CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
The sun rose ten minutes ago and Jack Hutton walked into his bathroom. After fourteen years of training as a martial artist, he possessed a marble-like confidence in his ability to meet any earthly challenge. So confident was he that his usually calm and blank expression had even begun to adopt an occasional twinkle of complacency. But this he resisted, for he knew that such flaws were the downfall of champions. One day, he knew, he would meet his match. He reached for the soap but it was not there. In disbelief he looked down at the washbasin’s empty surface. Unable to believe the evidence of his eyes, he began involuntarily rubbing the porcelain, as if to check he was not hallucinating, or as if to perform some magic spell that might liberate the soap from its invisibility. Whatever his intention, he was disappointed, as the soap did not reappear.
The previous day, Maryanne, his girlfriend, moved in with him. Over the past eight years of living in his flat, he had never before had to locate a misplaced item. Each possession had its proper place and every task its correct procedure. His household had become as efficient as a martial arts routine and he was alarmed at how irritated he felt simply because Maryanne moved his soap. He located the “hidden” soap, used it and replaced it in its proper place. While his eyes were closed, he reached for a towel but there was only empty air. Again, like a conjuror he began involuntarily waving around in the air where the towel should have been, but his magic did not work. He dried his eyes with his fingers, located the missing towel, used it and replaced it in its proper place. He took a deep breath and exited the bathroom. His morning had never been so fraught.
He found Maryanne in the kitchen and noticed his breakfast had been prepared. In the bedroom earlier, she asked, “What do you usually have for breakfast?”
“Porridge, but I’ll make it.”
“It’s no trouble.”
“No, I’ll make it,” he told her as he headed for the bathroom.
With each of his meals, he had developed the recipes and cooking procedures so as to maximize the nutritional value and flavour. When he noticed she had used the wrong procedure to prepare the porridge, his acquaintance with calmness grew distinctly chilly.
He looked to Maryanne, who was now doing the washing up, and he noticed she was also using the wrong procedure there. Her dish stacking was inadequate. He rearranged the dishes into the most efficient draining position and managed to calmly tell her, “I was going to make the porridge.”
“It’s no trouble,” she reassured him.
He turned away to get a cup and as he opened the cupboard, he noticed her rearranging the washed dishes back into their “incorrect” draining position. He looked into the cupboard, and the cups had also been rearranged. He moved them back to their correct position, took out his “morning” mug, then noticed the kettle was now in a different position, as was the water jug, and that Maryanne had emptied the water jug without refilling it. This meant he now had to refill the jug himself and wait for it to filter through before he could take a drink. But Maryanne had filled the sink with her washing up, which made it impossible for him to refill the jug, which meant he had to wait even longer before he could quench his rising thirst.
Through years of training, Jack managed to defeat his temper, for to lose your temper was not only to lose any immediate skirmish, but also to harm your own health in some small way. But as he now stood there holding the empty jug, his eyes began misting with muted rage. He watched Maryanne and wondered how it was that his years of training had been so easily overturned by simply having a few of his household procedures disrupted.
Maryanne turned to him, smiled and said, “Isn’t it a wonderful morning?”
The driver’s mouth hung open.
Lily banged her hand on the bonnet, shouted, “I’m a bat,” then swooped back out into the middle of the road. Another car screeched to a halt, its horn blared and its driver shouted.
All around the street, car headlights flashed, fists waved out of car windows, and neighbours peered round curtains and watched from doorways, some with their hands cupped incredulously against their ears while others seemed to be frowning as they pushed their noses around as if twisting tuning dials on their evidently‑faulty radio sets.
Lily hopped onto the opposite pavement, circled another parked car, then swooped back out into the street, all the time shouting at the top of her voice, “Drink all my milk—go on, go on—there’s not enough room in the letter.”
Helen Smithe was now hiding behind the front door of Number 52 with the door open just enough for her to see into the street. She called through the gap, “Lily—your tea’s getting cold.”
Lily flapped her arms and shouted, “I’m expecting visitors—drink all my tea, go on. Stamp along the flowerbed—flap, flap—it’s not enough yet; it’s not enough—I’m a bat—have some more milk.”
Helen courageously edged the front door open further, poked her head out into the open and called, “Lily—come in and drink your tea.” She watched Lily swoop back out into the road and then start tormenting the halted cars again while continuing to shout to the growing crowd of pedestrians and to all those faces framed in doorways and peering round the curtains along the opposite terrace.
Helen called to her, “Lily… Lily!” But above the commotion, she was certain Lily would never hear her, not from where she stood. She tentatively put her foot out over the doorstep, leant forward a little and looked along the street. She was just about to step out when she changed her mind, retreated back into the living room, sat beside Thomas and told him, “You go and get her in—she’s your mother.”
Thomas was still bent forward, clutching his abdomen. In response to Helen’s comment, he simply continued rocking back and forth.
Helen told him, under her breath, “Thomas—don’t just sit there.”
As if in response, Thomas made that half-moaning, half-whimpering sound again.
She gasped, “Thomas—”
He looked sideways at her—while still clutching his abdomen—and watched her discomfort for a moment. Then he snarled at her, “Enjoying the visit, dear?”
She glared at him and returned to watching the wall opposite, as if engaged in a gruelling staring contest with the wall. Her head was about to start quivering with the effort when she noticed the silence outside. Thomas and herself watched each other. The silence continued for a moment, then the living‑room door burst open and Lily entered, still waving her arms up and down and shouting, “I’m a bat.”
Helen’s face relaxed and she sighed, as if a mortally embarrassing weed had been uprooted from her garden. She smiled and said, “Sit down and drink your tea, Lily.” She half watched Lily and half watched Thomas while whispering to him—as if back at that funeral service, “Go and deliver your petition, Thomas—you’ve done enough here for one day.”
Thomas, while still clutching his abdomen, moaned, through gritted teeth, “How can I go now—?”

Links

Some links to other sites of literary interest.

Project Gutenberg. The first internet archive of free electronic books. There are now over 25,000 books available free at this site.

eBooks@Adelaide. The University of Adelaide Library’s collection of Web books. The collection includes classic works of Literature, Philosophy, Science, and History.

ReadPrint. Online books, free to read. From all the classic authors, though with some authors, only the most well known of their books are yet added. The books are nicely laid out easy to read.

Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The Web's first edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare. The texts are clearly and simply laid out, making them a joy to read. Navigation within each play is also straightforward.

The Literature Network is a vast store of online texts: books, short stories, poems. The full texts are included but the more popular works are peppered with advertising. If you don't mind that, happy reading.

Gaslight is an archive of classic short stories which were originally published as an internet discussion list. Genres include: mystery, adventure and The Weird.

East of the web. A growing collection of classic and newly-written short stories made available on the Web. Stories are organized by theme: fiction, romance, crime, sci-fi & fantasy, humour, horror, hyperfiction, children's, and nonfiction. Includes works by many famous authors.

George Boeree. This site contains many fascinating nonfiction etexts introducing every aspect of psychology. George's writing is clear and straightforward.

The Internet Classics Archive. An archive of works of classical literature in English translations. The works are mostly Greek and Roman, with some Chinese and Persian works.

Online Magazines

TheAtlantic.com. Current affairs magazine with short stories, essays and poetry. See the archive of short stories.

Narrative Magazine. Fiction, poetry, short short stories, nonfiction, features. Good quality writing. You can subscribe to the site free of charge, which will allow you to read the full text of the stories.

The Oldie. This magazine was created by a previous editor of Private Eye, as: an antidote to youth culture but, more importantly, a magazine with emphasis on good writing, humour and quality illustration.

Zoetrope All-Story. A short story magazine. You can read samples from many of the stories online, but will need to purchase a subscription to read the full text.

3:AM Magazine. Containing fiction, nonfiction, interviews, poetry, opinions.

Resources

How to Write a Story is a blog consisting of articles on how to write.

Refdesk.com. Today's news stories from around the world. And other similar reference material.