Welcome to the one hundred and eighth in this daily series that is ‘5pm Fiction’.
Late April 2011 I discovered http://StoryADay.org and the project that is to write 31 stories in 31 days. Anyone who knows me or follows this blog, knows how passionate I am about short stories so my clichéd eyes lit up at this new marvel. And just a few days later there I was, breathing life into new characters. This went on to become (with some editing of course) my 31-story collection eBook Story A Day May 2011.
I was nearing completion of the 2012 project when I decided that I didn’t want to stop at the end of May so 5PM Fiction was born. I put a load of prompts on the 5PM Fiction page and today’s was to write a story with the following ‘mixed bag’: doctor, old man, recycling box, knee trouble, parrot… so here is my 360-worder.
African grey blues
Lugging his blue plastic recycling box through his front door, Ernie growled at his complaining right knee. It had been troubling him for a few weeks but he didn’t want to go to the doctor’s. He was old, that was all, nothing serious. Doctors were busy attending to genuinely ill people, not arthritics like him.
He was lowering the box on to the pavement when he sensed someone standing next to him.
Turning round he recognised his next door neighbours’ son, chewing furiously.
“Hello, Mr Beasley,” the boy said brightly through pink-gummed teeth. He then proceeded to blow a bubble which popped and receded expertly back into his mouth.
“Hello, Tommy,” the old man replied stepping backwards to let the boy pass.
Tommy stood still. “Do you know anything about African grey parrots, Mr B?”
“I don’t really. Sorry. What’s the problem?”
“I’m looking after it for a mate and I think it’s kind of… well, sick.”
“Saturday. He’s on honeymoon in Ibiza. And my folks are away, so I’m on my own and…”
“Not really, gone to the cottage in Devon and left me alone, only they didn’t know about the parrot.”
“Would you like me to…?”
“Certainly,” the old man replied. He went back into his house, grabbed his key, slammed the door shut and followed the boy into his house. “So it’s eating alright?”
“And when you let it loose it flies about OK?”
“Loose? Like, out of its cage?”
“Well… yes,” Ernie said.
“Oh… am I supposed to do that?”
“It is a bird.”
“Well, yes,” Tommy mimicked. “But it’s a pet.”
“It is that, Tommy but like everyone, it needs its exercise. Imagine if you were shut in your room 24/7.”
“I wouldn’t mind that,” the boy said cheerfully.
“No, I don’t suppose you would. So where is it now?”
“In the toilet.”
“In the… toilet?”
“Any particular reason?”
“It’s got flowery wallpaper.”
“Oh I see,” Ernie said, although he didn’t at all.
Photography courtesy of morguefile.com.
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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 fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, 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.