A lot can happen in 24 hours. Last night (Saturday) I was invited by Jean Joachim to join her invitation-only online writing group Tuesday Tales. Being (predominantly) a short story author I was thrilled to be asked and gladly accepted.
The idea is that we’re given a new prompt each week, we write a story inspired by it and post it on our blogs / websites. Then we email the link and first two or three sentences to Jean. She then posts them on the Tuesday Tales blog (on a Tuesday ), gives us the link then we go out and shout about it.
This week’s prompt (my first) is ‘save’ and below is the 476-word story I’ve written for it. I hope you enjoy it (if ‘enjoy’ is the right word).
Two backwards, one forwards
John had never saved a life before. He wasn’t even sure this really qualified – the paramedics had taken over pretty quickly but he’d been the one who’d dragged the woman from the pool, lain her down and put her in the recovery position, something he’d not done since scouts, and Billy Wingate hadn’t counted as someone in any danger.
John hoped the woman would forgive him for chopping off her hair. He’d not been the first one to spot her but the only one with scissors. If it hadn’t been for Amy’s insistence that he mend her doll’s dress, he’d not have had them with him.
“I’ll do it when we get back, Amy,” he’d said.
“I want to take her with me.”
“But you’ll be swimming.”
“You won’t be, so it’ll give you something to do.”
When had his six-year old daughter become such an adult? he wondered. Since her mother died. Now he had both roles: father – breadwinner; mother – nurturer. He was better at the former. More practice: nine years vs. 18 months.
When you go to work, kiss your wife goodbye, as you do every day, stroke the side of her face as something had compelled John to do that morning, you expect her to be there when you get home, laughing and joking. You don’t expect a call from the school asking why no-one’s collected your daughter, regular as clockwork, only Laura’s clock had stopped ticking – just like that – as if the battery had run out. Two hearts, two batteries: Laura’s and their unborn son’s. Two lives he’d been unable to save.
A year and a half later, there he was, sitting by a Spanish pool in the summer’s early morning warmth – an only parent to an only child. A happy one, on the outside.
Amy’s screaming had jolted him out of a doze. Not quite asleep. Just eyes closed. Resting, if anyone had asked. Too little sleep for both of them. Nightmares – shared subconscious.
The sewing kit and tiny dress had scattered on to the concrete as he’d bolted off the lounger and run to where Amy stood pointing at a figure two metres underwater, hair trapped in the drain, costume sparkling like a mermaid. He’d gone back for the scissors, panicking when he couldn’t find them, then spotting them under a neighbouring empty lounger, he’d straddle-jumped into the pool.
He’d felt guilty, cutting the woman’s beautiful auburn hair with the pathetic, travel-size blades until she came loose and started floating to the top. He swam up after her, grabbed her, towed her by her chin, arm across her chest, as he’d been taught.
She’d been lighter than he imagined she should be. Slim. Pretty. Laura-esque.
He’d felt a pulse, and as he watched the stretcher being taken to the ambulance, he was sure there’d been a hint of a smile.
Although the prompt ‘save’ started the story, the inspiration for the situation from Kate Atkinson’s When Will There Be Good News (character Reggie’s mother died drowning in a pool – no spoiler, we learn it early in the book).
The links to the first six prompts, and resulting stories, and the forthcoming prompts can be found on my new Tuesday Tales page here on this blog. Do go and check out the Tuesday Tales site – it’s a wonderful idea supported by talented writers. And the link that this story appears on is HERE – snuggled in with 18 other writers. :)
So, not only can you read these stories but you could also write your own using the prompts given each week. There’s no word count limit. Single-word prompts are something I regularly give my Monday night workshop and it’s amazing how different our stories can be.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called Short Story Saturdays where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.