Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy what you find here. Whilst you may not agree with everything I post, if you respect my right to my opinion I'll respect your right to disagree with it and we should get along just fine. :)

Disclaimer: the views expressed by the characters in these works may not necessarily represent the views of the author. Got that? Good.

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Friday, 4 December 2009

#FridayFlash: Twist in the Tale

Sophie danced from foot to foot, wringing her clammy hands with excitement. Mum was home. She’d arrived home late last night, and now here she was, standing in the drawing room, carefully unwrapping something. Sophie didn’t know what was more exciting, Mum finally being home from the dig in Egypt, or the package she cradled in her hands.

It must be my present, Sophie thought, Mum always brings me a present.

Sophie glanced around. She hated this room with its antiques, old furniture and paintings, all arranged “just so” to show her aunt’s things off at their best. Sophie was only allowed in the drawing room on special occasions, and even then she was always under the austere gaze of her aunt, lest she be tempted to touch something. Sophie hated her aunt too, but since her father died, there was nowhere else to go when her mother was away.

When Mum was home, the house seemed lighter, full of fun and laughter as they raced each other through its rooms and corridors, making mischief which, under normal circumstances, would have Sophie’s aunt apoplectic with rage.

The last of the wrappings fell away to reveal a small, painted clay statue of a cat cradled in Mum’s hands. Surely it must be for her, Sophie thought.

As if sensing her daughter’s thoughts, Millie turned to face her.

‘Sorry Pumpkin,’ she said, ‘not this time. They made us leave early and there wasn’t time to go shopping before we left.’

Sophie’s face fell, a knot of disappointment in the pit of her stomach as tears blurred her vision. So that was what “deported” must mean, she had heard Mum and Aunt Sarah arguing about it the night before.

‘I’ll take you up to London next week,’ Mum continued, ‘and we can pick something out for you then.’

Sophie cried. She bawled and screamed and nothing her mother did could mollify her. No present. There was always a present. For the first time in her whole eight years of life, Sophie felt rage. White-hot, all-consuming, rage. There was no present. Turning on her heel, Sophie fled from the room leaving her mother calling after her in vain.

* * *

It was just after midnight when Sophie pushed open the heavy oak door and crept silently into the drawing room. Shafts of silvery moonlight shone through the leaded windows casting pools of cool light across the floor like ethereal searchlights.

Hefting the toffee hammer she’d stolen earlier from the kitchen when cook’s back was turned, Sophie stole towards where the statue stood on top of Aunt Sarah’s grand piano.

Dragging a richly upholstered stool from its place next to the fireplace, Sophie winced as the metal feet scratched across the highly polished oak floorboards. Soon though, she had positioned the stool next to the piano and scrambled up, coming eye to eye with the Egyptian cat statue.

Sophie smiled at the cat, the metal of the toffee hammer cool in her small hands. She was just calming the last of her scruples when a large, moth-eaten grey cat appeared suddenly next to the statue.

‘Major!’ Sophie hissed, her heart hammering in her chest – she hadn’t seen her aunt’s cat follow her into the room, hadn’t heard him jump onto the piano. She was sure she’d nearly swallowed her tongue in shock.

Major purred and rubbed his face on the statue, making it sway dangerously on its narrow plinth. Major looked squarely at Sophie and meowed.

‘Shhh!’ she hissed.

Sophie began to raise the hammer.

‘Sophie, what are you doing in here at this time of night?’

Sophie jumped. Swinging round she caught sight of Jennings, her aunt’s butler standing in the doorway, his thin frame wrapped in a threadbare tartan dressing gown two sizes too big for him, his wispy grey hair sticking up at various jaunty angles.

‘I, err…,’ Sophie stammered, sliding the toffee hammer behind her back. Had Jennings seen it?

‘Come on, back to bed with you,’ Jennings said, walking towards her. ‘And as for you mister,’ he said, turning his attention to Major, ‘you know you’re not allowed in here.’

Jennings swatted his hand at the cat. Major hissed and, skidding on the polished wood, spun round, his bushy tail catching the statue just the lightest of glancing blows as he slithered off the top of the piano. It was enough. Almost in slow motion, the statue rocked first this way then that before finally falling onto its side, shattering into tiny pieces amid a great cloud of dust.

‘Quick!’ spluttered Jennings through the dust cloud, ‘Bed! Now!’

Sophie, coughing through a mouthful of dust, sprinted for the door. Scooping Major up as she went, Sophie ran all the way to her room and dived under the covers with the old cat as the enormity of what had just happened descended on her like a huge, cold, dead weight.

* * *

The police had already been called by the time Sophie awoke, wreathed in sweat, from an unsettling dream about pyramids and strange cats. Major was nowhere to be seen.

A policewoman tried to explain to Sophie about Aunt Sarah’s accident – she’d tripped and fallen the full length of the main staircase, breaking her neck in the process. How Sophie’s mother had died the same night, apparently from suffocation but without a mark on her, she could not explain and so did not try. There were trained professionals for that sort of thing.

* * *

In the cool shade of the old Summer House Major lay curled up on an old cushion. He was still a bit sore where he’d miscalculated his leap and Aunt Sarah had trodden on him as he’d tripped her down the stairs. It had been easier with Millie, she’d been drunk when he’d curled up on her face.

Major sneezed, the smell of ancient statue dust still tickling his nostrils. She would be pleased, he thought.

[edit: to improve change in POV towards the end of the story. Thanks to jdanetyler for mentioning it.]



Sulci Collective said...

Kids eh? Can't live with them, can't shoot them!

Love the ideas of a kid expecting a present every time an absent/neglectful parent returns home from abroad and having dark thoughts when present fails to materialise. That you then weave this into a cat exacting its own revenge on behalf of its feline god/empress is a really nifty juxtaposition.

Howard carter eat your heart out.

Top work

marc/ @21stCscribe

Michael Solender said...

this is a gem of a write. the language is so precise and foreboding, great pace and the story, well a very intriguing tale of the tail!

mazzz_in_Leeds said...

LOL! Cats 'n' curses, marvellous :)

phonelady said...

Oh Dear Sam you missed your calling as a writer !! This is a great piece and maybe you should consider writing a book . Love this piece you are awesome .

Laura Eno said...

Wonderful mystery! Pacing was exceptional, you had me riveted wondering what would happen next. Love the curse manifesting into the cat. Do write a novel, Sam!

Julie (Okami) said...

I am so glad that you started participation in #FridayFlash. This is really very good. Keep them coming!

A Writer said...

Absolutely marvelous work. I could read your stuff for days. Love the Egyptology aspect, so well done.

Laurita said...

Great write. All cats need is an excuse to do some evil deed. This was a very good excuse.

Marisa Birns said...

Riveting! Language, pacing, story: all top notch.

Very, very well done!

Deb said...

I love it! I half expected the statue to come to life... wonderful stuff!

Chance said...

Could the cat be called anything different than Major ? i think not.

Cracking bit of flash fiction there, loved the line where she feels rage for the first time

Jim_Wisneski said...

WOW! Didn't see that coming at all. . . kids n' cats, yikes! There is so much more behind this story than told and that's what makes it great.

Nice story!


shannon esposito said...

ooo, that's why I have a dog! It's raining here, this was a perfect mystery to read, curled up with warm coffee in the rain. Thanks for sharing it!

Anonymous said...

Brings to mind Bradbury's "The Veldt." Very enjoyable.

Melissa said...

Loved it! I think I'll be left with "Major sneezed, the smell of ancient statue dust still tickling his nostrils." as a thought and image for the rest of the day.

Weezel said...

Well written, I was expecting the cat to take out the kid instead of the adults . . . probably worked better your way! Nice egyption spin also.

Dream_Art said...

Awesome! Amazing imagery and characterization!

Skycycler said...

The cat?! I thought the butler did it! Great work, Sam - very entertaining.

Deanna Schrayer said...

A twist indeed! Fantastic story Sam, so well told. I was expecting the statue to come to life too, but this was so much better.

Anonymous said...

This is good stuff, a nice twist in the tale, pardon the pun. The shift to the cat's POV at the end was a hair off-putting for me, and as others said I expected the cat to avenge the girl, not the adults. Still, a very enjoyable read.

Nice work!

Tomara Armstrong said...

Oh, wow! You are an excellent storyteller. I was holding my breath at one point.

I can't wait to read more.

Emma Newman said...

You encapsulated the absolute selfishness of childhood beautifully. I love curses and Egypt, so I have to raise my hands and declare a certain bias ;o) But seriously, I did enjoy this, thank you!

Sam said...

First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who commented on this, my second #fridayflash story. Apologies for not replying to your comments sooner, it's all been a bit overwhelming to be honest (no, please don't stop, I can cope; honest!).

*Ahem* Right then, on with the comment reply...

Sulci Collective - Thanks for those kind words, I hope Howard Carter would have been pleased! ;)

Michael Solender - Thanks. I tried to capture the sense of foreboding, though I could have done with another 500 words - this story was a nightmare to edit, Sophie just would not behave!

mazzz_in_Leeds - Muchly appreciated, glad you enjoyed it.

phonelady - Thank you so much! A whole book, ooer! ;)

Laura Eno - Thanks for the kind comments and great advice. I thought I struggled getting this story together, looks like I was wrong! You're the second person to mention a novel - d'you reckon I could? Really? :)

Julie (Okami) - Funnily enough, I'm glad I had a go at #fridayflash too. I wasn't sure if I could do it well enough as there are so many great stories out there every Friday, but I've had a blast so far!

A Writer - Thank you, it's very kind of you to say so. As to being able to read my stuff for days, I guess I'll have to write some more so that you can. ;)

Laurita - Oh, my cat doesn't need an excuse! ;)

Marisa Birns - Thanks so much! I'm still learning what all these scary terms mean (language, pacing, story, voice, etc.), I just tend to get an idea in my head and let it write itself - seat of the pants stuff. Seems to have worked so far. :)

Deb - Thank you. Another 500 words and I reckon I could have explained the statue's role more fully. Maybe next time...

Chance - I blame the name "Major" on too much daytime TV! I've been watching some repeated shows I missed first time round and Major was inspired by a character in one of them - a retired General and bit of a duffer.

Jim_Wisneski - Thanks Jim, much appreciated. I really enjoyed writing this story, though the hardest part was what to leave out so it still worked. There is, as you quite rightly pointed out, so much more behind what appeared in the post. Maybe a novel's not such a bad idea...

shannon esposito - Oooh, hot coffee and curled up in a blanket - my idea of heaven! Glad you enjoyed the story. :)

jaredbranch - I've never read it, thanks for the heads up, I'll go and look out a copy. :)

Melissa - Thank you. Sorry if your head's still full of sneezing cats! :)

Weezel - Thanks for your comment. Ah, the cat has plans for the kid! ;)

Dream_Art - Aww, thank you. :)

Skycycler - LOL! He may well yet! ;)

Deanna Schrayer - Thank you for your kind words. You're the second commenter to mention the statur coming to life, I'm really going to have to write another installment explaining why it didn't. :)

jdanetayler - Thanks, and I like the pun, I'd even toyed with using the other spelling in the title at one point. I think I could have resolved the POV shift at the end more easily with an extra couple of hundred words, but I wanted to include it as it's important for the next installment.

Tomara Armstrong - Thank you for those kind words, I'm still learning - this is only the second story I've written. Last time I put pen to paper like this previously was *ahem* years ago at school. BTW, you can breath out now! :)

Emma Newman - Thanks Emma, I really appreciate your comments and kind words. I don't mind the bias at all, as long as it comes down on my side! ;) I must confess to knowing very little about ancient Egypt - I'm learning that my characters sometimes know more about certain subjects than I do, which can be a bit scary to begin with. Curses on the other hand, oh I know my way around curses, bwahahaha! ;)

Emma Newman said...

Ah, these characters of ours can be so remarkable. Sometimes they scare the hell out of me, sometimes they make me cry, but pretty universally they know a lot more about many more things than I do :) Such a joy to see you enjoying writing so much, yay! Go you!

Draco Torre said...

Love the cat and his name is perfect. Great story.

Sam said...

Emma Newman - Thanks Emma, I've been having a blast so far! :)

Draco Torre - Thanks, glad you enjoyed the story, and the cat - more of him later...

PoetryDuck said...

Another excellent story. I love the way your cats have an Agenda. I look forward to more.

Sam said...

PoetryDuck - Thank you for your kind comments. I'm pleased you enjoyed the story. I'm basing elements of the story cats' personalities on those of my own real-life cats who most definitely have their own agendas, if only I could figure out what they were!

Dana said...

This is why I prefer rabbits over cats...

Also, what's a toffee hammer?

Dana said...

This is why I prefer rabbits over cats...

Also, what's a toffee hammer?

Sam said...

Dana - Thanks for your comment. A toffee hammer is a small hammer of all-metal construction, about 4 inches long, which is used in the UK to break up trays of toffee. Here's a link to a pic of one:

It's the ideal size for an 8 year old statue smasher!

Jodi MacArthur said...

Agh - there's your evil cat again! This is a horrible story - I mean that in the best possible way. ;) What can I say that the others didnt? Great pacing, suspense, and a particularly nasty ending.

Well done, Sam.

Sam said...

Jodi MacArthur - Thanks, I really appreciate it. Glad you enjoyed the story. :)

Aislinn O'Connor said...

Ingenious - think Sophie & Major are another pair of characters well suited to a reappearance. Great story!

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