Furious Fiction 14 – August 2020

Another month, another attempt at the Australian Writers’ Centre’s Furious Fiction Competition. 500 words in 55 hours for a $500 prize.

This month the criteria were

  • Your story must contain HUMOUR/COMEDY (which is defined).
  • Your story must include the following five words: DIZZY, EXOTIC, LUMPY, TINY, TWISTED.
  • Your story must include a sandwich.

 

If you have been following my stories over the last few months, you’ll know I have centred them around Frankie the Flamboyant Dresser.  Last month, I couldn’t progress the story because there was no wedding or funeral needed in Frankie’s world.

This month’s criteria fell into Frankie’s lap! I was looking for a way to create a bridge between him meeting his kindred spirit, George in the Gibson Desert, to his arrest and entrapment in the park. This story gets me part of the way there. Next month, with suitable criteria I can make to next leap.

On the other hand, I am also looking for a route to the finale where Judge O’Mallory, Andrea and Frankie join forces. But that’s beginning to give too much away!


Fried up Kombi

Teetering on the window sill of the 18-wheeler rig, George was making exploratory darts left and right, up and down with his boot searching for any foothold to stop him from dropping to the ground or falling into the cab completely.

Attempting to charm the driver, a lumpy-arsed blue-singleted specimen, he agreed that yes it was a long way, but it really wasn’t that far out of his way to take them to Perth.  Or…  no… no worries, if that didn’t work for him, Adelaide would be fine too. Just anywhere other than here next to the fried-up Kombi.

Frankie, George’s companion, couldn’t resist the obvious next line, “Just smile and give him a Vegemite sandwich George! That’ll convince him!”

George twisted his neck out of the window at such an angle, that Frankie thought his head would snap right off and onto the road.

“Shut up Frankie!” George hissed “He’s agreed to take us to Adelaide. Stop acting like a dick!”

Frankie held his finger to his mouth in an exaggerated shush, “Yes Boss!”

Seconds later, Frankie was twerking down the road like an exotic dancer, singing to himself. He stopped abruptly and spun around  “Hey, where exactly is Brussels, anyway?”

Shrivelling away from George’s withering glance, Frankie spun back around and continued his dancing only to stop even more abruptly before exclaiming “Shit, I’m dizzy!” and spewing all over the road.

That ended George’s discourse with the lumpy-arsed, blue-singleted driver who unceremoniously pushed George out the window, as he put his truck into gear and sped off. Well, as fast as a fully laden 18-wheeler can speed off from a dead stop.

“Bloody wankers!” the driver yelled out the window as he rumbled away in a cloud of bulldust.

Photo 27-04-13 8 51 02

“Nice one, Frankie! Nice one! Now we’re stuck here until the next truckie comes along, and who knows when that’ll be!”

“Sorry, I  got a teeeeeensy bit too excited!” Frankie slurred, trying to defuse George’s anger with a cute voice and a gesture with his fingers showing exactly how tiny his excitement was.

“You’re pissed” George sighed.

“YES, I AM!!” said Frankie “And dehydrated and hungry! And smelly!”

It had been a long night since George’s Kombi had literally fried, leaving him stranded six hundred kilometres east of Broome with a lost soul he had only just met.

A long two-bottles-of-bourbon night, where Frankie and George had talked and talked about ALL the things, cementing their new friendship with secrets and dreams.

All the bourbon was in Frankie’s belly now, so it could only get better. They’d just have to sit and hope the next driver would take them to Perth or Adelaide or anywhere! Anywhere, before THEY fried.

“Hey George, do you reckon he says chunder or plunder?”

With that, George stood up with a menacing smile and rolled Frankie into the ditch whispering, “You better run, you better take cover!”

And then he whistled like a flute…Do-diddle-do-Do-da-di-da-di-do-da!

(You’re singing it, aren’t you!)

Desert Pano3


In case the cultural references are too parochially Australian, they refer to a Men at Work song  From the Land Down Under, a big hit in the 1980s.

Short Story Challenge

Looking for a short story challenge? A couple of posts back I published some old stories I had found languishing in my messy Google Drive. I also found these fragments of stories.

I had a sort of futuristic vibe going for a while.  Both stories were intended to be longish short stories or shortish novellas. I was aiming at around 10 – 15,000 words.

I don’t remember what my complete original plot lines were going to be.

Disconnected was going to be the story of a group of older people, led by a curmudgeonly fellow (think Harrison Ford type figure) who refused to connect to the internet. They go on to help people escape from the grips of the “government” which has collapsed into a 1984-style dystopia.

NOWASTE had a similar theme. Jeez! I must have been on fire when I came up with that acronym! It is again set in a future when thought police are real. I think the main character (well the only character so far) was going to turn into some sort of resistance fighter. Perhaps even influenced by The Handmaid’s Tale

Many of my older stories would have been better written as screenplays.

My challenge to you dear reader is; how would you progress them? What would happen next? Please outline some possible scenarios in the comments below! We can start our own virtual writers’ group!


Disconnected (October 2017)

Greta ran as fast as she could from her doorway to next door and these days that was not fast! It was after curfew but she risked it anyway. She needed to see him and she couldn’t connect any other way. Since the beginning, he had refused to connect.

“If people want to talk to me they can come and see me! In person!”

It wasn’t that he was a Luddite, as such. He had just read Orwell’s 1984 so many times that he began to see it as a reality.

Greta would tell him he was just being paranoid.

“Just wait”  he’d say sipping hard on his beer. The beer he brewed himself from scratch. 

To most people, he was just a crackpot. He thought the establishment was out to get us all.

We would argue “but we are the establishment – this is not the Government!” He didn’t buy the argument that we the masses, decided what was posted on social media, that it was a platform for disruptive change.

“You are so naive” he’d say and we would ignore him and take another photo of our breakfast pancake stack to prove how magical our lives were.

Sometimes on public radio, we would hear that a shocking study showed that the content on social media was manipulated. That the Millennials in charge had actually been doing secret experiments where they showed some people happy posts and other sad posts and watched how it affected them. It would stay in the news for a while and then vanish. Public radio didn’t last long after the last election. 

OVER TO YOU!


 

NOWASTE (December 2018)

Patricia was careful to not draw attention to herself. It was much better to keep things low key. To fly under the radar. To blend into the crowd. To think in cliches. To avoid original thought. 

At 63, Patty still remembered how Christmas used to be. Oh my god, she thought the word!! She glanced furtively at those around her. Had they heard her thought? Would she be arrested? 

Keep cool. Look calm. Repeat the mind-block mantra Money doesn’t buy happiness. Stuff doesn’t buy happiness.

No movement towards her.

No telltale wailing of sirens approaching. 

No flashing drone locked over her position. 

Phew. Perhaps they had all been too busy suppressing their own thoughts to be worried about tuning into hers. 

It was not that we didn’t celebrate anymore. It was just that we were careful not to include thoughts of religion, ageism, sexism or wanton consumerism when we did. The focus was now on The Agreement.  It just so happened that the New Order World Agreement for Sustainable Trade and Emissions (NOWASTE) was signed on the 25 of December in 2018. (Glorious day)

It was a good thing. Global warming had slowed down and only a few of the smaller Pacific Islands had vanished. 

 

…. so what next??

Furious Fiction 10 – April 2020

Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction Competition

Another First Friday rolls around and here is my entry for April’s Furious Fiction, the Australian Writers’ Centre’s monthly competition. This month I didn’t have to feel guilty about being at home in front of my computer on both Friday and Saturday nights. Australia and most of the world remain in some form of lock-down. Your location will add a different flavour to your circumstances, with some countries in complete lockdown and others having what can only be described as a half-hearted attempt.

As I’ve said before this competition is a fun activity with a terrific prize. You can read about it on their website.

Basically, it’s 500 words in 55 hours for a $500 prize.

The criteria for April were:

  • Your story must begin on the side of a road.
  • Your story must include the words APRON, PIGMENT, RIBBON, ICON, LEMON (plurals are okay).
  • Your story must include a splash.

As I said back in March, I intended to  write the next chapter in my story about Frankie, the flamboyant dresser. I actually had a story mapped out and had even made a voice recording so I would not forget it.  It WAS going to be the next chapter, after Frankie’s arrest and prison processing. However, I could not get the prompts to fit that story so I have written Chapter 0, the start of Frankie’s journey. Perhaps next month I can get Frankie into court!

This month’s Furious Fiction entry was submitted at 8:20AM Sunday. 497 words.

a red dirt road stretching into the horizon

Frankie Starts His Journey.

Frankie stood up at the first sight of bulldust rising on the horizon. He got ready to wave down the approaching road train. His ticket to the big smoke. He’d had enough of living a lie out here in the back of beyond. It was time to cut those apron strings and leave the family home. He was never going to fit in out here. Never. He was a round peg in a very square hole.

The bulldust cloud was getting closer. The bright red pigment paint screaming out “Broome or Bust!” from his sign. He hoisted his backpack, so he’d be ready when the driver slowed down. Frankie was in no doubt the driver would slow down, it was outback lore. No one, no decent person, would leave a lone hitchhiker out here without asking if they were OK.

By the time Frankie’s imagined road train was a hundred metres away, it had morphed into a yellow Kombi. The front tyre was flat, and the VW icon dangled on a ribbon from the windshield wipers.

Frankie wasn’t sure he wanted a lift in this particular lemon. Would it even make it to the next town, let alone Broome? He couldn’t be choosy, it was the first vehicle to pass him in four hours, and it was getting dark. The Kombi did slow down. It clanged to a stop with a burst of black smoke exploding from the dragging exhaust.

“MAN!” the driver said, “AM I glad to see YOU! I’m lost, my Kombi’s stuffed and I JUST ran out of petrol!”

Frankie blinked. When he opened his eyes, the Kombi was still there, still smoking.

The driver jumped down and held out his hand. “Name’s George,” he said, pumping Frankie’s hand enthusiastically while raising his eyebrow quizzically.

“Errr…Frankie,” Frankie said after an awkward pause. He realised he had been staring. George sure must have had some balls to be out here, in this place, dressed like that! His outfit was a riot of colour and style. A glorious cascade of sequins on satin. Frankie’s own chambray and denim, a shameful deception hiding his real desires,

“Let’s get this piece of shit off the road!” George said as he put his shoulder against the dead van. The heaving ended abruptly when the Kombi rolled down the embankment, hit a rock and teetered over.

CRUNCH!

“SHIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTT!” they said in unison, laughing. Unfazed, George scrambled down to retrieve some gear through the now smashed window. A huge suitcase, a pair of tall black boots, and a bottle of rum.

“Care for a splash of something smooth, Frankie? I think it’s gonna be a long night.”

They laughed again and sat down to wait for a real road train.

For the first time in his life, Frankie felt at ease with another human. He had found his tribe, here on the edge of the Gibson Desert. He’d found another round peg that wasn’t trying to squeeze into any square holes!

270413_3193

NOTE: some Aussie slang:

Lemon = a broken down car bought cheap and not likely to last long.

1 May 2020: EDITED TO ADD: I just realised my main character’s name changed.  In the first episode, his name was Charlie and the guard’s name was Frankie. Here I called our protagonist Frankie! Whoops! From now on he’ll be Frankie, the flamboyant dresser.

Furious Fiction 9 – March 2020

Wentworth Street, Port Kembla

Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction Competition

Gosh, the First Friday sure does come around quickly bringing another chance to enter Furious Fiction, the AWC’s monthly competition. As I’ve said before this is a fun activity with a terrific prize. You can read about it on their website.

Basically it’s 500 words in 55 hours for a $500 prize.

The criteria for March were:

  • Your story must include a PERSON IN DISGUISE.
  • Your story must take place in a PARK.
  • Your story must include a MIRROR.

I made three starts to this story. The first attempt was about a private eye trying to catch a wandering spouse, then it morphed into an internet dating story before I finally decided to run with the same story arc as last month’s story. It had to stand alone and not rely on the previous episode to make sense. I have already hatched out the next episode and hope I can bend April’s criteria to suit.

Here is this month’s Furious Fiction entry, submitted at 9:55 PM Saturday night. 488 words.

Clark in the Dark

Miriam was swinging her legs under the park bench. 

“Stop fidgeting! You’ll blow our cover!”

She sighed deeply and went back to pulling at the fringing on her poncho. 

“How long do we have to sit here?”

Clark ignored her. 

Miriam shuffled along the bench, tapped her feet on the ground, stood up, sat down, adjusted her mohawk wig, looked at her watch and sighed again. 

“Gov, this is ridiculous. We’ve already hit our quota for the month. Anyway, don’t you think THIS is dangerously bordering on entrapment?”

Miriam waved her hands over the “this”. An orange and white crocheted poncho made from acrylic yarn, white lace-up boots and tight orange velour pants. 

“Miriam…” he said “It’s not about the quota. It’s about the law. We don’t just stop upholding the law because we hit our quota! We don’t just let the fifty-first murderer off the hook because we only needed fifty for the quota!”

Specks of white saliva were gathering in the creases of his lips.  

“No, Miriam, we seek out those poxy crims wherever they are! ”

When DCI Clark Weston was working up to a full spitty episode, DC Miriam Hensen knew it was time to take a backward step.

“We have a duty to society! We have to stop these scum corrupting our youth with their grooming. If you can’t stand the heat Miriam, get out of the sweatshop!”

“Gov, I joined the Unit so I could create change! I expected undercover work to be more than sitting in Hyde Park in a clumsy disguise trapping lost souls. I didn’t think I’d be using a bag full of second-hand clothes from Double Bay Vinnies to entrap the disadvantaged.”

“Don’t come the liberal social justice disadvantaged angle with me, Miriam! These people DO have choices! They can look in the mirror before they leave home you …”

He stopped mid-sentence, “Look!  There, case in point!”

There, coming towards them was a travesty of colour. A man in a blue shirt, green pants and no belt. 

“A Code 10! Bet you’ve never seen THAT before!“ Clark whispered excitedly “Blue and green with nothing in between!”

Miriam was shocked. The man’s eyes were bulging like a junkie craving a fix. Clark pushed her towards him.

“Remember, he has to agree to buy!”

She sashayed up to Mr Blue-Green, “Wanna look at my stash fella,” she cooed, swishing her fringing and holding the bag out provocatively.

“Yeah babe, if you’ve got any sequins, I’ll buy the lot!” 

And just then, just as he committed to the sale, DCI Weston of the Fashion Police, lept up and cuffed him. 

“You’re under arrest  for a Code 10 Violation – Catastrophic Colour Clash.” Clarke shouted, “You do not have to say anything, but anything you do say may be used as evidence.”

Clark looked across at Miriam with smug satisfaction. “Never forget our motto, Miriam. Dress Proud. THAT’S what you signed up for.”

 

 

Reader Survey 2020

Personal Blog - personal photos

Hello! Is there anybody out there?

In 2019, I asked for your input through a reader survey. It’s time to do it again. I want to find out what is or isn’t working with this blog.

Since the first survey, I have been working on improving my SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and employed a copy editor who is fixing my typos and spelling errors. (Thanks Mum!) I have continued to write a long format post every week, and I included an additional weekly Photo of the Week post.

In 2020 I am going to

  • Continue with my promotion of my home town with the Snapshots from Wollongong series.
  • Have a focus on environmental issues, upcycling and how we can do better while using fewer resources.
  • Replace the Photo of the Week challenge with a mini-documentary of the week. This could be really challenging!!
  • Give quarterly updates on my Year of Zero (mainly to keep me accountable rather than entertain you!).
  • Continue to champion the life and times of older women.

According to my stats, I have more than 468 followers, an increase of 34 since the last survey. Despite this, I rarely get more than 30 views on each of my posts. Does this mean no-one out there is reading or are you reading via the WordPress Reader page? Perhaps you are reading in your email rather than on the browser? Apparently, you only get “views” counted in your stats if readers read your post on your actual webpage. (In which case, I’d appreciate you opening the posts in your browser so I know you’re there.)

I’d like to get an idea of who is out there and why you’re reading (or not reading as the case may be)

Can you help me out by filling in this survey? Thanks! 😀

Old Chook Enterprises Reader Survey 2020.

Please don’t add your name or other identifying information. It’s better if it’s anonymous and please play nice!

PS: I will collect responses and turn the survey off on March 6th 2020.

 

 

 

2019 – a year in review

My Year in Review

If you have been following my blog, you will have worked out by now that I like to keep myself occupied. This past year has been a positive one. In a previous post, at the end of 2017, I listed my Year in Review. I now look back over 2019, and while the list is shorter the year was just as fulfilling. The shorter list is a direct consequence of my daughter’s return to Australia and the subsequent increases in grandma time. I now have less “free” time. That free time has been filled with many pleasant hours spent building trains, telling stories and going on adventures.

The activity that has fallen off the list has been sustained writing. I have not advanced in any of the long-form writing projects I started back in 2017. They are not yet abandoned but very much on the back burner. I have found that I can put in the mental energy to write short blog posts and microfiction, but the characters from my longer stories don’t have enough time to wake up and let me know where they are up to.

So what did I do?

  • Continued with this blog, adding 127 posts.
  • And all the associated research, writing and photography that goes into those 127 posts.
  • I went to Hamilton Island for two weeks
  • I went to Scotland on my big adventure for five weeks
  • Put together a huge photo book from my Scottish adventure
  • I ran a “making a photobook” course at a local community college
  • I did an online Real Estate copywriting course with the Australian Writers Centre
  • I did a graphic design course through LinkedIn
  • I did two video making courses, one on documentaries and one on mobile content creation, through the Australian Radio, Film and Television School.
  • I participated in a silver jewellery making course
  • I got paid to work with a beginner photographer to show them a few ideas.
  • I had one of my photos in a “real” exhibition – Head On
  • I did two 5km, and one 10 km timed runs
  • A photography workshop at the Australian Museum
  • Celebrated my mum’s 80th birthday
  • Went to Cairns on a big school excursion
  • I entered six writing competitions and about seven photography competitions – still not a winner but participation is the goal.
  • Made and sold copies of a 2020 calendar
  • Perfected designs for tea cosies and doorstops
  • Completed 16 of the 60 things on my 60 for 60 list. (better get cracking on that one but see my post on the Year of Zero for an update on that)
  • Had a garage sale with friends
  • Renewed my first aid certification
  • A short online course on SEO.
  • Participated in a rescue competition with the NSW SES
  • I did three photography shoots for other people, including one with studio lighting. I think I can now start asking for money for this type of work.
  • I didn’t cry once!
  • And I still have a demanding full time “real” job
  • And I spent plenty of time with family.

Goals for 2020

I have set out my goals for 2020 already. They concentrate on my financial future so there will not be any travelling, paid for courses or big purchases. I will get my side hustle happening! (You are all my accountability partners!)

On the non-financial goal side of things I want to learn how to meditate correctly, complete at least 25 more of the modified 60 for 60 list, and reduce my impact on the world by wasting less and reusing more. I will continue to keep fit, look after my gut bugs, write, and take photos of what’s in front of me.

The big, overarching goal is to inspire some other old chooks like me to get out and have a go!

Be invincible, not invisible!

 

Furious Fiction 6

Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction Competition

It’s the first Friday of the month again and the Furious Fiction email is in my inbox. Yeah!! I have 2 hours before I go out with friends, and I’m already booked up for the weekend. So this time I gave myself only an hour to write the piece before submitting! Once again it’s not great but it’s done!

FURIOUS FICTION SEPTEMBER 2019 – THIS MONTH’S CRITERIA

  • Your story must include the name of at least ONE element from the periodic table.
  • Your story’s first and last words must begin with S.
  • Your story must contain the words TRAFFIC, JOWLS and HIDDEN.
  • And finally, your story must include something that BUZZES.

500 words 55 hours $500 prize money!

Sweet sounds of silence

Stephanie sat behind the wheel, her mouth opened wide, and her eyebrows raised higher than a tranny’s pencilled-in line. She looked over at the couple sitting next to her in the traffic. They were laughing, clearly enjoying her antics.

“What?” she said aloud, gesticulating impolitely. “Never heard of facial yoga? Hey! Honey your jowls could sure do with some tightening!”

The couple turned away, the lights changed, and they accelerated away.

“Pffft” Stephanie shouted after them.

“Calm down, Stephanie!” The little voice inside her head cooed.  “They’re just not worth it”

She took a few deep breaths and returned to the facial gymnastics, indifferent to the effect it was having on those around her. This was her time, her space!  She could stay hidden in the safety capsule of her car and do whatever she liked. Stephanie looked forward to the drive home. It was her peaceful sanctuary from the raucous and relentless buzzing of the world.

For Stephanie, the world was a noisy and disturbing place.

The whooshing hand dryers in bathrooms.

The grizzling, guzzling coffee machine blowing out steam.

The beep beep beep of the road crossing alert.

The clackety-clack of heels on the concrete floors.

The loud music in the supermarket.

The audible chewing of the fellow next to her in a cafe. 

Every sound set her on edge.  There was no escape. At least in her car, she could cut out some of the noise and calm her frayed nerves. Without that peace, she knew she’d meltdown quicker than caesium held in her palm. She was grateful for the days when an accident delayed her.  Although in a pang of guilt, it did occur to her that her win was likely to be someone else’s tragedy.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a woman she knew, walking down the street with big, fat, puffy earphones covering up half her head. Her face was serene and blissful. Stephanie’s head craned around to get a better look. “What are they? What is she wearing” she asked the universe. “She looks so happy! She never looks happy!”

Up ahead was an appliance store. Stephanie careened off the road and screeched into the car park.  She strode into the store with her single purpose in mind.

Buy Bliss Making Headphones.

The sales clerk asked if he could help. “Big puffy headphones”, she blurted out, holding her hands like cups over her ears.

He took her to the rack. She tried a few on but felt no bliss.

“People like you usually like these best,” he said quietly.

He put the muffs over her ears and flicked the switch. The noise retreated into a muffled, manageable murmur.

“People like me?” she asked

“Yes” the sales clerk said shyly. “People on the spectrum”

 

You can see my other Furious Fiction Pieces Here.

Furious Fiction 1

Furious Fiction 2

Furious Fiction 3

Furious Fiction 4

Furious Fiction 5

 

 

Two years old!

Happy second birthday, Old Chook Enterprises!

My blog is two years old today! Well, not ‘today’ today because I wrote this in May and the second birthday happens in July but I’m publishing it on the second anniversary of my first post! Now that’s not confusing, is it?

I am celebrating because unless something tragic has happened in the last few days, I have posted consistently every week for two years. Sometimes more than one post a week but at least every week!  I am proud of myself for doing that.

In the time leading up to this post, I will have been chronicling my trip around Scotland. This particular piece I wrote in the comfort of my home on May 16th, 2019. A little “here’s one I prepared earlier” post.

I still have a way to go till I hit my goal of 1000 followers, but my “followship” (is that a word?) has been steadily increasing. Sadly extrapolating from my current growth rate, it will be about 2027 before I hit that mark. I need some exponential growth!

My most viewed post to date is No day shall erase you from the memory of time which was featured by WordPress as an Editors’ Pick. This post looked back at my visit to the 9/11 Memorial in New York and still gets a few views every week.

A few of my own favourite posts are

RAOK – (Random Acts of Kindness) about a magical few minutes on a train when everyone was kind to each other.

Pandora’s Box about the briefcase full of letters between my ex and I.

It’s not been hard work but sometimes a bit stressful when I have has no posts up my sleeve, and it’s Thursday night. Every photo and video has been my own (unless I say otherwise and it’s only a few). I have not reblogged anyone else’s work. Not once. Not ever.

My original goal for starting the blog was to find a place for a side hustle in writing and creativity. That hasn’t panned out yet. It still costs me more to run than I have made. My obvious talents (sic) are still underappreciated.

But nonetheless, I’ll keep going. I still enjoy writing. My friends IRL seem to enjoy my candid posts. This Old Chook still feels like she has things to say.


When I get home from Scotland, I will be updating my theme to give my blog a fresh new look. I hope you’ll stick around!

This reel is me over the last 10 years.

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Furious Fiction 4

The Australian Writers’ Centre’s Furious Fiction competition for April 2019 centred on three lines of dialogue.

Viz:

  • “It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”  from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • “He’s never done anything like this before.”  Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  • “What’s it going to be then, eh?” A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

You can find out more about this fun competition at https://www.writerscentre.com.au/furious-fiction/

Here is my story.

Black Widows

The door of the pub flew open, and an old woman, lugging an oversized suitcase and a heavy backpack, struggled to fit through its frame .

She flung her suitcase bedside a table close to the fireside and strode up to the bar.  The bag was big. She was small.

“Impressive!” the bartender thought, surprised by the old girl’s strength.

“What’s it going to be then, eh?” he asked.

She ignored him as she poked around in her backpack muttering to herself.

“It’s in here somewhere. I know I packed it.”

He presumed she was looking for her wallet, but when she slammed that down on the bar, he figured he was wrong.

“Madam?” he tried again, “What will it be?”

Judging from her skin, her hair and her sensible shoes, he figured she must be around 70. The backs of her hands had the tell-tale age spots that he’d seen on his own grandmother.

He figured she was deaf. “MADAM?” he said with more volume.

She shot him a soul-withering glance. The crimson glint of the fire was reflected, blood-like, in her dark, bright eyes. He took a step back. He figured he wouldn’t ask her again.

“Ahhh! Here it is!” she said holding a small crystal vial. It was filled with fluorescent liquid that sparkled with the same red he had seen in her eyes. His curiosity stirred.

“Toilet?” she asked abruptly.

He pointed to the corner of the room. The woman turned on her heel, leaving her stuff in a pile on the bar.

When the woman returned, her skin was smooth and lustrous, the age spots gone. Her dark hair no longer anchored by steely grey. Thirty years had vanished!

His mouth flapped wordlessly.

“It’s fantastic, isn’t’ it!” she said.

“What is it?”

“It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution,” she whispered as she held the vial up to the light, twitching it, so the ruby liquid sloshed about.

“Would you like to try it?” she asked, her voice laced in honey and silk.

“Yes,” his gasped, with fearful anticipation.

“It’s not cheap…come.” she beckoned.

He took all the cash from the till and followed her into the cold night.

….

In the pale morning light, the police officers stood over the bartender’s cold, grey body.

“It’s a bit queer that his lips are still so red, isn’t it Sarge?” the constable asked.

“I don’t understand.” the sergeant said quietly as he removed a vial from the bartender’s stiff fingers. “He’s never done anything like this before.”

The noise of tyres on gravel distracted them and they watched as a red convertible passed slowly by. Their eyes were drawn to two identically dressed women sitting up front. Mother and daughter perhaps? One around 40, the other maybe 70?

Their lips painted red.

Their eyes bright and hard.

Their licence plate –  BLKWYDOS