f the week again – challenge time. Here are my latest challenges for you:
OPTION ONE: Write a fifteen-word story with the words GOLD, EVIL and LOVE in it somewhere.
OPTION TWO: Write a poem or limerick on the theme of SPACE.
OPTION THREE: Your word is PHOBIA. Are you afraid of spiders, flying, open spaces? Your piece can be a personal account, or completely fictional.
Now, onto last week’s challenges and your excellent entries:
OPTION ONE was to write a fifteen-word story with the words HUNGRY, TAXI and SUPERMAN in it somewhere.
Rajiv Chopra sent in a funny one:
Superman was really hungry. He took a taxi, and dashed off to the Queen’s breakfast!
Now here’s one from Bindu:
“Taxi!” roared Superman hangrily. “Am hungry, thirsty too.” Start, off and away to Vampire’s buffet.
OPTION TWO was to write a poem or limerick on the theme of FOOD.
Keith Channing always delivers something thoroughly entertaining:
The weather could not have been wetter
The day I had that ‘Dear John’ letter
So I went down to the pub
Where a quick bit of grub
And a pint or two made me feel better.
My ex had just called me a sinner
Cos I like tripe and onions for dinner
But I don’t just like offal
I’m quite fond of a waffle
And a ploughman’s is always a winner.
Ever since the financial crash
I’ve been living on bangers and mash,
Not just that, it’s true
I’ve had beans on toast too
But only when I’ve enough cash.
My entry today is quite late
But I do have a lot on my plate
Now, stop being rude,
I’m not talking ‘bout food,
As I could easily demonstrate.
The amount of work that I receive
Is much greater than you may believe
Although I would risk it
For coffee and biscuit
The sheer drudgery to relieve.
Please click on Al Lane‘s link to see his fab limerick:
Here’s a super piece from Rajiv Chopra:
OPTION THREE: Your word was AUTUMN.
EDC Writing sent in a beautiful piece:
Through the clinging mist of doubts, impenetrable as it seems, we’ll find the end of reasons, for us not to be. I’ll reach out in blind faith to take your hand, to guide your steps towards me. You’ll falter, feel unsure, but keep edging closer, your belief in me and us growing ever stronger. You’re very close now, a step or two away, from falling into my arms, our first embrace, our first kiss, the start of a new life, I with you and you with me. I wrote this a while ago, budding days of spring when I thought you’d only be content with me, and now so many leaves to turn, our autumn, you content to bare, live with just being here.
Keith Channing wrote a stunning piece last year:
Ah, Autumn. My first love.
She was just fifteen years old when I first met her. I was seventeen and, according to her father, Col. James Lieves, totally unsuitable as a companion to his daughter. She, fortunately for me, had other ideas, and we enjoyed clandestine meetings as often as we could. Usually, these happened when her father was away, often facilitated by her mother. Autumn’s mother didn’t disapprove of me and couldn’t understand why her husband did. She used every excuse she could find to spend weekends, and longer, away with him, so Autumn and I could meet.
I had an idea what caused her father’s attitude toward our developing relationship: firstly, every father’s conviction that no man could possibly be good enough for his princess, and secondly her age. I think he was afraid I would try to cajole her into becoming sexually active before she (or more likely, he) was ready. That I had been raised with a strict moral code, a code to which I had every intention of adhering, didn’t impress him. He kept going on about ‘natural urges’, urges that no man can control. Projecting? Not for me to suggest, was it.
Let me tell you a little about Autumn Lieves. What a beautiful name, for a start. Some people suggested that her name predicted that she would become a ‘fallen woman’, but that’s not the picture her name gave me. To me, autumn leaves represent the epitome of nature’s beauty, ranging from the most subtle of yellows and pinks to the extreme ostentatiousness of deep reds and oranges, and the sad, almost despairing tones of brown that signal the end of their majestic reign over the forest.
And that was Autumn: stunningly, vibrantly beautiful, yet with undertones of sadness. She had long, wavy hair that was so red it was difficult not to think it had been dyed that shade. Her skin was the lightest I had ever seen, topped with rosy cheeks and the most adorable freckles over the bridge of her sweet little turned-up nose.
Like the season after which she was named she could at one moment be bright and sunny, radiating joy and light, the next quietly sombre. At other times she was capable of rivalling ‘her season’ in the realms of moodiness, storminess, and downright tumultuousness. Yet, through all that, I couldn’t not love her; as a mother loves her child even during its tantrums, I loved Autumn even through her darkest periods, periods when, had she the courage, she may well have chosen to end her very existence.
Happily, as we became closer, her stormy days; days of darkness, of depression and self-loathing; became ever fewer, and her bright, sunny, vibrant times increased in number, in frequency and in duration. This coincided with, and was probably brought about by, a softening of her father’s attitude to me and to our relationship, which started after her sixteenth birthday. She and I were permitted to spend time together, although her father preferred that either he or his wife be present at all times. I was invited to Lieves family occasions, introduced as Autumn’s ‘young man’, and treated as one of theirs. All this helped Autumn immensely, as it was validating, in her eyes, her choice of me as partner. By the time she was eighteen, we had complete freedom to meet however, wherever and whenever we wanted. Her father, who had by then retired from active service and was becoming daily more mellow, actively encouraged our union.
I had attended university in our town, so as not to have to be away from Autumn, and graduated a few weeks before Autumn’s eighteenth birthday. Autumn and her parents attended my graduation ceremony, and I was delighted to be able at last to formally introduce them to my family. When Autumn’s father introduced himself and his wife to my parents as future co-grandparents, I knew that we were, at long last, fully accepted.
I secured employment as a management trainee with a local company with whom my father had some influence, having been, in part, responsible for their growth during his service with their biggest customer. Autumn and I had discussed it in detail, and as soon as my twenty-first birthday had passed, I took the major step of asking Col Lieves for Autumn’s hand in marriage. He wanted to know why I had left it so long, it having been clear to him for some time that we were so right for each other.
We became engaged and, as we had always planned, married on Autumn’s 21st birthday, on 21 September. Yes, that’s how she got her name. After the ceremony, we walked out to the strains of Justin Hayward’s “Forever Autumn”. That was a day never to be forgotten; the happiest day of our lives.
None of us, neither Autumn nor I, nor her parents, had any inkling at the time that there was anything amiss with her. Barely six months after the wedding, Autumn’s moodiness returned, her periods of depression deeper and more frequent than ever. When we finally persuaded her to seek medical help, she was found to have an inoperable tumour on her temporal lobe, a tumour that was growing rather aggressively.
The following year, on 21 September, Autumn left us. It seemed only right that the music used at her funeral was the same as we used at our wedding – Forever Autumn.
Now here’s Keith‘s piece for this year:
The periods of unrelenting tearfulness are becoming fewer. The depths of loneliness I feel, especially at night, in bed, alone, are as powerful as they have been throughout the decade since my wife died, but I am becoming stronger. I am working with them and not against them. I am beginning to relish the memories of her presence instead of lamenting her absence. Not that I don’t miss her. Nothing could be further from the truth. I never want to stop missing her. Last month, though, I celebrated my first natural, un-medicated sleep for more than nine years.
Jim, Col. Lieves, arranged a memorial service for August on the first anniversary of her death. I couldn’t attend. I know I should have, and there will always be people who will feel that I was less of a husband, less of a man, for not turning up; but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I never believed in Karma before that date, but since then, my attitude has changed. You see; I was supposed to have travelled to the service and back with my parents, in their car. How different things would have been if I had.
Instead of going straight home after the service, Mum suggested she and Dad should come around to my place to comfort me and to offer some support. If they had gone straight home, they might not have found themselves directly behind that propane tanker truck when it jack-knifed and burst into flames, engulfing their car in the process. If they had gone straight home instead of coming to help me, they’d probably still be alive now. I knew that, and the knowledge hurt me. When one of my uncles, Dad’s younger brother, told me that I should have been in that car with them, and would have been, had I steeled myself and gone to the service, I was devastated. Yes, Mum and Dad might well still have died, but so would I; and natural justice dictates that I shouldn’t be here now. Fate, Karma, circumstances, whatever you choose to call it, decided that my life was forfeit and, when I frustrated that, Mum and Dad had to take my punishment.
What did I have to live for after that? The three people I cared for the most had been taken from me, one by an undiagnosed medical condition and two as a result of my spinelessness. No-one could possibly hate me more than I hated myself. The love of my life, my soul-mate, had succumbed to a brain tumour, and my parents, the source of all that I am, took the punishment for my crime, my total lack of moral fibre.
Do you know what was the most surprising thing? Not that I tried, on many occasions, to end my own life; knowing the depth of my love for Autumn and for my parents, I don’t think anyone saw that as anything but a strong likelihood. The biggest surprise was not even that one person stood by me, supporting me, counselling me, holding me as it were in his hand and cushioning me against all the pressures from without, and my demons from within. The surprise was who that person was: Jim Lieves, Autumns’s father.
Jim came to see me a couple of months after that fateful day with Marie, Autumn’s mother. I’ll never forget his words; he told me that I was all he and his wife had left of Autumn. She had been their only child. He asked me to move into his house, to use Autumn’s room. He asked for my permission for him to treat me as a member of his family; as his son. I broke down then. Those tears represented the first feelings I had expressed in a long time; before that, all I had was fourteen months of numbness; not living, but going through life like an automaton, doing only the things I had been programmed to do. And once I had released the flood gates, there was no stopping me.
A few years, and a greater number of hospital visits later, following my various failed attempts to join Autumn wherever she had ended up, Jim and Marie knew what to look out for; how to recognise my lowest periods and how to help me through them. As you can imagine, the hardest time of year for me was, and is, autumn. As soon as I see the falling leaves drifting lazily by my window and the trees wearing their red and gold finery, my thoughts go to my wife – amplified as the days and weeks go by. Then, part of me wills time to rush by; I yearn for the end of nature’s finest display and for the covering of snow to hide the visible signs of the object of my undying love. My in-laws know how to nurse me through this period, and stop me from reaching the depths of despair I felt in those early years.
Now that I am starting to sleep naturally, and am feeling stronger by the month, Jim and Marie have invited me to go with them on holiday for much of the season. I get to choose the destination; either south to Australia to avoid the northern autumn, or west to the US to endure and enjoy it. I know that they will be with me, to lend me their strength, and I know that it will be as hard for them, as it is for me. They were surprised and delighted when I told them of my choice.
“I think I’m ready,” I said, “I can listen to either of the two songs that used to give me so much pain, and relish the sentiments. My pain no longer owns me. I own my pain. Let’s go to what is billed as the finest show on Earth,” I added, “Let’s go to the Adirondacks.”
Wish me luck.