The Dance is about to Start – flash fiction

by Mary Jacob, 26 May 2013

“Take my arm,” said Liz, “let’s walk out into the grass and wind.”

“No, well, okay.” Her brother, Tony, was only 25 but had to pull himself up from the ancient armchair like an old man. It creaked, and then the Elizabethan floorboards creaked.

They stepped over the thick carpet to the French door and out onto the terrace. A gust of wind blew their jackets open. He recoiled.

She charged forward, leaving him at the edge of the slope, and dived into the daisies that dotted the lawn.

“You’re mad,” he said. He reached behind him to find the bench and lower himself onto it.

“It’s so fresh.” She rolled from side to side, inhaling the green scent. “We haven’t seen the sun for ages, come on, pretend you’re five years old.”

He thought, “Well, there’s no audience here,” and raised himself up again. His bones still ached, and sometimes it felt as if his ankle had been hit with a hammer, but the doctor had said that sufficient time had passed for him to resume normal activity.

Taking miniature steps, he eased himself down the slope and joined her, lying with his face in the grass. He said, “It’s not so cold at this level, is it?”

They started rolling frantically from one side of the lawn to the other.

A few minutes later, a dark figure appeared at the door. “What’s all this hysterical laughter?”

“Oh, Dad,” she said.

“And now what? How’s he going to get up again? Here, take my hand.”

“Dad, I’m fine.” Tony went through a yoga-like sequence of moves involving kneeling, bending, and pushing himself off the ground with his hands.

Clarinet music gavotted out from somewhere deep in the house.

 Liz ran back inside, shouting, “The dance is about to start.”

7X7 Flash Fiction Missing Links

written by Mary Jacob, 4 February 2013, based on words provided by Tommy Baker

Photo by Muscapix on Flickr, available by Creative Commons

Photo by Muscapix on Flickr, available by Creative Commons

She gathered her courage and approached the cage with trepidation. She’d only been helping look after this menagerie for about a week, and she was still quite nervous with some of its denizens. This one was called an iguana but she couldn’t help but think of it as a miniature dragon. It was all green with a tail longer than its body, and lots of pointy bits all over.

She lifted up the wire mesh tentatively and threw in a handful of dandelion greens and dahlia blossoms. Ignatius rolled his eyes, still clinging, motionless, to his branch, and then darted out to grab a mouthful of flowers. His eyes were so complex! Layers of folds in every possible shade of green, all luminescent, and two eyelids for each eye. It was hypnotic just to look at him. He doesn’t seem that mean, she thought, just a bit skittish. She probably would be, too, if she were cooped up like this.

She filled his water bowl and refastened the lid, then moved on to the next enclosure, a pair of hamsters. They were infested with ear mites and needed to have drops put in. She picked up their pudgy little bodies one at a time, and gazed into their obsidian eyes as she administered the drops. They looked all around, as if uncomprehending, so different from Ignatius, who seemed to know everything.

She went back to Iggy’s cage, reached in and let her fingers run over his scales. This time, he eased forward and slithered under her touch. He looked straight at her and blinked, slowly.

Against all odds, she was beginning to like him. She lingered for a bit, and then began to sweep the dust and tidy up the animal room. For some reason, she was reluctant to leave work that day.

Flash fiction 7X7 Story 3 Ōne in the zone

Word list (yes, it is more than 7 words):

  1. Ella Sprung ONE / zone
  2. Karen Pierce Cartography
  3. Trevor Sewell Intertwined
  4. Joanne Frances Maddern Decision
  5. Allen Foster Honeycomb
  6. Trish Barres Ludicrous
  7. Mary Scott cantankerous
  8. Joanna Bond train

Ōne in the zone

by Mary Jacob, first draft 19 January 2013


Two teenaged girls sat in the back of the train, with one iPod between them.

“You’ve got to hear this new band. Their name is spelled like ‘one’ but pronounced like ‘own’.”

“Oh weird. What do they sound like?”

“Wait, here’s the title song from their new album, ‘In the Zone’”. Judy slipped one earbud into Kayleigh’s ear.

“Oh my god! What are they playing? I hear the trombone, but is that a comb? That other bit just sounds like a phone, and what is this clacking sound?”

“Bones. They play trombone, comb, bones, phone and kazoo. Cool, huh?”


As the volume of the earbuds increased, so did the volume of their voices. Judy squealed, “Oh, Kayleigh, they’re fun, and you should see their shoes!”

“I can’t listen to shoes. And I can’t listen to this, either. I’m making a decision, now, to move to another seat.” With that, she stood up and moved to the front of the carriage. They still had three stops to go before arriving in Aber. Their sudden silence was like a honeycomb, just plain hollow and unsatisfying.

A gentleman seated two rows ahead of Judy turned around – he must have been nearly 50, just ancient – and said, “Why is your friend being so cantankerous? May I have a listen to this music?”

“Erm, sure, I guess.” She leaned forward and passed the earbud to him, while keeping a tight hold on the iPod itself, because you never know, do you?

It wasn’t clear at first what he thought. His eyebrows went up, then they went down into a V shape, then they seemed to get longer as his whole face opened up really wide – big grin, those eyes that narrow but are crinkly right up to the edge of a person’s face, even his ears seemed to move back to make more room for his smile.

“Like it?”

His head bobbed up and down as Judy put the other earbud in her own ear. When they got to the chorus, each of them sang different parts of the harmony, so that their voices intertwined as they leaned over the empty row of seats between them. A couple who looked like students from the Uni came back and joined in the singing, so Judy passed the earbuds to them. The volume was cranked up so loud that you could hear it even without earbuds, to be honest. Soon there was a little party going on in the back of the carriage, people dancing in the aisle and making those little poky motions with their hands, in unison.

“Hey, we’ve got choreography!”

“What? We make maps?”

“No, that’s cartography. Choreography is dancing, like, together and stuff.”

By the time they passed through Borth, everyone in the carriage was dancing except for Kayleigh. She walked to the back, with her head hanging down.

“I guess you were right. Ōne is in the zone. It’s pretty cool. Can you burn me a copy?”

“Oh no. You’ve got to buy it yourself. From the artist!”

At that, Judy flipped a business card in the direction of her friend.

“What’s this? ‘JudyTwoShoes, the Unknowns.’ Don’t the Unknowns do the backing vocals for Ōne?”

“Yup. We do!”

Then she flipped her two pigtails and turned to get off the train. They’d arrived at their destination.

7X7 Story 2 – Snow Day

by Mary Jacob, first draft started 16 January 2013

This story was made using the following words contrbuted by friends (yes, it is more than 7 because words kept coming in!):

  1. Anastasia Allen knitting
  2. Janice De Haaff stuff
  3. Anastasia Allen puffin
  4. Huw Owen hydraulic
  5. Jim Curry Chiaroscuro
  6. Yana Hearl huddle
  7. Ken Humphreys Haberdashery
  8. Steve Simpson prehensile
  9. H. Lori Schnieders snow
  10. Phil Wheeler tail

Snow Day

She was curled up in the window seat, absorbed in her knitting, when he came in. He didn’t want to break her concentration, so he paused in the doorway to appreciate the scene before his eyes. Dark hardwood floors, stone fireplace, shadows in the curved arches of the ceiling. How lucky they were to live in such a place, even with the cobwebs and dust in the corners, and dodgy plumbing. Snow was starting to fall, just visible through the stone windows. The light on her smooth face made a chiaroscuro effect, like a painting by Vermeer. Maybe he should ask her to pose for him, but of course light isn’t reliable. Tomorrow it would be completely different from the silvery luminescence that he saw right now. Even a few minutes would make a huge difference.

He didn’t want to break the spell, so he turned away, but she must have heard his footsteps, because she called after him. “Joe? José? Is that you?”

“I love it when you use my Spanish name! It makes me feel like I’ve brought a little bit of my home here to this cold climate. What are you making?”

“Oh, here, let me clear up my stuff, sit with me. It’s a puffin, see? I started with the colourful beak.”

“A puffin?”

“It’s for Cora’s little girl. What do you think?” She held up a tangle of bright yarn for his approval.

“Hm…I’m not sure it’s obviously a bird, sweetie. Not yet, at any rate. Is it supposed to have a prehensile tail?” He picked up the dangling skein and wrapped it around her head.

“Joe, that’s cruel, stop it.”

“Okay, okay.” He huddled next to her on the bench. They both shivered at the same time.

“I need to go to the haberdashery to get some more supplies, though, I need some buttons and I want to put silky black ribbons through here. Can we go into the village? Have you fixed the hydraulics on the truck yet?”

“No, and I’m not sure it’s going to happen today. It’s too cold to work on it now. Anyway, we don’t have money for fancy ribbons and stuff. Don’t forget we’re just squatting here. Sometimes you act like you’re the lady of the manor.”

“Oh Joe, don’t spoil it. It was so nice just now. Let me carry on for a little while, then I’ll make you some leek and potato soup.”

“And we’ll dine in the great hall?”

“Yes, by candlelight. Like the lord and lady of the manor.”

He gave her shoulders a squeeze and walked out, having completely forgotten what it was he wanted in the first place. Or maybe he did get what he came for, just possibly.

Flash Fiction: 7X7 number 1

seven2This story was written in response to an invitation I posted on Facebook:

7X7 experiment – Please comment on this post by posting *one single word* – any word you want (well, not something rude, obviously). Once I have seven words, I will weave them into a mini story. Next step is try to create seven different stories using the same set of words. I’ll put the stories where you can find them. Thanks to Tommy Baker for inspiration.

The words were: rose, flapjack, octopus, dolsot, travesty, laughing, wired, with the optional addition of reptile. Considering the level of specificity of the words, I’ve only written one story.

Language Lesson

by Mary Jacob, 13 January 2013

They had been driving since 6am, sniping at each other the whole time, so when they arrived at the lake, they put down their bags and sat without speaking for a while. It seemed easier that way. A square patch of sun inched across the floor.

She rose heavily from the kitchen chair and said to her husband, “Well, I might as well start making the flapjacks, or it will be too late to eat by the time they’re done.” She rummaged around in the cupboards. “This cabin is so tiny, there’s nothing here. I can’t find a fry pan, only these stone pots. What a travesty! We paid a lot of money to spend this weekend at Big Bear.”

“Calm down,” her husband said, “Why are you so wired? The saucepans were probably nicked by the previous guests. All they have left are these Korean things, dolsots, I think you call them.”

She snorted. “Dolsots? That sounds like some kind of reptile. What are we supposed to do with these? You can’t fry pancakes in stone pots.”

“Pancakes? I thought you were making flapjacks?”

“Yes, flapjacks.”

“Oh wait a minute…” They spoke at nearly the same time. He was saying, “In Britain, a flapjack is…” while she said, “In America, a flapjack is…”

Before they could finish their sentences, they’d collapsed on the floor laughing. He enclosed her in his arms and breathed in the fragrance of her hair. “Shall we start again?” he said.

“You’re such an octopus!” she said, as she snuggled into his chest. “Okay, let’s see what the rest of the cabin is like. If it’s really nice, we don’t have to go skiing at all, do we?“

“We can stay in and teach each other to speak English. Properly, I mean. With this nice bottle of Cabernet.”

“That’s French, silly.”

“Yes, teacher. I’ll see if I can find the California Zin, then, shall I?”