Celebrated Parisian Jeweller
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'Modest about my accomplishments? But of course. One should always approach the topic of genius with humility.'
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'All my life I been one step ahead. You tink I got dere singin, "Yes sir, no sir, tree-bags-where sir?" No sir.'
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Destined for Greatness.
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You're worth your weight in paper clips.
#ff0000 & #ff0000
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Every television picture is composed from lines of specially trained pixies.
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Questions in the darkness would not help him sleep.
Sir Nigel Honeywell
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It's perfectly safe.
"It's our craft's most elusive secret." revealed the elderly Parisian jeweller. "It's humbling to realise that the value of my famed creations have little to do with their celebrated opulence. Ignore the diamonds. The most precious component of any ring is the small volume of air it encircles. If this element is ill conceived, the piece is worthless."
He held the ring up to the sunlight, watching it caress the poilshed inside surface.
"Do you know why?" he asked, his eyes straying to a photograph. "In my experience, it's the occupant of this circular space that entirely determines its value."
I was introduced to micro-fiction in a creative writing class I attended. We had to write a story in exactly one hundred words, and I based this story on a poem I wrote for my wife in the weeks after we got engaged.
If the idea of micro-fiction appeals to you, there is a lot more here:
"Why you trust me so much Bootlace?", asked the old man looking at his son in the fading light. "You just do everytin I ask. Ain no questions, no buts. Ain natral. What you gonna do when I gone? You just gonna do what da next boss tell you? 'Yes sir, no sir, tree-bags-here-sir?' Da day you defy me boy, da Good Lord knows you be much better off. You need a fire in your belly if you wan make your way in dis world. Look at me. Before I get ill, I play dis town like a fiddle. You tink I got dere singin, 'Yes sir, no sir, tree-bags-where sir?' No sir. I stay one step ahead. All my life I been one step ahead. How you gonna get one step ahead all a time doin what you're told?"
The young man smiled at his father and tenderly covered his withered body with hessian sacking for the night.
"I love you Father. Love always trusts. It's what the Good Book says." He played absent mindedly with the baby's toy hanging around his neck from an old bootlace.
"You still keepin dat rattle I made you when you born? You still walkin roun town wid your boot flappin inna mud? What kinda nonsense go trough your head Bootlace?" His fragile body shook with a laughter that was curtailed by a hacking cough. The young man ran his rough fingers over the sealed wooden cube as if appreciating it for the first time.
"You told me to look after it Father; I like it. It keeps you close."
"Well," said the old man wrinkling his face, "if you gotta do everytin I tell you, promise me you won't be a slinkin off down da mine when I gone. Ain't no place for a man wit prospects like you Bootlace."
"Father, you know I won't. I promised Mother."
The twilight was all but gone, and since there was no candle to prolong the evening he laid his sturdy body down onto the floor.
"Anyway," he said smiling wryly to himself in the dark, "how do you know what it's like to work down the mine? You didn't last a week."
"Dat mine for idiots!" snapped his father, "Like I tole your Mudder: Was always you an her was my treasure. I don't need no diggin roun in no mud to find my gold. Of all dem tings I done Sain Peter might take against, stealin dat jewel's not one. I remember it like it yesterday. Da young lady fall over down town wearin all o her glad rags so we run over to help. When she notice her jewel come off her necklace, her husban have us all searched, den beat, den he fire us from his mine. Why? We din have it. You get sometin like dat roun here an next morning you wake up dead. Six knives stickin outta your back!"
"People still say you had it Father. They say you lost it at cards."
There was a spluttering in the darkness. "What? Dats slander on my good name. Ask anyone. I never lose at cards."
"So where did your money go then Father?"
"What kinda question dat? You sayin I lyin Bootlace? You sayin you don' trust me no more? You startin to listen to me now?"
His son smiled to himself in the dark, but kept his own counsel.
"Well you can trust me on dis: Back in dem days I were still drinkin. We all entitled to mistakes."
His testimony was interrupted by another bout of coughing.
"'S why I took your Mudder here. When a man get tired of dis place, he tired of life. I can smell da gold from dis here bed. Yes sir. Dem muddy streets is paved wid gold. Always business to do out dere widda gamblers, whores and da rest. You just gotta stay one step ahead like I tol' you. I lived inna big city. You can't learn nothing dere you can't learn here quicker. Anna Good Lord knows, I tried to learn you everytin I know Bootlace... Everytin. Yes Sir. Everytin."
He sighed deeply.
"Now pipe down. Your chatter keepin me awake".
With his father's side of the room quiet, save for an irregular wheezing, the young man tried to focus on his schemes to earn their bread for the next day. Exhaustion claimed him quickly however, and he fell into a deep sleep.
The sun was quite high in the sky when he awoke. His father's cough had stopped which was a promising start. He rolled over to look at him and froze when he saw the body; it's glassy eyes wide open. The old man had died looking at his son with one arm reaching out towards him. There was pain on his face, but also something else. Pride? Smugness? It was hard to tell. His father had danced the line that divided the two his entire life, and even in death it seemed he had refused to commit.
In a daze, he walked into town and sold the hut, buying provisions with the proceeds. He sewed his father's body into the hessian sacking, lowered it into the grave and covered it over with fresh earth. He wanted to say something the way the priest who had taught him his letters had done for his mother, but a numbness had gripped him and the best he could manage was, "Well Father, you're truly one step ahead of us all now."
As he walked back to the hut to clear out his few possessions, an anger began to burn away at his insensibility. He was going to the city and it felt as if he was betraying his father's hopes for him almost before the body had cooled. But his father had been twenty years in this filth infested town and what the hell had he done to look so smug on his death bed? The only lesson he had taught his son was how to survive with next to nothing. And what did he have to show for it? Next to nothing. Numbness surrendered to passion and he stormed into the small hut.
"Well Father," he shouted "You win! I'm defying you; you hear? I'm leaving!" Reaching up, he pulled the rattle from the bootlace, threw it onto the floor and stamped down hard. He felt it shatter beneath his boot and collapsed sobbing, letting the sorrow and anger drain away.
Eventually, he collected himself and remorsefully lifted his foot, going rigid when he saw the ruins of the toy. He blinked away the tears as slowly a smile began to creep across his face. He started to chuckle and the chuckle grew to a laugh as he picked up the small object from amongst the bits of wood. It was surprisingly heavy and glittered in the sunlight from the open doorway, casting a blue patterned light onto his palm.
His laughter softened as he looked at his small handful of answers. A fist full of future. It wouldn't be easy to prosper in the city, but not impossible. After all, his father had taught him how to live on nothing so he already had more than he needed.
Remembering himself, he quickly sewed it into the lining of his trousers. He lifted the lace from around his neck and threaded it back through his boot.
"One step ahead Father?" he said as he walked out of the hut. "Only one?"
I loved writing this story. I thought of the plot twist just as I was on the cusp of sleep, and woke up startled by the idea. It was originally meant for an entirely different story which I may one day recycle it for.
The first half of the story tries to intimate that the father is a waster, but I hope the reader figures out at the end he was anything but. He successfully trains Bootlace to do the only thing he loves: survive on his wits. If bootlace can do it here, he can do it anywhere.
His only concern is that his son is too willing to agree to do what he's told. I enjoyed the idea that he explicitly tells Bootlace to look after his necklace, when in fact, it's only in the disobedience he is looking for that his final gift to Bootlace is revealed.
As an aside note, it should be mentioned that I created the basic outline for the story sitting in a jacuzzi. Writing's a hard calling.
Mark would rather jump off a cliff than do what he's told.
Alex actually experiences physical pain if he doesn't.
Mark has a broken marriage and his life is a total mess.
Alex has no life.
They are both running out of time.
Mark has less than a second before he hits the rocks at the foot of the cliff and Alex urgently needs to talk to him about the five paradigms of interstellar travel.
But they aren't the only ones who are short on time.
The Earth is too; and it desperately needs them both to get their act together.
The occupant awoke to the sound of footsteps somewhere above his head, but their passing held no interest for him. Something monumental had just occurred, sending a shock wave through his world. He had been asleep.
His sudden attempt to sit upright was brought to a rapid halt by a collision with a solid surface about three inches above his head, and he let out a growl. Forcing himself to remain relaxed, he waited until the electrical stimuli had warmed up his muscles enough to move them with a degree of confidence. Wood started to splinter and clods of earth fell onto his face as he calmly struck out again and again, breaking up the soil and forcing his way to the surface.
The man responsible for the footfalls paused in the act of swallowing a mouthful of cheap red wine and abruptly started to choke. Rooted to the spot, he watched as a tall figure forced it's way out from beneath the gravestone, emerging gracelessly limb-by-limb into the light of the coastal graveyard. It's white flesh was dressed in torn and rotted clothing and it pitched and swayed from side to side, not quite in control of itself.
Fully above ground now, the figure stretched and reeled around to face the drunk. He queried his cultural context routines in the slim hope there was any etiquette to be observed when witnessed crawling out from a grave. Apparently he was supposed to disembowel his on-looker and consume its brains. He ignored the advice; experience had shown him not to follow every recommendation before the updates arrived.
Dropping his bottle, the drunk retreated backwards, crossing himself and rapidly slurring a prayer that got more and more sober with every repetition. 'Oh Jesus. Oh God. Oh Jesus…'
On a sudden whim the figure lurched towards the drunk, spurred on by the protests from his ego inhibitors. Their appearance always guaranteed his inclination to understated drama, if only to oppose their interference. The effort involved forced him to admit they had made inroads into his defences during his hibernation. Approaching the man he reached down and picked up the discarded wine bottle, noticing with satisfaction how his coordination and skin colour were returning.
He took a swig and quipped, 'Jesus' wine was much better.' He spun on his heel adding, 'Couldn't cook for toffee though.' and jumped. The fresh air flowed over his face as he accelerated upwards, a sonic boom reporting across the bay. He arced over the gulf of Mexico towards the origin of the shock wave and surged forwards.
Updates were beginning to arrive and the current advice was to adorn his chest with a large red "S". He sighed.
This is the second chapter of the novella 'Seed', a redemptive story about legacy, fatherhood and the art of blowing things up. I intend to try to do somthing literary with it.
The following two novellas are planned out, and in the process of being written. Taken together the trilogy should be the length of a full novel. You can read the prologue of the second novella in the series by clicking here.
To what shall I compare thee, my fine Summer's day?
To a ring of pure gold? Is that a cliche?
I don't think a ring sufficiently inspired;
A superior artifact being required.
Now the humble paper clip, I have to confess,
Whilst not initially destined to impress,
Is a far more suitable object to tell
Of the inestimable worth you bear so well.
I wholly guarantee that it does not matter
At all which sociological strata
You choose to examine, this one rule will stand:
They will all have a ring literally to hand.
But no single paper clip will ever be found,
Since whenever you need one they're never around.
And rare objects are treasured, so truth from my lips:
You're worth your weight in paper clips.
I wrote this poem for my wife a long time ago. I used to commute into London and writing passed the time. I seem to remember that I started with the punch line and had to figure out how the poem would make sense of it.
Every television picture is composed from lines of specially trained pixies. Within the UK, we broadcast under the PAL convention. PAL uses a grid of 720 by 576 pixies. Surprisingly, both standard aspect ratio and widescreen utilise the same compliment of pixies; widescreen simply uses fatter ones.
Each pixie has one of three different coloured hats: Red, green and blue. Every colour on the television screen is made up by mixing these three colours.
By ordering themselves in prearranged patterns called for by the programme script, the pixies create for us a picture behind the television screen.
1 second of television content is made up of 25 individual pictures displayed in quick succession. This means that each pixie may have to change position up to 25 times every second.
A significant number of high velocity pixies will generate a lot of body heat. Failure to plug the television in before you switch on renders the air conditioning inoperable. Under these conditions the pixies simply refuse to work and the result is a blank screen.
As mentioned earlier, the UK broadcasts under the PAL convention ('Pixie Apparel Law'). This regulates the exact colour, size and shape of the pixie's hats to ensure a uniform high standard for the consumer. America broadcasts under the NTSC convention ('New-world Televisual Standardized Clothing'), meaning American content needs to be converted for UK viewing.
In the past, blurred or fuzzy pictures were a result of pixies neglecting to shave. With digital technology however, picture quality will radically improve. This is because the digital industry standard pixie is female.
A percentage of your license fee covers the cost of teaching the pixie work force the script of each television programme you wish to see. This is an on-going process; hence your license fee being an annual payment and not a one-off charge.
Your digital television benefits society. In the current economic climate, Santa Claus has been forced to lay off large swathes of his now unnecessary pixie work force. As digital televisions proliferate, they are providing much needed employment for large portions of this highly skilled group.
This originally was concieved as a Christmas card for an TV company I used to work for. I was sadly passed over in favour of something like a picture of a snow flake. Bitter? Me?
The full moon glowered as the wind howled up the alpine slopes, clawing against the small wooden hut among the trees.
But was that the wind?
Questions like this in the darkness would not help him sleep. His imagination had saved him on several occasions, but tonight he'd gladly surrender it for a mind incapable of the smallest invention. In an effort to lure sleep closer, he retreated further into his sleeping bag, laying his head on his old fur coat which currently served as a pillow.
A sudden buffet of wind burst open the derelict door, bathing half the hut in cold moonlight as the wind skittered around inside whipping up musty, unhealthy odours. But almost as soon as it had pounced, the wind died leaving the old door creaking on neglected hinges.
All was silence and stench.
He exhaled violently. When his pounding heart had calmed, he wriggled from his sleeping bag and fastened the door, once more plunging the room into darkness. Stumbling back into the sleeping bag, he groped for his coat and praying for a quick end to the night, he lowered his head onto warm fur.
But was that his coat?
The first couple of sentences were written for my English homework when I was 13. The teacher was very complimentary, and my next homework assignment was set to finish it off. It ended with my character waking up and realising it was all a dream, which I thought was surely the first time such a brilliant ending was conceived.
I don't think Mrs Pearce was convinced.
For some reason, over two decades later I woke up thinking about this shodiness at 4 o'clock in the morning, and set about putting it right over the next week.
The Cabinet Secretary, Sir Nigel Honeywell, hoisted the bazooka onto his shoulder with an alarmingly practiced technique. 'It’s perfectly safe you know.' he said.
'It wasn't me I was worried about.' said the newly appointed Secretary for Defence. He stared at the young man’s body on the hospital gurney at the other end of the firing range and winced under his protective goggles and earmuffs. He briefly wondered if everyone had weeks like this. Probably not, he decided.
The country’s new government had formed two short weeks ago, since when he had been buried alive under a mountain of briefing documents and spread sheets. Efficiencies were a priority, and pouring over the figures his team discovered a large hole in the previous government's budget. Sensing blood he had unleashed a barrage of questions and at last received a personal invitation to the Whitefield Abbey Estate to 'facilitate the discussion of his concerns'.
The car arrived at six in the morning and once inside he was handed a large cup of coffee and a very thin file.
'Sir Nigel's office sent it across this morning Sir.' replied the aide. 'It contains information you will need to be appraised of ahead of today’s meeting.'
'Christopher Glover.' He read aloud as he began to scan the file’s sparse contents. 'Age: twenty. Been in a coma for two years. Mother: Andrea Glover. Retired legal secretary. Father: Mark Glover. Wanted by police for questioning in connection with the Ashwell Primary School hostage situation and multiple murders at The Metropolitan bar, Grimsby. Suspected deceased. Charming.' He turned the sheet over. It was blank. 'Is this it?'
'Yes sir. That’s all they sent. I'm not sure why they bothered.'
Two hours later the car pulled off the road and glided up the driveway, stopping by the ornate steps that led up to the grand entrance of Whitefield Abbey House and the welcoming smile of Sir Nigel Honeywell.
'I've decided the trick to hitting your man every time,' said Sir Nigel as he squinted through the sight, 'is to imagine it's the Right Honourable Gentleman lying there. Using high explosives helps. Fire in the hold.'
There was a sudden flash of light and the other end of the firing range disappeared behind a wall of flying mortar, billowing dust and a cacophony of sound that echoed up towards the two men and a fleet of scientists in lab coats.
'What d'you think of that then?' asked Sir Nigel grinning broadly.
The Defence Secretary waited for the dust to settle. 'That is quite possibly the most unsettling thing I've ever seen in my life.' He stared at the twisted and burnt remains of the hospital gurney and the young man's body, totally unaffected, floating above the wreckage. As they watched, it gently descended and came to rest on the floor.
Sir Nigel gestured, 'This of course is what your predecessor spent all that money on.'
'Fire-proofing hospital patients?'
Sir Nigel narrowed his eyes and paused. 'On building this research facility beneath the Estate with the precise remit to discover why a civil servant can fire heavy artillery at a patient with no other effect than lengthening an already adequately proportioned firing range.'
'And what have you discovered?'
'Everything and nothing. Almost nothing about why Christopher here is so damn invulnerable. X-Ray, MRI, CSI; doesn't matter how many letters it's got, it all comes out blank. Having said that, we have discovered the Chinese are willing to pay almost anything in trade commitments to have a presence in this facility. That of course, is everything.'
'If you don't mind me asking, what does his mother think of these arrangements?'
'Oh she's absolutely delighted with them. Of course she thinks he's getting specialist care in Switzerland. We fly him back out there every month for her visit.'
The Defence Secretary grimaced, 'And if the truth gets out?'
Sir Nigel smiled, revealing a full set of perfectly appointed teeth. 'Trust me: it won't. And just in case you're wondering, now would be an appallingly unhealthy time for you to develop a conscience.'
This is the prologue for the second novella in a series of three, the first being 'Seed of the Gods'. It is the second novella in a series of three and follows the main supporting character and a minor character from the first novella on their respective journies. Taken together the trilogy should be the length of a full novel.