of buildings that seemed to be a perfect blend of the old and the new, and if it was up to me, I’d keep the old.  Both the building and the gardens they are set in are like an oasis in the middle of an industrial complex, and perhaps impractical for the number of people living in Shanghai.

All of the ponds had a lot of fish in them

It was a pleasant afternoon, for both a stroll through the gardens

In and out of the rockery on narrow pathways

And to look inside the buildings that were sparsely furnished

There was even an area set aside for entertainment.

Searching for locations: Shaolin Kung Fu, near Zhengzhou City, Henan Province, China

After leaving the hotel in Zhengzhou, what was once one of the eight ancient capitals of China, we are going to Dengfeng city, and the home of China’s most famous martial art – Shaolin Kung Fu.

The Shaolin Temple nearby is the origin of Chinese Zen Buddhism, and the Songyang Academy, called “the Centre of Heaven and Earth” is located 87 Km from Zhengzhou, or, as we were advised, a 2 hour drive.  It will be scenic because we are heading towards the mountains.

As one of the four ancient Song Dynasty Academies, Songyang Academy is one of many schools in the province.  It is both on a large-scale, is quite spectacular, and is a comprehensive Wushu training base where students are trained to spread the Shaolin Wushu Kung fu style at home and abroad.

There is a 500 seat demonstration hall where you are able to observe 30 minutes of various martial arts in shows starting on the hour.

Outside there is a specific area that generally has about 600 trainees learning kung fu elements during the day, but can hold 5,000 [ep[;e when outdoor performances are required.

The kung fu school

The thing you notice most about the kung fu school is it’s size and then the number of buses which tells you that it is a popular tourist stop.

And with that size comes long distances between the car park and the venues we need to go to, the first of which is about half a km, and that’s just to get to the ticket plaza.

But, it is pleasantly set out and is quite a large number of shops for both souvenirs and food

We pass by some of the students going through their paces

From there it’s another long, long walk to the show arena, where we’re supposed to see various kung fu elements on display.  We watched this for a few minutes, then headed off towards the hall for a more intense demonstration of kung fu, and because there is limited seating we have to start lining at the head of the queue to get a seat.

But…

Everyone else has the same idea and we join the throng which then becomes a ride, and true to the Chinese they start finding ways to push in, even using the imaginary friend somewhere ahead in the queue.

The doors open and then it’s open slather, with the hoards pushing from behind and sliding up the side to get in first.  We go with the tide, and manage to get in and find a seat though we were separated from three of our group.

It was an interesting show even though not one word of English was spoken, which from our point of view was a disappointment because we had no idea what was going on.

However…

It wasn’t hard to follow

What the performers were doing was relatively self-explanatory, and quite fascinating especially the guy who broke a sword over his head, and the guy who stopped two spears penetrating the neck, both examples of very disciplined men.

Boys gave a demonstration of kung fu moves, and intensity and age increased as this progressed to the end.

Next, we were taken in hand by an instructor in Tai chi or an equivalent, I was not quite sure what it was called, and went through the twelve or maybe more moves that constituted a morning or afternoon exercise session or it could be just for relaxation.  I lasted the first session but it was a little difficult to do with my sore limbs and a bad back.

Not that I could remember any of it now other than hands overhead, hands in front, bent knees, and a few gentle kung fu hand moves.

Perhaps when I get home I might seek out someone to show me the moves.

Whilst the others were following their training instructor, I wandered about, finding a large statue


And some smaller statues

Lunch in the Zen Restaurant

After all that exercise it was time to have the lunch purportedly the same food as the king fu masters.
It’s in the Zen restaurant, aptly named, and the food when it came, came thick and fast, but some of it wasn’t very nice, meat with bones, tofu, a tasteless soup, but some good dishes like the vegetables and noodles with meat, without bones.

The only problem, nothing to drink except a pot of hot water.  No tea, no cold water, and if you wanted a cold drink you had to pay for it.  After paying 550 yuan why should we have to pay more for a drink when we have not had to so far.

But no cold water?  That was just not on, and when we brought this to that attention of the tour guide she just simply ignored us.  We just didn’t get anything.

That basically tainted the whole experience.

After lunch,  we had the Shaolin Temple, and the Pogoda Forest to visit.

Searching for locations: From Beijing to X’ian by bullet train

Beijing West train station.

Beijing west railway station is about eight kilometers from the Forbidden City, located at East Lianhuachi Road, Fengtai District.  Most trains traveling between south central, southwest, northwest, and south China are boarded here.

This place is huge and there are so many people here, perhaps the other half of Beijing’s population that wasn’t in the forbidden city.

Getting into the station looked like it was going to be fraught with danger but the tour guide got us into the right queue and then arranged for a separate scanner for the group to help keep us all together

Then we decided to take the VIP service and got to waiting room no 13, the VIP service waiting room which was full to overflowing.  Everyone today was a VIP.  We got the red hat guy to lead us to a special area away from the crowd.

Actually, it was on the other side of the gate, away from the hoards sitting or standing patiently in the waiting room.  It gave us a chance to get something to eat before the long train ride.

The departure is at 4 pm, the train number was G655, and we were told the trains leave on time.  As it is a high-speed train, stops are far and few between, but we’re lucky, this time, in that we don’t have to count stations to know where to get off.

We’re going to the end of the line.

However, it was interesting to note the stops which, in each case, were brief, and you had to be ready to get off in a hurry.

These stops were Shijiazhuang, Zhengzhou East, Luoyang Longmen, Huashan North, and Weinan North.  At night, you could see the lights of these cities from a distance and were like oases in the middle of a desert.  During the day, the most prominent features were high rise apartment blocks and power stations.

A train ride with a difference

G Trains at Wuhan Railway Station

China’s high-speed trains, also known as bullet or fast trains, can reach a top speed of 350 km/h (217 mph).

Over 2,800 pairs of bullet trains numbered by G, D or C run daily connecting over 550 cities in China and covering 33 of the country’s 34 provinces. Beijing-Shanghai high-speed train link the two megacities 1,318 km (819 mi) away in just 4.5 hours.

By 2019, China keeps the world’s largest high-speed rail (HSR) network with a length totaling over 35,000 km (21,750 mi).

To make the five and a half hours go quicker we keep an eye on the speed which hovers between 290 and 305 kph, and sitting there with our camera waiting for the speed to hit 305 which is a rare occurrence, and then, for 306 and then for 307, which happened when we all took a stroll up to the restaurant car to find there had nothing to eat.

I got a strange flavored drink for 20 yuan.

There was a lady manning a trolley that had some food, and fresh, maybe, fruit on it, and she had a sense of humor if not much English.

We didn’t but anything but the barrel of caramel popcorn looked good.

The good thing was, after hovering around 298, and 299 kph, it finally hit 300.

We get to the end of the line, and there is an announcement in Chinese that we don’t understand and attempts to find out if it is the last station fall on deaf ears, probably more to do with the language barrier than anything else.

Then, suddenly the train conductor, the lady with the red hat, comes and tells us it is, and we have fifteen minutes, so we’re now hurrying to get off.

As the group was are scattered up and down the platform, we all come together and we go down the escalator, and, at the bottom, we see the trip-a-deal flags.

X’ian,and the Xi’an North Railway Station

Xi’an North Railway Station is one of the most important transportation hubs of the Chinese high-speed rail network. It is about 8.7 miles (14 km) from Bell Tower (city center) and is located at the intersection of the Weiyang Road and Wenjing Road in Weiyang District.

This time we have a male guide, Sam, who meets us at the end of the platform after we have disembarked.  We have a few hiccups before we head to the bus.  Some of our travelers are not on his list, but with the other group.  Apparently a trip-a-deal mix-up or miscommunication perhaps.

Then it’s another long walk with bags to the bus.  Good thing its a nicely air-conditioned newish bus, and there’s water, and beer for 10 yuan.  How could you pass up a tsing tao for that price?

Xi’an is a very brightly lit up city at night with wide roads.  It is very welcoming, and a surprise for a city of 10 million out in the middle of China.

As with all hotels, it’s about a 50-minute drive from the railway station and we are all tired by the time we get there.

Tomorrow’s program will be up at 6, on the bus 8.40 and off to the soldiers, 2.00 late lunch, then train station to catch the 4.00 train, that will arrive 2 hours later at the next stop.  A not so late night this time.

The Grand Noble Hotel

Outdoor scene

Grand Noble Hotel Xi’an is located in the most prosperous business district within the ancient city wall in the center of Xi’an.

The Grand Noble Hotel, like the Friendship Hotel, had a very flash foyer with tons of polished marble.  It sent out warning signals, but when we got to our room, we found it to be absolutely stunning.  More room, a large bathroom, air conditioning the works.

Only one small problem, as in Beijing the lighting is inadequate.  Other than that it’s what I would call a five-star hotel.  This one is definitely better than the Friendship Hotel.

In the center of the city, very close to the bell tower, one of the few ancient buildings left in Xi’an.  It is also in the middle of a larger roundabout and had a guard with a machine gun.

Sadly there was no time for city center sightseeing.

Searching for locations: On the road to Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China

One the first things you notice when driving around Beijing, other than the roads are congested with traffic, is the number of trees and flowers that have been planted, in the median strip as well as along the edges of the road.

What you also notice is the large number of multi-story apartment blocks, which are needed to house the millions of Beijing residents.  What we have, so far, rarely seen, is single-story houses.
These continuous areas of trees and rose bushes are, every now and then, broken up by very colorful garden beds:

Nearer to the square we are able to get up close to the flowers.  These, we are told, are a variation on the rose, one that flowers for nine months of the year.

They come in a variety of colors.

And they are literally everywhere you go, on the side of the roadway, often blotting out the concrete jungle behind them.

Searching for locations: We’ve just arrived in Beijing International Airport, China

Instead of making a grand entrance, arriving in style and being greeted by important dignitaries, we are slinking in via an airplane, late at night.

It’s hardly the entrance I’d envisaged. At 9:56 the plane touches down on the runway.  Outside the plane, it is dark and gloomy and from what I could see, it had been raining.  That could, of course, simply be condensation.

Once on the ground, everyone was frantically gathering together everything from seat pockets and sending pillows and blankets to the floor.  A few were turning their mobile phones back on, and checking for a signal, and, perhaps, looking for messages sent to them during the last 12 hours. Or perhaps they were just suffering from mobile phone deprivation.

It took 10 minutes for the plane to arrive at the gate.

That’s when everyone moves into overdrive, unbuckling belts, some before the seatbelt sign goes off, and are first out of their seats and into the overhead lockers.  Most are not taking care that their luggage may have moved, but fortunately, no bags fall out onto someone’s head.

The flight had been relatively turbulent free.

When as many people and bags have squeezed into that impossibly small aisle space, we wait for the door to open, and then the privileged few business and first-class passengers to depart before we can begin to leave.

As we are somewhere near the middle of the plane, our wait will not be as long as it usually is.  This time we avoided being at the back of the plane.  Perhaps that privilege awaits us on the return trip.

Once off the plane, it is a matter of following the signs, some of which are not as clear as they could be.  It’s why it took another 30 odd minutes to get through immigration, but that was not necessarily without a few hiccups along the way. We got sidetracked at the fingerprint machines, which seemed to have a problem if your fingers were not straight, not in the center of the glass, and then if it was generally cranky, which ours were, continue to tell you to try again, and again, and again, and again…That took 10 to 15 minutes before we joined an incredibly long queue of other arrivals,

A glance at the time, and suddenly it’s nearly an hour from the moment we left the plane.

And…

That’s when we got to the immigration officer, and it became apparent we were going to have to do the fingerprints yet again.  Fortunately this time, it didn’t take as long.  Once that done, we collected our bags, cleared customs by putting our bags through a huge x-ray machine, and it was off to find our tour guide.

We found several tour guides with their trip-a-deal flags waiting for us to come out of the arrivals hall.  It wasn’t a difficult process in the end.  We were in the blue group.  Other people we had met on the plane were in the red group or the yellow group.  The tour guide found, or as it turned out she found us, it was simply a matter of waiting for the rest of the group, of which there were eventually 28.Gathered together we were told we would be taking the bags to one place and then ourselves to the bus in another.  A glance in the direction of the bus park, there were a lot of busses.

Here’s a thought, imagine being told your bus is the white one with blue writing on the side.

Yes, yours is, and 25 others because all of the tourist coaches are the same.  An early reminder, so that you do not get lost, or, God forbid, get on the wrong bus, for the three days in Beijing, is to get the last five numbers of the bus registration plate and commit them to memory.  It’s important.  Failing that, the guide’s name is in the front passenger window.

Also, don’t be alarmed if your baggage goes in one direction, and you go in another. In a rather peculiar set up the bags are taken to the hotel by what the guide called the baggage porter.  It is an opportunity to see how baggage handlers treat your luggage; much better than the airlines it appears.

That said, if you’re staying at the Beijing Friendship Hotel, be prepared for a long drive from the airport.  It took us nearly an hour, and bear in mind that it was very late on a Sunday night. Climbing out of the bus after what seemed a convoluted drive through a park with buildings, we arrive at the building that will be our hotel for the next three days.  From the outside, it looks quite good, and once inside the foyer, that first impression is good.  Lots of space, marble, and glass.  If you are not already exhausted by the time you arrive, the next task is to get your room key, find your bags, get to your room, and try to get to be ready the next morning at a reasonable hour.

Sorry, that boat has sailed. We were lucky, we were told, that our plane arrived on time, and we still arrived at the hotel at 12:52.  Imagine if the incoming plane is late.

This was taken the following morning.  It didn’t look half as bland late at night.

This is the back entrance to Building No 4 but is quite representative of the whole foyer, made completely of marble and glass.  It all looked very impressive under the artificial lights, but not so much in the cold hard light of early morning.

This the foyer of the floor our room was on.  Marble with interesting carpet designs.  Those first impressions of it being a plush hotel were slowly dissipating as we got nearer and nearer to the room.  From the elevator, it was a long, long walk.

So…

Did I tell you about the bathroom in our room? The shower and the toilet both share the same space with no divide and the shower curtain doesn’t reach to the floor.  Water pressure is phenomenal.  Having a shower floods the whole shower plus toilet area so when you go to the toilet you’re basically underwater. Don’t leave your book or magazine on the floor or it will end up a watery mess. And the water pressure is so hard that it could cut you in half.  Only a small turn of the tap is required to get that tingling sensation going. It’s after 1:30 before we finally get to sleep.

As for the bed, well, that’s a whole other story.

Searching for locations: The Jade Factory, Beijing, China

The first stop is at a Jade Museum to learn the history of jade. In Chinese, jade is pronounced as “Yu” and it has a history in China of at least four thousand years.  On the way there, we are given a story about one of the guide’s relatives who had a jade bracelet, and how it has saved her from countless catastrophes.It is, quite literally ‘the’ good luck charm.  Chinese gamblers are known to have small pieces of jade in their hands when visiting the casinos, for good luck.  I’m not sure anything could provide a gambler with any sort of luck given how the odds are always slanted towards the house.

At any rate, this is neither the time of the place to debunk a ‘well-known fact’.

 On arrival, our guide hands us over to a local guide, a real staff member, and she begins with a discussion on jade while we watch a single worker working on an intricate piece, what looks to be a globe within a globe, sorry, there are two workers, and the second is working on a dragon.

At the end of the passage that passes by the workers, and before you enter the main showroom, you are dazzled by the ship and is nothing short of magnificent.

Then it’s into a small room just off the main showroom where we are taken through the colors, and the carving process in the various stages, without really being told how the magic happens.

Then it’s out into the main showroom where the sales are made, and before dispersing to look at the jade collection, she briefly tells us how to tell real and fake jade, and she does the usual trick of getting one of the tour group to model a piece.

Looks good, let’s move on.  To bigger and better examples.

What interested me, other than the small zodiac signs and other smallish pieces on the ‘promotion’ table, was the jade bangle our tour guide told us about on the bus.  If anyone needs one, it is my other half, with all the medical issues and her sometimes clumsiness, two particular maladies this object is supposed to prevent.
Jade to the Chinese is Diamonds to westerners, and the jade bangle is often handed down to the females of the family from generation to generation, often as an engagement present, to be worn on the left hand, the one closest to the heart.

There are literally thousands of them, but, they have to be specially fitted to your wrist because if it’s too large, you might lose it if it slips off and I didn’t think it could be too small.  
Nor is it cheap, and needing a larger size, it is reasonably expensive.  But it is jadeite, the more expensive of the types of jade, and it can only appreciate in value, not that we are interested in the monetary value, it’s more the good luck aspect.

We could use some of that.

But, just to touch on something that can be the bugbear of traveling overseas, is the subject of happy houses, a better name for toilets, and has become a recurrent theme on this tour.  It’s better than blurting out the word toilet and it seems there can be some not so happy houses given that the toilets in China are usually squat rather than sit, even for women.
And apparently, everyone has an unhappy house story, particularly the women, and generally in having to squat over a pit.  Why is this a discussion point, it seems the jade factory had what we have come to call happy, happy houses which have more proper toilets, and a stop here before going on the great wall was recommended, as the ‘happy house’ at the wall is deemed to be not such a happy house.

Not even this dragon was within my price range.  Thank heaven they had smaller more affordable models.  The object of having a dragon, large or small, is that it should be placed inside the main door to the house so that money can come in.

It also seems that stuffing the dragon’s mouth with money is also good luck.  We passed on doing that.

After spending a small fortune, there was a bonus, free Chinese tea.  Apparently, we will be coming back, after the Great Wall visit, to have lunch upstairs.

           

NaNoWriMo (April) – Day 8

The story proceeds. That underlying suspicion of Maryanne’s motives rears it’s head again, but for different reasons.

Of course, Jack, the main character has a name, if not a little trite but it suits him, has always been suspicious because he’s not the type to be approached by beautiful women, and yet, so far has managed to allay those fears but being the perfect companion.

But, what’s a self confessed gate crasher got up her sleeve.

Out of the hospital and on their road trip, they’re heading for an island and a hotel that overlooks the Mediterranean, what might be synonymous with the perfect location for romance.

But all of that is shattered when he sees her with another man, at the rear of the ferry, and the animation in her manner tells him the man is not just someone who ran into her.

Jack knows who it is, and what he does, so that makes the meeting even more mysterious.

And perhaps dangerous.

Yes, we are exploring the theme of ‘everyone has secrets’.

Today’s effort amounts to 2,444 words, for a total, so far, of 20,594.

More tomorrow.

NaNoWriMo (April) – Day 7

What’s the best way to recover from being shot by the police? Go on an all expenses paid holiday.

Within reason, of course.

Of course, he was on a holiday, not quite all expenses paid, but for the duration of the conference. Getting shot and having a prolonged stay in hospital put paid to that, but there is an upside.

The police, in exchange for silence and an indemnity are happy to send our intrepid conference goer on a tour of Italy. There are benefits either side, the police don’t get a lawsuit, and he gets to spend a few days touring.

Of course, Maryanne decided to tag along. She had been filling in for him at the conference, unbeknownst to him, and line up a couple of free venues. In exchange for favourable reviews.

But what is the real reason Maryanne is along for the ride, or she might put it, ‘carry the bags’?

That saying ‘if it’s too good to be true, is probably is’ sticks in the back of his mind, but he doesn’t discourage her coming with him.

Is he lucky, or is he cursed?

Today’s effort amounts to 3,123 words, for a total, so far, of 18,150.

More tomorrow.

NaNoWriMo (April) – Day 6

It’s round about now, coming to the end of the first week when the well runs dry.

It’s an interesting analogy. For the pantsers, the ideas run really well, and then the magnitude of the job kicks in, and the words dry up, and that terrible piece of paper staring at you, begging to be written on, becomes a nemesis.

Yes, I’ve been there.

But…

I’ve learned over the years that writing a 50,000 word novel needs a degree of planning, and once the day’s allocation has been written, get some ideas down for the next, or for the next few.

Any ideas, whether they fit or not, that flesh out the story in outline form. I do this at the end of the writing session most times, but, sometimes when I’m in the middle of a piece, an idea will pop into my head.

It’s a good distraction.

Unless, like me, you suddenly find yourself writing that piece because the story is pouring out like water from a tap.

Today is another good day, and I’m lost in the relationship between two of our characters, and they are sparring. He suspects she is not what she seems, and she is trying to allay his fears, each trying not to be too conspicuous about it.

I’m also getting to travel myself, even if it is in an armchair, and it’s great that I can go almost anywhere in the world, but I’m settling for some islands off Italy. One day I might actually be able to visit them in person.

Today’s effort amounts to 1,411 words, for a total, so far, of 15,027.

More tomorrow.