Last week, I gave you some titles in the hope that it would spark off lots of ideas. It certainly did! You sent in some wonderful true-stories, poems and prose. A huge thank you to all of you who had a go. They’re all published below. Please take a look. Each one is fantastic.
My new weekly challenge is for you to send me a story in diary form. It can be funny, sad, poignant – it’s up to you. Here’s one I’ve written to illustrate – as you’ll see, it’s written through the eyes of a child:
Diary of Ellie Carter, aged 6 ¾
Monday 10th May
I hate Phoebe Spencer-Rowbotham. She talks like the Queen and she thinks she’s the best at everything. But she isn’t. And she smells, too.
Tuesday 11th May
I really hate Phoebe Spencer-Rowbotham. I had to sit next to her on the carpet for stories and she kept poking me. It really hurt. I didn’t want to squeal but Phoebe made me. Then Miss Cook told me off. It’s not fair.
Wednesday 12th May
Phoebe Spencer-Rowbotham is horrid. She told Miss Cook that I poked my tongue out at her when Miss Cook was looking the other way. I didn’t. But I poked it out at Phoebe. And I’m going to do it again tomorrow.
Thursday 13th May
Phoebe Spencer-Rowbotham is a big pile of poo. She’s been telling everyone about her birthday party. She’s going up to London and they’re going to go everywhere and see everything. I’ve never been to London. It’s not fair.
Friday 14th May
I really like Phoebe Spencer-Rowbotham. She gave me an invitation to her birthday party today.
Now here’s all your wonderful entries into my weekly challenge:
Keith Channing sent in this fascinating true story:
During the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s I was living on the Arabian Gulf, working on the new port construction at Jebel Ali. At the project’s peak the company that engaged me, which was just one of the companies working on the project, boasted some 400 European and 4000 Asian employees. With those numbers, and being more than 30 km from Dubai, a local police presence was considered essential.
The police post was led by an Inspector who was proud of his command of English, and a small number of officers. Traffic Police from Dubai also called in regularly. One of them was a tall, large Somali by the name of Mohammed, who was in the habit of popping into my house for a cup of tea. On those occasions, he removed the bullets from his pistol and let my son, then four years old, play with it. But that’s a story for another day; as is his frequent complaint to me that “You are over-speeding too much. One day I will catch you, but you are too clever for me.”
Too clever, eh? Maybe because I knew the Traffic Ordinance better than he did – he thought that he could only catch me with a radar gun. I regularly passed him whilst doing more than 110kph in an 80kph speed limit. I was in a 1200cc Datsun, he was in a Mercedes Benz. I waved as I passed him, and he waved back. Way too clever.
My job had me in contact with the police fairly regularly, and I enjoyed a good working relationship with him. He was very helpful when I needed to have my brand new driving licence replaced. The clerk had mis-transcribed my name into Arabic. Twice. Instead of Keith Channing, it said (roughly) Jinnis Keet. I love that name, and shall find a use for it one day. The Inspector sent it back to Dubai with an appropriate note. On its return, I saw that it was better, but still not right. One dot was missing under a letter. Two dots below gives the EE sound, one dot gives B. When he read it, the Inspector confirmed that it said Keith Channbng.
An interesting character and one I shan’t forget – but a number of whose traits I might one day appropriate.
What has this to do with the list of titles? Simply this.
When he first introduced himself to me he said: “My name is Ahmed. I am Spectre for shorta [Arabic for Police] for Jebel Ali.
As an aside, in 1981, the local newspaper stated that Dubai Police was proud to announce a literacy rate of 40% amongst its officers. I was horrified, until I learned from Spectre Ahmed, that literacy was defined as a good working ability in spoken and written English.
Steve sent in this brilliant succinct story using all the titles:
“The spectre of nightfall made the race for this dreamer to the rendezvous,” said The Guardian, “a revelation that summer rain could cure the blues.”
Ayo Oboru was inspired to write this love poem by one title in particular:
Daddy warned last night,
‘No more meeting behind the house.’
‘The next time I’ll lock you inside.’
Yet my heart yearns,
To see the one,
That makes my heart beat,
My smile come alive.
Trained for obedience.
To listen to mummy
And do all the things
I’d promised to daddy.
Yet there’s a call,
It’s louder than daddy’s
And shriller than mummy’s.
I hear the call.
No one else does.
To mummy a random bark,
And daddy hears it as a stray’s whine
My love’s waiting.
For Eddy, and his entertaining poem, it was another title:
Songs are like tattoos
You know I’ve been to sea before
Crown and anchor me
Or let me sail away
Alright, that’s Joni Mitchell
That’s the poetess herself
So what? I’ve felt this way too
I’ve lived and loved this song
What is plagiarism after all?
Can’t I use her words
if they describe my love for the ocean
better than I could ever do?
Here is a shell for you
Inside you’ll hear a sigh
A foggy lullaby
There is your song from me
Jasdeep Kaur also went for another title, with her powerful poem:
Morning blues; thumping veins;
yelling horns; congested lanes;
rising strain; slowing pace.
They say, “It’s a race!”
Crafty words; flashy efforts;
manipulative hikes; lobbying minds;
corporate culture or ostentatious glace?
They say, “It’s a race!”
Stressed brains; confused doctors;
re-examinations; endless diagnosis;
wrinkled temples; withered face.
I ask, “Why this race?”
Jacky Tustain chose the same title as Jasdeep and wrote a strong, emotive piece:
Oaken fingers twist their grip on smooth aluminium
Back bent, you rock the walker, each step a strain.
I wait, watching the man I raced to keep pace with each day,
punctuality your perpetual master,
savour each slow shuffling movement.
You pause for breath.
‘Take your time,’ I say.
My young limbed son, your grandson, watches.
The wind ruffles the trees, petals drift carelessly away.
Alexandra Ellul also chose the title, ‘The Rendezvous’ for her emotive story:
I met him once on my way to work. He was as expected; tall and thin, his figure bent by age, leaning on a scythe. His face was hidden by the black cloak, greening with age.
‘You can’t have come for me!’ I said. It wasn’t a question.
‘And why not?’ His was.
‘Because I’m too young. I still have much to do!’
I stopped and thought for a while. ‘Well, I’m on my way to work. Can’t just leave without notice. How would my boss cope?’
He paused and didn’t speak for a long while.
‘Have it your way then. I’ll take you later.’
He was waiting for me again on my way from work to home.
‘You can’t possible take me now,’ I said.
‘And why on earth not?’ I detected a light frustration in his tone.
‘I haven’t been home all day. My dog’ll be starving!’
‘Can no one else feed your dog?’
‘Of course not!’ I replied with a shrill.
His left shoulder lifted in a shrug. ‘Have it your way then…’ and he vanished with a puff.
Later that night I packed a bag and was on my way out when he appeared blocking my door.
‘What now?’ he asked with a drawl.
‘I’m too young, you see…I need to see the world. I have a lot—‘
‘No. No. I won’t have that any more. Many I have taken who were half as old as you. It’s your time now, whether you like it or not.’
‘But, I haven’t done anything yet. Nothing to be remembered by. Nothing that matters.’
I saw his left shoulder lift in the now familiar shrug, and in an instant, we were both gone with a puff.
And last, buy by no means least is Rachel and her gripping story:
Fire raged through the night sky. Reds and ambers screamed through the blanket of stars. She yelled at him, screeched in his ear to make him let go of her. He picked her up easily and threw her across the soaking lawn. Winded for all of a second, she got back up and hurled herself towards the blazing front door.
“Let me in! You have to let me back in!”
“He’s dead now, a long, slow burning death.”
“No!” With all her might she heaved her shoulder into his chest. The rain hammered profusely saturating her negligee. She let out a roar of frustration, and her panicked voice was taught and high. “You won’t get away with this!” She beat him with her fists, everything she had went into pummelling his chest. He shoved her and grabbed her pounding hands.
“You can’t save him. I won’t let you.”
A tapping on glass, feeble and strained. They both looked up. Finn’s face peeked through the bedroom curtains.
“Finn!” she cried, struggling to her feet again. She ran past him, her legs smaller and lighter than his. As she approached the back door she saw that there was no fire here.
She fumbled with the door knob. It opened! Thick smoke escaped from within. She threw her hand over her mouth, coughing terribly. Then she took a deep breath in and…
A dizzying, agonising pain in the back of her head. She saw nothing as she hit the ground.
Minutes later, when she had come to, she watched as her house burned with the one thing she loved inside. Grief surged through her. In the garden she was distraught. She kneeled on the sodden grass with her hands covering her face. Her negligee was drenched. The rain continued to pour. There was nothing she could do for Finn now.
She smelt him as he approached. Expensive aftershave lingering on the night air. Anger like she’d never felt before shot through her, blood pulsing, heart thumping. Before she got to her feet he had knocked her over.
“What did you think you were playing at?” he snarled.
She didn’t speak for sobs. Her own hysterical cries, the deep noise that was her unnatural breathing, horrified and enraged her.
“You didn’t expect I’d ever catch you, did you?”
She turned to look at him. And suddenly she was on her feet, pushing him, hitting him, slapping him. He was taken aback for a moment and she thrust him to the ground. She was kicking and screaming. Blue lights and sirens couldn’t make her stop. Men were shouting, she was terrified and mad. When she paused for a moment, he was suddenly on his feet. He scooped her off the ground, still shrieking and ran with her towards the wood. They were following, not far behind. She kept on hitting and punching him. Finn was dead. He had made sure that Finn was dead. She hadn’t been able to save him and Finn was dead. He dropped her on the ground and pulled her to her feet. Thrust her against a tree trunk. Stared at her, furious. And then his mouth was on hers and she kissed him back with everything the storm inside gave her. In that moment she knew that nothing, not prison or lovers or anything else could save her. She was his forever and she would never escape.
02 Oct. 08
The human brain is incredible. Philosophy, if you think about it, in the most basic form, is bullshit. Basically we are just animals. We were born. We will die. And in between our only purpose is to reproduce. If you look at life as one single organism then we are just a single cell of that organism. And it is that organism who is trying to survive not us. We are just a single cell, who has to reproduce and die, so that the main organism can go on living. Every living thing is part of that organism and has the same purpose. But the more evolved a species is, the more complicated it has made this simple purpose of life.
We humans are so evolved that we have actually become a cancer for the main organism. But that is a different topic which I don’t want to discuss right now. What I do want to discuss is that it is our head which has complicated everything so much that now we have to think about society and earning a living and finding love, instead of the simple act of reproducing. It is this head which has brought upon us the complications and it is this head which tries to give the solutions in ways of different philosophies.
The greatest marvel this head has achieved is the phenomenon of suicide. This head has been able to blind us to such a degree that we actually override the most basic code of life. Which is to live, survive, exist.
Why I am writing all this pseudo intellectual stuff is because a few days ago I was contemplating suicide. I have done that before but this time it was the closest I got to actually doing the act. I was so depressed that I kept lying in bed all day thinking and sobbing and resolving to die. I erased all my writings and my journals. I erased my profile from Facebook. I wasn’t replying to anyone, wasn’t posting anything.
And then just like that I got better. I only had to change my point of view. And I realized that I have lost two days of my life; could have lost the rest of my life, just because of the illusion this head of mine was creating.
This experience has scared the hell out of me because being a rational person you think that nothing can hurt you as long as you have your brain to reason and as long as you can use logic.
But what if your brain stops listening to reason? What if your brain loses the concept of reason and logic? Your best defense becomes your enemy. How do you defend yourself then? I guess I was just lucky that I hung on to that sliver of logic that appeared on the horizon of my mind. But now I am scared to let go of that sliver. I never want to be in that position again.
It was a good thing I erased all my writings. Now I can start all over again. I have started a new life so many times in my life. It is actually a good ability to have, to be able to start all over again. Now I am 24 years old and I have a job. I have a bank balance. And I have a whole life to look forward to. And I have that sliver of reason.
My goal from now on is happiness. The pursuit of happiness. There are many things that would make me happy. I have dreams. And the pursuit of these dreams is the pursuit of happiness.
Whether I achieve them or not is not important. The fact, that I live my life pursuing them and that I keep pursuing them till death or achievement, whichever comes first, that is important. My dreams can be summarized in one small description of a scene.
“A tree, of what, I don’t know, but green, swaying with the cool wind. Its leaves, making a black pattern on the wooden table below, with their shadows. A bottle of wine on the table and two half filled glasses, diffracting the sun rays to fill the black pattern of the leaves with the prism of light. A small house in the background, the red of the bricks and the yellow of the curtains, playing harmoniously, with the green of the ivy, scaling the walls. A women sitting in the shade, her head resting on the backrest of the chair, her hair long and flowing limply with the wind. A dog lying lazily at her feet. And me, sitting opposite her, playing my guitar, not to her but just playing, with my eyes closed and a smile on my face.”
That’s my dream. And the pursuit of this dream is the purpose of my life. This dream is obviously metaphorical. And its pursuit is more complicated than it seems. The most important thing that I have to do right now is to take control of my mind. I need to pull on the reigns and stay in control because if I let it take me on one more wild ride I might cross the point of no return. I have to stay busy and always keep that vision I just described in my mind.
Wow! What a powerful diary entry. A very thought-provoking piece. Thanks as always for taking up my challenge. I really enjoy reading your work 🙂
I have been writing diary ever since I was 15 years old. When I read your challenge I just knew I had to share one of my original diary entries. I’ve changed just a couple of things for clarity but the rest is all original stuff I wrote on 2nd October 2008. Sometimes I think I should stop trying to become a writer by writing a novel and just publish my diaries. I have well over 1,000,000 words!
As I was reading your piece, I wondered if it was your own diary. Thank you so much for sharing it. It really meant a lot to me. And 1,000,000??!! Wow!
Here’s my entry. Hope I didn’t leave it too long!
EVIDENCE FILE NO. 35630
I started this journal with ‘Day 5’ because it feels like almost a week since I washed up here.
A month ago, I boarded the yacht for the adventure of a life time. Breaking the yacht on the rocks was unexpected. Waking up with my face buried in the sand at the break of dawn was a miracle.
I don’t know where I am, but it’s an island. On my first day, I climbed the tallest tree that lines the beach. There are about eight miles of jungle between me and the coast on the other side. No hills, no high rocks; just trees and wildlife that keep me up at night with their hooting and their cooing. And monkeys. There are a lot of monkeys!
I need to manage fire, somehow. I need it as a signal. I need it to keep the monkeys away at night. I need it to cook and to keep warm. But all my attempts at fire have failed miserably so far.
Debris has been washing up on shore every day. No survivors though. I salvaged some useful supplies. I created shelter from the torn dinghy and I’m using the tarp we had on the boat to gather rain water. I also found this scrap book. It took three days for it to dry enough to write on.
I haven’t been hunting yet, but the shellfish is easy to get and good enough to eat.
I have quite a system going. While exploring the outer edges of the jungle I found rabbit trails and I set up traps using sticks and string. I caught two stringy ones, but without fire I can’t eat them yet. Still, it’s good practice.
I managed fire! And not a day too soon. The monkeys took my knife last night. Sneaky little things. I fashioned a spear from a piece of metal that came with the debris, but it’s not half as good as the knife I had.
I keep a fire going at all times now. I discovered that if you cover it with leaves, the smoke becomes ticker and gives off a higher plume; hopefully high enough to be seen by passing boats. I haven’t seen any yet.
I’m eating like a king! Fish is plentiful. Water is limitless.
Monkeys stayed away last night; at least nothing was missing this morning. Heard their footsteps close to the camp, but none came on the beach.
Will try to go further inland later today.
Went inland and got lost. Had a rough couple of nights. Had no shelter and no light. Kept hearing footsteps. There must be larger animals than the monkeys, but I couldn’t see any; just heard their footsteps.
I’ll try to hunt inland again, but I’ll leave a trail this time.
I can’t sleep. I don’t know if it’s the monkeys, but I keep hearing footsteps. They come close, just to the edge of the jungle then stop; like they are waiting.
I have fire surrounding my camp in a circle, and yet, I don’t dare go out to see what is watching me.
There they go again! Footsteps. Pacing up and down the tree line. Do monkeys pace?
Reading last night’s entry, I feel like an idiot. Darkness plays tricks on the senses; giving the perception of danger where there is none.
My hunting trail worked. I can now come and go through the jungle as I please without getting lost.
No boats and no planes yet. I keep hoping.
I swear something is watching me. I sit on the beach facing the trees. I don’t dare give my back to the jungle. I have a trail that leads directly to my camp, but, even in day light, the thought of crossing into the jungle to put down the rags is making my blood run cold. I haven’t seen anything, but I keep hearing these damn footsteps coming from just inside the tree line. They come close and stop. Then start pacing. Always pacing; moving branches and breaking sticks as they go.
The fire went out a day ago. All the fire wood is inside the jungle.
The monkeys don’t come any more. Only the pacing.
The footsteps won’t go away. I’m going inside. Must face whatever it is that watches me.
END OF DOCUMENT
Oooh, intriguing! You build and build up a strong sense of atmosphere and then let the reader make up her own mind as to what happens. Great!
Thanks for entering. As long as you send your piece in by the Thursday morning of each week, it’ll be published on my blog 🙂
I really liked the story by Alexandra; such a profound message with such simplicity.
And, the diary entries sent by Eddy and Sandra were so influential that at first I thought to skip it this time. But one miss becomes an excuse. So I tried to create something…
Again she’s back cutting, cutting, and simply cutting the paper in so many bits. I wonder its creativity or just the feeling to destroy things. The house will soon be in mess. She will not spare any single room, as she always does. I feel like giving her the verbal lashing again, but no, I have to calm down. I don’t want to start the same battle again that stops in long periods of whining.
I was amazed to see that all the bits of paper were lying in the basket and not the floor. They were of all sorts of shapes. I wonder from where she got the glossy art paper. It must be her Dad. In spite of telling so many times, he keeps on wasting money on the things that will be thrown in the trash box. That’s his call. I won’t say anything; it’s of no use beating around the bush.
How could she do it? She incised my favourite new cushions. And she finally got it from me. Now she’ll be silent for some time.
Ohhh! But I don’t feel good when I scold her. I could have controlled myself. I think this devil, my anger, will kill me one day. It has ruptured the bond with my darling daughter. I could have told her nicely. I am a bad Mom. I know she must be crying. After all, she was just being creative. She had cut out beautiful A’s and B’s. Should I say sorry to her?
I think, I should wait, or it may give the message that it’s fine to spoil things.
She has gone with her Dad to the market. But they didn’t feel the need to ask me. How can people disregard others to this extent? Now I will become like them. I’ll just do my duties for the family, but be engulfed in my own life – my life.
Tomorrow, I’ll spend my day with my friends. It’s been so long and they always ask me to join their excursions. I’ll give the time of my special day to those who care for me.
I was late. I thought that they might have slept. So I didn’t ring the bell but called on my husband’s mobile. The door opened leaving me in astonishment.
My sweet little darling was holding a big card where she had pasted the same bits of paper and those A’s and B’s forming HAPPY BIRTHDAY. There was my favourite cake waiting for me, and the torn cushions were replaced with new ones of the same design. I could not help the tears that rolled from my eyes. I hugged her and told her that she was the best daughter in the world.
She indeed is!
Yes, the two diary entries I’ve received so far are strong but so is this! It’s so emotive and you capture a mother’s worries and concerns superbly. I love the happy ending. It left me with a smile on my face. Thank you so much for giving it a go 🙂
Thanks a lot for your lovely comments! Always encouraging, inspiring to learn more.