This is my response to this week’s Flashback Track Friday prompt, where we were asked:
What are the things you could do without?
I answered this one a little differently, because the question reminded me of a flash I once wrote. Right at the start, before I ever used to write flash.
One exercise I always planned was to see how different my writing was, then and now. So I took the published piece and gave it the same editing as I do today. The flash was in response to one of Paula’s prompts, where she presented three unrelated images and challenged people to mesh them into a story. I made my first mistake straight away – rather than taking my own copies of the images, I linked to hers, so when Paula’s disk space was full and she deleted loads of her media, all my links stopped working. Meh.
So I was flying blind. From the story I’m guessing one of the images was a guy puzzling over a computer? Maybe another was a dog or a kennel? A young woman exercising? I tried to remain true to all those aspects, anyway, although lots of the surrounding prose has been changed from the original, which I published on 21 January 2021 under the title Married Life.
This flash is only 700-odd words, a 4ish-minute read, and I’ll explain the link to today’s prompt at the end.
Oh, and my verdict? I see some good word choices – and avoidances – but the piece is largely rewritten. I think the story needs to be more extreme to show just how pissed he becomes at this tedious woman. Raising the stakes cures a multitude of ills.
Dreading the mountain of paperwork next door, Mark gave a small groan and fiancée Carol stirred lightly beside him. Her blonde hair glistened in the early-morning sunlight. Why couldn’t he stay in bed with her? He hated this, the worst part of his job. When he began freelancing, nobody had warned him how tedious this would be.
He rose quietly so as not to disturb her, quickly dressing only in his gym shorts. The sooner this was done, the better.
First job, though, was Benjy. Hearing his master’s pitter-patter, he leapt up from his rug and bounded into the kitchen. About time!
After feeding the now-content animal, Mark opened his laptop. That sodding pile of receipts had grown overnight, he swore! There must be hundreds of the bastards lying there, some almost two year’s old, for Christ’s sake! Why hadn’t he taken Carol’s advice and entered them as he went along? But there was no point whining now. The numbers had to be with the accountant tomorrow, and that was that. He clumsily began tapping.
Some time later, Mark was prompted to glance up at the white kitchen clock when he heard stirrings from the bedroom. 8:15AM. Carol emerged, and padded into their open-plan kitchen, deciding that a fresh pot of coffee was required. “Do you want some?”, she chimed, cheerfully.
“Nuh”, came an absent-minded grunt.
She approached her fit, young hunk. “Good morning, gorgeous”, she chirped. “I said, would you like some coffee?”
Mark snapped out of his trance. “Oh… er, no, thanks”, he muttered, taking the opportunity to stretch his wiry frame and massage his beard, before adding, “I’ve got to get my accounts done this morning, so would you mind keeping it down?”
Though he’d told her last night, Carol’s cushy, salaried job meant that her employers took care of taxes. and she had little idea what he was doing. “Not to worry, darling, I’ll be as quiet as a church mouse”, she whispered, and ceremoniously tiptoed back into the bedroom.
Impressed that she had so quickly taken the hint, Mark was surprised when, a short time later, Carol reappeared, donning a leotard. “I’m just gonna do my exercises, but don’t worry, I’ll be really quiet.”
That was the trouble with this place. Saving to marry and hopefully jump onto the property ladder, this bloody shoe box was far too tiny. And since Lockdown, its lounge had become Carol’s gym. Unfolding the rebounder, she fitted her earbuds and began jumping.
While Carol was immersed in Duran Duran, the rhythmic oscillation of the springs made concentration impossible, and Mark decided it was time for his own breakfast, selecting croissants and fresh orange juice. He did not return to his computer until the bouncing ceased.
Carol was sweating now. “All done”, she panted, “how’re you getting on?”
“Okay”. Mark bit his lip.
“I’m gonna take a quick shower”, announced Carol, “then I’ll crack on. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“No, thanks, just be aware of the noise”, reminded Mark, as he pressed on.
Showered, Carol danced through to the bedroom again, reappearing fully dressed.
“I want to fix Benjy’s kennel today. The way it bangs every time there’s a sodding breeze, it gets on my nerves. It’s no wonder he won’t sleep out there no more.”
Mark nodded but, showing restraint, refrained from revealing exactly what was getting on his nerves. He pressed on.
Carol removed their ad-hoc toolbox from the utility cupboard, and Mark dared to dream that peace might reign inside, if she were outside. He pressed on.
Carol, however, had other plans, dragging the enormous kennel in from the patio. “It’s too bloody cold out there”, she commented, before berating, “you could have helped me. You could see me struggling with this thing”. He pressed on.
The last straw was the crash of the hammer. Mark finally snapped. “WILL YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP????”, he screamed.
Aghast, angry, Carol picked a screwdriver, and flung it toward Mark. He ducked, and it gouged out a chunk of plaster before dropping harmlessly to the floor.
“What the fuck did you do that for? We’ll have to pay for that!”
Carol. However, rushed past him, swiping her car keys from the hall table as she flew out. Slamming the door behind her, Mark heard her car driving away.
Peace at last.
You see, dear reader, the one thing I could do without is noise.
It was always thus. I had jobs where I needed to concentrate, and while I wouldn’t be working as such, I would often be pondering some problem or other at midnight. Did you ever have jobs where you just didn’t turn off? And I liked quiet. I could happily live in a library (although the librarians might object 🤣).
Even now, I’m working for myself, but I still need to concentrate. And while I used to have an office, now I only have home.
Lots of us write in our spare time. Some listen to soothing music. I like silence.
It’s one of the biggest conflicts I have with Mrs Bump. As many of you know she is a nurse. It’s a job that requires intelligence, but also one that she can leave at the surgery. Soon as she’s off the premises, she’s in R+R mode, which means noise. In that respect, we’ve always been poles apart. My brain has always been my workplace, wherever my body happens to be.
I can’t really blame her. It’s home, after all, and home is where we relax. In 20+ years, the only solution I found was to suck it up.
But I’m mighty glad when she goes out with friends.