The Conversation Challenge

 

Task: write a conversation where there are ….

A.      All gender-neutral pronouns.  No, He or She

B.      No gender obvious names.

C.      Setting must be a café

D.      And the characters are exchanging gifts.

My Attempt

                The streets were swollen with people. Manic delivery drivers parked in the road and ignored the angry horns as they raced against the stream of shoppers and dived in and out of business doorways. I watched relived that my partner Avery, did all our Christmas shopping and I only had to cook the meal for us and our children on the big day. I kept checking my watch, it was unlike Jo to be late. The newspaper before me was becoming less and less interesting.  Finally, there was a bustle of activity. I looked up to see Jo was there fighting the narrow door with a pram. I rushed to help.

                “Hi, how are you?” asked Jo abandoning the pram to kiss me on the cheek.

                “Fine, fine. What happened to you?” I enquired looking at the dishevelled mess of my friend. The person who had nearly always been perfectly presented when we worked together.

                “This monster wanted to feed before we could leave the house.” Jo now balanced baby Sammy on a tilted frame with a baby bag swinging in the arched stance.

                “Here give me Sam, and go and get yourself a cuppa.” I offered.

                “Thank you, Lesley.” Jo put a hand on my arm, smiled and then walk straight past coffee counter, making a beeline for the loos. I laughed and bounced the babbling, bright-eyed Sammy on my knee. Sammy smiled back. clearly unaware of the energy it must have took to make organic carrot purée and get fine oatmeal to the right temperature and still make it into the city centre for 11:20 coffee with an old friend.

                I reached for the all-too-familiar soft brown bear out of the baby bag. There I caught a glimpse at what must have been my Christmas present. Wrapped perfectly and jo’s hand written tag saying;

                 “happy holiday and best wishes Jo and Sam, x.”

                “Shit!” I exclaimed having realised my gift for Jo was back in the office. What was I thinking? Jo had managed to get here and wrestle Sam into the loathed car seat. Which, to be fair, we all didn’t understand how to operate. Jo had driven through city traffic to sit and have coffee with me, here so it was close to my office, and had remembered the gift. What excuse did I have? I Had even been sat here waiting, wondering why Joe was late. The irony that I could have run back to the office and been back within 10 minutes wasn’t helping. If only I had realised. Well, I felt right idiot. Sam added by barfing onto my suit jacket from my continued bouncing. Because of the forgotten gift, I didn’t complain. I figured I deserved it.

                Joe came back with another coffee for me and a tea. Anticipating the vomit episode from Sam Joe had stolen loo roll.

                “I kind of saw it from over there at the counter.” Jo stifled a laugh.

                “Saw what?” I asked wonder if my sneaky peek at the present had been spotted.

                “Half digestive carrot all down your back, perfectly timed as you bent over for the blasted bear… Well done Sam.” Said Joe turning from me to the little bundle of smiling joy and trying to clean me up all of the same time.

                “Made your strike while I was distracted hey? Fair play. But maybe keep the sneakiness to hockey tournaments”

                “Hope you can tech Sammy better than you captain, Captain.” Muttered Jo jokingly.  “Will you be able to change at the office?”

                “Yeah,” I replied hardly caring.

                “Sorry Lesley, I’m still getting used to this parenting thing. No matter how hard I try. I’ve never got everything I need. Maybe I should go back to the warehouse logistics.”

                “I don’t know about that. Just don’t leave me holding the baby” I laughed trying to wrestle Sam into a clean bib. We were now both laughing as it took us the two of us to get Sam into the highchair.

Would you like to guess the gender of Jo, Lesley and Sam?….

I’ll let you know if your right or if I was able to hide them.

It’s beginning to hurt.

James Lasdun, winner of this year’s inaugural national short story prize wrote ‘It’s Beginning to Hurt’ in just 500 words.

we were set the challenge of borrowing one of his character’s and write their story within the same, or near to. time frame.

so this is Beginning to Hurt from Derrick’s view in 460 words.

It’s beginning to hurt

“Good lunch Mr Bryar?” she asked

“Excellent lunch” I heard him lie to Beth our office secretary

“Sorley’s?” I asked out of habit as my senior partner in our firm took his place at his polished walnut desk and I at my budget replica.

“No, some… Chinese place” he mumbled not even bothering to look at me.

“Your wife rang” I’d thrown that comment out into the air thoughtlessly. Inwardly I was cursing myself. She hadn’t just rung because I’d just had lunch with her secretly.

Panic at my stupidity caught the breath in my lungs and I gaged.

Bryar he was now on the phone to her. My heart beat guilty like a judge’s baton against my chest. I didn’t know how long it took for the taxi to take Penelope home from Metcalfe Hotel where we had been together.

Guilt had robbed me of the taste of the signature black and blue grill but not of Penelope’s lips on mine. Heat flushed my flesh at the thought of Bryar’s wife kissing me.

Would she be able to fool him once more?

This was a dangerous match neither Penelope nor I could afford for Bryar to divorce her. I needed his job and she needed his money.

My desk clock ticked as I went over tonight’s murder plan in my mind once more this had to go perfectly like a metronome if we were going to get away with it.

Tick,

7pm; He takes his brandy in the library. Pea will open the kitchen window and leave Tom’s car keys out on the phone stand.

Tock.

8pm I will hide behind the shed until the security lights turn off in the yard.

Tick.

8.20 get into the kitchen and hide in the pantry.

Tock.

9pm Bryar sets the alarm and goes to bed. Wait until I hear Pea call ‘Goodnight’ to Crème Custard.

Tick

Oh dam! I forgot 8.10 – feed Crème Custard AMITRIPTYLINE laced dog treats. That bloody Poodle would bark the place into an up roar if I don’t give him the sleeping pills.

Oh god, I’m going to end up in prison.

He’s not at his desk on the phone. Where has Bryar gone?

“Where are you heading Mr Bryar?” I called after him

“My wife needs a Salmon, see you tomorrow Derrick” came his distant reply

“Night sir? Hope you have a good evening.” I gave my best toadying voice. Did that sound too forced? Was it too obvious? Golly it’s so warm in this bloody office.

Maybe I should write the plan out in built points, then I can memorise it easier.

Hell no, stupid, stupid me.

-Bang!-

Ahrr! Oh the door, yes of course it is. Where was I?

By SB

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