A Couple of Short Reads

So it’s #FogboundFriday again, and this week I wanted to mention my local writing group Huddersfield Author’s Circle or HAC.

It’s a great place to talk to other authors and to hear their styles as well as let them hear about my work. We tend to alternate between Reading meetings – where people read some new pieces they’ve been working on and get feedback from the group, and workshop meetings where one of our members sets a task for us to write about a set theme after giving an outline of what that theme is and then we get to it thinking and writing something short in a period of about 45 minutes.

It still amazes me as to the quality of work that is produced in such a small period of time.

So with the theme of “Food” here was my effort…

The Final Cuzza.

So, there we were, the whole gang at the Raj Mahal on a Friday night. The waiters struggled with the idea of a table for thirteen, but after a load of shouting – Bart was especially uncouth, giving the poor Indian guy a mouthful, it probably didn’t help that we’d all had a skinful already that evening.

Luckily Jude suggested we all get another pint while we waited for the staff to push 3 tables together. He approached the short fella behind the bar. “Thirteen pints of Kingfisher, mate.”

The poor guy’s eyes widened for a moment. “Thirteen?”

“Yeah – one each. Not a problem, Is It?”

The bartender shrugged. “No. No problem. Might take a few minutes, OK?”

“Whatever,” Jude said, watching as the first glass filled with the gold liquid.

Meanwhile a chorus of “Popadoms, popadoms, popadoms.” Led by Little Jim had the whole crew singing. Well I say singing, to the other customers, it was more likely a wail of half drunk oiks, but at least they were enthusiastic.

We called him Little Jim, not because he was huge – in a Robin Hood style, but because he was short. Not terribly inventive some of the lads who’d thought it up when Big Jim had joined our select group. 

Andy and Pete were talking in the corner, those two always looked shady and I knew that Andy carried a knife and had told the other lads how he was handy. It was mostly bluster, but I knew that he’d done some time inside for GBH, but that was in the past.

The shriek of wood scraping across the floor signalled the last of the tables being brought into position and was greeted by a massive cheer from Johnny. “About bloody time!” Tom added.

“Come on lads,” I said, trying to calm things a little. There had been noticeable stares from a couple sat by the window and three young guys nearer the bar. The last thing I wanted was for the staff to ask us to leave, this was supposed to be a celebration. The last time we’d all be together like this.

Everyone took their seats and things relaxed for a few seconds. That was until three waiters appeared with the drinks. The guys broke out into “Over here, Over here, Over here!” I sat there in the middle, between Tom and Phil, and pints of Kingfisher arrived before all of us to a round of applause. 

Matt looked up at the nearest waiter. “Better pull another thirteen mate. These aren’t gonna last long.”

The waiter looked back at him, not registering what he’d said.

“THIRTEEN MORE PINTS,” Simmy yelled at the poor guy, obviously thinking that speaking slowly in a louder voice would improve they waiters comprehension of his second language.

I was about to step in, but Thad beat me to it. “Chill bro. The poor git’s doing his best. Not his fault he wasn’t born here, Is It?”

I took the opportunity to stand, and waited for quiet to descend. “Thanks for all coming out tonight guys. It means a lot to me. As you know, I asked you here so we could celebrate, but before we do I just wanted to say this. Someone here squealed, betrayed the bloody lot of us.”

Silence fell before Little Jim chirped up, as usual. “Leave it out, Jesus. We haven’t even ordered yet!”

The previous workshop was based on Notre Dame – the image of burning spires brought about this idea.

Notre Dame

I followed the other novices of the holy order of Saint Gerome as we marched through the darkened nave, a line of students in inky black hooded robes. A sliver of light crept in behind us before the huge double doors slammed closed, pitching us into blackness.

They had said it would be symbolic of our lives, of being cast into difficult decisions with no vision of where we should lead, it was all of that and more.

I hoped I wasn’t the only one of the monks scared shitless.

A whisper cut through the silence, “Proceed.”

I stepped forward, trying to feel my way among the shuffling footsteps of the others, all seemed lost and under the same level of difficulty as myself. That, at least, made me feel a little better. It was pitch black, how did they expect us to do this?

Something tore ahead of me and with a clatter of bodies and murmured curses, I stopped.

“Get up!” Roared one of the masters somewhere ahead of us. “Find your way. Do you think God is going to guide you here. You are novices, the lowest of the low, now is the time to see which of you has the will to follow his word, and which are but sheep.”

I felt fear then, true fear. I had spent my whole life knowing this life was my true calling. Would they really cast those out who failed this trial? I couldn’t allow that to happen to me.

Instead of stumbling forward trying to make out shapes in the dark void, I closed my eyes. “Father, guide me,” I whispered and left the other novices in my wake. I could hear them around, whispered voices asking if others could see, where they were supposed to go, I ignored them.

I strode forward until I felt a heavy weight fall on my shoulder. It drove me to my knees and I stifled a grunt of pain.

Warm air pressed against my ear. “Well done, Brother. Tonight you will make the transition from Novice to Initiate

Light flared around me revealing the altar. Upon it five flickering candles within a circle.

“Speak your words.” The voice was deep, a heavy french accent, and from somewhere in the darkness behind me.

I gasped a deep breath, then let it slowly slide between my dry lips.

“Uriel before me. Raphael behind. Michael to my right. Gabriel at my left side.And above my head, the presence of God.”

“Take the blade and make your mark.” The Frenchman again.

The hilt of a heavy sword found it’s way into my left hand and clumsily I lifted it vertical to kiss the blade. 

“Blessed Michael, show me the way. Light the path with your divine power.”

Flames erupted from the sword and I pulled my head away, the heat raw, burning at my face and the smell of burning hair filling my nostrils.”

The candle flames leapt, creating a circle containing a five pointed star, and everything burned!

OK, that’s all for now, so until next time, Be Splendid to one another.

#Steampunk #Fogbound #FogboundFriday