Take My Hand and Dance With Me

coven  ::  bermuda triangle  ::  stroke  ::  discovery  ::  moreish

via Wednesday Write-in #45.

Suzanne gets heat stroke on a Sunday evening after spending the entire weekend on her raggedy old Spice Girls beach towel on the tarmac just shy of her front garden gate that feels roughly as hot as the surface of the sun. The sun in question has been glaring great golden globules of heat onto everything in its sight and quite a few things besides and is now responsible for, in no particular order:

– The scorched and withered roses in Mrs Whetherby’s flowerbed; her husband, God rest his soul would never have allowed this to happen if he were here!

Suzanne missing the sixteen calls and twelve voicemails asking for Suzanne to please give me a call back as soon as you get this, please, Suzanne, it’s really important and if ever there was a time I wish you could stop being such a troglodyte – Just make sure you call me  before you talk to anyone, ok? Anyone, Suzanne, I mean it!

– The scramble of eggs all over the tarmac just outside Suzanne’s front garden gate from kids too helpless with the heat to go find a lido.

– The twice hourly whine of the ice cream truck down this end of the street as Ice Cream Man Rob takes advantage of the heat wave and abuses the ‘twice a day maximum’ rule as set by Suzanne, Mrs Whetherby and the rest of the families on Roewick Drive.

-The agonising and humbling ambling by of Mitchell, the alcoholic busker who had devoutly busked old Temptations and Four Tops songs outside Southfields tube station on his three-and-a-half octave keyboard between ten am and seven pm every day, his head tipped to the side to rest on the shoulder of his grisly army jacket either with the force of the music or that of the rum.

-The subsequent discovery of Mitchell’s body in some brambles next to Wimbledon Park Lake, hands at ten and two above his head and clutching the two great loves of his life – body-warm Captain Morgan and his keyboard.

– Suzanne slipping into a drowsy, slipping consciousness with a pool of sweat and one (1) greenfly striving for life in her bellybutton while the sun batters on her eyelids, the tip of her nose, the apples of her cheeks and, embarrassingly, the fleshy mounds of sensitive thigh close to the border of her frilly Primark underwear because she doesn’t have a bikini and her swimming suit is a worse fate than knock-off underwear.

So when Suzanne stumbles into the cavern of her front room later that evening, burnt a violent emergency services red, and contemplating a call to the non-emergency 111 number, she manages to trick herself into thinking that the ghostly pale appearance of Claire sitting in her old chair, head lowered in penance is a trick of the sun. A breath leaves her. A laugh, a regurgitated gasp that she lost a grip on, who knows. There’s a fist full of everything that she’s been through for the past three years swinging heavily somewhere below her diaphragm: she’s bent over with the weight of it by the time Claire looks up, grave but 100% there – not at the bottom of the Thames, not burnt to ashes now indistinguishable form the dust, muck and rubbish of the abandoned waste site in a shell of a Honda civic, not chopped up and hidden in 20 of Suzanne’s favourite lovers’ spots as the police seem to think. Here, in this end terrace four-up-three-down house, in the same front room that they had watched all five seasons of The L Word over the May bank holiday weekend. Here, in the chair they had bought together  five years ago at a car boot sale in Battersea with the ugliest green and brown felt flowers ever known to man which Suzanne had rallied against, only to stubbornly keep after her sister persuaded her to get rid of Claire’s things. Here, in their, her, the house.

Whiter than white, whiter than ought to be possible really, Claire reaches out a tentative hand, as though to calm a wild animal. Translucent, sickly fingernails, the kind of downy hair one grows when one is on the brink of starvation, a frankly alarming buzz cut which gave way to some very soft looking pinkish scars on her scalp. A battered Spice Girls necklace around her neck. A sugar-fevered conversation they’d had after watching Inception comes to her all of a sudden:

“If I was ever in any doubt that I was talking to the real Claire, what secret signal could we have so I know it’s you? You know, doppelganger, back from the dead, alternative dream world which could actually be the real one – the usual.”

Claire had laughed so hard that she’d spilled diet coke everywhere.

“Alright,” she had finally said. “Let’s agree – without going into too much detail so as not to compromise the security of the secret signal. I’ll wear a symbol of your second greatest love, after me of course.”

“What, you mean you’ll wear a cheque for sixty quintillion pounds?”

More laughter and a tangential conversation about what was the figure which they could hand on heart say would be too much for them to spend in one lifetime and indeed, how they would make “a ruddy good go” of it anyway.

But of course Claire would have known – 50 concerts, more appearances than she cared to admit to, silly bits of paraphernalia hidden around the house so that  Claire wouldn’t throw them away, VHS, DVD and .avi copies of Spice World – The Movie.

Still, anybody could have known about that –

Claire’s bony fingers carefully flip the small globe over and on the back, so small that Suzanne has to take a traitorous step closer. In tiny sparkly pink gel pen ink:

IOU £60quintillion

Claire’s hand, cold and fragile on her neck, right over her pulse.

“Sorry, I couldn’t get the cash together in time – who knew quintillion was such a little known number? Okay look, it’s okay, don’t panic. But we need to talk.”

 

Company Culture

sunshine  ::  glass eye  ::  connection  ::  golden gate  ::  lisp

via Wednesday Write-in #44.

By the time the fussy buffet lunch cart has left the boardroom, the mid-day sunshine is pouring hot lava straight into Kate’s face. A million bits of dust (lint from the jackets of directors and partners past, she’s sure), float through the aether between the CEO of this week’s multi-national and the graduates frantically taking notes at the end. The arms of a post-lunch fatigue wrap around each and every one of them, pulling the timbre of their voices lower, the slant of their eyelids ever downer, as though in a sweet, deep prayer. Amen.

I kissed a girl and I liked it, the taste of her – 

Mister CIO snorts with some indignity: his eyes are swiveling around in their sockets like lost marbles, blinking hard to regain consciousness. Kate reflexively smacks her hand over her phone with some degree of urgency. As the phone completes the second half of the parabola of its trajectory into madame COO’s glass of sparkling water (cherry chap-stick), Kate takes a split second picture of the message preview on the screen:

From: Julia

Just booked us in for hers-and-hers- bikini waxes!! I’m going to f…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coefficient of Friction

Telling anybody about this isn’t even an option- the whole concept of the book is way too weird to even say out loud. A blank diary that writes back? Crouched over the pages -head bobbing between feminism in Britain in the 1970s and feminist theory in the sociology section – Helen has to fling a look over her shoulder to check she hasn’t fallen into the Chamber of Secrets. 30 minutes later and she is perched on a step ladder, desperate sociology students flitting in and around her. Can I show you something? It asks. Helen leans forward, eyes glazing over as her answer blurs and sinks into the page. yeah, okay

#1 – Have A Baby

kiwi :: master at work :: reminder :: flash :: caught cheating

It’s been ages. Starting small but I think this one might be a series surrounding really awesome women who spend their lives talking about/thinking about/being really awesome women….

via Wednesday Write-in #23.

Incredibly, the “Baby arrives for jollies” reminder goes off on Laura’s phone approximately 10 seconds before Debbie’s water breaks. Laura spends the first few confused moments of labour finding the hand held video recorder before spending the next 60 seconds reciting the ‘two massive lesbians having a baby for the first time holy smokes checklist in no particular (conscious) order but potentially reflecting our deeper desires/psyches/neuroses” checklistinto it until Debbie just about cracks her skull open with the hardback copy of So You’re Going to be a Lesbian Mom. Laura then picks up the keys (left in the clay fruit bowl, item #3 in the checklist), bundles them both into the tiny Yaris (towels on the seat, item #6) and takes the long way to the hospital to avoid all the speed bumps to avoid any accidental births in the front seat (items #7, #9 and #’13)

*

Laura discovers the dual camera/video recorder functionality as the midwife first takes Debbie’s knickers off (comfortable, huge, seamless – one of a dozen pairs that she’s been wearing every day for the last two weeks – item #2) when a  flash suddenly goes off and a furious Laura (flaring nostrils, Amber Alert) and a weary midwife (Sister Creydon, call me Jackie) round on her.

She quickly flips back to recording. “Say hi to one of your mummies, baby!”

“Laura, I swear to God –

With a clatter, the recording cuts off.*

“Your mum wants to start over with her hellos, don’t you babe?”

Laura’s dreamy smile swims into focus, soft eyes shining in the dawn light. “Hi, you,” she starts, arm reaching up, out and past the remit of the screen. Laura’s hand meets hers and there’s a muffled kissing noise off screen.

“Hey, trouble.” Soft, very soft. Then, louder – “Okay, we’re at hour number one point five and Debs is a massive pussy – ow, hey! – and is on the good stuff already.” The camera spins around for a penetrating view of Laura’s left nostril. “Strong painkillers were number 4 on the list so I’m glad to see we’re making headway.”

“Hey, Laura.” The camera wheels right back to Debbie. More smiles – Laura’s hand appears to tuck some already sweaty strands behind her ear. “Remember that time we went to the Christmas fair and we got caught in the house of mirrors f-”

“Woah, hey -” Alarmed and over-the top loud, there’s some scuffling noises before the camera is dropped. “Shit.” 

Settlers

Wednesday Write-in #16.

“The tribe has spoken!” crows Lor. Her right hand holds her weapon, her left, the severed head of Elder Hela, the last survivor from the first group of settlers. Her eyes flutter and roll around in her head once, twice, more before settling skywards. The other women dance and shriek: it’s almost the full moon and, instinctively,  are responding compulsively at the sight of blood. The sand under their feet gives way under their weight  and pushes up to spill over their toes. Two hundred women’s arms shoot into the air, hot, frantic fire shadows slicing their new identities into their skin, dipping into the dark coarse spaces under their arms and between their legs. Their breasts swing in time with their collective heave towards the head, and away from it, towards and away, forward to pick it up and back to carry it right to the fire, right into the heart of their settlement. Their stomachs strain dangerously over the popping fat, skin and flesh. Their thighs rub together, hard and damp.

It’s been 80 years since the first two dozen women were marooned here.

Speaking the same language

Wednesday Write-in #11. So late I’m almost on time for next week.

Hello, hey Joe, you wanna give it a go-oh-oh……”Oooh!” The sound of Lady Marmalade fades away as Jenny goes right over on her heel and lands, rear up, face down, by the stacked speakers. The sound guys groan loudly as they start setting up again.

“Go on, Jenny!” Lillian yells, giving her a well aimed smack with her petite faux leather gloves. “Show’em how it’s done.” Jenny grins crookedly and gives a little wiggle as two girls help her back to her feet.

The tape starts playing unexpectedly and sounds like it’s getting chewed, words being eaten and regurgitated, choking the life out of Patti Labelle until she finally falls quiet. Keith, the “production officer” is looking very concerned. The girls start to practice a few moves to stay warm. “Moka Choka Latta ya ya” intonates Annelise – an ardent fan of this number. The girls all spin around her, long flamingo legs dipping in and out of their imagined swamp full of money, money money.

It’s only Vivian stalking back onto center stage and roughly pulling her bustier back into place that stops everybody dead. Even the rude lighting technician doesn’t pipe up. Nobody, nobody dares mention her smudged lipstick. The shadow of the club owner slips quietly, but not unnoticed, out the back entrance.
“He says we need to do better tonight,” Vivian says and the girls shuffle back into place wordlessly, tape saved, lights and sound ready. Vivian needs the money most out of all of them, after all.

CAKE.book announcement

Oh yeah, by the way 🙂

CAKE.shortandsweet

Some of you may remember us putting a call out several months ago for writers to contribute to a book.

This has been bubbling along in the background of all the issues and write-ins, and we’re delighted to announce that our first official CAKE.shortandsweet collection will be published in the new year. It will feature brand new short stories by Sarah Grace Logan, Naomi Racz, Jacky Hillary and Helen Dring.

We will be sharing excerpts from the book at our special writer’s circle meeting on Sunday 18th November. If anybody would like a review copy before release, please let us know!

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