Virtual Open Mic: Episode 3

Welcome back for Episode 3! It’s lovely to have you. There’s some wee  treats in here: flash fiction from Vicki Jarret, compact poems from Alan Waddell and Laura Bilton, and a clever short video from Michael McGill, plus a longer modern myth from Alison Summers to round things. Please welcome them all warmly to the web!

* * *

Having Cake
Vicki Jarret

The point isn’t in eating the cake, it’s in having it.

Years ago, the older relations required cake: dense fruit-filled slabs topped with marzipan and icing, on a side plate served with tea, in a cup, with a saucer.

The last of the cake-eaters are long dead now but she still makes the cake. To not make it would be to admit that the world has moved on. So every year she bakes then ices it, in that peculiar way: snowy peaks raised up with the side of a blunt knife warmed in a cup of hot water, until the whole surface is covered in half-inch high spikes that set hard and sharp. Winter on an alien world.

There are decorations: a hairy plastic tree, a fat Santa with a blurred face, and a baby on a red sleigh. The baby was originally bundled up warmly in some kind of hooded sleeping bag, but her features are now so worn away she looks like a fat, creamy maggot blindly navigating through the spiked snow. An outsized robin from a different set of decorations towers Godzilla-like over the tree and eyes the baby hungrily.

Each year it gets a little closer.

* * *

Laura Bilton

Your smile’s a caress,
It’s mine to keep.
It brings to life
The secrets we speak.
Your skin is a map,
I explore the lanskin
Your eyes are pools
But I didn’t expect
To see my reflection
In their dark depths.
I’m carried away
As it pours ‘cross my skin
Your eyes are pools
But I didn’t expect
To see my reflection
In their dark depths.
You tell me you love me
I know that’s true.
Just for tonight
I feel that you do

* * *

Cover Up
Alison Summers

Ovid Metamorphoses VIII 621-96 Philemon and Baucis are an elderly couple who give shelter to Jupiter and Mercury (gods in disguise). When the cottage is flooded the gods save it and then turn it into a temple making Philemon and Baucis the temple caretakers

“What do you mean, you preferred it the way it was – it was a shithole!” Phil glared at his wife.

“I simply can’t be doing with all this gold leaf and pillars – it’s just not cosy.”

Cis wished that Phil was less gullible. She sighed and returned to stirring the soup. This holy fire was so slow compared to her good old electric cooker. She could hear Phil intoning his prayers. He was such a show off. What was the point of all this religion when there was no one left to appreciate it?

The day the two men arrived in Glencorse, Doris from next door bustled into Cis’ kitchen.“Those chaps off the telly are here! They’re going to every house in the village. If they find one that’s suitable they’re going to give it a sixty minute makeover! Ooh, I hope they choose mine! I’ve been trying to get Fred to decorate the kids’ room since I don’t know when.”

Cis got the teabags out. She and Phil didn’t have a telly. It was taken along with all their other valuables when the bailiffs came. “Fancy a cuppa?” She put the old kettle to boil on the stove and sat down to hear Doris’s breathless story.

“Justin and Mark – they’re those cute Irish designers – they’ve been set a challenge to find people who deserve a house makeover!” Cis looked round her battered kitchen, noting the spaces where the washing machine and microwave had been. The bailiffs had left them with their bed, a table and two chairs and equipment to cook with and eat off. Phil had been silent for days after their visit. He knew their losses were down to him. Just a few weeks before he had been full of enthusiasm.

“We can put all this bad luck behind us, Cis – maybe even move out of this shitty area.” His eyes gleamed with optimism as he planned their future. Cis continued to do the washing up. This new project would go the way of all his other attempts to make gold out of lead. It was not long before Phil’s new business partner scarpered with the money they had both conned out of unsuspecting clients. Phil found himself liable for the business’s debts. Thank the gods that they didn’t own the roof over their heads or that would have gone too.

“Is there a camera crew with them?” asked Cis.

Doris shook her head. “They’re just doing a recce today. Getting to know us all and checking out the potential. I bet you’d like it if they did your house.”

“They might think it was a wee bit too challenging!” Cis grinned as she followed Doris’s gaze round the kitchen. After the bailiff’s visit, Phil had thrown himself into a frenzy of redecorating – no – she corrected herself, preparing to redecorate. This involved hacking tiles off the wall, stripping wallpaper and ripping up the old vinyl floor. When he reached a bit of wall or floor which resisted his efforts, he simply moved on to another bit. The resulting patchwork was not a pretty sight. Cis stirred sugar into her cup of tea and sat listening to Doris’s plans for her own house makeover.

“Cis, come on out and meet these guys!” Phil was standing in the garden with Justin and Mark. It was getting dark and a chill breeze was rustling the branches of the rowan tree. Cis took off her apron and joined the three men. Justin clutched her hands in his.

“We’ve come to make you an offer you can’t refuse,” he gushed. Mark was gesturing in the direction of the battered roof, chattering away to Phil. Cis tried hard to look grateful, wondering what the catch was this time.

“We’ve missed the last train back to London,” said Justin.

Phil put his arm round Cis. “You must stay with us,” he announced. “It’s the least we can do.” As Cis opened her mouth to protest that they only had one bed, Phil squeezed her waist so tightly that it hurt. He whispered into her ear. “Keep quiet, they’ve offered to give our house the sixty minute makeover – think of the possibilities – someone might see me on the telly and give me a job!”

“Right, well, you’d better come in and get warm. I’ll make some soup.” Cis made a rapid catalogue of the contents of the cupboard and vegetable plot. There was a stock cube, the last of the onions and a few potatoes.

After an uncomfortable night on the floor, Cis was not in the mood for the ebullience of the two designers over morning tea. Phil, however, lapped up Justin’s plans for knocking down walls and creating a feature fireplace. Mark, sensing Cis’s lack of enthusiasm, drew her aside and pointed out of the window towards the river at the bottom of the garden.

“Cis, darling, you were so sweet to us, letting us have your bed, last night. But that’s not the only reason we want to make over your house. There’s a flood coming. The whole village will be wiped out. Now there’s no point in us doing a sixty minute makeover on a house that’s going to be destroyed by nasty smelly water, now is there?”

Cis was horrified.

“Surely we can warn the others?”

Mark shook his head.

“You are the chosen ones, darling. You see, you have nothing but you were willing to share that nothing with us. We are not really interior designers, sweetie – that’s just a disguise. We are the gods Jupiter and Mercury. We’re going to pop your wee house on top of a hill and transform it into a temple! What do you think?” Before Cis had time to say what she thought, a trickle of water coming in the back door made Justin squawk. Roaring wind and darkness filled the kitchen.

When Cis came to, there was no sign of Justin or Mark. She looked around her and saw that her patchwork kitchen was now a huge hall covered in gold leaf and studded with marble pillars. A sweet smell of incense came from a fire basket set on a stone altar. Phil, resplendent in white and gold robes was pacing up and down. “This is fantastic,” he enthused. “We can set up a cult. We’ll get people to give us their life savings for a chance to join…”

Cis hurried over to the single window in the back wall. Their home was now perched on the top of a hill. Where the village had once been, grey, gleaming water stretched to the horizon. Cis remembered that her husband couldn’t swim.

* * *

In a Thoat
Alan Waddell

It wiz lunchtime in the convursation flowed as thi say…

A wiz sittin oan a comfy seat bletherin wi anothur teachur.
A felt relaxed,
a hud been thur o’er week noo in the bell wiz aboot tae go,
in a thoat, jist fur one secind
akid speak abit guffy,
abit mare oanist,
abit mare,

So a pondert fur a few…
thin lit the syllables spurt
wi thur raggid edges in frayed “ings”.
But nae soonur hud thiy left ma mooth,
thin a heard the culurs splattur
oan ‘er Monday mornin canvas.
She nevur evin tried tae mop’em up
or paint a brawer picture fur hersel tae see.
Ma story wiz told, she didny like it.
She raised hur heed wi a half-nod
in’ur eye brows in smirk ae lingual snobbery followed in sync.
She said it aw wi’oot sayin anythin ataw.
it wiz thur fur me tae read
in plain English
in bold, BLOCK CAPITALS in Times New Roman font.

A sat thur alone in the staff room
listenin tae’ur chuckle in between the clean echos ae hur knife-edged heels,
feelin mare thin abit guffy,
abit tae oanist,
abit tae me
in nuhin like a teachur.

* * *

Michael McGill


One response to “Virtual Open Mic: Episode 3

  1. Pingback: Virtual Open Mic (Apr 23) | Inky Fingers : Words and Performance·

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