Parcels in the Rain
Synopsis: Who is the mysterious stranger who carries parcels in the rain? Why does Joey want so badly to win the story competition? Has Archie Walker met his match in the Suited Man? And is Jasmine right in her belief that it’s possible to breathe under water? Elizabeth Ducie’s new collection contains short stories and flash fiction drafted over a seven-year period since she rediscovered creative writing in 2006.
However, the 31 pieces also include writing about two important parts of her life: her childhood and her travels as an adult. What was Christmas Eve like in the 1970s? How did the family celebrate Verdi at teatime? Why was it so difficult to leave Ukarine? And what do you do when someone is screaming “It’s alright, I’m with British Airways” in your ear while you are lying on a stretcher and are quite clearly NOT alright?
Parcels in the rain is the second story but before that is ‘One of these Days’ which, I thought, would set the tone for the rest of the book; real experiences that most readers will be able to relate to. It also explains the set-up of the items chosen; thirty-one pieces selected from writing spanning seven years: “a mixture of traditional short stories, flash fiction, travel writing and memoir.” I thought I would have to work out which was which and I’ll let you know how I got on. In theory, I won’t be able to tell because fact is often unbelievable, and fiction should be so convincing that we believe every word.
I’m a titles fan and I particularly looked forward to ‘Death in Business Class’, ‘Minnie the Jinx’, ‘The Story Competition’, ‘Your Bloody Boss’, ‘Stripping for the Company’, and ‘Dead Men’s Music’.
The first one had me imagining soggy packages, and the Saturday Mystery Man certainly intrigued me. There were some great turns of phrases e.g. ‘The light was fading quickly; as though it had something better to do than hang around a London suburb on a day like that.’ I was really surprised that this story wasn’t accepted (assuming Elizabeth had sent it off). It was delightful.
Next was ‘The Scent of Cherry Blossom’ which, although fiction (I assume only as it was third-person point of view) brought another ‘ahh’.
Those who know me and my writing know that I have a dead body in most of my stories so ‘Death in Business Class’ enticed me. The ‘Is there a doctor on board’ bit had me chuckling and even more so at the end.
With ‘The Tale of a Smile’, I had to read the first sentence three or four times before I realised its meaning. On reflection, I should have just read it once and kept reading because it made far more sense (and was a lovely hook) once I had read the whole story.
Set in Tunisia, I felt this would be one of the travel pieces. I don’t follow football but I can imagine that Ahmed was one of many who cried at David Beckham’s departure from Manchester United. The end of this story explains the beginning and it’s a truly magical story, in every sense of the word.
‘My Father’s Shed’ was a similar story to ‘The Scent of Cherry Blossom’. This character’s father’s shed sounds so similar to my father’s, except the little pots of screws in my father’s case – a former photographer – had loads of old film canisters. Another ‘ahh’ story.