Thursday, 26 November 2020

A fob watch, A penny farthing, and, A one-armed man.

Inspired this time by Oamaru's Victorian Heritage Celebrations we undertook to write a short story that had to include a one-armed person, a fob watch and a penny farthing. Setting restrictions can help get us started and provide some really interesting results.


Monsieur Sebastian Cavrot took one more gasp of air then exhaled through pursed lips as he shunted his new model Penny farthing two more steps before bounding up its spine via the newly adapted foot-up, now with serated grooves cut in by father Jaque. The father and son team were desperate to break their main rival’s two-time champion of the Pigalle to The Arc De Triomphe, Penny farthing race, Pierre Badeaux’s record time of 15.12sec.
As his legs spun and pumped groundward with all the strength he could muster, he noticed his lungs pump with every four rotations of the crank shaft. He was in la zone.

Seb now had time to take in le mise en scène. As he raised his dome to gaze upon the road ahead, he got sight of a string of dancers outside the infamous Moulin Rouge, hitching up their skirts , kicking Can Cans and crying at the top of their musical lungs ‘Ride like the wind’! Sebastian locked into his now long practised meditative state and kept his derrière glued to the saddle, blood now coursing through his veins.

Now, riding through the heart of cobblestoned Parisian streets is no easy feat, but still Sebastian pursued his and his father’s dream with a whole-hearted eagerness unbeknownst to most mere mortals.

It was time. A small furl appeared on the right side of his mouth, a smirk perhaps.

He took a hand off his steering apparatus and fidgeted around in a small waste pocket sewn onto his riding shirt. A fob watch slowly appeared, glinting and attached to a chain. He caught a glance, He was on track. His smile grew, he raised his tight little French buns out of the riding stool for the extra surge, sat, pressed on, picking up the pace while scanning for cracks on the now well-ridden route.

Behind his smile was a true happiness he had rarely felt before. All the effort the father and son team had put in was finally coming to fruition, and they could finally rest on their laurels after the race, regardless of the result. Jaque had come up with the ingenius idea of attaching the fob watch to a waist pocket he had sewn into the racing shirt so Seb could monitor his own progress. And this idea, all came from a truly dreadful accident the year before.

Jaque had been out ploughing the field on their small farm when he stumbled forward over a stone, reached out to catch the handle of the plough, caught his sleeve and let out a staccato’d grunt. The beast pulling the plough lurched forward, his arm dropped suddenly, catching Jaque’s hand in a piece of the plough. As if in one foul swoop, the beast took one more heave and ploughed on, ripping poor Jaque’s arm cleanly out from his shoulder so quickly, that the break was barely audible from within a few short meters. Jaque would later compare it to the sound of three hens having their necks snapped simultaneously. This, he loved telling around the dinner table.

After the recovery from almost dying from loss of blood, Jacque sat by the fireside for the first time since being out of bed, he spied his shirt he had worn the day of the accident. His eyes met part of the chain protruding from the pocket, glinting in the fire’s light. Jaque shuffled, stretched and withdrew the watch. He all at once thought of the training, hard-work, time and money invested into what now seemed a far-flung and doomed to fail, Farthing venture.

He fondled the time-piece in his non-dominant hand, tried to hold, then wind it’s tiny dial. He struggled several times with this before a large tear grew in the duct of his eye and dropped onto the fob itself.

Jaque now swallowed nothing in his dry and quenching throat, lay the watch on the small round table in front of him and exchanged it for a half-empty whisky glass, raised it to the fireplace and took a half-decent gulp, closing his eyes. The moment between swallowing and reopening his eyes seemed like a full minute. He then sighed, and nine years of toil, sweat and pain swept through his nostrils like a team of the most hardened pack horses pulling the devil himself in a thick marble carriage.

When his eyes opened at long last, a large, glorious smile now drew across his fatherly face. He raised the fob and kissed it.

By Jamie Bennett


It was a full moon.  She hadn't seen it, she was too far inside the building to see the sky.  But she could tell the moon was full.  It was never this busy otherwise.  She closed the curtains around the drunk who had stumbled into a broken tibia, and started examining the dressings on a one-armed man who had been bottled in a bar fight earlier in the evening.  Too early in the night for a bar fight.  Everything was dry for now - a pleasant surprise.

She could hear snappish orders being given in the ambulance bay, the night was getting busier.  She pulled the fob at her breast pocket, it was still over an hour until midnight, and several more until she could go home for much wanted sleep.

She surveyed her charges, checking they were fine for her to step away, and headed after the commotion.  The site that greeted her was not pretty.  Impact and prolonged abrasion.

'What happened' she asked.

The ambo, inappropriately smirking, replied 'This idjit took a penny-farthing ride down View St.  Ended up using his face as a third wheel'.

She sighed and stepped back, allowing the gurney to roll past.

She hated full moons. 


Victorian Story Prompts

Inspired by a local short story competition, today we set ourselves the task of writing a short story inspired by a classic line out of a Victorian novel. You may well be able to spot the phrase in the stories below. 

Redemption maybe?

Phoebe woke in the night. Her hands were shaking and she had to call the maidservant to light the candle. She’d had a nightmare. Her heart was palpitating in her chest. Her dreams usually played out in reality. In fact the dream was about the downfall of her family.

One member was to fall then her family would be ostracised. Phoebe was shaken. Who would fall?

Was it her dear sister Esmay? Or would her brother go to debtor’s prison.

She crept slowly through her room into the study where her father kept his whisky. A couple of mouthfuls and she felt okay. A voice came unbidden into her mind.

“Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences.” The family she realised had to be held to account. Every devious deal they had done with the towns people must be brought to light.

And so the next day Phoebe walked around the village and the surrounding countryside, returning dishonestly obtained money and goods. Her dream did become real. She returned too much. Her family could not pay their bills and were evicted from their cottage and joined the Romany people on the road.

And so they passed from the history of the shire although people still allude to Phoebe’s generosity and kindness and maybe one day, when the travelling people pass through the village, they may see in the children a resemblance of their mother.  

- M.F.


Strains of music arc'd through the air, glanced off the windows, fired home to their target.  Ears, fraught with tension, muscles of his face tight, jaws clenched in almost permanent rigor.  The state of things now!  Nothing easy, always strained, no vacation.  If anyone told him to relax once more he would ... he would ... he didn't know what would happen.  Perhaps existence would implode in a mass of black that would smell of violets, sound like silence, and taste like water.

Dan surged across the room and angrily hit the OFF switch.  The music continued - in his head now, a perpetual trace of irritation.  In its background he could still hear the chirping hissing of tinnitus no longer drowned out.  His jaws still clenched Dan stalked outside, beyond the back door to the hopeful quiet of the garden.  If he listened to the tinnitus he could hear cicadas on pine trees.  "Have a little compassion on my nerves, you tear them to pieces" he cried to his mind, exasperated.  The resinous smell of the old place oozed out from memory, and he breathed deeply.  Thoughtless, Dan ventured back for yet another attempt at Part 2 of his manuscript.  The damn cat would not shut up.  Perpetually squeaking for cheese.  Why couldn't it go away and catch a mouse!

Another day.  Another morning.  The nation was in lockdown now and he was, still.  The stereo played the most soothing option he could find.  Whistling oscillated in his ears.  Compassionate phrases of Vivaldi still arc'd and glanced their meter around the room.  His feet gave up their stance and he ventured beyond the bastion of home, his steps retarded as he walked the street.  The bells and chirps of birds rang clear over the tinnitus, which submerged into stanzas of the trees.  All that annoyance had gone.  "It's quiet" Dan finally observed, to himself and no-one else.  His jaws released, eyes stopped squinting, and belief emerged.

- Kate Jenkins

Who Really Has The Power?

I sit here, watching you.  You think you are the boss, but I know the truth.  I know that if I ask, and ask, and ask, you will do my bidding, even if you don't know what I want.  Doors will be opened and closed for me, as I desire.  If I don't want my dinner, I tell you, and you buy me something else.  I know what to do to get treats, and extra special attention when I want it.  We cuddle on the sofa when the rain drums on the roof and thunder echoes all around.  I walk the dark night streets alone.  No-one questions me or comes near me.  Beware; for I am fearless and therefore powerful.  I am Thomas, your beloved family cat. 

- Christine

Today we feature one of our regular writers who has diligently written up the poems she has developed at the Artsenta Writer's Group ove...