Monday, 15 September 2014

The Big C Blog Hop

Happy Monday! Today I'm participating in the Big C Blog Hop, organised by the ever helpful Michael di Gesu to raise funds for our dear friend Melissa Bradley's cancer treatment. Entries will be collected into an anthology to go towards her exorbitant medical bills. I have family members myself who have been touched by cancer and knew I had to take part in this hop. Here's hoping it goes a long way towards getting Melissa back to full health.

We were asked to contribute comical, uplifting or inspirational stories. Mine is fiction which is based in fact. I hope that's acceptable! The cast is drawn from my own family (my parents, myself, and my daughter). Names have been changed, although character traits haven't. ;) Also, I ended up writing this at the last minute, so hopefully it doesn't seem too rushed. Naturally, I give Michael full permission to use my story in the anthology.

The Grumpy Pirate

Martin’s cancer treatment had gone from bad to worse. Chemo was out as an option, due to a number of unwanted side effects, leaving just radiotherapy to hopefully blast those malignant cells from where only customs men usually dared to probe.

The worst of these side effects had been an eye infection, meaning he had to wear a patch and - horror of horrors - not being allowed to drive.

Anyone who knew Martin knew he was a petrolhead who was used to driving anywhere and everywhere without the aid of any Satnav. He called it an “instinct for the road”, and relished the feeling of being in command of his vehicle. He also participated in classic car runs, and a 1952 Vauxhall Velox called Vera, who had a whole garage to herself, was his pride and joy.

Everyone knew he hated being driven, but no one more so than his long-suffering wife Elaine, particularly in the last few days.

“Are you sure you want to do this, dear?” she said, putting the last of the picnic things in the coolbag.

“Of course,” said Martin, sitting at the kitchen table and finishing off the newspaper crossword with the use of only one eye. “It wouldn’t do to disappoint the little mite.”

She groaned, and zipped up the coolbag just as the doorbell rang.

Elaine opened the door to find her son Rick standing there with a concerned look on his face, and her granddaughter Niamh with an ecstatic, beaming one on hers.

“Nana!” she squealed and jumped into Elaine’s arms. Elaine staggered slightly under the little girl’s weight. She was five and growing up fast.

“Hello, darling!” Then, to Rick: “Are you sure about this?”

“Not quite, but try telling that to her,” he said.

“I know, and your dad’s the other one who won’t be talked out of it. Oh well, we just have to get there, and then it’ll be okay. Until it’s time to go home again.” Her shoulders sagged.

The corner of Rick’s mouth lifted up in a half smile. “Stay strong, Mum. And don’t take any of his rubbish!”

She nodded. “I can only try. Well, you’d better get off to work. In you come, you little scallywag!”

Each Saturday, Martin and Elaine looked after their youngest granddaughter while her parents both went to work. The three older kids, who were all teenagers, were happy to stay in the house and get a break from their excessively energetic sibling. Rick had argued that shifts could be swapped while Martin was undergoing his treatment, but Martin was adamant that he didn’t want to break the routine. They took Niamh out for a special treat and it was the highlight of her week.

Niamh hugged her dad goodbye and skipped through to the kitchen where Martin was still sitting.

“Whoa! What happened to your eye, Granpa?”

“And hello to you too,” said Martin, looking up and breaking into a grin. “Come and get a cuddle.”

She ran over for a hug, but after pulling out of her granpa’s bear-like grasp she looked up at his face and frowned. “You look like a pirate.”

“Granpa’s got a bit of a sore eye, just while he’s ill,” said Elaine. “Remember, you need to be gentle with him. He might be a bit grumpy... even more than usual. Especially because he can’t drive the car.”

“You can be a grumpy pirate!” said Niamh, throwing her hands in the air.

So for the duration of the half an hour journey to the soft play centre, that’s what Granpa was. He sat next to Niamh in the back, and at every junction he warned Elaine of incoming ships on the starboard bow. He grabbed hold of Niamh and uttered dire warnings that anyone who tried to take his “treasure” would walk the plank. He issued streams of hilariously inventive, kid-friendly pirate expletives. Niamh laughed her head off. The drive wasn’t nearly as bad as Elaine had anticipated, and by the end, she couldn’t stop herself from smiling.


Nick Wilford is a writer and stay-at-home dad. Trained as a journalist, he now enjoys creating new worlds and getting to know his characters better. When not writing he can usually be found spending time with his family or cleaning something. He also works as a freelance editor and proofreader. He has four short stories published in Writer’s Muse magazine and is the editor of Overcoming Adversity: An Anthology for Andrew, a fundraiser for his stepson's college fund. You can find him at his writing blog, Scattergun Scribblings

Please go to Michael's blog to check out the other entries!

Friday, 5 September 2014

Kyra Lennon's Cat Anthology Bloghop

Happy Friday! Today I'm posting for a wonderful fundraising idea dreamed up by author Kyra Lennon. Kyra volunteers at her local Cats Protection branch for rescued kitties in need of a loving home and decided to put together a cat-themed anthology to help the cause. Here is my contribution, which was inspired by Egyptian mythology and Tom & Jerry. Hope you enjoy!

Cat and Mouse

A growl of frustration came from deep in Jabari’s stomach as he eyed the mouse that had secreted itself in a hole in the mudbrick wall. The little beady eyes and quivering whiskers hovered just inside the recess, seeming to be mocking him. He paced and growled again, trying to be menacing, although he didn’t feel like it.

“It will give up eventually,” purred a deep voice with an alluringly feminine tone. “Stay strong, Jabari.”

Jabari’s ears pricked up and a chill ran through him, which always happened when the great goddess Bast manifested. His ears flattened and he lowered himself to the floor in a gesture of supplication. “Please help me catch this elusive mouse, O great Bast.”

“Oh do get up you silly tom, that’s what I’m doing.” The irritated voice seemed to come from within his own head, but when he looked to his left, Bast looked like a normal cat, albeit extremely beautiful - sleek, papyrus-coloured, with large brown almond-shaped eyes. He knew not to look too long, or he would be transfixed by her radiance.

A morsel of cheese materialised on the other side of him. The mouse’s whiskers thrummed with greater ferocity and Jabari could practically see it salivating. It was the most succulent cheese to be found in the Lower Delta, and Jabari had to restrain himself from gobbling it.

“Now, we wait. He will not be able to resist for long.”

But Jabari didn’t feel like waiting. He was getting old, and wanted nothing more than to curl up and sleep in a patch of warm sun. What did it matter if he let one mouse go? Cats were so revered in Egypt that he was hardly likely to be thrown out on the street, but he didn’t want to lose face in front of the goddess.

As if sensing his thoughts of blasphemy - which he knew she was - her voice rang out in his head again. “Patience, Jabari. You will win over this puny creature.”

Now Jabari was getting annoyed. He glanced again for a second at Bast - who was watching him with an expression of faint disdain - and at that moment the mouse dashed out of the hole, snatched up the cheese under one front leg, and scrabbled up the wall on the opposite side of the room. Jabari snarled, crouched and lunged, but it was too late. The mouse was clinging onto the wall near the ceiling and rapidly devouring the cheese, and two thoughts hit him at once.

Since when could mice climb up walls?

And this mouse had not only climbed the wall, but had committed a heretical act. He had dashed up the mural of Bast in her glory days, as a woman with the head of a lioness, and was actually sitting at the open mouth of the painting as if defying her to snap down her jaws.

A terrible yowl from Bast made him claw at his own head in a hopeless attempt to stop the noise. “Witchcraft!” she shrieked. “Blasphemy!”

Jabari looked open-mouthed from Bast back to the mouse, which had finished the cheese and seemed to be sneering at them. A terrible heat was coming from the middle of the room, which had been hot enough to start with. Jabari turned and shrank back, shielding his eyes and trying to curl into the wall. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Bast also looked subdued, her front legs stretched out in front of her and her chin touching the floor.

The sun god Ra had manifested; the creator of all living things, he was also Bast’s father. A giant, muscular man with the head of a hawk and a blinding image of the sun disk atop his head.

“Your powers are weakening, Bast,” he intoned. “Why was this mouse able to outsmart an experienced hunter so easily?”

“I... I do not know, father,” said Bast, her formerly authoritative voice sounding meek compared to Ra’s booming tones. “It has been happening more and more of late.”

“Yes, I know,” said Ra. “The balance of power is shifting, which is why a new member of my celestial family has arisen. Allow me to introduce you to Nantor.”

The great god held up a clenched fist; when he opened it, a brown mouse with piercing eyes and a tiny head dress like the one worn by Ra materialised and stood proudly.

“You are relieved of your duties as a deity,” went on Ra, as Bast’s eyes widened in horror. “The mice have grown in number and intelligence, and Nantor shall be their idol. A new temple is to be built in his honour at Bubastis, site of your own shrine which houses thousands of mummified cats. Although they will be left in place, the temple will cease to function as a place of worship.”

The sun disk on Ra’s head seemed to expand until it filled the entire room, and Jabari was forced to squeeze his eyes shut. When he opened them, Ra and the new mouse god had disappeared. Bast was still there, but... diminished. She stretched, and paced in a circle a few times. Jabari realised what had happened. Ra had removed her status as a goddess, but allowed her to remain as a mortal being. She was trying out her physical body for the first time.

She stopped, and sat down, and they both watched blankly as the mouse ran down from the wall. It brazenly crossed the floor in front of them, climbed the opposite wall, and disappeared out of the window. Jabari couldn’t process what was happening, so what must it feel like for Bast?

His owner came into the room and paused, brow creased in confusion, as he stared at the feline newcomer. Did he know what had happened? Would both of them be thrown out to starve?

“Where did you come from?” he said, glancing briefly at Jabari before walking past him to pick up Bast. She let herself be tickled under the chin and Jabari heard her purr. “Let’s see if we can find you some food.” He put her down again and walked to the door. “The kitchen’s this way.” They both trotted after him, and Jafari could sense some kind of relief coming from Bast. Being a goddess was a lot of pressure, after all. She’d never had an owner to give her any affection, and Ra was probably too busy to spend any quality time with her. So cats weren’t going to be worshipped any more, and he wouldn’t end up being pickled and wrapped in bandages, but that was okay with him as long as he still got fed.

There might be a problem with mice eating through stores of grain in their new found position of power, but it wasn’t his problem. Maybe mice would be kept as pets and fed on cheese so they wouldn’t have to eat the grain. The pressure was off him, as well. He had never quite enjoyed having to kill them.


Nick Wilford is a writer and stay-at-home dad. Trained as a journalist, he now enjoys creating new worlds and getting to know his characters better. When not writing he can usually be found spending time with his family or cleaning something. He also works as a freelance editor and proofreader. He has four short stories published in Writer’s Muse magazine and is the editor of Overcoming Adversity: An Anthology for Andrew, a fundraiser for his stepson's college fund. You can find him at his writing blog, Scattergun Scribblings

I give Kyra permission to use my story in the anthology.

Please go to Kyra's blog to check out the other participants! 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

IWSG - RIP Tina Downey

Most, if not all of you, will have heard about the sad passing of Tina, one of our blogging comrades. This will not be a long post, but I wanted to add my voice to the growing chorus of praise for Tina and her warm online presence.

I first met Tina through the A-Z Challenge, and while I did not know her as well as some I can say that every comment I received from her was cheerful and encouraging. I have to confess that I did not know she was ill, so the message from DL Hammons breaking the news was a complete shock. Next Monday there will be a bloghop to splash sunflowers all across the blogosphere, Tina's favourite flower.

Of course, my thoughts are first and foremost with Tina's family, including her two boys. Her nearest and dearest managed to find time to post a letter on her blog to break the news to everyone, which they didn't have to do, but it is a reflection of the high esteem in which Tina held her fellow writers and the energy she gave to the community. I hope they find some measure of comfort in the messages that were left underneath and in the tributes that have appeared since.

I could not help but be reminded of the outpouring of support that followed the passing of my stepson. Times like this show the strength of this community. Some might say that people we communicate with electronically and may never actually meet are not our friends; acquaintances perhaps, or connections. I think it is more than that. Through our blogs we let people in on a slice of our lives, as long as we are open and honest, and through shared interests we build friendships. Tina's passing will leave a hole in the lives of many, even those she did not share in person.

I hope this post makes sense. Let's take a moment to celebrate Tina's joie de vivre and this amazing community which has the power to offer solace in the darkest of times. Here's to you, Tina!

Please check out the other IWSG blogs here.