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.
And here we are a year later doing it all over again. Today’s prompt was to steal a line from an eavesdropped conversation, so here is my 333-worder with the title line taken from today’s BBC Radio 4 play version of The Great Gatsby (because I haven’t been out since my early morning dog walk).
I did my very best to die in the war
It isn’t every day you meet the love of your life.
I did wonder whether I felt like that because she was an escape, an early exit from living with my parents.
Jane her name was. Should have been Florence. I called her that, just as a joke, and she loved it, ’though she’d probably heard it hundreds of times, so it stuck.
She was my Florence Nightingale. Didn’t flinch when I came in, all shot up, hardly recognisable as human let alone recognisable to anyone who knew me. Most of my battalion were killed so not many familiar faces anyway. I saw Jimmy Talbot being wheeled in, when I was better, sitting up in bed. He was screaming, ‘like a girl’ as the saying goes. The screaming stopped just after that. Poor Jimmy.
It was Flo’s blue eyes looking down at me that I remembered when I came in. I wasn’t in as bad a shape as Jimmy… I lived, but mum burst into tears when she saw me, and that was a long time after. I didn’t have identification on me, jacket still somewhere on the battlefield, and I liked being anonymous. Thought I had a chance of a new life if I pretended I didn’t know who I was, but I got the new life anyway with Flo and came clean.
Mum’s eyes were pity but Flo’s were love, even the first time. Of course she could have been like that with everyone she cared for, but I got the extra biscuits, the hottest tea, the phone number when I was fit to go home. Mum couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to go back. She wanted everything to return to normal but there’s no normal after a thing like that. Flo understood so she rescued me.
Kept rescuing me for 47 years, and all because I did my very best to die in the war.
If you like working from prompts you might be interested in my 365-Day Writer’s Block Workbook (Vol 1).
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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.