It’s almost Christmas, so I am not expecting a huge amount of entries this week. So to encourage you a little more, I am setting my favourite timed challenge. Write me a brain dump in 120 seconds about the topic in the post.
Remember, find a timer, set it for 120 seconds, write hard and fast till the timer ends. AND, don’t peek inside this post until you are ready to play.
This ones for Sarah, I wrote it as a sprint exercise with her a while ago.
His hands were wrinkled. I knew it meant he worked outside, weathered like an old oak tree, he was. But I liked it, made him look wise.
“It’s given me a lot of trouble this one,” he said, tapping the shiny new brass attached to my door. He packed up his belongings.
My stomach clenched. I didn’t want him to leave. I searched my head for something to make him stay.
“Do you um…”
“Yes?” he said, and picked up his bag.
A prickle of sweat beaded at the top of my neck.
“Um… Fancy a cuppa?”
A cup of tea? A CUP OF TEA?? Kate, you are so lame.
He checked his watch, rubbed his jaw, and said, “sod it. There’s always time for a cuppa.”
I turned to the kettle to hide my smile. I’d caught site of his ring finger. A solitary band of white skin lay around it.
Now to last weeks’ writespiration and the ‘thing that got cut down’
The Bay Tree – Kim Russell
When they moved in, the bay tree reached the top of the living-room window. Its leaves were dark and glossy, and it released a pungent aroma, reminiscent of Mediterranean holidays. Sam and Helen loved the way it arched over the little path at the side of the house. Its strong aroma mingled with the heady scent of roses and honeysuckle that climbed the trellis.
Sam trimmed the bay regularly. Helen used the dried leaves in casseroles and sauces. She hung the branches from the ceiling and stored the leaves in neatly labelled glass jars.
Over the years, the bay tree thrived and grew above the roof. When the wind was strong, Helen complained about the constant creaking and groaning, and the screech of branches against the windows. Its leaves blocked the gutter and caused rainwater to drip down the outer wall. Inside, damp and mould stained the wallpaper.
‘Can’t you do something about that tree?’ Helen asked.
‘I trim it regularly and it’s healthy,’ Sam replied.
‘Why can’t you lop the top off?’
‘It’s a laurus nobilis – the noble laurel!’ Sam stood up and leaned over Helen, who moved back a few inches. He wore his reluctance to cut the bay tree like a suit of armour; she could almost feel the cold steel.
‘Well, if you won’t trim it, I’ll have to call a tree surgeon,’ Helen said.
Sam grabbed his boots and jacket, ran out the back door and disappeared into the shed. Helen watched from behind the curtain as he dragged a ladder and some long-handled pruning shears round the side of the house. She pulled the curtains shut.
Outside, Sam sat down beneath the bay tree.
‘I’m so sorry I have to do this,’ he said. ‘It’s Helen. She won’t shut up until you’ve been trimmed.’
‘I don’t mind,’ said a voice from above.
Sam looked up and saw a beautiful child, with sallow skin and almond eyes, sitting amongst the bay leaves.
‘How did you get up there?’
‘Easily,’ she said with a silvery, tinkling laugh.
‘What’s your name?’
Sam spent the afternoon in the garden with Laurel. The ladder and shears lay on the path, untouched. When Helen opened the back door to bring him a cup of tea, he was playing hide and seek amongst the curly willows.
‘How are you getting on?’ she asked.
Sam popped his head out from behind a shrub.
‘Trimming the bay tree.’ Helen’s voice was sharp. The birds stopped singing and Sam felt a chill in the air.
‘I’ll do it next week,’ he said.
Helen had had enough. On Monday morning, while Sam was at work, she phoned the local tree surgeon and arranged for the bay to be trimmed that afternoon, into a neat, formal shape, leaving several feet between it and the house.
When Sam opened the side gate and saw the alien tree, he trembled. His shoulders heaved and from behind the window, Helen heard him sob. She returned to the kitchen, waiting for the sound of his footsteps outside the back door. But they didn’t come.
She waited several days before calling the police, in case he returned. His car was parked in front of the house; his briefcase stood under the bay tree, until it was taken away by forensics.
For the first time Helen felt threatened by silence in the house. She went into the garden and looked up at the bay tree. A sharp gust of wind rustled the branches and she was sure she heard silver giggling and the low tones of her husband’s laughter.
Charli Mills, crazy talented Rough writer gives us a snippet of a book that is a twinkle in her eye 🙂
Built Strong by Charli Mills
Her mother’s thick arms had rolled and kneaded bread for a family of eight, and that was the surviving children. Add to the family’s meals all the sawyers in a single winter camp and Hilda pounded out lots of dough. She also scrubbed the wooden platform of the cook tent, churned Jersey butter, and pounded laundry on the rocks along whatever river they temporarily lived until every stick of virgin timber was down and floated to the mill. They cut her down for being stout and stocky, snickering at her round hips and staring at her beefy bosom as if no one could see their leers.
Not Jen. She was just as thick as her Ma but no one dared snicker at her the way she could saw a tree faster than any man on the crew. She was built strong. They reserved a special hatred for a woman like her.
Next up Hugh, with a rather savage story, love the ending.
As soon as the leaf from the strange looking plant was pulled off, it let out a huge scream. Not only that, but all the other plants and trees started to scream.
“You have broken the rules of the Planet Treelant” boomed a voice. “You are hereby sentenced to death.”
The party of humans could see no-one. Where had the voice come from?
Moments later the whole party was cut down, as plants and trees lashed out their branches and beat the strange creatures, known as humans, to death. Younger plants looked away in horror, whilst the parents of some of the younger plants and trees hid the view of what was happening from their siblings eyes.
I’d never much cared for what my mother did to the cottage she bought after our dad died. I didn’t like the way she’d stripped down the interior, opened it up and let in the light. Cottages are supposed to be dark and poky, low beams and paint the colour of pub ceilings. I didn’t like the way she’d brought only her favourite bits from the old family house. What about the rest of the stuff? All our memories were in that house. I couldn’t take it, not with our décor. Old, worn-out just wouldn’t fit in. Without Dad, surely she should have hung onto as much as possible. His old chair with the bottom that sagged on the floor, the wardrobe with the broken hinge he was always going to mend, the rubbish he collected because ‘it might come in useful.’
I resented what she’d done, what she’d let go, what she had made of her life after Dad died. Because she did make a life, let it take a new turning. It didn’t seem fair. She did new things, took up painting again, joined a choir, did voluntary work at the wildlife sanctuary. All things Dad would have pooh-poohed. She got rid of the car, Dad’s pride and joy. Said she didn’t need it, went everywhere on foot or took the bus. And she planted that blasted holly tree in the driveway, right in front of the kitchen window. It had just been a big bush when she put it in, but after ten years it was quite a size and it was impossible for us to get the car in when we visited. Dave grumbled every time when he had to leave it on the side of the road. He’d get up every fifteen minutes to check it hadn’t got a scratch.
Dad would never have let her do such a selfish thing. Even if she didn’t need the drive, couldn’t she see how inconvenient it was for the rest of us? Jim might say he quite understood that Mum preferred to look at a holly tree rather than his old car, but that’s because his car is old. Another scratch or dent wouldn’t make any difference.
When she went, we had to decide what to do with the cottage. Jim said he was attached to the place and wouldn’t mind living there. His Sharon liked it and it was convenient for her work. But he didn’t have the money to buy my share, and is never likely to either. We had to sell. There was no choice really.
I’ll give Mum that at least, she made tidying her stuff away easy. Not that there was much left of the ‘clutter’ as she called our memories. Getting rid of the tree blocking the driveway wasn’t an option either, whatever Jim said afterwards. Dave wouldn’t do it so we got a professional in. He got the stump out too. Jim threw a fit when he saw the tree lying on the ground. He bent over it, parted the branches, not caring that the leaves were scratching his arms bloody. When he found the nest, I swear he had tears in his eyes.
“Mum loved watching the birds in this tree,” he said. “She could see them when she was in the kitchen. Her eyes weren’t good enough to see much further than this.”
I looked at the woven tressed twigs, the downy feathers sticking to the inside, Jim wiping his eyes. I imagined Mum washing up, gazing out of the window, that dreamy smile on her face she always had when she was thinking her own thoughts. She would have shaken the tablecloth out of the door and watched the birds come down, stood so still they’d forget she was there.
“In the winter, they liked the berries. That’s why she planted a holly tree.”
But sentiment doesn’t sell houses. We’d never have sold the cottage so quickly with that tree stuck in the way.
Jim hasn’t spoken to me since.