Stage of Fools and other stories

‘Stage of Fools’ is a quote from Shakespeare’s King Lear. However, I used it as the title of a short story in which a theatre director decides to stage a production of The Medea, a Greek tragedy by Euripedes. Peter, the director, is a pretentious fool with ideas well above his station and talent. In the meanime his marriage to his French wife, Justine, is falling apart and while Peter is looking for funding by seducing the daughter of a rich publisher, Justine (like Medea) is plotting her revenge.

I have always had a ‘thing’ about The Medea ever since I studied it in the second year of my OU degree. However, I never imagined it would become the plot of a short story!

Here is an exceprt from Stage of Fools, the last and longest story in An Irrational Fear of Dogs and other short stories.

It was a fascination with Greek tragedy, brought on no doubt by a boy’s experiences of the Classics at public school that led Peter Meadows to follow his childhood ambition and stage a West End production of Medea. Now approaching that milestone age which shall only be spoken in whispers when one is quasi-famous, he believed it to be now or never. Justine preferred never, but then always more pragmatic and less self-indulgent than her husband, she was the one who paid (or frequently didn’t pay when they had no money) the ever increasing bills that fanned themselves out on the floor of the porch like the spreading flare of a peacock’s tail feathers, vying for attention.

‘They’ll take care of themselves,’ Peter would say if she tutted and then throw them over his shoulder to land in a pile on the floor.

‘Non cherie, they will not,’ she replied and picked them up, stuffing them into the sagging pockets of her long brown cardigan, before adding them to the teetering pile that was now becoming a fire hazard in the conservatory.

Thus began the daily ritual of will they won’t they which perfectly demonstrated the widening chasm between two people who had met at university when the whole world stretched out before them, filled with happiness and opportunity. Peter, two years older than Justine, was dashing, attractive and extremely persuasive. The year was 1988 and he was in his third year reading Drama at Reading University when the beautiful exchange student walked into the bar of the Student’s Union and asked for a glass of Chardonnay in perfect, yet broken, English. Slim, chic and better dressed than the average university student, she was obviously French.

‘I’ll get that,’ Peter said to the barmaid (another of his recent conquests but no hard feelings eh), who was pouring Hock out of a wine box, ‘and I’ll have a beer.’

It didn’t take him long to discover that Justine, as her name turned out to be, was in her first year studying the Classics at the Sorbonne and was in England to discover the museums and art galleries.

‘J’adore Oxford, en particulier le musée Ashmolean.’

‘Then we must go there,’ Peter replied, everyone at his school had at least passed basic O level French, ‘I know, let’s go tomorrow and take a picnic and go boating on the river.’

Within a week they were sharing his digs and were head over heels in love.

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The sweet smell of lilies reminds me…

Ok that sounds like an observation. It’s actually another excerpt from
An Irrational Fear of Dogs and other short stories. This one is called The Sweet Smell of Lilies. So here goes…

Lilies remind me of funerals. Not a very original observation, I hear you thinking. Why not roses or gardenias or boring old Sweet Williams or those plants that everyone loves the smell of except me, stocks, I think they are called. No there is something about lilies, especially white ones, that is associated with death.

The 8.22 from Cheltenham is rumbling past Didcot Power Station. ‘Choo choo,’ it goes. I look for the Fat Controller but he isn’t there. Only a thin man with a gaunt face and a copy of the Guardian and a woman with cheap luggage and cheap shoes. She has poisoned her entire family and fled her home in the country to run away with the thin man with the gaunt face. But her cheap luggage and the Guardian are too mismatched so I give up there and then.

At Paddington there is a crowd thronging around some event of which I have no knowledge. A minor celebrity has stepped down from the train perhaps and collapsed on the floor, having been shot twice in the leg and chest by a crazed fan with a Colt.45. I am sure I can smell sulphur. The police come quickly. Everyone will be arrested. I must flee the crime scene quickly in case they think it was me. The evidence is in my handbag. My fingerprints are all over the gun.

‘Help! Help! It wasn’t me,’ I cry, ‘I am innocent. I was on a train passing Didcot Power Station at the time officer. You can ask the Fat Controller or the thin man…..’

Suddenly a man with a small moustache stands up in the middle of the throng and brushes himself down. He is embarrassed, I can see that.

‘I am so sorry,’ he says, ‘I tripped.’

The crowd moves on, uncaring now. I move with them. I have an appointment with death. I am going to my uncle’s funeral in Willesden. He died in suspicious circumstances. He was poisoned. He was alone at the time you see…

You live and learn

What a total ….. up my first effort at self-publishing turned out to be. Probem is that I am used to proof reading on paper so it is only when I received my ‘test’ hard copy this morning that I spotted all the mistakes!

Firstly – no table of contents.
Secondly – no page numbering (don’t know why but I thought this would just happen automatically).
Thirdly – one big typo on the back cover (not too bad I guess).
Fourthly – the spacing was different for different stories.

So there you have it!
But less pages now and slightly cheaper. Just wish I hadn’t bought so many copies to give my friends.
And I got rid of the original A4 version.

So once again it’s at An Irrational Fear of Dogs and other short stories

I’m so excited!

Yes I am still going on about my new book which I just self-published on Lulu.com. I can’t wait to get my copies and see what it looks like. I’m so excited!
Have a look at An Irrational Fear of Dogs and other short stories

Here is yet another extract. This is from a story called The Indulgence:

‘How long have you been dead?’ asked the angel, not even looking up once at the pretty young woman sitting across the desk in front of him.
‘About 30 years,’ she replied. ‘I am not sure. Time moves slowly when you have nothing to do.’
‘Do you miss your children? Your family?’
‘I don’t know,’ she said, ‘I can’t remember. Did I have any? Children that is, I must have had a family of some sort. Is this a job interview?’
‘Some might call it that. Personally I would call it an “indulgence”.’ The angel dipped his pen in a bottle of Quink and continued scratching shapes on the page.
‘Have I been good? Is that why you are “indulging” me?’
‘It’s not about good or bad,’ he replied, ‘it’s just your time.’
‘30 years? Is that my time?’ She fidgeted nervously.
‘Yes,’ said the angel, never even glancing at this small, slight woman who was twitching and rubbing her hands together. Anyone with a modicum of compassion would have appreciated how she felt. But not him…
‘Am I still pretty?’ She asked.
‘I wouldn’t know,’ he replied. ‘That’s not my department. You need to ask someone from the Department of Girlfriends, Models and Attention Seekers, or DoGMAS for short.’