More NYC Midnight Masochism

As anybody who has been paying the least bit of attention (hello? hello? are you out there?) would know, my failures in these NYC competitions are well documented. And consistent. It has come to the point where any sort of success would feel like the breaking of a perfect record. But don’t worry, that’s not likely to happen.

But this time was a bit more special because my pal (and yours) Cyranny was also having a crack. Meg was there too, but she’s a veteran.

The latest competition demands a story of no more than 250 words – which is ridiculous, of course. It normally takes me more than 250 words to describe the weather.

Anyway …..

My assignment was for a romance which should feature ‘looking into the mirror’ and the word ‘warm’. I wrote a quick first draft and submitted it (this is a tactical procedure – at least something is submitted. Every time you update it the NYC people take your latest submission as the valid one) with the intention of getting back to it. But I didn’t get back to it.

Myself, my son and my grandson went surfing, instead. Which was kind of appropriate, And was time well spent.

Certainly, in retrospect, there is a lot of words that I would have changed. But sometimes a raw first draft carries the original message better. I’m not sure.

But here it is ….


A Ghost in the Mirror

Stepping from the shower and wiping the warm mist from the centre of the mirror he found himself reflected in sad silhouette. Blonde curls and blue eyes that had once shone proudly back had faded now to grey. A body, once tanned and toned by the sun and the surf to hold her at night in a strong, safe cocoon, now stood alone before him white, weak and withered.

Yet somehow, in that mirror, he still caught occasional glances of her as she stood before it brushing invisible blemishes from her skin. Her own eyes, shining green and mysterious back through time reflected the playful promise he remembered from nights when she had discovered him standing there behind her, watching her undress.

But it was in those eyes that he had first recognised the onset of the disease. The fits of fear and panic gave way to dull confusion before, eventually, everything turned to gentle surrender. Towards the end she would look in the mirror and fail to recognise herself, and he would struggle to recognise her either.

He buried her in the cemetery to the south of town that overlooked the ocean where she would lay forever with strangers as the waves crashed relentlessly against the cliffs below.

And when the fog in the mirror had gathered itself into tiny pools that slid down the glass as teardrops he switched off the light and walked quietly to their bedroom where he might, again, search for her in the darkness.


144 words. I try to add some precision to my vague memories.

My grandfather was a bit of a war hero, apparently. But that may only have been in the memories of his children. But it is only in the memories of children that heroes really exist, don’t you think? I knew his children, of course. One of them was my father…. and he was, without question, a war hero. I have all the medals locked away somewhere in case I have to prove that to anybody one day. But why would I have to prove that? Certainly my father had no particular interest in proving it.

But neither my grandfather nor my father were killed in their wars (they took it in turns not to be killed, in fact), and I am very grateful for that. They both came back from unimaginably horrific experiences of human conflict and told jokes for the rest of their lives. I still tell some of their jokes and pretend that they are my own.

Anyway …. when D’verse suggested 144 words based on a particular quote from a D.H. Lawrence poem I tried to think about the possibility of my grandfather killed in the war that did not, as it turns out, end all wars.


We look at him through the wrong end of the long telescope of time, as slowly he moves further out of focus. Little reflections bouncing off the walls catch our attention, but vanish before we can capture them and treasure them secretly as memories of our own. So we paint pretty pictures of him in our minds and pretend.

An innocent little boy writing love letters to his mother from kindergarten.

The joy of a toddler introduced to his new baby sister.

The nervous little hero in his army uniform.

The lens becomes misty in the fog of our collective recollection. Or perhaps is it a tear in our eye that distorts the picture.

For now he is forever gone. Taken by an enemy that he never really knew or understood.

And suddenly we realise that we never really knew or understood him, either.


Incidentally. The first few lines of this (as required) come from the D.H. Lawrence poem ‘Hummingbird’. Coincidentally, a very close friend of Lawrence, Henry Miller, wrote a book entitled Stand Still Like the Hummingbird, and I commend it to you all.

5 words about spiders. A few times

Esther asked for a 5 word story about spiders. I didn’t think it was fair. Spiders deserve more than 5 words. They are creepy but misunderstood. A bit like me. So here’s a few 5 words in a row.


Spiders have too many legs

Crawling secretly on uncovered skin

Under your clothes and within

Places they should never be

Or see. In the dark

To park. And wait. Late

Into the night. All eight

Of those legs. Suddenly awake

You scream. At the unseen

Where those legs have trod

Delivering an octopod love letter

A lobster might be better