Cry Baby Counsellor

“Yes, well when I read your advert on the local web directory,” Eva seated herself on the park bench, “under the eye-catching title ‘Cry Baby Counsellor’, I immediately thought to myself, ‘Yes, that’s for me!’ Next, I followed the link and filled out the appointment form.”
“Did you find the process straight-forward?” Counsellor Diana Thebes asked, “And, you read all the information about how I operate, no problems as far as you are concerned?”
“No, none at all my dear, and I read them all again in your email reply.” Eva looked around the immediate vicinity, “I think it’s all rather novel, outside in the park, the fresh air, next to the river having a counselling session, with the old mill factories situated opposite. It’s rather scenic, I’d say.” She undid the top two buttons of her coat and placed her handbag next to herself on the seat. It had turned into a warm and hazy, late-summer’s day. “What will you do in winter? It won’t be much fun in the rain and snow, will it?”

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Imaginary Friend

So, here I am, at the top of a raised gangway secured to a vintage paddle steamer, a bouquet of pink carnations in my hand and about to make the boldest statement of my life. The backstory as to how I come to be here, I will explain, briefly.

Despite growing up to realise Aditya is viewed by society as an ‘imaginary friend’, he has been in my life since before any other meaningful event I am able to recall. Today, he is no less real. He is the brother I never had and better known to me alone, as Adi.

I know. You are sceptical. You didn’t have an imaginary friend when growing up, nor have you ever known anyone who did. I’m sorry for you, I really am. Believe me when I tell you, you have missed out. Right from the beginning, Adi has been my sage, providing support, advice and guidance. He’s given comfort when needed, warmed me, warned me, saved and occasionally scolded me. But he has never, ever, abandoned me. Unconditionally, he has always been here, right by my side.

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From Station To Station

Two innocent souls, from a chance meeting, quickly form an intense friendship. Several days later, following a sweaty bonding of bodies driven by mutual carnal desire, they had come to regard each other as lovebirds.
We join them, yet another day later, at Obsomba station, located on the Northern Criss-Cross Line. In the golden hour before the setting of the sun, we find ourselves needing to ask, has someone had a change of heart?

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By Lunch Time I Was Exhausted …

You might not imagine so, but creating an ice sculpture is very tiring work. Today, by lunch time I was exhausted. My name is Guðrún, I am an artist and during the winter months of the upper Northern Hemisphere, I busk my skills in towns and cities, creating ice sculptures in return for donations of appreciation from tourists and shoppers.

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The Blue-Haired Women

JOURNAL FRAGMENT
(Annotation by Brinkinfield)

Sunday July 4th, 2120 (Possible typo? How could it be ~100 years in the future?)
They’re everywhere now, the blue-coloured hair women, swamping city streets, filling up bars and restaurants, taking over businesses, banks, major conglomerates, media outlets and universities. I’ll be lucky if I’ll find work as an accountant in this county, ever again.

(Monday and Tuesday, entries torn out from journal)

Wednesday, July 7th, 2120
Three days in a row now, I’ve woken up to find a blue hair coloured woman posted outside my cottage (and all down the street, outside the neighbours, too). Earlier, I went out to ask of her business and she forcibly pushed me, with her hand flat against my chest, back through the front door without saying a word. I’ve got to say, I thought her pretty hot, but it’s no excuse for rudeness!

(Thursday page, blank)

Friday, July 9th, 2120
I tried to go out this morning, with my food shopping list, fridge is empty. The blue hair woman pushed me back again, growling and baring her teeth at me! When I turned to bolt back inside, she slapped my bottom cheeks hard, left and right! Both are still stinging, seated on a cushion as I write-up this entry. After I’d regained my composure and pride, I went back to the front door, got on my knees and shouted through the letterbox, telling her I’d already alerted the police. When I peered through to gauge a reaction, she turned around and gave me the finger.

Saturday, July 10th, 2120
Midday, the internet is switched off. Nothing but a 404 error message or a question mark symbol centered within a blue square, depending on which site I try. Blue woman is still there. Earlier, she tapped on the kitchen window and pointed towards the front door. She’s got really long, well manicured finger nails. Still think she’s really hot. I found a food box left outside the front door, lots of veg, granola, almond milk and dried soya mix : (

Sunday, July 11th, 2120
4am, I can’t sleep. I can’t stand this ‘no internet’ situation much longer. I might as well be living in a cave. One week isolated and I’ve got absolutely no idea what’s happening on the outside. I’ve decided I’m left with only one option: seduce the bluie, get her onto my side, then see if any other renegades are willing to join us. See if we can’t get the internet back on and life back to some semblance of order!

(Monday page blank)

Tuesday, July 13th, 2120
I’ve written out Bluie’s daily schedule, based upon notes taken yesterday, while observing her closely from the bathroom window. At least now I understand she is armed with the latest Walther pistol, concealed under her dress, the holster strapped to her left thigh. As I watched, she spun the weapon around on her fingers, practised replacing the magazine and aiming. I have to say, she looks pretty handy with it.
At around mid afternoon, she looks tired and bored, several hours still, before she is relieved by the night shift. This gives me plenty of time to enact my plan, venture outside, confront and reason with her to switch sides, locate like-minded folk and form a rebellion. If she refuses, I’ll just have to show her who’s boss. I’ve decided tomorrow’s the big day.

(End of journal, no further entries)

©Brinkinfield 2020 All Rights Reserved
Part of the Ekphrasis Project (story inspired by a picture)

Be Happy

“Okay,” Gina said, “let’s get this straight right from the get-go. I am not your love, do you understand, Euan?” Gina fixed an icy stare onto the awkward young man.
“I’m just saying … ” Euan shuffled his feet and sank his hands deep into his pockets. “Look, why don’t we pop into the museum, grab a coffee in the downstair café?”

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The Smiling Ballerina (~900 words)

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?
Way back, in the early 2020s, I owned a café-bar in Söder, Stockholm, called Mellan Broarna, the meaning of which made sense, if you happened to be familiar with the island. Known locally for late hours, fine schnapps, a range of delicious smørrebrød and original entertainment, we welcomed local and international visitors alike. I ran the place with a light-touch managerial style, as you’d expect, encouraging bar, kitchen and waiting staff to coordinate harmoniously. They understood their responsibilities and kept the place operational, incident-free, right across all the eight years the project existed.
You’d have liked the place, unassuming from the outside, spacious on the inside. Large, arched windows looking out onto cobble streets outside. A wood interior, furniture, bar counter, finery found in all the fixtures and fittings. The brass lamps glowed orange, warm and reminiscent of a century ago.
Yes, you’d have loved the place, for sure.
My role, aside from styling, finance and administration, included sourcing performers for Friday and Saturday evenings, when we hosted a varied assortment of musicians, comics, and poets. Thursday evening served as audition night, a feeder for the weekend shows, with acts new to the venue granted the opportunity to perform in front of a smaller, but nonetheless encouraging, and appreciative clientele. Those shows steadily gained a reputation for uncovering talent, going on to appear at the weekend here, elsewhere in the city and beyond.

Genius is simple, performers arrived any time during the evening, writing their names on a piece of paper taped to the wall to one side of a modest-sized, raised stage. The acts went on in order, I compèred, read out short bios I’d scribbled onto scraps of paper; I crossed names off after each performance. Undetermined gaps of time existed between one act and another, allowing adequate time to refresh drinks, order food and discuss the pressing issue of the day. Informality ruled. Several novice creatives told me they actually preferred these feeder evenings, above the weekends, and showed up regularly.
One summer, on a Thursday evening, Bella, an African American and Gretchen, originating from Germany, arrived together; two overseas students previously acquainted by a chance meeting. Bella explained how the studio formed their usual rehearsal environment, however, they both happened to enjoy practise in the open air, with the Royal Djurgården city park as their choice location. Here, they’d stumbled onto each other and a bond of mutual appreciation quickly formed, with Bella admiring Gretchen’s cool trumpet playing and Gretchen equally impressed with Bella’s artistic ballet exercises. On the same day, according to Gretchen, they’d had a ‘bonkers idea’ to become an act, as Bella Ballerina and Gretchen the Trumpeter. Prepare to be amazed! they’d told me. I chuckled, kindly, asking them, is that right?
Because, like you know, it takes a lot to amaze me, at least in a positive sense.

By ten that Thursday evening, we had comfortable numbers, not cramped; the staff each occupied with their tasks, all just how I liked it. Earlier, I had commandeered a small table and busied myself with administrative paperwork, refreshed by lager and encouraged by the promise to myself of a nightcap at the end of the evening. My attention had wandered back and forth to the stage, fulfilling my role for introductions. Several poets had appeared in the mix, along with a stand-up comedian, a folk singer performing original material with a nyckelharpa and a young woman playing several classical selections on guitar, starting with Bach, followed by a Clara Schumann piece and finishing with my personal favourite, Tarrega, with a flawless rendition of Adelita.
Then, it came to the turn of Bella and Gretchen. They emerged from the green room, located behind where I sat. First onto the stage, Gretchen with her trumpet, plainly dressed in a short-sleeved white blouse and blue jeans. Bella followed, wearing a low-back, mid-sleeve, black coloured leotard, with white tights, ballet shoes and silk ribbons. The crowd gradually hushed, as the two young women took up positions at opposite ends of the stage.
Gretchen began playing a slow tune, the notes singing, stretching out across the room, curling around everybody in the room. Bella matched the music with sensuous movement, arms unfurling down to her fingertips, ripples through her body, neck and head, and unfaltering balance en pointe. The audience were captivated, couples exchanged affectionate glances, lovers gently squeezed each other’s hands. When the pair finished, the applause echoed onto the street outside. As they turned to exit the stage, people cried out for an encore, which, smiling and clearly having fun, Gretchen and Bella obliged.
At the end, after taking their bows and the applause, they left the stage for the green room. Simultaneously, a man I recognised as a patron, the slightly eccentric Sir Charles, clearly deeply moved, left his table and advanced to meet the smiling ballerina and trumpeter. I heard him address them, saying it had been a wonderful experience, how he’d never heard such beautifully played music or seen such poise and elegance in dance, and on behalf of the universe, he wished to thank them both.
It had been an outstanding, atmospheric evening, one that holds on in the memory. You remember the times when that happened, don’t you?

©Brinkinfield 2020 All Rights Reserved
Part of the Ekphrasis Project (story inspired by a picture)

Let’s Dance!

It was late and the dance floor was sweaty; lithesome bodies competed for space. Two new arrivals gravitated through the dimmed light towards the bar, drawn by the sound of a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice and fine liqueurs. The man pulled out a wooden stool from the service counter and registered the attention of a member of the bar staff.
“Come on Danny,” said his female companion, pulling at his hand, “let’s dance, I just love this music!”
“But you’ve barely danced a step in your life Olivia, this is a quite ridiculous suggestion!” Danny’s body mass remained as motionless as a sunken ocean liner’s anchor, lost to the sea bed.
“Fuck-you Danny!” Olivia gripped both her hands around his wrist, managing to tilt the stool forward. “You taught me a few tango steps last year and I said we’d try them out at the next opportunity.” She tugged harder still, gritting her teeth in determination as accordion, violin and snare drum sounded, filling into all corners of the bar.
“I just came in here for a nightcap, we’ve not long eaten – you’ve already drank too much. This is a bad idea Olivia!” Sturdy heels put a brake on further progress.
“Come on Danny, less of the excuses, it’s Argentinian tango – my favourite!”
“Argentine.” He sighed. “Olivia! You will make fools out of both of us, the people here – they know well what they are doing.”
“So? So do you – for fuck’s sake. You taught a tango class for years!” The sight of an assertive young woman engaged in a fierce tug-of-war, caused a rippled of amusement amongst people within the immediate vicinity. “Take control – like how you’re good at, and guide me Danny. I’ll be your marionette for the rest of the evening.”
He relented, his eyes glancing heavenwards seeking divine intervention. “It really, truly doesn’t work like that, but, okay.” For a moment, he observed his partner, her serious expression melting into one declaring a satisfying victory. As her grip on his hand loosened, his fingers interlaced between her own and together they navigated between the busy tables, out toward a space onto the dance floor.

© Brinkinfield 2020 All Rights Reserved
Part of the Ekphrasis Project (story inspired by a collage)

How We Met and Why It Works

From a series of short form fictions taking inspiration from collage

Bertrand’s story…
“We first met at a weekly meditation class. On this particular evening, the teacher had facilitated a discussion about the practice of mettā in meditation. How the creation of benevolent thoughts, wishing peace, openness of the heart, healing and love were beneficial. During the talk, several people had contributed with questions, while others shared their own interpretations. Me? I knew little about the subject. Yet, as I sat there listening, an internal visualisation played through my mind showing a virtuoso musician in full flow with their instrument. I did my best to convey to the assembled, how this felt to me like an expression of mettā. The teacher received my comment well, which left me feeling encouraged. After the session had finished, Mary approached me and said how she’d enjoyed and related to my comment. We left the class together and walked around town. After an hour and a half of conversation, the clarity of her uncomplicated intellectualism had made a big impression on me. So much so, that the idea to ask for her hand in marriage came to me on that very first evening. I resisted, and when we parted, I felt genuinely satisfied with the idea of seeing her again, the following week.”

Mary’s story…
“The usual comment I get is about the age difference between us. There’s a thirty year gap. The next question usually alludes to the possibility that I am only with him for his money. Go on, kill me. I admit that financial security has been a factor – but you know what? Bertrand understands this too. Broadly speaking, I believe that successful relationships are based on considered trade-offs, or perhaps more accurately ‘trades-between’. This, and naked honesty – a trait I see as seriously lacking in most relationships I know. For sure, this comes with challenges. I find these challenges help nurture a mutual sense of engagement and responsibility within the relationship.
Married to an older man, I find I am appreciated for far more than just my body and good looks. I don’t feel a pressure to try to look beautiful. Bertrand has no hidden agenda. With past boyfriends, “sex” has usually topped the list – and as often as possible. Yes, he has a healthy libido; he’s also open-minded. But he is not obsessed with sex – I don’t wake in the morning to find him dry-humping my leg! Bertrand is interested in every aspect of my ‘self’ and I find this deeply gratifying. I count myself lucky to have met such a wonderful and caring husband.”

Different To The Others

From a series of short form fictions taking inspiration from collage

“Are you following me?” He called out, in an off-hand, rather surly manner. The voice – familiar as it was, sounded close behind me, causing me to turn around startled.
“Am I, following you?” I said, conveying a degree of disbelief. “I could ask you the same question, Peter.”
If I didn’t know him, if at that precise moment I hadn’t felt an immediate, fuzzy sense of attraction towards him there – stood shoulders slumped, staring down at his shoes with his hands in his pockets… I would surely have described the situation as unnervingly creepy.
I’m going to the show Peter, what are you doing here?”