Good and Bad Characters
By Annemarie Endt
“Just look at those two horses,” I remarked to my friend as we stood leaning on the fence. "Can you notice the difference in their demeanour, like what their character is like, the brown one seems to be more gentle, her big brown eyes have a peaceful look compared to the black stallion who is always trying to push her out of the way just as she is peacefully grazing.
"I’m just working on a story for our writers' club, the subject being good verses bad.
"You can almost liken it to these two horses. The question now, is what makes the gentle brown mare be so different from this bullying black stallion. It seems he is out to be as annoying as he can be grabbing every opportunity either to graze where she is grazing, almost pushing her aside, then galloping up to the gate when he notices the hay bales arriving, and standing sideways so she can’t access the bale, snorting furiously as she comes up to get her share. Yet she never shows aggression just patiently waiting while his dark eyes narrow with nastiness as he glances sideways at her."
He had his fill and stayed where he was right along the side of the bale as she started to move in order to get her fill, then deliberately blocked her way. She decided to go to the other side of the paddock to carry on with her grazing.
I turned to my companion with an enquiring look. “What do you think of that?“ I asked.
“Yes quite remarkable. That the behaviour mirrors our own in such a blatant way. We don’t really seem to be any different."
By Murray Rutledge
The moon was full and the rain poured.
Was that a raging bull
No the old man snored
And snorted and tossed loud.
Like a cork afloat, a kite in a stormy cloud
The moon was full
The old man howled
Awaking from his slumber
And the rain poured
The lightning ceased against the rocks
He seems transfixed in the spot.
His shadow moves a silent glide
The old man follows in one short stride.
His teeth bared his eyes ablaze
Reflecting the lights from the confused maze
Of light and cloud and light again
Lightning and thunder and constant rain
Quickly disrobing he danced all bare
His face turned upwards, bright teeth
By Dick Smith
Charles and Ernie filled their mugs from the bubbling coffee machine and took them into the comfort of the lazyboy chairs in the lounge. They often did this in the early morning, as in spite of their occasional differences they enjoyed each other’s company and each, in his own way actively sought a little Jane free time. Jane, when Charles had left the marital bed was still sound asleep with just the faintest hint of a snore occasionally disturbing the morning tranquillity.
“I’m feeling just a little under the weather this morning,” Ernie looked across at his uncle. “Pretty big night.” A grin spread over his face. “Good though, great company.” He sank back self satisfiedly into his chair.
“Actually,” said Charles, a little hesitantly, “I’d like to have a wee chat to you about that.” The glow of an unwanted blush crept over his face and little globules of sweat began to erupt across his forehead.
“About what?” The grin became just a trifle tentative. Ernie had a faint inkling about what might be coming.
“The company you keep.”
“The company I keep? What about them? Which ones? I have a lot of friends.”
Charles took a deep breath and put on his most serious face.
“Some of your friends have been staying overnight in your room,”
“Oh," laughed Ernie. “I thought you didn’t like to talk about things like that.”
Charles wriggled awkwardly in his chair. “Jane and I...” he began, before looking down for a moment. He started again. “Your aunt and I have had a long talk about some of the things that have been going on.” He stopped again as the grin on Ernie’s face grew wider and wider.
“Oh come on Charlie,” chuckled Ernie, “I’m sure you liked a bit of the other now and then when you were my age.” He took a sip of his coffee. “Come to think of it even now you’re not really too old for the more intimate joys of life are you?” If it was possible Charles grew even redder.
“Charles please, Jane says you are not to call me Charlie,” replied the older man, “and please don’t talk flippantly about nature’s wonderful gifts to mankind.”
“Not only mankind,” chortled Ernie. “The birds and the bees and hey did you see...”
“Stop it please Earnest. Jane might be listening. Have some respect for my house.” Charles paused. “As I was saying...”
“Well, it’s a bit awkward.”
“Jane says...” Charles stopped again.
“Jane says lots of things. What did she say this time?”
“Well!” Charles stopped yet again. Ernie looked at him, his former jollity now sinking to no more than a wry grin.
Charles started again. “Jane says that two nights ago you invited another lady to visit you in your room.” Charles stopped again and then it all came out in a rush. “Jane says that she has told you you are not to do this in our house. It is immoral and improper and we won’t have this behaviour under our roof. One lady one time we could have tolerated but six ladies in the last month is just too much. It has to stop or Jane says that you will have to find another place to live.” Charles sank back into his chair, his message delivered.
“Oh dear,” laughed Ernie. “Back to the drawing board or perhaps to the back seat of the car or maybe even a park bench. You really are under the thumb aren’t you Charlie.”
Charles opened his mouth to reply but just at that moment the door opened and like a clipper ship entering the harbour after a long voyage, Jane sailed into the room probably interrupting a potential eruption of considerable proportions.
“Oh good morning, Charles and how are you, Ernest. It’s so nice to see you two having a pleasant chat over a cup of coffee.” She glanced at her husband, a quizzical look on her face. “Have you had a little word with Ernest dear. I don’t want him to be a naughty boy again.”
“Yes dear,” mumbled Charles a little hesitantly.
“Good, good,” smiled Jane benevolently. “Then will all be well from now on?” she looked expectantly at Ernie. There was a pregnant pause with both men feeling a need to reply but neither having the ability to conjure the necessary words out of the ether.
Further conversation was once again prevented by the door flinging open once more. Heads turned and eyes swivelled as a gorgeous young woman beautifully garbed in last night’s evening wear swept into the room.
“Good morning, good morning,” she beamed, “you must be Charlie and Janey. I’m Sophia.” She smiled broadly in their direction. “Ernie’s told me all about you. Thank you so much for letting me stay the night with Ernie. Isn’t he lovely. You must be so proud of him. Is that coffee you are having? Get me one please big boy.” She looked at Ernie. “Milk and two sugars.”
Eyes wide open and mouths agape, Charles and Jane could only look at her with horror.
Dick's 50 words
The colonel, alcoholically disadvantaged was filled with dread at the thought of the rage he would encounter when he arrived home. His agitation was such that as he entered his lounge he tripped over a table and tumbled ignominiously floorwards.
“Drunken pisshead,” snarled Mrs Cadwallader. “You can stay right there.”
Th Promiscuous Dame: An Allegory
By Susan Healy
She was big, blousy and promiscuous, obstinate and powerful.
She had many lovers, coerced and dominated.
And she was expert at seductive overtures and promises.
“Come to me,” she’d say. “I’ll stand with you against your enemies.
Be my friend and I will make wealth to come your way.”
Her overtures were made to people across the globe.
Usually they were to men but she was “bi” in her affections.
Making love to a woman was no problem if that woman was rich and influential.
For her, taking lovers was not a sexual thing.
It was a means to an end – ever expanding her estates and power.
Some she approached were hesitant and perplexed.
Their families had long traditions of what was expected when coming into another’s home.
A visitor was invited in and treated with care and courtesy. That was their custom.
And the visitor would take heed of the host’s way of doing things, and show respect.
Blousy, bumptious and presumptive behaviour from a newcomer was foreign to them.
Often, of course, our promiscuous dame did not show her true colours at first.
She had a coterie of close swains who were expert at finding subjects for her unrequited passions.
They were wheelers and dealers of the first order, protesting always their virtue and good will.
But were not satisfied till they had drawn their next innocent close to the dame’s bosom.
And then she advanced taking all they had – by means fair and foul.
The so-called innocents were not naïve but unprepared for the blatant arrogance of the dame and her swains.
They protested the breaking of agreements and the outrageous taking of their estates.
But their protests were met by connivance and the imprisoning of their families.
And all the while the servants of the dame were convinced of their own charity and goodness
Raising monuments to immortalise those who had shown such loyalty to the dame.
Now, who is this dame and what of her today?
She is the one with trident in her hand, helmet on her head and shield of red, white and blue.
Technically, her reign has come to an end but her influence lingers on.
To the horror of her descendants, the innocents are besmirching those sacred monuments
And loudly proclaiming that their lives matter.
By Robin Nelson
The elderly couple lay on the bed. Strong plastic cable ties bound their hands, and grey duct tape covered their mouths. Eyes, dimmed by the passing years, darted this way and that as the two men argued outside the open bedroom door. Fear wept from every pore as the woman glanced at her husband. Her breath came in wet ragged sobs. He sucked deep lungfuls of air through flared nostrils. He trembled with suppressed and futile anger. Blood and bruises painted their faces. The ties bit into their flesh constricting the circulation and adding to the pain.
“We don’t need to kill ‘em,” said a weak and hesitant voice.
“I ain’t leaving empty-handed. And if they ain’t got no cash, then I’ll take the one thing they have got.”
Josh was an ugly bastard and as far as Micky was concerned, a raving nut job. He had always put it down to bravado or the drugs, but now he was certain. Josh was definitely short of a full load. And once he had an idea in his head, you couldn’t get him to change his mind. His thoughts bounced around in promiscuity like a pin-ball machine, flitting from one indiscriminate scheme to another. This was the latest. Out of the blue he had come up with the idea to rob someone and those poor bastards in there were the result.
“There’s nuffin here. Why do we have to kill em?”
“Cos they’ve seen us ain’t they.”
“Yeah but they’re old, maybe they won’t have good memories.”
“Look stupid. We broke in here to rob em right?”
“And we ain’t found nuffin, right?”
“So, that’s it. I’m gonna kill em.”
“But… But I ain’t done nuffin like this before.”
“Tell you what. You take the old man and I’ll do the old girl.”
Micky chewed what remained of his finger nails. The crack they’d taken before leaving Josh’s flat was wearing off making him paranoid and scared. It had all seemed so easy earlier, talking about it down the pub; but he didn’t think the mad bastard would do it. And where the fuck did he get the gun? Reality crept over the horizon and Micky wished he was somewhere else. It had all got too confusing. He absently picked at the spots on his face.
“Are you listening to me?”
“What? Yeah. I ‘eard ya. I… I don’t like it Josh.”
“Are you some sort of fuckin idiot? I told you not to use real names.”
“They didn’t hear me. They’re near enough deaf.”
“If I leave now, they’ll give the law my name. And then the pigs will come knockin on my door. And you know what. I’d take you down with me. So, that’s it. We have to kill them.”
“I don’t know mate.”
“Listen Micky. I ain’t doin time for those two in there. Now, are you going to help me with this or not?”
“There must be something else we can do.”
“Jeez. Get the fuck out of my way.”
Josh pushed past Micky and entered the room. The two gunshots sounded flat and final.
Nicola’s 50 word using rage, agitation, dread, table
- The table took the centre of the room, and upon it rested a dark ornate box. “An instrument of profound doom,” said the Magister with rage. “It disrupts the balance between life and death.” The box lid opened and a vile agitation filled the air. The onlookers watched in dread.
- A katana emblazoned with neon symbols rested upon the table. Takeshi could see it in his mind’s eye: a flash of violent rage, the balance between life and death hanging upon the blade’s edge. Impulsively, he unsheathed the sword in agitation, and touched the steel with mounting dread.
The Tale of One Who is Hesitant When Perplexed and Another Who is Obstinate and Promiscuous
By Nicola Treadwell
Dawn made itself known, and rosy clouds drifted across an amber sky. Gwen had been awake for thirty-seven hours, immersed in the insomnia distance of everything. Eleven cups of coffee and six university deadlines had sapped her of all vitality. The letters on her computer screen were morphing together like hieroglyphics.
She jumped out of her reverie when her smartphone vibrated abruptly, playing a dulcet tone.
“Hey Em,” she said.
“Hey! What’s happening, girl?”
“Just work, really,” Gwen replied, stifling a yawn. “You’re up early.”
Emma laughed. “I’ve been up all night.”
“That makes two of us,” Gwen said.
“We’ve been at a bar in town…”
“Yeah, Michael and I have been partying all night!”
“Michael? Your latest conquest, I presume?”
“Hey, what do you mean? We’ve known each other for a while.”
“I’ve never heard of him. Wasn’t it some guy… Tim, last week?”
“Two weeks ago! Just because you’re a workaholic and a prude…”
Gwen hesitated, taken aback by the jibe, and Emma cackled.
“Gwennie-Gwen-Gwen’s a pruuude…”
Gwen sighed. “You’re drunk. Why are you calling me now, anyway?”
“I’m not just drunk! There’s a whole world out there, Gwen. You wouldn’t even believe how great tonight has been… I just want your permission, y’know…”
Gwen paused, then responded: “I have six assignments due in the next two days. I’d prefer not to hear all the various moans, squeals and squawks associated with your passionate love-making.”
“Alright, alright, geez! What’s up with you?”
Gwen hesitated. “PhDs equate to suffering. So why are you asking me if you can bring him home?”
“I don’t know Gwennie, just to be polite. I guess I’ll just go back to his place then... See you tomorrow! Oh, today. Haha!”
“Bye,” Gwen replied tersely.
It was definitely time for bed.
* * *
Gwen awoke in the late afternoon, unsettled by dreams. Tentacles and shapely limbs writhed in her mind. She carried the unease into her ensuite bathroom, where she scrubbed herself vigorously in the shower, but unlike most dreams, this one did not trickle away out of reach of her memory. She could still hear the otherworldly cries of the grotesque realm when she stumbled into the kitchen.
“Hey Gwennie,” Emma said lightly, clutching a mug of coffee.
“Hi,” Gwen said, fumbling in the freezer for bread. “How’s… Michael?”
“Oh, you know,” Emma said with a laugh. “He’s still coming down from the MD. You look like hell.”
“Yeah, I’ve got a lot—aahhh!” Gwen recoiled, dropping her bread on the floor, and gaping in horror at the sink.
“What?” Emma looked at the sink. “Oh my god, what the fuck is that?”
A fleshy tentacle was slithering out of the plughole. It was crimson, three to four inches long and advancing towards Gwen.
There was the sound of rupturing metal as the sink burst open, and an exquisitely beautiful creature emerged, enshrouded in a nest of gyrating tentacles. It shone with light the colour of blood.
“Gwendolyn,” the creature said, its voice seductive and unearthly.
“Make love to me, or I will destroy your realm.”
The creature writhed sensually, jiggling in various places. “You have two minutes to initiate copulation, or hellfire will fall.”
Emma laughed shakily. “Girl, I think you better give it what it wants…”
Gwen stood with her mouth agape, shaking her head. “Y-you’re not supposed to make deals with demons.”
“This is hardly a deal! You heard her, she’ll bring the apocalypse! Just do it!”
“I—I don’t know about this—”
“JUST DO IT!”
“Can Emma do the… lovemaking, instead?” Gwen asked helplessly.
“No,” the demon said, smiling wickedly. “I must lie with a virgin.”
“YOU’RE A VIRGIN?!” Emma exclaimed.
“Is that really what you’re focussing on right now?!” Gwen snapped. “I’m not losing my virginity to this… thing!”
“I am a desire demon,” it said, with a hint of reproach. “You have thirty seconds remaining…”
“I don’t know what to do!” Gwen cried. “This is so bewildering… I was just making toast…”
“And we’ll all be toast if you don’t get deflowered! Get on with it!”
“This is like something out of a fantasy story. How can this be real?”
There was a whoosh and the shattering of glass, and the two girls found themselves spattered with blood. The demon gurgled and choked, grasping at its neck. A silver crossbow bolt had pierced clean through its flesh.
Gwen recoiled, hands aloft, gazing at the kitchen decorated with crimson. The patterns of blood merged and swirled incomprehensibly. The world blurred around her, and she rose out of her body, settling back into her bed once more.
“Dreams within dreams are the worst,” she muttered.
Tracer and Tom On the Road Around the Sun
By Robert Alan Moore.
It was 150 years ago. They broke away, aiming to be who they thought they could be. It all started with the now-famous Road Trip Around the Sun, when the two trillionaires took the time, and the space, to launch their personal ideas. Especially ideas about a family, how to start one and how to get it off, and how to relate it to the rest of reality of careers and egos, to bridge the physical gap between themselves, and make a plan and carry out enough of it, so that there would be no going back.
All of that — powered by pure sunlight.
They sailed along, almost side-by-side, one leading just enough to minimise the chance of bumping if either of them momentarily drifted off course, which did happen now and then. They took turns leading and following. The follower got the grand view of the leader, as it cruised through the vast, pristine, black wilderness, with the sun at their backs, blisteringly bright, reflecting off each mirror-golden sail, and each chrome silver fuselage.
“I really do like the wing man spot,” Tracer Botswana said on their radio link, “It is very comforting to see somebody, in all this empty space.”
Tom Naidu answered, “Just the two of us, eh. That’s a rarity — no people anywhere. No Moon. No other ships. I am curious to know how it’ll feel after we’ve gone on like this for a time.”
Said she, “Not the usual scenario for a promiscuous guy like you.
“You will have to be obstinate with yourself, for a change.”
Said he, “Well, I am the obstinate type.” This was the charming, hugely energetic guy who had made an enormous fortune as a super-agent of creative people in all the media. Tracer Botswana, the cyber-sleuth, was a foil for him in so many ways, calmly running, with great precision, one of the great, silent, secretive, cyber security companies in the solar system.
Said Tracer, rather hesitantly, “This could be the perfect time, and place, to actually discuss, calmly, from a distance, the serious possibility of getting together, one-on-one, and creating offspring. Of course with affairs of the heart, there is always perplexity, and uncertainty, but perhaps less so in this situation.”
Said Tom, “Going for commitment with no pressure, almost as if it were an abstraction. That is an interesting idea. Although. I suppose if we got desperately in need of contact, we could moor the boats up together, and one or the other of us could do a little space-walk, and we could spend the night together.
“How’s that for obstinate?”
Said Tracer, “No way. It would force us to recalculate our orbit, we have to maintain this exact rate of acceleration, and angle to the sun, or we will miss the crucial course change when we swing around Mercury, and head back to Earth. Otherwise we’d be lost in space. Dead lost.”
They were both interested in following the course of politics on earth while they cruised. ‘No way to ignore stuff these days,’ they said. Tom Naidu was a great backer of the Brown Movement. Tracer Botswana was a total science geek. So they had plenty to talk about. It helped pass the time, along with maintaining their personal fitness, and a bit of yoga. One day, as they watched day-old news from earth, they were hit by a burst of high-intensity gamma rays that blew away the current newscast but replaced it with a bizarre slice of televised news that somehow had been bouncing around their corner of the Milky Way for a hundred and fifty years or so. [This is comparable to how in past days, people would find old newspaper clippings pasted to the walls of old houses.]
This blast from the past was a news report covering the decision of colourful and infamous old US president, now long dead, to not run for reelection. They watched and listened as he spoke in that pseudo-tough-guy, ignorant schoolboy style that he put on just to piss people off.
“I gotta an important announcement to make,” he said, “and it is probably the smartest, most historic, heroic, most patriotic thing I ever did.
“Getting elected. I proved my point. Now, I’ve had enough. I’ve got too old for this. I know many people will be disappointed, and here’s what I’d say to them.
“It’s like the old cowboy said.
“Ya gotta know when to fold ‘em.
“I only ran in the first place, for the hell of it, just to see – because Mel said I ought to. We have stuck with each other. At times one of us has been hesitant and perplexed, while the other seemed obstinate and promiscuous, and then later, it seemed to be the other way around, or all four states of mind mixed every which way, united and re-united states — now and then — ha-ha.
“Anyway, I am gonna nominate Melania to take my place. She’s done four years already. She knows what she’s doing.”
The, ancient news item ended.
Tracer and Tom were speechless.
A couple months later, after they had executed their high-speed U-turn, around Mercury, Tracer spent a lengthy spell calculating and refiguring their orbital situation.
Said she, “We could make a real stopover when we get to Venus. There's a big space station there, really big. Everybody lives there. Nobody can actually live on that planet.
Said Tom, with a slightly mocking tone, “I am inclined to hesitate while I think it through. It is hardly a matter of urgency, I mean there's no hurry about deciding.”
Said she, “Hey, that’s my line. Do you realise we did not discuss what we might do, how we might while away the time, the months, maybe even a year while we raced around the sun, not racing, of course that’s just a figure of speech. A stopover could be helpful.”
Their unannounced arrival at the Venus Space Station caused quite a stir. There was even a party or two, where Tom said, “I’m not much of a weightless dancer.”
Said Tracer, “Nor am I, but a dash of Venusian euphoria can help.”
So with a bit of that, then, they decided — on the spot — to launch their family.
Soon, they headed home. On Tracer’s solar sailer they installed extra powerful electromagnetic shielding to protect their embryonic offspring from various types of radiation, especially the Gamma rays which are really lethal, and which seem to be playing unpredictable silly games.
Said Tracer, “Our offspring could turn out to be the president of north and south america someday, in which case he or she will want all his or her wits about him or her.”