She Was His Obligation

Her face was like a map of the forgotten world or maybe just a nightmare, lined, creased and tired from experience, but there was a quality of defiance about it which drew you to a second look. Those smoker’s eyes, I knew, were full of memories and insights, good and bad, blessed or wrapped in regrets and moments of euphoria created from a fabric of the finest chaos: drink, I suspected, was her refuge and her jailor.

I met her at a literary conference where the great and good rose and spoke on marketing and I, somewhat at a loss, had gone to see if I could finally get a sense of creative direction. She, it appeared, had been the first secretary of the main speaker some twenty years before and had been invited to attend the conference by him out of a longstanding loyalty. The guru had his wife and eldest daughter with him and everything was clearly above board, but she was knowing in that chaotic way “the lost” can be when they look in your eyes.

“Buy me a drink” she said, standing slightly closer to me than was necessary. “I’m a bit rushed” I said, looking around me as if there were people I should meet, but of course, she knew I was just avoiding her. She’d been there a thousand times in many situations, but still she snarled, “Get lost pretty boy,” which clearly I was not. At a loss now, and not wishing to be rude I said, “Just the one then” and placed a protective hand on her back as if I was wise enough to guide her. She looked up then and her face came alight which was somehow more disturbing: too much happiness, too much warmth: you know the thing.

Drink in hand and pointing at the principle speaker she said, “He was gorgeous when he was young, lovely, and he still sends me Christmas cards if he’s got my address.” Clearly a decent man but then, in his youth, when she was working for him, she implied he had not yet learnt the distinction between wise actions and those which offer brief excitement.

As she started to unravel her past before me the great man in question came over and said, in his apologetic way, “Can I borrow this gentleman for a moment” and with that he whisked me over to the far side of the room. “Best not to get too involved there if you catch my drift” and I nodded my assent. “She needs someone to look after her though” I said and he nodded in his turn.

She was one of those people you invite into your life at your own peril and clearly she knew more about our guru than he would like to be known by others but, despite that, there was a loyalty between them. The connection was her most precious memory, a source of pride to her as was his constant, if discrete, compassion. Older than him, perhaps, but she “saw” him before others new him, and supplied him with comfort when he was in need:that he could never forget.

Posted in character, Compassion, creative writing, Fiction, old-age, Peter Wells, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

Her Parting Words

The time for pretending was now over: her gaunt face lying on the pillow, eking out her final breaths, Madelaine our only child, sleeping quietly in my arms, too young to watch her mother’s presence living out its final throw.

“Love again,” my dear wife told. “Do not become a hermit for me, I want for you the warmth and laughter I will soon cease to feel. Love for me and face life bravely, feel me standing by your side. I have loved and love you always, but from this truth we cannot hide. Life is cruel, inconsequential: takes no account of what we are. Be happy for me always darling, take me with you on your journey, and laugh the silence from my grave.”

“Take me with you to the sunrise, walk with me upon the heath, teach our child to ride a cycle and play with her upon the beach. In time you too will need some comfort, do not hide away from love. Mine is yours to hold forever, free from cost or limitation, give it to the girl you meet. Know that as you stoop to kiss her, I shall strive to smile and bless her: some sweet soul who brings you comfort, my one, my true ungainly Knight. Death, we know, brings little comfort, but in your thoughts and this sweet child, now living passing urgencies, might I come to life again, brought to mind by some hand gesture, recollected in a phrase?

Celebrate the moment darling; hold it to your breast till death. You and I, who found each other, wrapped our lives around each other, must now go our separate ways, but in this moment let us treasure, all that you have been to me.

Remember how I love you dearly, accept our fate with dignity. The flame which is your gentle spirit, lit the world in which I lived. Let my love remain within you, and guide your steps as best I may.”

Her words are all I have to treasure, living now as if by order, and so I tell my only daughter, “She was a wonder lent by angels, who smiled and gave me hope in life. You are all I have of her, but in your eyes I see her presence, and somehow as you run towards me, arms outstretched in urgent summons, I find again my own sweet darling, reaching out to life once more.”

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, Love, Peter Wells, Romance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

A Carefully Considered Courtship

Charles Junkett, a surname he hated by the way, and Samantha Prigg met on the first day of University at a ‘Freshers’ gathering where both were meant to throw caution to the wind and drink deeply from the froth-filled chalice of freedom and irresponsibility. Charles dressed in a suit and sipping carefully at his lime cordial and mineral water noticed that the girl beside him, dressed in a brown below the knee skirt and matching blouse was also supping from the same cocktail.

“Great Minds” he said to her raising his glass, and she replied, “Wished they were somewhere else”. He looked at her more seriously and replied “Don’t they just. I say, do you fancy wandering off and having a coffee somewhere else instead,” and she did not mind: so had begun a courtship which had lasted for fifteen years.

They both lived in the same suburb of the city and while he worked as a Financial Analyst she plunged into the wilder professional waters afforded by a career as a Loss Adjuster. “The recklessness of some people” she might say, and he would add, “Fools rush in” and so they might, but not into these lives. “No Sir, No way, Not on my watch,” characterised their responses to those who led a life free of planning.

They did not share a house or flat, but lived in the same street, and commuted with each other every day to offices which were also close to each other: “Ah the benefits of organisation.” At the end of the day, from Monday through to Thursday, as they reached her house, which they did first, he would say “Enjoy your evening” and she would add “That is the plan” and then, “I’ll ring you at 10pm” which was fifteen minutes before their agreed bed time.

Every week on Friday they would repair to the same Greek Restaurant, look at the same menu and order the same meal. Their unchanging toast was “To the good life” said just before their mineral water charged glasses chinked in a moment of controlled euphoria.

Even in the most ordered of lives, the subject of intimacy and its effect on order and routine might be discussed and so it was with them; a mere three years after they began spending significant amounts of time together. “There are grounds,” he said to her one Friday evening, for upgrading our kiss on the cheek to a ritual involving a meeting of lips. ”

She looked at him carefully, and considered any possible downsides involved. “I think that’s reasonable,” she said, and so their lips met for the first time at nine-thirty five at the conclusion of the evening, and just before they retired to their separate accommodations: two souls joined in the worship of order and planning.

Within two years this alteration had led to them spending Friday and Saturday nights together under one roof, and, dare we reveal it, one duvet. Rules of engagement were discussed and intimacies conducted with due notice taken of noise levels and disorder to the bed linen. Time went by and both enjoyed successful careers free of unsightly boasting or unplanned excitement.

So it might have continued until, one Friday evening, as they met in town prior to him saying, “Would you enjoy a Greek meal this evening” as if it was a new idea, he noticed that she seemed a trifle edgy. Emotional might be over stating it, but there was certainly something of the off-guard about her manner. All was revealed as they nibbled at the customary pita bread and the home-made humus, produced in a factory north of Birmingham. “I have to tell you I am expecting a child”. “How is that possible” he said and again, even with his best efforts, some emotion was evident in his demeanour.

“I suspect in the normal manner, although the indulging in a peppermint cream instead of my normal pill might have influenced things. “ “Is it mine?” he said, nervous, but sure of her answer. “Oh no” she said, “It’s a present from the heating engineer” who told me to “Get a Life”, and so I did, with him. “How do you explain this conduct?” he asked. “I think boredom might have had something to do with it”. “Ah boredom” said her long-time companion. “Difficult to deal with under all circumstances. Very nice to have met you” and with that he left and placed his house on the market before moving to the Philippines where he tried his hand at professional surfing.

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, humour, Peter Wells, Romance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

My Father’s Watch

I did not know my father, he died before I became conscious enough about life to recognise a face or understand a situation so I was largely raised by my aunt for long period sas my mother often went missing somewhere in her mind,  locked in her bedroom, wrapping herself in grief and religion, or something of that sort: we never had a chat involving the sharing of emotions.

From the age of eighteen my father’s watch, curiously non-committal it must be said, as it no longer worked and read eleven-thirty six regardless of the hour, was fixed to my wrist as a momento of a person I never met but thought about regularly: it connected me to him.

Out of good manners I take it off while I bath, and lay it on the shelf by the tub so its fragile workings are not further damaged by water. It has never pretended to be more than it is or made a promise it could not keep which removes it from comparison with most of the people and things who consider themselves reliable. No doubt, in better times, on my late father’s wrist, it saw life as I have not seen it, as he travelled round the world reporting on events for one newspaper and then another.

I’m one of those people who surround themselves with routines and habits in a vain attempt to keep the unexpected away from them and so I pretty much eat the same dinner on the same day of the week, rise punctually at six-thirty every weekday to prepare for my work as a schoolteacher and take the same walk on a Saturday morning to the same café for a solitary coffee.

So it might have continued until one day, sitting in said café, I was approached by a girl who said, “Sorry to bother you, but that watch looks very like a nineteen sixteen Rolex to me. They used a distinctive dial in that year”  Not a usual conversation opener it must be said, but it then turned out that her father had worked for the company for his entire working life, ending up as a curator of their museum, and she used to visit him there.

Almost without asking she sat down at my table and soon I was telling her why I wore the watch, and how it connected me to my father, and how that understated sense of quality and craftsmanship it evidenced was, for me at least,  an antidote to the slip-shod careless ways of the modern world.

That made her smile, and she said, “There, there. It’s not all bad” and I’m sure she’s right. I hope so anyway, as we sort of got on, if that’s not too forward, and we are meeting for lunch at the end of the week: her suggestion. I always knew my dad would look out for me somehow.

Posted in character, Creative Fiction, creative writing, Fiction, Peter Wells, Romance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 17 Comments

Were He An Accomplished Man ?

She was a woman of significant achievement, pursuing a successful career in the legal profession who enjoyed everything a person could wish for apart from empathy and a trusted companion, while he was a man of little perceptible professional or material value apart from an enhanced sensibility which often added texture to a situation and depth to a conversation: more than that, perhaps, he was kind, because kindness to others was the foundation of his beliefs and the secret behind his poverty: he never placed his needs before another’s, and always said his wish was to understand and discover rather than own, a point of view which had irritated many people in the past, including his father.

As a result of conversations held at a cocktail party hosted by his cousin, more prosperous, more “realistic” if we can use that word, than him, they had become acquainted and he had asked her to dine with him and, she, moved by a sensibility seldom encountered in her professional life, had decided to accept. After all, what could be harmful in a few words exchanged over a convivial meal?

In fact what happened was he opened the curtains of her mind and pointed out the carpet of stars above, visible to those not polluted by material concerns. She found herself moved by his words as little else had done: life became a timeless place, where love-minded souls gathered round the fire of experience and shared their dreams.

Everything her life had taught her told her he was not a man to become involved with but her private soul, which looked out on life and asked the question “Why?” could imagine nothing more precious. Was she privileged to know him or a hostage to her needs ? Only time would tell.

Posted in character, creative writing, faith, Fiction, Life, Peter Wells, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Modesty In Circumstance

I knew a lady, old and proud, who struggled by on limited means although from her dress and demeanour that was not immediately obvious: she never complained. Her principle defence was privacy and she guarded that closely. What her life had been and what it held was never disclosed: she made few comments about her circumstances and everything about her said “Don’t touch”. When I first visited her for professional reasons, tea was offered in delicate china cups but there were no biscuits. If you met her in the street she would tip her head slightly but avoid all conversation.

How she had arrived in these circumstances I cannot say. Had there been love or tragedy? I do not know because she never discussed her life in any way: like an iceberg, only the tip was showing but she was not innately cold: only discrete.

Over time, by avoiding personal questions, I gained a slight entrance to her world. She went to church, she told me, though she did not discuss her faith, and autumn was her favourite season because she loved the colour of the leaves : at last biscuit appeared beside the tea; a daughter was mentioned but not in any detail. Her gaze became more quizzical but she never asked a question except about business. Her flat was tidy and uncluttered as you might expect, free of photographs or pictures in the main.

One day I had some music playing in my car. I loved the tune and hummed it as I drove, felt it free me from the everyday, grant me that brief suspension we call peace. All too soon I had to stop and park, but lost in thought I hummed it as I walked towards her house. Her door was opened quickly as I knocked, catching me still humming the refrain. A look of interest passed across her face and, as she stepped aside to let me in the house, she said “You like music?”

“Very much,” I replied, “It’s one of my abiding passions”. She nodded and smiled gently: tea was made and biscuits soon appeared. She looked at me as if we might be friends and I felt an honoured by this display of warmth. As I rose to go she said. “I’ve got something you might find interesting”. I was surprised, of course, but just said. “Oh, that’s nice” and then she left the room.

Returning she held a picture in her hand and offered it to me without comment. Looking down I saw an old black and white photograph of a women dancing on a stage, one arm raised and held above her face: she looked quite beautiful; slim and full of grace. I raised my eyes to hers as she told me, “I was a ballet dancer in my youth.” With that she took the picture from my hand, opened the door and stepped back to let me pass. “Thankyou” I said, “ Thank you” I said and left

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, Peter Wells, Uncategorized, values | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Designing A Child’s Character

At eight and three quarter months the baby was developing normally, and now the light above the Wombulator was changing to green, which meant she could insert the chip of personality traits and abilities she wished her child to possess and herself to enjoy. Gone, thank goodness, were those primitive days, when people had to express emotion by more than touching fingers, and having children meant distorting and possibly ruining the shape of your body.

Before she made her final decision, Sandra 526 Bland looked at the sexual orientation meter which revealed the growing baby to be personality base Five. “Brilliant: she could opt for a range of talents selected as suitable and available at this time for a child of this blending by the Ministry of Social Harmony and Agriculture. Her child would be a sports enthusiast, but with underlying sensitivity; possibly a talent for painting; that would be enjoyable.” She turned to her husband, Opaque 138 Bland, and said,” He is going to be a type Five” . “That is good” said Opaque 138 and nodded, while continuing to watch a sparrow reading a newspaper on a tree across the road.

She inserted the character chip into the Womberlater, confident that the child would be as she desired, plus having the ability to speak twenty eight languages from birth, ignoring engineering terms which were considered outside his personality banding. Along with the Womberlater,  births of all species where now subject to due processing by the Ministry of Normalcy, which meant humans could enjoy the sense of other species, but without being eaten or having the windscreen of their autoflyers blotched by passing animal effluent, to use a sanitized expression. Personality inserted, she returned to doing her virtual jigsaw puzzle, which was a hologram of an antique drawing depicting a retro man looking at what her history group had revealed were called trees.

Sure enough, at exactly nine months from ‘Initialisation’ the new buzz word for post-sex intimacy;  the tedium of bodily contact no longer being required, the baby, designated name Opaque 139, was announced to be ready to participate in the household. His mother lifted him out of the device, and slipped on his ‘permagrow’ clothing: an item that would remain on him for his entire life, but change fashion, size, style and cut depending on his age and the mood of the day, as authorised by the Ministry of Motivation, with due diligence supplied by the Ministries of Resource Management and Planetary Stabilisation.

Once in his cot, the baby spoke, “I’m sorry to bother you, but could I have some milk.” Some things, it seems, never change and poor old Sandra 526 had to go the Kitchenator to get some. While she was there, she inserted a pod of nutrients, roughage and vitamins into the Cookerater, and pressed ‘Random’: it was nice to surprise yourself occasionally with an unstructured meal, and she felt like marking the day.

She returned to the baby with the milk, in a container of largely traditional design, and the baby took a few swigs, before Sandra 526 remembered she had injected it with her husband’s illicit supply of Jack Daniels, a cult liquid reputed to take imbibers to something resembling paradise within a few sips.

Sure enough, or not sure enough, depending on your viewpoint, the baby began to wave his arms around and sing some fairly fruity songs composed on the terraces of football grounds over a hundred years before: heaven knows how they had survived ‘social values screening’ but it was too late to worry about that now. Within moments, a siren sounded, and a light flashed outside their apartment.

“Unschooled behaviour: Unschooled behaviour” said the tannoy in a reproachful but not condemnatory tone, the result of much tweaking from Government phycologists’, and both Sandra 526 and Opaque 138, knew that questions without convenient answers would soon be posed. Emotions were expressed.

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, Humanity, humour, Peter Wells, society, values | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments