I (sometimes) call myself Mr. Pondersome. I'm a rather wordy, weirdy person. I say hullo a lot. I write a lot more. While you're here, why not give some of it a read?

Saturday, 27 June 2015

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE (a.k.a. Happy Flash Fiction Day Everyone!!! Part 3)

            Mike flipped the paper placemat in the tray. The suspect was in the ladies', no doubt silently screaming, and he really needed to do something to release this buzz.

            Mazes, a word search, Spot the Difference: a whole page of activities. Children's brainteasers but there were enough to keep him patient for five, maybe ten minutes. He picked up the pen she had left behind; technically it was evidence but what would a pen really mean to a case like this?

            Mike started on Spot the Difference; a pig surrounded by pinecones. Five differences. He circled the left ear, then the bottom right hoof. He noted the change in eye colour between pictures, green on the left and red on the right. And initial observation was usually his weakness. He circled the slightly larger pinecone that was rolling away to the left. Five minutes? More like three.

            Mike searched around the pig slowly, the rings of pinecones and then the rather basic outline of the creature. Not even quiver lines: these were cheap cartoons. Nevertheless, the fifth difference...

            The smile? No. The hairs on the belly? Too small: the kiddies wouldn't pick up on them. Was there a slight discolouration in the second pig's skin? The second did seem closer to flesh colour.

            'It's the snout,' the suspect said. Mike glanced up. Her eyes were puffy and her glasses in one hand. 'The right one's smaller.'

            Mike threw down the pen. 'You're eyesight's improved, Mrs Paetro. And your memory?'

ALL PLANTS (EXCEPT FOR TREES) (a.k.a. Happy Flash Fiction Day Everyone!!! Part 2)

   A tree surgeon rang at 8pm. Told him you were out, asked him to ring tomorrow instead. Wants you to rest assured that the chemicals he will use won't kill your other plants.

   Insists he has nothing against plants, even rhododendrons. He hasn't got anything against trees either. Insists they're completely separate things. He tells people he loves all plants except for trees mostly to distinguish the two. Went on about this for a while.

   Cut him off before he went into species names. Told him I had to deal with Pump 4. Sounded huffy but ended the call anyway.

   Hopefully we'll have this old evergreen cleared before summer. Can't really afford any more funny looks from drivers.

   Let me know how it turns out on Thursday.

VOIX EN CHAMBRE (a.k.a. Happy Flash Fiction Day Everyone!!! Part 1)

I lost my voice in a Parisian hotel room.

            I put it in a tape recorder, sealed in by the stop button. I played it back only once. It sounded all squeaky so I hid it in a cupboard.

            The following morning I packed in silence, checked out and ran for the airport. I was midway over the Channel when I noticed what was missing.

            It was an old tape recorder so I don't miss it. However when the stewardess came over to offer me a beverage, I couldn't speak. I couldn't even squeak. Fortunately I knew a few basic signs and she knew them too. I ordered a glass of lemonade.

            I could speak again when we landed though every word sounded unnecessarily French. People thought I was a snob. I am a snob but not in a particularly Parisian way.

            I told a taxi driver allons-y and went home. I thought long and hard about my little bit of voice still in Paris, imagined the turn down service baffled and the concierge only mildly amused. What a trinket; except for the accent, not at all Anglais.

           And yet I can't remember this very simple sentence. For the life in me, I can't recall what it was I said.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

MINUTES OF THE 2015 CONFERENCE OF DEATH (a.k.a. Some Grim Record Keeping)

Apologies:- Suicide, Manslaughter.

Minutes of the last meeting:- The minutes were passed as read.

Euthanasia:- Wants to change name to 'Culling'. No moral or ethical reasons, just doesn't want to be misconstrued as a 'Youth in Asia'. Finds such puns tawdry. Prefers Culling because it sounds like a badass name, not due to an unannounced passion for the Twilight vampire.

Natural Causes:- Following on from Euthanasia, would quite like a name change too. Unfortunately can't think of anything suitably bombastic at this time.

Murder:- Reduced services are planned due to budget cuts. Is willing to share more work with Manslaughter provided the conscience can be found. Will not be giving any more to Suicide; people are starting to get the wrong idea. No offence meant. Murder ultimately wants to integrate better in this community.

Immolation and Electrocution:- Wish to abdicate given the recent rise in survival rates. Do not believe they can properly contribute anymore. Impalement and Dismemberment still undecided though answers will be forthcoming.

May 4th Event:- Irradiated atmosphere expected but not yet paid for. Genocide and Epidemic still require more volunteers to man the plague towns and so shall extend the deadline to April 1st (no joke). Variety of talent would be appreciated.

DOOM Skill Improvement Sessions:- To be held in local Killing Fields on Tuesday 7th April. Resurrection will be involved but not leading the speaking part of the session. However it would be polite to acknowledge this time.

Brain Death:- Still waiting on placement decision. Culling née Euthanasia is taking a great interest and will support wholly if the outcome is positive.

Sacrifice:- Ritual Sacrifice's condition is deteriorating. Heroic Sacrifice would appreciate further support from the community, preferably donations made in blood.

Traffic on the Dark Endless Plain is still speeding although Trials have been done and nothing is planned at present.

Mortal fouling bins are requested on Sadism Lane, as there is a bad problem with corpse bags being thrown into the burning bushes. This is unfortunate, as this road is not on a collection route.

Date and time of next meeting:- The End of Human Civilisation (all being well).

VERBATIM (a.k.a. A Notice to be Read Aloud in an Exam Situation...on Opposite Day)

You must erase only in white ink or fountain pen, except for blotting and neat notes. You must erase all neat work in your question book and messily circle it with multiple noughts. You should circle any correct answers messily with multiple noughts. You must not use mistaking pens, solid or disc, blotters or liquid pens in your questions.

            You may not isolate another candidate in any way. You may not give hindrance to another candidate or ask for hindrance from another candidate. If you need to repulse an invigilator's ignorance you should put down your leg and insist.

CANON (a.k.a. A Tale Speculating on A Sudden Change in Legacy for a Classic Sci-fi TV Show)


            'First things first, let me make it abundantly clear that you're all safe job-wise. Just because we're bringing back Reactor Cannon doesn't mean that any of what you're doing has to come to an abrupt halt.
            'Now then, this is a rough breakdown of what we're going to do with the reboot. Yes, I did just use that dreaded word. I feel that it would work best in the current climate if we started fresh, returning to the TV show's sci-fi serial roots. Namely the 8-12 year old demographic. So as not to confuse the new audience, it just makes sense that we bring in an all-new cast.
            'But that doesn't mean we're dismissing the original 70's cast outright. In fact I have a rather crafty way of bringing them into the new series later on. However I think it'd be wiser if we focused on the new lot for the time being for obvious reasons.
            'To answer the question I see playing on John's lips, seen as how you have the original cast on contract for the 'Continued Adventures' audio dramas, you needn't worry. Carry on until the ends of their contracts and then we'll arrange something new. Love to them all by the way.
            'As for the novels, Tom, it'd be great if you could create a new series to follow the rebooted show. It'll mean splitting focus, perhaps toning down your magnificently rich and complex current series, but I'm confident you can manage it. I will, of course, be getting out a rundown of the first series episodes to you all as soon as we've settled on the order. We certainly don't want any crossed wires. I have a list of writers I want involved in the first few books. You included too, of course, Tom.
            'Now I just want to say welcome to the team, Pat, I've been hearing some fantastic things about your editorial skills on the web comics. I want to get in contact with you ASAP; as I'm sure you know we're bringing back the good old Reactor Cannon Monthly magazine and we'll need comics from the get-go. Am I right in thinking you have nothing in the works at the moment? Great.
            'Now I've got to be going; we're starting bright and early for auditions. Tomorrow we're looking for the next Estefan and Lorna. Trust me, we will find the best. Thanks, guys.'

TIME'S UP - Novel Extract
            'Shit,' Tom said. He sat at the corner of the bed. John was switching off the laptop at the table and Pat was just stepping into the bathroom. No matter how much they tried, they couldn't seek out enough space for themselves in the rather small hotel room. It was under Tom's name.
            Tom swept back his curly brown hair and bit his bottom lip with his overbite. He pulled his tie out from under the stiff collar of his cream shirt and threw it behind him.
            'Shit,' he said again.
            John looked back at him. The scrawny old man with snow-white hair looked anxious himself but he was holding a lot back, Tom could tell. There was a small rivalry between them.
            'Not to worry, old chap,' John eventually said. 'At least our projects are still green-lit.'
            'Oh fuck off, John,' Tom grumbled. 'Your radio series is fine.'
            'For the time being,' John said.
            Pat switched the light off in the bathroom. She was still brushing her short black hair. Tom realised that he could actually look her in the eye whilst sitting down, she was so small.
            'I don't really see what the problem is,' she said. 'Just more work.'
            'Weren't you listening?' Tom snapped. 'That was Peter's awfully polite way of telling us that our hard work for the past twenty years has just been largely disregarded.'
            'When did he say that exactly?'
            'It was in the subtext!'
            'Really, Tom.' John stood up. 'I don't think you need to shout at the girl.' He turned to Pat. 'I think what Tom is really angry about is the sudden change of canon.'
            'Canon?' Pat frowned.
            Tom sighed. 'She doesn't even know what canon is...'
            'You're familiar with how the original Reactor Cannon series ended, yes?' John said.
            Pat nodded. John smiled.
            'The satellite was destroyed with everyone on board. It was the king of all cliff-hangers. Now Tom and I have been working together since then to carry on the series, first as well-meaning fans then as thriving businessmen. We continued the story. I picked up from the cliff-hanger with my audio drama Remnants and then Tom began the novel line with his book Days of Reconstruction.
            'Since then we have taken the story in several directions. It was our story really until Peter announced he was bringing the show back. The story we had made was canon as far as the other fans were concerned. We had the license, we had the characters, we took them to hell and back.
            'However now Peter has just told us that the show is starting from the beginning, our story has to come to an end. It may no longer have meaning to the show's future, it may no longer be canon.'
            Pat shook her head. 'Sorry. I kept hearing canon as cannon.'
            Both Tom and John frowned at her.
            'As in Reactor Cannon,' Pat said. 'Two 'n's instead of one.'
            'Three 'n's,' Tom interrupted. 'God's sake.'
            'Look, do you remember what we were talking about in the lobby?' John said.
            Tom watched the old man run his lovable granddad routine on the little woman. She looked off into the distance above his head, one eye squinting. 'I have a vague recollection.'

AN HOUR AGO - Comic Script



PAT, steps through the hotel entrance doors, her scarf eschew. She isn't quite certain where to go and quite frankly the bright lights in the lobby are a little blinding. Perhaps we can show this through a slight squint in her eyes and flailing hands. Or is that too cartoony? I know, I know, this ain't the funny pages.


Close-up of JOHN, a rather dashing mature gentleman. He has his green coat folded over in his arm. He offers his other hand.

JOHN 1: You are Patricia May, yes?

JOHN 2: I'm John Bradford. Hello there.


PAT is quite taken with JOHN; she's always had a thing for older men. Make her a bit starry-eyed for me. She takes his hand.

PAT 1: Yes. Hi, John.

PAT 2: Sorry, who do you represent again?


They're moving up the lobby now, towards the stairwell. Long-shot, I suppose. JOHN is smiling.

JOHN: Grand Flourish Studios. I'm the chap who makes the audio adventures. CDs and so forth.

PAT: With the Reactor Cannon cast?

JOHN: Yes.


JOHN holds open the door for PAT. She's still gazing at him as she passes.

PAT: I'm the new editor of Space Age Comics.

JOHN: I heard.


They ascend the stairs. Is there a clean way of going from behind them to straight in front of them? Perhaps I'm over-thinking this. Either way, they're now side by side.

JOHN: I've even picked up a few issues.

PAT 1: I used to script a few. Perhaps you've read them?

PAT 2: I was sort of fast-tracked to this position.

JOHN: I see.



Long-shot - now it might be a good time to show them from behind again. Come to think of it, we should vary up the perspectives of this conversation. They've reached the first landing.

PAT: Do you know what's going on here today?

JOHN: Well, I've been led to believe that we're having a video call in Tom's room. You've met Tom, right? Tom Wallace?

PAT: Oh yes. The one with the teeth and curls?


Mid-shot - focus on JOHN. He's laughing at that one. He has quite a warm laugh if you can show that.

JOHN 1: Ha, ha. Yes, I suppose that's a good description as any.

JOHN 2: He's the chief editor of Beyond the Reactor Cannon novel series, by the way.


Mid-shot - focus on PAT. She's got an embarrassed smile on her face.

PAT: I know.


Long-shot behind - they start ascending the next set of steps.

JOHN 1: We often work together.

JOHN 2: We do squabble though.


Mid-shot in front of them - PAT turns to JOHN with a frown.

PAT: Squabble?


Mid-shot of JOHN.

JOHN 1: Oh, yes.  Mostly about what's canonical.

JOHN 2: Nearly there now, I think.



They reach the top of the stairs. Didn't really want that entire sequence to go on for that long. I'm starting to think an elevator would be a little less laborious.

PAT: Canonical?

JOHN: He thinks that not everybody got off the ship in the cliff-hanger. He says that there were prisoners still aboard.


They move towards the next set of doors. There's a sign beside them - ROOMS 40-50.

PAT: I thought it was a weapon satellite.

JOHN: It was.


They start up the corridor.

JOHN: They just kept a few dangerous characters in the lower parts. Nasty alien types that couldn't be just booted out into space.


I'm quite comfortable keeping behind them as they move up the corridor but it is of course up to you what would look more visually pleasing.

JOHN 1: I think they kicked the prisoners out before the final series but Tom insists that they were still aboard.

JOHN 2: He's written about them but I haven't once acknowledged their death in that way.


Mid-shot - they're standing outside Room 46, one on either side. JOHN knocks.

PAT: Oh. Okay.

JOHN: Fans never completely agree.


The door opens. TOM, all teeth and curls, is stood in front of them.

TOM 1: Come in, come in.

TOM 2: The computer's already booting up.

            'Well I'm glad she understands now,' Tom said, though he didn't really mean it. 'I suppose comics aren't too concerned with knowing the finer details.'
            'Excuse me?' Pat said.
            'It just doesn't seem to me like you know much about this show. You haven't really read up on it. Or even what John and I have done to keep the show going.'
            'Well, I'm very sorry that I'm not up to your level of knowledge,' Pat snapped, folding her arms. 'In case you didn't know I've only just taken this job. The previous editor never really told me much about the 'canons' of all our licenses. He just told me to keep an eye on the quality of the stories, run them by whoever owns the property from time to time.'
            'Please, Pat,' John said. 'Try not to take too much of what Tom says to heart. He's hurt because he now has extra work on his hands.' He turned to Tom. 'Which might just be a blessing, you know. For both of us.'
            Tom stood up. 'What do you mean?'
            'Like the man said, a fresh start. Isn't this what we both want, Tom? Reactor Cannon back on the air. What's more, we're going to help bring it back. This is our opportunity.'
            'And what will the original cast say?'
            'Oh, I've talked to most of them, they agree that they couldn't really re-enter the roles. It's a young man's show.'
            'Then why are they still doing the audios?'
            John sighed. 'Do I really have to spell it out, Tom? Their voices haven't changed much but their bodies have. There's no double standard here.'
            'Look, do we really have to argue?' Pat said.
            'You don't.' Tom turned to her. 'You're safe. Peter said as much.'
            'For goodness sake! We're all safe!' John raised his voice. 'We'll probably have to phase out our current projects eventually but that's it. The show is back, Tom! We've done our bit to keep it going and yet we're still wanted. Reactor Cannon hasn't been cancelled again, it's been rebooted!'
            Tom moved back to the bed, laying down. 'I hate that term.'
            'It's an Americanism, isn't it?' Pat said.
            'Yes.' John scratched his nose. 'I believe so.'
            Tom folded his arms. 'Always so confident, John.'
            'And what's wrong with that?' Pat said.
            John laughed. 'What's wrong with that indeed?'


SCENE 1 - INT Hotel Lobby. Background noises - guests booking in at the front desk, the clack and roll of wheeled luggage across linoleum floor, doors closing heavily, occasionally a phone ringing.

JOHN: Hello, Peter. This is John.

PETER: John? [beat] I thought we weren't holding the meeting for another hour or so yet.

JOHN: We still are. I just wanted to make a quick phone call before then.

PETER: What's up, John?

JOHN: I just wanted to let you know that our recording studios are ready for you as and when you need them.

PETER: Well that's great, John, but we didn't ask for that.

JOHN: I know. I'm just [beat] planning ahead, as it were.

PETER: John. I hope this isn't an attempt at bribery.

[JOHN laughs]

JOHN: Of course not, Peter! Perish the thought! I just thought you might need to borrow some of the sound effects and what not. Do you have everything you need?

PETER: Right now, yes.

JOHN: Fantastic. That's fantastic. I just wanted to let you know that all you have to do is ask. Grand Flourish is very happy to get involved with Reactor Cannon's comeback, very happy to ally our unique resources with yours.

PETER: That's great, John. Your enthusiasm is commendable. Just maybe tone it down a bit until we've got everyone on board. [beat] Okay?

JOHN: Yes. Yes, that is okay.

PETER: Talk again in a bit, John.

[SFX: a button being depressed on a phone]

JOHN: Okay.

[JOHN sighs]

            'Fine,' Tom said. 'I suppose it won't kill me to bring out a new line. I am a bloody publisher after all, I have to get stuff out no matter how much it compromises my previous work.'
            'That's good.' Pat smiled. 'And, worst comes to worse, we can always meet to discuss the new canonical state.'
            'That's just canon, Pat,' John said.
            Tom stood up. 'I don't think she quite has it yet.'
            'I don't think any of us have it yet.' John approached him.
            'Well, I'm going downstairs for a drink.'
            'We'll join you,' Pat said.
            They all moved towards the door. Pat looked up at John.
            'So, John, are you available?'
            He frowned. 'What do you mean?'
            'Sorry, got that out a bit wrong. Are you single?'
            'Oh. Yes.' John's face softened as he held open the door for her. 'Who would have me anyway?'
            Pat gave him a wry sideways glance. Tom was already at the elevator, thumbing the button and muttering to himself. He had something of a plan fixing together in his head, very simple but relevant.
            'It'll have to do,' he said.