Launch pad


The woman stands, flexing her long toes over the edge of the brickwork.

Her arms are held outwards, elbows so slightly bent that unless an observer chose to look closely, they would think her arms were ramrod straight. Her wrists are loose, flexing to allow her hands to rest, palms down as if on pillows. In her mind’s eye, she is poised like a ballerina en pointe, giving the illusion of effortless grace.

And yet all her muscles are screaming with the effort to hold this pose.

She looks outwards, eyes trained towards the horizon, over and above the valley in which is nestled her home town, the place she had fled a lifetime ago, jettisoning herself towards a life of excitement, discovery and more than anything else, freedom.

She had high hopes, exacting ideals. She would never have to scrimp and save, buy own-brand cereals or watch everyone else sipping cocktails in bars whilst she nursed a diet Coke, nose pressed against the window, on the outside looking in. Energy bills would be an irritation rather than something to lose sleep over. She would blossom, become a man or woman’s one desire, have children, grandchildren, be surrounded by love. She would succeed.

Oh, she knows this town like the back of her hand. The petty resentments and gossip on which it thrives, the sideways looks, the pitying whispers, the ‘thank God it’s her and not me’ huddles on corners of streets, they are like a film playing over and over in her head, clouding her vision, thrumming in her ears.

How much is a person supposed to bear? How long can the distractions of life fill those empty nights? What is the point if behind that veneer of success, there is nothing? No family, no partner, no children, nobody to care whether you had a good day, an easy journey home, whether you eat dinner or not. What is the point?

She had only wanted to escape from the dullness, the loneliness, the relentless grey of small town life.

Too late she had realised that no matter how far you fly, you are always there, dogging your own footsteps like a ghost.

So here she is, toes curled, gripping tight to the brickwork, focusing grimly on the horizon, the setting sun, the silhouetted hills.

She leans forwards. She launches. She sets herself free.












After only two months, Helen decided to become an exotic dancer. An unexpected decision,even for her, the family agreed as they came together after Shacharit at Beth-El Reform. Well, that was the more generous interpretation. As usual strong opinions were aired to anyone who cared to listen or was cornered and rendered speechless by a mouthful of the cloying kiddush wine. The Lowensteins hunted in packs, relentlessly.

David secretly admired her chutzpah. He envied her – no, he was downright jealous. He had met all the family expectations, was a leading light in the community, ran a successful dental practice. He was a caricature of a typical Jew, he thought, complete with overbearing wife and two children who he worried that he secretly despised in an uncomfortably satisfying way. Helen – she’d flown the nest, crossed several state lines, disappeared for a while, and then surfaced in Berlin of all places, the root of their family’s near obliteration so many decades ago. All their news arrived via postcards (And oy, what was wrong with the internet? Even Great Aunt Hannah had a Facebook account!), cryptic, almost indecipherable, written in a mixture of English and increasing amounts of Yiddish that few could understand (who needs the language of the shtetl these days?).

She had started taking up a lot of bad habits and who knew when she’d last been to shul? She needed taking in hand was the almost universal opinion, a statement of fact led by David himself.

He who doth protest… Yes, he knew.

And so here he is, willing the plane to take off already, before his family realises that he too is quite literally, flying the nest like his sister. Sarah and the girls would wallow in the attention of the community for a while and then they’d find somebody else to fund their lifestyle.  His parents wouldn’t need to sit at home on Shabbat for months, such would be the attention the story of their useless children would attract. ‘Oy, how can you bear it? My boys are so good, my daughter was made to be a mother, yada yada yada.’ ‘They’re meshuggeneh, so ungrateful’… Schadenfreude, everywhere.

He stroked the creased Berlin postcard once again, running his finger along the strikingly neatly written sentence – Helen was usually so messy. He repeated the Yiddish under his breath, the English running through his mind simultaneously. “The way you write with both your left and right hands”.

There was always a choice. Right hand – same old same old. Left hand – grab your life by the balls and never look back.

Now was his time. Maybe he’d take up exotic dancing.

Meat is Murder – Sunday Photo Fiction


I zip up my wet suit, noticing the tightness in my shoulder as I reach between my shoulder blades. I’m not getting any younger or more flexible, and it’s been a week since I felt the muscle tear. I have to do this now, before it’s too late.

I look up, back to the dunes and watch Timmy gnawing at the bone I had given him earlier. Hopefully, the marrow will keep him occupied long enough for me to be nearing the horizon and far beyond his failing eyesight. I’d been giving him a lot of meaty treats lately. Guilt, I suppose.

I pat my chest, feeling the reassuring crackle of plastic underneath. All of our, no my worldly goods are in there. It should be enough.

I push the canoe into the waves, past the first swells and step in, settling myself into the seat. I begin paddling, strong, swift strokes that are my reward for months of practice.

I ponder at Timmy’s new and healthy appetite. Funny, I’d never thought of him as a predator before. Still, I suppose any animal can develop a taste for human flesh, given the opportunity…


Here’s my latest entry into Alistair’s Sunday Photo Fiction. He supplies us with his own wonderful photos, so deserves our support! Happy Sunday, all….

Do take part if you have time, or just pop over and read the other entries.