Not as Young as I Used to be

Wallace stopped and bent over, his hands resting just above his keens. He took deep breaths in and out, trying his best to get his breathing under control. Pippa, who had not expected him to stop, had continued on a little further. She turned herself around and jogged back to him, placing a hand on the top of his spine and rubbing gently.

‘You alright?’ she asked.

‘Yeah,’ Wallace said between breaths, ‘just – let me – get my breath – back.’

Pippa laughed. ‘We haven’t even gone very far. There’s still over four kilometers left. You sure you can handle this?’

‘Course – I can,’ Wallace said, although his voice did not carry the confidence that he had meant his words to have. He pushed himself up until he was standing upright again. ‘I’m just not as young as I used to be.’

‘What? You’re thirty!’

‘Yes,’ said Wallace, ‘but I used to be younger than thirty.’

Pippa looked up the long, winding path that led through the park. ‘Maybe we’ll just do a short run today,’ she mused. ‘You know, to get you back into running. You said yourself, it’s been a while.’

‘No, no, I can do it. Let’s go.’

They set off again, but before long Wallace was slowing down. Pippa reduced her pace and looked sideways at him to see that his face was red and covered in a layer of sweat which shone in the early morning sun. If the way he squeezed his eyes shut over and over was any indicator, then he was in a bit of pain.

‘There’s no shame in starting off slow,’ she said. ‘A minute of running, a minute of walking, it does the trick nicely.’

Wallace nodded and slowed down to a walk. ‘Yeah,’ he agreed, ‘good idea.’

‘You’ll be back to your old fitness in no time. Just don’t let the early days put you off.’

They walked until Wallace caught his breath back and started jogging again. Pippa allowed him to keep the pace, always a footstep behind. He did not overexert himself this time, and it was nice to have the company.

When they got to the cool down, Wallace was clearly tired out, but he looked extremely pleased with himself.

‘Thirty,’ he said, pushing a strand of hair that had fallen into his eyes away behind his ear. ‘Not so bad after all.’

‘You’re not an old man just yet,’ Pippa agreed.

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Monday Reflection: Week 12

This week’s going to be a busy one! The 50th Spring Symposium for Byzantine Studies is happening this weekend at the University of Birmingham, and I’m going to be attending, volunteering, and going to the meal on the Sunday night with many of the important speakers. With that in mind, here’s a quick glance over the past week before I begin the new one.

Poetry

bag of memories on Eliot’s Tears

directed on The Dynamics of Groove

Six Minutes and Forty Two Seconds on Creative Writing of a Baltimorean

Stories

The 50 Virus by S C Richmond

Blogs

For a great blog with lots of variety and ongoing projects including stories and poems in the realms of supernatural/fantasy, check out Tales of Ore. Take a look around, it’s a great blog!

I hope you enjoy going through these posts as much as I did. Happy reading! And if you’ve read something worthy of sharing, add a link in the comments below to share it with everyone else!

Bitter Feelings

Martin threw his bag down by the side of the chair and threw himself into it with a huff. He shrugged off his jacket, then picked up the cocktail menu with one eyebrow raised, flicked through it quickly, and tossed it back down onto the table.

Ben and Luke looked at each other across the table. They both knew that Martin would get a pint of something cheap and nasty: he always got a pint of something cheap and nasty. Flicking through the cocktail menu was just one of the many techniques he used to tell the people around him that he was not happy.

They watched as he pulled his wallet out of his pocket, pushed himself out of his chair, and made his way over to the bar. It was silent as he ordered and paid for his drink, snatched it up off the bar and wound his way across the room back to the table. The pint glass was placed down onto the table gently, a couple of centimetres away from a beer mat (if the table got a ring from the glass, that would probably cheer Martin up a bit). He let his weight send him crashing back down into his chair, and drained half of the pint before either of the others could get a word in.

‘Uh, Martin,’ Luke said, when the glass moved far enough away from Martin’s lips that Luke thought he might be willing to answer, ‘what’s up?’

‘Yeah,’ Ben pitched in, not entirely helpfully. ‘Looks like something’s wrong.’

‘Does it?’ Martin asked. Then he put the half-full glass down on the table, and sat staring at them in a silence that both Ben and Luke were certain he was deliberately making uncomfortable.

Nobody liked it when Martin was in a bad mood. He was the sort of person whose misery swept around the room until it infected everyone else, even those who did not interact with him. There was something about the way he moved and his short, blunt sentences that demanded an environment of self-loathing. Ben picked up his own pint to break the tension between them, and pretended to be more interested in his drink than he was.

‘Want to talk about it?’ Luke asked, his voice betraying his hopes that Martin would let his thoughts out and release some of the bitter feelings brewing within him.

‘Nope.’

Luke nodded. ‘Right. Cool.’

Another awkward silence; the people on the table behind Martin fell into their own brooding silence, as the uncomfortable feeling of disdain began to seep out of Martin and into those nearby.

Outside, it started to rain.

‘You know, I think I might have an early night tonight,’ Luke suggested. ‘It was really busy at work today. I’m tired.’

Martin snorted. ‘Yeah. Right. Busy.’ He knew exactly why Luke wanted to get out of there, and it was clear he enjoyed spreading discomfort around. ‘Well, I’m gonna get wasted.’ He stared at Ben, a challenge.

Ben put his glass down and held his hand up to his mouth, faking a yawn. ‘I’m … pretty tired, actually,’ he said without much effort.

At the same moment that Martin’s eyes narrowed, a clap of thunder crashed down outside. Sometimes, it was as though his timing was just too perfect, as though it was more than just the room that he could affect with his powerful negativity.

There was no need for him to tell them that he knew they were trying to leave. That was obvious. The seconds ticked on, until Martin’s face began to soften, but the tension still hummed through the air between them. Luke licked his lips, words dancing on his tongue that he did not dare speak.

Eventually, he said, in a voice utterly devoid of interest, ‘Well, I suppose another pint couldn’t hurt.’

‘Be careful,’ Martin said, sounding dry and bored, ‘it might kill you.’

Throwback Thursday: Howler

A throwback to a short story about a couple who decide to holiday in the middle of the woods, and get more than they bargained for.

There was the sound of something running around outside, followed by a low growl. Lexie lifted her head off the pillow to see if she could make anything out on the other side of the curtains, but it was too dark for her to be sure.

“Can you see anything?” she asked Ed.

“No.”

“Me neither.”

Source: Howler

Monday Reflection: Week 11

Monday again! The weather in Birmingham has improved this past week – I even saw the sun a few times! There’s lots of time to scroll through my reader while I sit lazily in the sunlight. Here are some great picks from throughout the week:

Poetry

I am no tree by Sarita Jay Brady

In the Silence on Poet’s Corner

Stories

Grounded on Tales of Unusual Strangeness

Knaben by David Henson on Spelk

Blogs

Here’s a blog that combines photography with poetry and displays the images in a nice, clear style that’s sure to catch your eye: uptown jack. The poetry is often short and thought provoking. Check it out by clicking the link!

I hope you enjoy going through these posts as much as I did. Happy reading! And if you’ve read something worthy of sharing, add a link in the comments below to share it with everyone else!

You Just Don’t Understand

Emily stared at the menu and sighed. The food sounded delicious, but it was so overpriced. There was no way she could justify paying over the top prices just because her friends were going.

Samantha spotted her gazing at the photo of the brownie in the dessert section and placed a hand on Emily’s arm.

‘Don’t worry about the price,’ she said, ‘I’ll pay for yours.’

Emily smiled, but shook her head. ‘I can’t ask you to do that,’ she said.

‘Sure you can. Nobody needs to know. You can cover the taxi fare – it won’t be that much. Or you can buy me a drink sometime.  Come on, it won’t be the same without you there.’

Emily looked up from the menu and caught Samantha’s eye.

‘Oh, all right,’ she gave in. ‘Thanks. I’ll pay you back, somehow. I promise.’

‘Like I said, don’t worry about it. A great meal out with friends this weekend, and everything will feel better.’

‘Yeah, you’re right.’ Emily paused, looking back down at the menu to mentally make her choices ahead of schedule. Then she said, ‘I’m going to need a new dress, now.’

Samantha laughed. ‘You can’t afford the meal, you can’t afford a new dress,’ she pointed out. Emily grinned.

‘You know, Sam, you just don’t understand.’

‘No,’ said Samantha, ‘I get it.’ She glanced up and down the street, then rubbed her hands together eagerly. ‘Well, no time like the present, is there?’

Monday Reflection: Week 10

It’s week 10 of 2017 already, and so far I’ve been very busy, both on this blog and in the *gasp* real world. My next big task is to create an abstract for a 20-minute paper based around my chosen dissertation topic. I’ve got lots of issues with the whole speak-for-20-minutes-about-your-own-research-and-then-defend-it-against-questions thing, but the main issue right now is that I haven’t actually been able to narrow my dissertation topic down all that much.

As a handy distraction from all this academic lark, I turned to my WordPress reader. Here’s what I wanted to share from the past week:

Poetry

Blind Woman on Calliope’s Lyre

Oh on Hockadower

Water Child – A Ghazal on Poet’s Corner (where you might even discover a new form of poem to try)

Stories

The Money Wallet on 200 Word Stories

Blogs

For some regular, daily flash fiction/short stories on you reader, check out Flash 365. It’s always great quality writing, and the art that comes with it will surely catch your attention.

I hope you enjoy going through these posts as much as I did. Happy reading! And if you’ve read something worthy of sharing, add a link in the comments below to share it with everyone else!

One of Them

The faces drifted in and out of focus, twirling and spinning until they became a blur of colours with a lack of any distinguishing features.

In the end, they were all the same. Hair colour, skin colour, eye colour, lipstick, eyeliner, moustaches, beards … whatever. They were all the same.

Laying in the mud, I dared to raise my head enough to see their distorted faces. I did not need to be able to recognise any of them. It was what they said that defined them, but they never said anything I had not heard before.

Pathetic.

Loser.

Waste of space.

I did not need them to say it to me. I had learnt these things long ago. I if I wasn’t pathetic, wasn’t a loser, wasn’t a waste of space, then this wouldn’t keep happening to me. Everywhere I went, every school I attended, it was always the same. They were always there, with their unrecognisable faces and their sharp words.

It was nothing to do with them. It was me, I was the one who was wrong. As their faces twirled and span, they became part of a collective, the same group of people. I, meanwhile, was alone, recognisable and vulnerable, easy to spot in a crowd.

To change, I had to become a blur. I had to become one of them.

The mud smeared on my face hid me a little, and that was where my disguise – my process of blending in, of joining them – would begin.

Monday Reflection: Week 9

Welcome back to Monday Reflection! I’ve got all of my results back from last semester now (finally, the last exam took forever to mark), and I’m happy with how I’ve performed – I just need to keep up the good results for this semester. In any case, here are a few things I found on my reader that I wanted to share this week:

Poetry

Into the Woods on Withering Ambience

Red (Poem) on theherdlesswitch

Stories

The Rendezvous on The Well of Fiction

Time on I Have Pretty Strong Convictions, I Guess

Blogs

Here’s a blog with loads of fantastic writing tips – not just for fiction, but for other forms of writing such as essays and research papers, too. They hold weekly writing challenges, as well, and even if you don’t feel like joining in, you can still use these to inspire you. So go check out Arrowhead Freelance and Publishing.

I hope you enjoy going through these posts as much as I did. Happy reading! And if you’ve read something worthy of sharing, add a link in the comments below to share it with everyone else!

A Lesson for Patrick

Patrick slumped down into his chair, his legs spread, feet planted firmly on the carpet. He looked to everyone else to be a picture of casual disinterest.

He was still and silent for a moment, his dark hair hanging freely down his forehead and across his eyes. Then he moved sharply as he took in a deep breath, and let it out in a long, steady sigh.

Richard considered himself to have spent too much time with Patrick. So much, in fact, that he had run out of patience for the other man. They were in the same classes, they worked the same job (although Richard had started to avoid working the same shifts that Patrick did), and they had the same circle of friends. He knew what Patrick’s dramatic sigh meant.

‘What is it?’ he asked, fully aware that Patrick was going to tell him regardless of whether or not he demonstrated an interest in finding out what the matter was.

‘Oh, man,’ Patrick said, in a drawn-out voice that implied he had all the time in the world to explain his problems, ‘it’s this course, man. There’s so much to do. I never get any time to prepare anymore. I’m so busy, man.’

Richard picked at the corner of the assignment he had completed a couple of nights ago and spent long hours checking and rechecking until his stress levels had hit the roof.

‘Didn’t you get chance to work on it last night?’ Richard asked. He knew that Patrick hadn’t been at work, because he’d been there and none of the customers had complained once.

‘Nah. Was at the pub ’til one.’

Richard stared at Patrick, who showed no sign that he considered this action irresponsible.

‘Weren’t you at the pub the night before, too? And the night before that?’

Patrick shifted his weight around, pushing himself a little higher in his chair. ‘Yeah, man,’ he said, ‘but you can’t blame me. I need some time to relax and have fun.’

‘You could’ve done that after you finished the assignment,’ Richard pointed out. He watched as Patrick’s eyes flicked down to the completed assignment between his fingers, and sighed.

He wanted to say no, you should’ve done your own assignment. Deal with it. Face the consequences.

Patrick pushed himself up until his back was straight and he was seated properly. He leaned towards Richard and the assignment which his attention was now solely focused on.

Richard closed his eyes for a moment as he accepted the inevitable.

‘Fine,’ he said, slipping the assignment across the desk to Patrick. ‘But this is the last time, I swear. And don’t just copy it word-for-word this time.’

Patrick snatched the assignment off the desk, his hand moving fast enough to be a blur. ‘Thanks, man,’ he said.

Richard folded his arms across his chest and watched as Patrick copied down the assignment onto his own sheet of paper.

‘Hey, look,’ he said, once Patrick had finished and he had handed Richard’s assignment back, ‘isn’t that Millie? The girl you were talking to last week?’

Patrick, ever predictable, spun around to look for his latest crush. His back turned, Richard took his assignment off the desk and slipped it back into his bag, retrieving the real – and correct – assignment he had kept out of sight.

Patrick would learn, he was certain of that.