The Hold Up

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Inside, Joe scratched at the heat rash on his neck and looked around the bar. What a dump! No wonder the place was empty. If he didn’t need the money he’d be gone. Gone from moaning Mona. Gone from the divorce lawyers. Gone with a smile on his face and happy fag in his mouth. Yeah, that’s what he wanted right now as he sat back and closed his eyes – a smoke.

Outside, a man in a hoodie nervously shifted from foot to foot, his right eye twitching. The scar was painful today… his next dose would fix it. A dose always fixed it. He fingered the gun in his pocket, waiting for the right moment. It was three in the afternoon, but the place was dark. Perfect!

It was now or never. He charged into the bar and yelled, “Give me all your money.”

Joe’s eyes sprang open. A pistol was pointing right at him.

“Sure, sure… calm down… here ya go.” Joe emptied the till and shoved the money forward on the counter. “It’s all here.”

The pistol was now waving madly. Joe stepped back and put up his arms. “Calm down pal… calm down.”

The man in the hoodie had his head down and started stuffing the money into his pockets.

Joe squeezed his eyes shut and grimaced. God, is this how it ends? In a grimy bar. Take all the money! Just go. I’m not looking at you. I don’t want to know who you are. Just leave!

All Joe could hear was the hum and click of the ceiling fan. He cautiously opened his eyes. Out of the void a voice said, “Keep the change” as a twenty floated to the floor.

It was a voice he recognised.

Writing prompt:
A man with a nasty scar over his right eye enters a bar, points a gun and says, “Give me all your money”. He is wearing a hoodie and needs a fix badly. The bartender is on a minimum wage, getting a divorce, and badly wants a smoke. It’s three in the afternoon, but the bar is dark. A ceiling fan is pushing the hot air around, and the place smells. As the robber leaves, he drops a twenty-dollar bill on the floor and says, “Keep the change.”

© Inara Hawley 2018

A Mouse, Doubt, and a Ginger Beer

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Frank had to book the holiday online if he wanted to be in the competition. And, he not only wanted to be in the competition, he wanted to win.

His eyes had lit up when he saw the ad on telly. It would be the best surprise ever for Marge. She had been talking about a cruise for the last twelve months. And if he won? Well, that would be the icing on the cake. All that extra spending money!

The screen in front of him came to life. Following the instructions they had been given in computer class, Frank put his hand on the mouse and clicked on the little multi-coloured circle on the desktop. He had it all there in front of him. Step by step, in pictures – how to order and pay online.

He could hear the instructor now, ‘Frank, don’t despair. It’s easy when you get the hang of it.’

But what if he didn’t have the hang of it? What if he pressed the wrong button? What if he put in the wrong details? What if he was too slow? What if he booked the wrong cruise? What if he was still in the middle of it all when Marge got home? Frank was overwhelmed with doubt and apprehension.

‘Don’t be silly,’ he told himself. ‘You can do this Frank!’ Employing his careful one-finger typing, he put in the website address. Up popped a kaleidoscope of colours, moving pictures, and even a talking video. Staring at the screen, Frank felt more confused than ever, when he heard, ‘Hey Pops, whatcha doin’?’

It was young Clare, Frank’s granddaughter, holding up her keys, ‘Pops, you didn’t hear the door!’

‘Oh Clare, pet. You don’t know how glad I am to see you.’

Before he could say easy-peasy, Clare had done it all. Would he ever get the hang of this Googling, surfing, and ordering online? He didn’t think so. But then, he knew what he had to offer was worth much more.

Clare had come to ask for his advice.

So, on this hot summer day, it was time for a refreshing homemade ginger beer and a chat.

Writing Prompt: Three words – mouse, doubt, beer

© Inara Hawley 2017

A Beautiful Thing

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The vase is a beautiful thing, thought Jeannie. Tall and green. Of course, she could not see it as well as she would have liked as it was so high up, but she was sure it would be just right.

Jeannie furrowed her brow as she looked up. She had noticed it last night as she lay in bed, examining the ornate ceiling. Just the top of it was peeking out. So green and inviting, her curiosity was peaked. Why was it sitting on top of the wardrobe where no one could see it? Jeannie thought it was far too lovely to be hidden away. Nanny must have forgotten about it. And Jeannie was sure of the reason. It was because she didn’t have any flowers.

Of course, Nanny was too busy to pick flowers. She had to feed the horses, the pigs, and the chickens. Not like at home where Mummy had lots of flowers and vases full in almost every room. Jeannie loved helping her mother with the flowers, and being almost ten, she considered herself a bit of an expert. She knew exactly how to hold the clippers and where to cut, from the bottom of the stem, and to do it on an angle.

Today, though, she didn’t need any clippers, or Mummy’s help either for that matter. Nanny’s kitchen scissors would do, and today, Jeannie was going to do it all by herself.

She could see her grandmother out of the bedroom window. A tiny figure way down the paddock with a bucket, feeding the horses. Now was the perfect, time. After a quick detour to the kitchen to get the scissors, Jeannie headed out the back door in the opposite direction. Oh, this was going to be so good! Jeannie was sure Nanny would love the surprise. After all, everyone loved flowers and Jeannie knew exactly where to find some.

Trudging through the long swaying paddock grass always put a smile on Jeannie’s face. The wind gently pushed it this way and that. She felt as if she was in the middle of a magic carpet as she walked, her fingers dancing across the top of the grass. It only took a few minutes to get to the patch of colour. So, beautiful! Nanny would be pleased.

Back in the kitchen with an armful of blooms, it was time to get the vase. Jeannie had it all planned. She put the flowers on the kitchen table, then pulled the small steps out from the pantry and carried them into the bedroom. Covered in paint splats she loved Nanny’s sturdy old steps. A bit like the magic carpet, until you folded them out, you wouldn’t know the little steps were there, so artfully were they made.

Unfolding them against the wardrobe, Jeannie began her climb. She held onto the door handles as she pulled herself up. On tiptoes, she reached. A bit higher. Yes! Got it! She was oh so careful. Holding the vase to her chest with one hand, she grabbed the wardrobe handle with the other to steady herself. Bit by bit, down she came as she found each step, letting out a big sigh of relief when her foot found the floor.

Now, to get the flowers in the vase and where to put it. Jeannie had thought about that for quite a while. The best place she decided was the kitchen table. So, that’s what she did. With all the flowers in and the vase filled with water from the kettle, she carefully pushed her masterpiece into the centre of the table. Then she looked down at the scissors. Not so clean. That, and getting the steps back into the pantry, would have to be a job for Nanny.

All was ready. Jeannie was beside herself with joy and excitement. Any minute now Nanny would walk through the door. And when she did, she found her sweet granddaughter beaming from ear-to-ear, standing next to the horrible old green vase filled with the next job on her list…. the weed of all weeds, Paterson’s Curse!

Writing prompt: Three words – vase, bucket, curiosity

© Inara Hawley 2016

Writing Prompts

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Writing Prompt: Start with ‘I’ll be late tonight’

“I’ll be late tonight.”

She didn’t know why she said it. No one heard her. No one really cared. But she cared.

Tonight was special; she needed to mark the event. Saying it aloud marked its importance – stamped it into the universe as the ending and the beginning that it was. She took one last look at her apartment and closed the door. Later, when she returned she would be different. She would have cemented her purpose for today, the next day and all the days to follow.

When she arrived, she looked at the entrance – a simple doorway. She put her shoulders back and stepped across the threshold. She climbed the stairs and entered the room. It was filled with people. The AA meeting had begun.

Writing Prompt: Start with ‘Wind howled down the chimney’

Wind howled down the chimney

There was no way he was going out tonight in this storm. No way at all. It was too wild. That, of course, was if no one knocked on his door. He was after all, on call.

So, it was with a hopeful intent that he settled by the portable lantern to read. With the power outage, there was nothing else to do. Just wait it out. It would all be over by morning.

He looked up at the clock, the usual loud ticking drowned out by the howling wind. It was still early, but maybe he should put his book down and get some sleep. He picked up his lantern and headed towards the bedroom, when suddenly, there was a loud banging on the door.

No! No! No!

He walked towards it with a resigned sigh and opened it, shielding his face from the gust of wind rushing towards him. He moved his hand, and there before him, stood his neighbour peering out from behind a woolly coat.

Holding up a basket of bread and cheese, the huge smile on her face said it all – one shouldn’t be alone on a night like this.

Writing Prompt: Start with ‘I remember her from school’

I remember her from school. My God! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

What was she doing? And why was she doing it all by herself? It was Ellen – definitely! Plain, little Ellen Barret, gyrating in the middle of the dance floor amidst the swirling lights and pulsating music. I recognised her immediately.

The club was dark and empty. I appeared to be the first to have arrived for the cabaret. Was she drunk so early in the evening? How embarrassing, dancing alone like that! Thank God, I wasn’t such an exhibitionist!

I wondered if I should get out there and save her.

But the more I watched, the more I realised that she was doing rather a good job of it. Her moving and grooving wasn’t bad at all. So, I sat and waited. I wanted to see how this would end.

And then the music stopped.

There was a sudden rush of people to the dance floor. Clapping and cheering. What was this? Then I heard, “Well done! You’ve the job.”

Writing Prompt: Start with ‘Golden dawn came’

Golden dawn came. It was a long night, but oh such a wonderful night. The lights so mellow, the weather so warm, the music so beautiful.

It had all worked out just as she planned. Gavin had picked her up early and dropped her off at the hairdresser. Everything had to be perfect – her hair, her makeup, her very special blousy dress that hid a multitude of sins. After all, this was a very important night.

As the event organiser, she wanted it to be perfect. She only ever did one event for any organisation and then she moved on. Her reputation was at stake.

And everything did go perfectly.

All the wealthy guests came down from their sumptuous hotel rooms, glorious in their finery. Preening like peacocks. Not long into the evening, she could see it was a huge success. As they all glided around the dance floor, she took a break. An hour, that’s all she needed and she was back, smiling and weaving through the crowd. By the time the last group of guests departed, she knew it was her best event ever.

As she looked out across the sea at the rising sun, many, many, miles from the hotel, waiting for her dyed hair to dry and listening to Gavin quietly snoring in the motel bedroom, she smiled at the bag in the corner. Yes, it was her best haul ever.

Writing Prompt: HAIKU using ‘Dangerous’ 
A Haiku is 17 syllables divided into 3 lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables.

Rose so beautiful
enticing and alluring
but dangerous thorns

© Inara Hawley 2016

Freddie’s Prize

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Freddie was tense. He looked at his watch. The glowing dial told him he only had five minutes.

He was determined to do it. This time he would make it! The tower in front of him was flickering with lights. How was he ever going to get to the top without being seen? The trick was to know when the lights flicked off. There was a rhythm to it. He was sure of it. Just relax, he said to himself… just relax.

His moment came and he was away. Freddie lurched and spun, he raced and jumped, his heart thumping all the while. Half way there. Up and up. Suddenly, the last set of stairs were right there in front of him. He took a deep breath and jumped. Made it!

Only a few more steps. And suddenly, there it was – the prize. Numbers flashed, lights buzzed. Level 103 was won.

‘Freddie! Dinner,’ came a call from downstairs.

Freddie shut his laptop. His alter ego would have to wait. He was hungry.

Writing prompt: Three words – tower, watch, ego

(c) Inara Hawley 2016