We Were Happy, Until…

From a series of short form fictions taking inspiration from collage

It all started yesterday, when I took Buckley out for his regular early evening walk. Despite the squally wind churning the mist around, we were enjoying ourselves – as we always do. Buckley is a lovely little fella, a real good boy.

Everything seemed just fine and we were happy, until…

Who were those characters up ahead of us? They were pointing in our direction and clues provided by their general body language, indicated a considerable degree of consternation – or at least some sort of collective uneasiness.

For several moments, I felt taken over by a disorientation similar to what I’ve experienced in my dreams sometimes, when I find myself simply unable to make any sense out of the situation no matter how hard I try. Were they calling to me – or talking amongst themselves? Were they actually scared of Buckley and I?

“Come on Buckley,” I said to my furry companion, “we’ve not done anything wrong, nothing to warrant an intervention of any kind – not from a group of utter strangers.” Buckley sneezed and shook his head. Then, looking up at me, he beamed a cheery expression. Immediately, I felt encouraged and broke into a confident stride.

Next Morning

From a series of short form fictions taking inspiration from collage

“Listen!” Gabriela held still, training her ear to the initial drops of rain splotching against the bedroom window. “Don’t you just love that sound?”
Opening his eyes, adjusting to the environment, Duncan considered the question. This soon gave way to a deeper analysis inside his mind. “I’m not sure darling. The sound of rain has the potential for a variety of different associations – both good and bad. Don’t you agree?” Uncertain what to say or do next and – on impulse, he gently pinched his wife’s left buttock with index finger and thumb. Reading an expression of pleasant surprise cross over her face, Duncan promptly followed this up with a satisfying slap to her right buttock.

While he remained still, staring up towards the eternal blankness of the ceiling, Gabriela laughed joyously and rolled off his hairy chest to lay beside him.
“Duncan?” she said, enjoying the gentle pulse of a stinging sensation, left where his hand had made contact with her skin. “My love, can I ask you something?
“Yes Sweetheart of course, what’s on your mind?”
“Well… Duncan, you are such a very curious fellow. I wonder, has anyone ever told you this before?”
“Oh God yes!” He winced involuntarily, as a flip-book of visual memories flooded his imagination, recalling each specific instance from the past. “All the time – throughout all my life – from childhood to adulthood. Yes indeed, this has very often been told to me before.”

Cindy Sage Went To The Dance

From a series of short form fictions taking inspiration from collage

“You’re not going to the forest dance party tonight Cindy, I forbid you!” Sean Murphy glowered at his young girlfriend, recently showered and now towel-wrapped stood in front of him. In the six months of seeing each other, these were the first crossed-words that had passed between them.

“I’m sorry Sean, sorry for you.” She turned away, proceeding to wipe condensation from the bathroom mirror. “You don’t have control over my decisions. I’ll go wherever I choose. I don’t require your permission or approval.”

Jealousy rose up inside him – a familiar sensation of coldness he wished would leave him forever. He watched as she leant forward slightly over the hand basin, massaging a light moisturiser in circles across her pinked cheeks.

“They’re all Hippies, there’ll be drugs and everyone will be getting drunk. You could get into all sorts of trouble, probably set-off a wildfire.”

Sean…” Applying eye-liner, Cindy examined her reflection closely. “You may have met some of them in passing, but you don’t actually know my friends from college. They don’t do anything more than smoke a little weed. And, you can’t really enjoy a good night’s dancing if you’re completely off-your-face drunk.”

He fell silent. He had no response. He knew he was being unreasonable and Cindy had intuitively sensed his conflicted internal struggle.

“Look,” she said, adopting a conciliatory tone, “why don’t you come along? It’s a beautiful evening for it – have you seen how wonderful-looking the sunset is? You can start to get to know my friends better. Mary, John and Peter will be there – I’m sure you’ve met those three before briefly, and Peter is a great talker. He’ll talk to anyone!” Cindy cocked her head to one side and beamed an affectionate smile to Sean.

“I don’t want to ‘come along’. I don’t want to ‘get to know’ your friends and Cindy, I don’t want you to go tonight.” These were Sean Murphy’s final words on the matter.

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 manner.
The voice – familiar as it was, sounded close behind me. I turned around startled, “Am I, following you?” I said, conveying a degree of the confusion I felt regarding his question. “I could ask you the same, Peter.” If I didn’t know him, if at that moment I hadn’t felt an immediate and inexplicable chemical attraction towards him, there – stood staring down at his shoes with his hands in his pockets… I would have described the situation as unnervingly creepy. “I’m going to the show. Peter – what are you doing here?”

I Can Explain

From a series of short form fictions taking inspiration from collage

“I’m not accustomed to being referred to as ‘Love’, thank you very much.” Samuel Shepherd, sheep-herder ancestral, turned away from the headstrong young man. “And, despite your good luck with herding the flock this afternoon, I’m sorry Henning, but I do not see the future of sheep farming being assisted by rotary wind aircraft.”

Frustration simmered inside the rookie pilot’s guts, but he knew if there was any chance to win the old man over, gentle diplomacy was key.
“Okay, but please – at least let me try to explain. What say we go back to the farmhouse, have a discussion and if after ten minutes of chatter there’s no change of heart, I promise not to raise the subject again.”

Samuel’s whistle contained a precise rise and fall in pitch. Laid prone on a patch of lush grass, his dog cocked her head anticipating a new instruction from the farmer.
“Cybill, time for your teatime. Good-girl!”
A second whistle and she tore-off ahead of the two men, following the muddy path leading back to Ovis Farm.

“You need to understand that life is different here in the countryside. The people are different. What might work in the city-“
“Oh, your daughter has told me so, many times Mr Shepherd.” Henning shook his head, feeling the weight of his task begin to sink in.
Watched over by a pairing of red kites mapping circles above the field, the farmer came to a stop and proceeded to button-up his coat.
“A slower rhythm, patience, time taken, these characteristics don’t mean we’re backward. Do you understand what I am saying?”
“Of course I do, but if work can be accomplished more quickly, more efficiently – utilising technology, what have you got to lose?”
“Look around you. You can’t see I have anything to lose?”

The farm cottage came into view, pale wisps of smoke drifting from the chimney stack. Henning felt a sudden desire to be inside, for a strong coffee and for a piece of the shortbread Mrs Shepherd had been preparing earlier, before they’d left.
“The temperature has really dropped, hasn’t it?” He said, hunching his shoulders together and thrusting his hands deep into his trouser pockets. Up ahead, he could make out the form of the farmer’s wife, framed by the kitchen window. “How long have you and Mrs Shepherd been married?”
“Dolly and me? Thirty-seven years next spring. Darling buds of May we were – and still are to this very day. How long have you and Mary known each other for?”
“Um, well let’s think. It must be reaching something like… six months now?” Looking skyward into the grey, Henning wondered if it might rain again. He pulled out his phone, tapping in the digits for his date of birth to unlock the screen. “We worked for the same PR company, you might know that?” No signal. A weather report would have to wait.
“No, I did not.”
“Right, okay, well, same company, different offices. I was based on the South Bank, Mary – West Hampstead. We first met at a launch event for an environmental group about to announce a new manifesto – or something. Mary had been involved, although to be honest, I’d just gone along for the champagne.”
“I see.” said Samuel Shepherd, sheep-herder ancestral, “I see.”