Friday 29 March 2019

The News

The focus this week is on plot and the challenge is to allow your character take a journey , however short, and have an insight on route. Use monologue.

The News

“Not romance or drama. Not Robert Redford.”
What’s left? She hates thrillers and loves Redford. What’s up?

Scrolling across the rent-a-movie screen in Spar he considers her lapsed appointments: dental, hair, eyebrows; lapsed gym membership; couch potato evenings; cancellations; fixation on cat, dog, the lives of their adult children, and the Six One News; and her pallor that is becoming habitual. She’s binned her DVD collection, most of her books, says it’s called the KonMari method of clutter-busting, that she’s in a desert island what would you bring with you mode. The cat, of course, they say.
 Is she ill or clinically depressed? She’s eating, walking, at least as much as ever, and cleaning the house. Cleaning, in fact, has become her default modus operandi. She did that when the son went to New Zealand, compulsive cleaning for six months, and again when her mother died. Redford is still alive, as far as he knows. She’s talking of getting in a professional cleaner and they all wonder what she will do all day. She’s started singing. Hymns. And going to mass again. Her responses, she says, are circa 1973; even the church has moved on. He saw her crying at mass the one time he accompanied her there, just to try and figure out what the big attraction was. She never cries anywhere anymore, but he’s heard her whimpering of late. He thought it was the dog at first or the neighbour and when he went to investigate it stopped, but she was sitting in front of  Caitriona Perry on the box complaining of hay fever. In January? 1973 was the year he jilted her at the altar. What was his name? Jimmy or Joe? Her childhood sweetheart, her Redford lookalike.

 He’d scroll through the obituaries when he got home.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019

Tuesday 19 March 2019

The Call

The idea this week is to take some props associated with a character and spin into a story, or the hint of a story in 300 words. Good Luck.

I resort to thee and to thy petition.

She fumbled through the array of religious paraphernalia scattered on top of the book case. The well fingered novena card to St Martha of Bethany, depicted here taming the dragon with a sprinkle of holy water, her father’s Roman Missal, black Italian leather blocked in gold, alpha and omega and the crossed keys embossed on its cover, her mother’s silver crucifix, a skull at the foot of Christ’s nailed feet until she found what she wanted. She propped the votive tea light in front of miniature photographs of the dead.

I offer up to thee this light.

Inside the bookcase religious stalwarts juggled with alternative spiritual titles like Chicken Soup for the soul: Messages from Heaven and other Miracles, and Doreen Virtue’s Angel Answers. She reached for the latter.

Comfort me in all my afflictions

She walked towards her bedside locker where The Imitation of Christ lay open, a memorial card of her dead cousin acting as book marker, and knelt down beside her single bed with its iron foot and headboard. She saw her pale face in the dressing table mirror partly obscured by the poster of Maria Goretti, the girl who said no.

I beseech thee to have definite pity

Perhaps she had been too proud. Religious pride they said was the worst sort. Her eyes fell on the ornate iron coat railing that bore not coats but sterling silver chains bearing various miraculous medals and two sets of rosary beads, one in Swarovski crystals,  bought on a visit to the Vatican, the other in filigree silver.

On this your loyal subject.

The phone rang in the hallway.
And when she returned she flung the beaded crystals that splintered as they shattered on the bare wooden floor.

297 words

Copyright  with Cathy Leonard 2019

Friday 15 March 2019

Outlet for flash fiction

Here's an outlet for flash fiction. Nice lively website with monthly competitions.
They send you a monthly prompt which should get you writing.

Thursday 14 March 2019


The exercise here is to write a flash  fiction by describing how a person organises their home...


The print of Notre Dame bought at a Bouquiniste in ‘71 hangs at a tilt over the fridge. She doesn’t mind living with things askew. Though the others do. Yesterday’s mugs inhabit a colony on the kitchen counter, tea stains reaching back a month or two or until the last time she took the bleach to them. She wonders if her stomach might look like that. They tell her the Indian Rubber plant is wilting. She makes a note of its state of decay and wonders if it’s too late for horticultural intervention. Bins overflow, somewhat sorted into colour categories, though at time of transfer to giant Panda teeth they’ll complain. Her mind used to be two steps ahead of her feet but it’s the reverse now. She’s putting keys in the fridge, that sort of thing. They say it’s not fatal so long as you know what keys are for. They open doors and memories, she knows. But when she holds two objects in her hand simultaneously there’s a split second when her mind hovers irresolute. There’s too much memorabilia on display on the kitchen dresser: trinkets dating back to the sixties; snow igloos of the Sacré Coeur, miniature Eiffel Towers, barrel organs minus the monkeys. Wicker baskets redolent of some Arcadian idyll, not even hers, overflow with plastic bags, paper bags, and cardboard boxes. On the bookshelf there are vintage video cassettes alongside Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking and Andre Gide’s La Porte Étroite that he gave her when he left for the priesthood. The VCR doesn’t work anymore. She should bin the cassettes and sort out her memories into compostable, recyclable and waste, if only she could decide what’s what. Otherwise she’ll have to leave it up to them. To their discernment.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard  2019

Wednesday 13 March 2019

Setting the Scene

Setting the Scene.
An exercise this week in my online flash fiction course was to describe a boy playing football on the street. And introduce drama. Well,  I have no football know- how, so had to research this and beg the men in my life to edit it.... So here goes.

Injury Time

Ninety minutes gone and into injury time. Let’s finish it!

Jamie Healy takes the ball on the right wing. He’s fouled. Why doesn’t the referee blow his whistle? Ball lands near no-go area. Jamie has already lost three balls to road traffic accidents. Two were flattened outright and one was chipped from car to car until it was finally struck by an oncoming SUV. Not even defibrillation could revive the squashed pigskin. 

Healy sprints down the pitch that is wedged between Toners’ front yard and his own, the neighbour’s row of trivet demarcating the touchline. The fans are speechless.
Lionel Messi tackles Healy and regains the advantage. Messi dribbles, but Healy tackles, and with a scissors kick, flicks the ball back to his co-midfielder. The Oaklanders are on their way to the Champions League final! Barcelona fans are resigned.

Two minutes to go.

Fourteen metres from the goal Jamie Healy strikes. Great chance for the home team! But the ball ricochets off the post. Healy dives to intercept its trajectory towards the open road where tea time traffic is building.

One minute to go.

Busquets gets possession of the ball midfield. He shouldn’t even be there. He feigns, dribbles, does a one two with Rakitić and finds Messi with a sublime ball. The Barce fans are on their feet.

Come on ref! Blow the whistle! Time’s up!

Healy intercepts the low cross from Messi, feints a kick pass, blindsides Vidal and with an instep drive shoots the ball past Terstegen. What a goal! It ricochets off the post for a second offensive. What a chance! But Healy back heels it over the crossbar and the young Oakland striker watches the ball sailing out of play across the goal line towards oncoming traffic and lunges. The final whistle blows.

Words 298

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019

Saturday 9 March 2019

Sharing Space

Week One of flash fiction course was focusing on memories. 
Week two- Setting, even if it's just implied or hinted.
Here's an exercise that came out of that.

Does she mind him being home all day?

He hasn’t deleted all of her from the den…yet.
Her stained glass mosaic of a woman holding the moon still leans against the window, daylight flooding moon and woman rapt in the figure of infinity,  her purple skirt caught in the throes of flamenco.

But her old books with their musky scent of wood and vanilla have been replaced by his swimming trophies, gilt faded, silver tarnished, oxidized, rotten to smell, sandpaper to touch. Liffey Swim Team Prize 3rd 1986. Seiko Men’s Open-Swimmer of the Year 1990. O’Brien’s Water polo Tournament-Most Valued Player 1978.

And the roll top of the desk beneath the trophied shelves no longer flutters and clicks, expanding and contracting like an accordion. He prefers it left open.

On the filing cabinet a stapler, a paper puncher and calculator have supplanted her tin box collection, Farrah’s Original Harrogate,Valroble Extra Virgin, that used to waft out the aroma of nougat and olives and travel.

And her postcards of El Cordobes, bicycles arched over the Herengracht, laundry strung from balconies on a Venetian canal, posted to herself from European mini-breaks, no longer bolster the filing cabinet’s gable wall- stripped back now to reveal scratched metal and adhesive strips, remnants of earlier takeovers.

Her walking shoes and dog paraphernalia are no longer stacked in the grate of the cast iron fireplace, flanked by art nouveau ceramic tiles. It is deemed obsolete, ecologically endangering and currently on auction on E-bay.

But the sky behind the mosaic woman-moon is cracked. The type of slit that could slice the top off unsuspecting flesh and it’s a question of how long… before he decides that a brazen woman is the last thing he needs in his retirement.

Does she mind him being home all day?

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019

Thursday 7 March 2019

The Greening of Big Bessie

It had been a dare. Much like the others. The tip offs. The phone calls.
Not meant to cause harm. They chose him because of Joxer, the mongrel. He was to wait till midnight, slip up the entry, placate Joxer, scale the side gate and do the deed.

They didn’t say they’d be there too.

The light from Big Bessie’s bedroom cast a spotlight onto the footpath as he crept up the gable length entry. Big Bessie with her big ears who could swot a boy with the back of her fingernail. He should have waited longer, but they’d said midnight. They hadn’t reckoned on the maiden aunt.

He heard Joxer shaping up, a low growl that would soon escalate to a high pitched bark. But the mongrel must have smelt him or something, the way dogs do, the way they know it’s not the enemy. Poor bugger! He reached the dog and palmed out his offering. Enough goose fat to have him farting for days.

Sure enough the washing line was strung with laundry as they said it would be. Monday. Wash day. Prod and Teague sheets like shrouds. Strung out for half a mile along the row of council backyards.

He prised the lid off the can, watched it flip in the air, land on the mongrel and set him off yelping.

Shutters clicked. The boy crouched. Eyes panned from her watch tower. They hadn’t thought enough about Big Bessie.

He heard the whoosh of the blinds raised and the metallic rip of a window flung ajar.

“Get the hell outta there, ye fenian bastards!” she roared.

Figures sprang from the shadows. The boy and paint pot were upended and Bessie Johnson opened her back door to a green boy, a green backyard and a green dog.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019

Monday 4 March 2019


Seven sevens?
Forty- nine!
The teacher’s stick waves like a baton in an orchestra
Is there a rhythm to multiplication tables?

Agnes Donnelly falters on seven eights.
Agnes is five students down the line.
Two whooshes, the rise and fall of the baton,
The descent- of shorter duration.
If teacher side-angles the stick
And your hand makes contact with the edge
The slap is searing.
Agnes lets out a wail.
Her left hand cradles her wounded palm
She raises it to her lips and tastes blood.

Seven eights?
Fifty six- like a greyhound out of the trap.
The cane dances to the tune of a Strauss’ waltz.

Seven nines?
Alice Casey never knows
Her palms are hardened to the cane
She says if you rub vinegar on them before the performance
You feel nothing
The baton descends

Seven nines?
Two classmates between me and the cane
Seven ones is seven
Seven twos is fourteen
Seven threes is…


Seven tens is easy
Seven elevens is easier

Seven twelves is me.
Add seven to seventy- seven
Seven fours is…
seven fives is...

A warm trickle between my thighs
The teacher is pulling out my hand.
My arm is numb. My fingers clenched
She is prising the fingers out one by one
But they curl inwards again
She is standing at her full height
The trickle has reached my knees, my calves

The baton dips but the knuckles dive
The swish of loose sleeve
The back of her ringed hand 
Strikes my cheek bone

Seventy seven plus seven is eighty- four
My ears are ringing

Too! Slow!

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019

Friday 1 March 2019

The Nun Story


“When I grow up I want to be a nun like Audrey Hepburn in The Nun’s Story,” her composition began.

Sarah loved the echoes from the stairwell in the great hall of the convent where the polished mahogany reflected the votive lights around the statue of the Virgin. Here Sarah’s eyes followed Mary’s gaze towards the angel who was hovering over her left shoulder. Sarah could not see Gabriel but she knew from Mary’s face that the archangel was delivering tidings of great joy.

The rustle of a nun’s rosary or the scratch of her slippered feet on the marble tiles always scuppered Sarah’s contemplation of the Annunciation.
She would join the Mercy order and, like Audrey, go to the Congo and convert souls.

She told Sister Jacinta this in her composition.
The novice would surely love the story.

Monday morning and the copy books were sitting in a pile on Sister’s desk.
If hers was near the top it was a bad sign, as the novice always gave back homework in ascending order of merit.

She heard the slippered feet, the rattle of beads, the swish of the nun’s habit; but it was Mother Superior who bustled through the door.

“Sister Jacinta is unwell, girls. Let’s stand and say a prayer for her recovery.”

Perhaps Sister Jacinta hadn’t read her composition after all?
Had she been struck by some missionary disease, like leprosy?
Had she even been to The Missions?

Sarah wanted to run and kneel at the foot of the Virgin and beseech her to intervene, but the older nun was already handing out the copies.

When she opened hers she read, “I love your composition, Sarah,” written in the novice’s hand.

By break time the news was out
Sister Jacinta would not be taking her final vows.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019