Archive for the ‘fiction’ Category

The last bit of fiction for you in this run…

As I’ve mentioned previously:

Elephant Words was a fiction site to which I contributed stories, on and off, for several years. The idea behind the site was simple, based on the old tale of several blind people describing an elephant based only on touch; one described the animal as a long snake, another that it was hard and bony, still another that it was like a tree trunk. Every week, one of the participants would put up an image, and over the following week, people would write a story inspired upon the image alone.

Occasionally, a story didn’t need the image to contextualise the tale, but I always tried to use it to the point that if the image wasn’t there, I’d have had to change something about the story.

Here’s another one of them; an image, and the story it inspired me to write.


EMPTY CHAIRS AT EMPTY PLACES

“Epsilon Theta Radiation.”

The words hung in the air for a long moment before the short, squat man sat at the desk swore, eloquently but softly. The captain rubbed his hand over his face. He was tired, too tired, but he lifted his eyes from the image on his desk to the man wearing the lieutenant’s uniform.

“How bad?” he asked the slim man, standing to attention before his desk.

“Bad enough to affect the best camera we had on board,” the lieutenant replied. “We tried scanning with different filters but there’s so many different strains in the air that… Well, that’s the best we could do.”

The captain glanced at the ship’s chronometer. The dial was orange. The poison even reached out into space, edging its way through the ships protection. An hour and the colour would be pink, and they’d have to leave. Three hours after that and it’d turn red. And they’d all be dead, whether they knew it or not.

“No survivors?” he asked, disappointed at himself for asking the question. If there had been, his crew would have told him.

“None,” the lieutenant confirmed. The captain listened for any contempt in the younger man’s voice and was mildly surprised to find none.

“What did you do with the bodies?”

“There weren’t any,” came the reply from the third man in the room, a lean saturnine faced man, sitting on a chair to the side, and suddenly the captain was wide awake. He stood and came around from behind the desk, staring down at his subordinate.

“Say that again, Commander,” he demanded, then repeated it before the other man could say a word.

“There weren’t any bodies, captain,” the man said, allowing just a trace of excitement into his voice. “Not just there, but anywhere. Not a single body on the planet.”

The captain turned and gripped his lieutenant’s arm. “Are you sure, man? Are you absolutely sure?”

The lieutenant struggled to keep his face impassive, somehow won the battle, and with a voice of stone, reported that his team had scanned, scoured and searched for eighty-six hours and they had detected not a single sentient life form on the planet.

The captain returned to his seat, and fell into it, his brow suddenly covered in sweat.

“They did it”, he whispered. “They finally did it. Those bastards in the science department finally came up with the perfect weapon – to eliminate all life forms, all traces of life forms and yet leave infrastructure untouched.”

He wiped his brow.

“How long before we can scrub the radiation and the planet can support life?”

“With the new anti-rad treatments?” the commander spoke aloud, leaning forward, his face crumpled in thought. “About fifty years.”

“Acceptable,” rapped out the captain, now all business. “Convey my compliments to the science department, Commander. Let Fleet Command know of the success and start transmitting the paperwork around the other ships.”

He smiled for the first time in months, and took another look at the static image on his desk.

Blue water, eh? He wondered briefly whether that was an effect of the radiation bombardment and whether the indigenous population had also been blue; he’d not bothered to check them out before ordering the attack.

He dismissed the other two officers and leaned back in his chair, his eyes straying again to the out of focus image.

Fifty years? Hell, maybe he’d retire here; it looked like such a nice place, after all.

© Lee Barnett


See you tomorrow… 

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

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2017 minus 19: Nathaniel Spong

Posted: 13 December 2016 in 2017 minus, fiction
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Couple of housekeeping announcements, mainly to get them out of the way.

For the past few years, either ‘yesterday’ or ‘today’, I’ve used this blog to announce the start of Twelve Days Of Fast Fiction. Not this year. For various reasons, including that oflack of interest from others, I’m not running them. this year. They may return in a future format – Comic Relief 2017 is in a few months, after all – but I’m taking a break from doing them. Besides, I wrote over 50 of them, over a five year period, and they’re here on the blog any time anyone wants to read them.

Secondly, it hit me earlier that we’re in new territory here; while I’ve done several countdowns to major events: my birthday, a general election, end of the year etc., they’ve always been 50 day countdowns. This is a 75 day countdown and we’re already past 50 entries.

Still, that means you only have another 19 entries to read. Unless i keep it going into January for a few days… which I might do. I’m not sure but I may do it.

One last thing. I hope you’re enjoying the entries. I mean to say, I’m not writing them so you won’t enjoy them, but I’m deliberately not looking at the ‘stats’ page, so I’ve genuinely no idea how many people are reading this. It could be a dozen people, it could be 100. Or more. I’ll just say ‘thank you for stopping by’ if you are reading them, and hope you’re having a good close to the year.

OK, right, moving on…


Something I wrote a long time ago, but I want it part of this run, and most people haven’t read it… so

The Tale Of Nathaniel Spong

This is the tale of Nathaniel Spong
Whose resolution was to do no wrong.
For one whole year, decided Nat.
Now, what could possibly go wrong with that?

So come the new year, our Mr Spong
Commenced the plan he’d decided upon
And made a list of things to do
Which took him up until January 2.

And all at once, he realised an error
And felt himself fill with terror –
How could he handle the year to come
When he’d forgotten to call his Dad and his Mum?

A phone call was made and later on
He realised at once what he’d done wrong;
He hadn’t listed enough parameters!
What else could happen? Something calamitous?

He lengthened his list, writing more and more
And before he knew it, it was January 4.
The list kept growing, day and night
Until there was no more left to write.

And then Nathaniel thought to relax,
He’d protected himself against attacks:
Of guilt, or worry, of doing wrong.
Oh, pity the fate of Nathaniel Spong.

For little did he know that bright winter’s day
What was about to happen would lead him astray
To the extent that his plan would fall to dust
And all because of the sin of lust.

For there was a lady, a lovely gel
Whose very presence made hearts swell
With love and sweetness and kindness and how
(A pity then that she was a right cow!)

Young Susan Smythe was by nature a user;
Who’d ensure that each beau was really a loser.
But hopefully wealthy, indeed even rich.
A 100% total right b…

At a party they met, set up by a mate
Of Nathaniel’s who’d wanted to do a blind date
For his pal, who he knew had no social life
But discovered she wanted to be his wife.

She courted Nathaniel, did our young Sue
And suddenly Nat found the number grew
Of things that earlier had seemed so wrong
When that list had been so big, so long.

With Susan, all was right for Spong,
Or so he thought, but ere very long
Nat had reason to check his banking arrangements
To see whether he could afford this sudden engagement.

To his horror he found when he looked at his balance
That Susan had made the most of her talents
And milked the account for all she was worth
So that Mr Spong had not a penny on earth.

She vanished the next day when her crimes had appeared.
And look though he could, she had disappeared
Along with his spondooliks, his money, his cash
And though his friends cautioned him, he did something rash.

And restarted the list, by the light of the moon
After all, it was only the seventh of June.
Plenty of time to put his new plan into play
To take over the world by New Year’s Day.

The list of what wouldn’t now be allowed
Extended beyond Nat, to the increasing crowd
Of people who supported Spong’s Plan for the planet
And affected those who ostensibly ran it.

Governments around the world
Heard of this plan and began to yield
To the ever increasing clamour for change
For something new, no matter how strange.

A week before New Year’s and Nathaniel Spong
Had overthrown all that was wrong
Countries now answered to his every whim.
Who decided everything? Well, he did – yes, him.

The drawback of this imaginative plan
Struck him as he was deciding who can
Run the bus route between one street and another
And which of two women was really the mother.

Solomon’s idea was to split the child
A barbaric plan, Nat declared in a lilt.
He granted custody to both women forever
And insisted that they bring up the child together.

The list of what he decided increased
Until he was deciding the very least
Decision: whether the walls should be blue or pink.
“Can’t any of you people for yourselves think?”

Bored by this in 48 hours
Nathaniel returned the levers of powers
To those who’d been democratically elected
And he dissolved the power structures erected.

This took a couple of frustrating days, during
Which the world returned to its pre-Spong days
Leaving Nathaniel Spong at the New Year’s chimes
Living, as they say, in “Interesting Times”…

© Lee Barnett


See you tomorrow, with something else. 

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

Some more fiction for you… As I’ve mentioned previously:

Elephant Words was a fiction site to which I contributed stories, on and off, for several years. The idea behind the site was simple, based on the old tale of several blind people describing an elephant based only on touch; one described the animal as a long snake, another that it was hard and bony, still another that it was like a tree trunk. Every week, one of the participants would put up an image, and over the following week, people would write a story inspired upon the image alone.

Occasionally, a story didn’t need the image to contextualise the tale, but I always tried to use it to the point that if the image wasn’t there, I’d have had to change something about the story.

Here’s another one of them; an image, and the story it inspired me to write.


 

PERMANENT MARKER

The restraints were the first thing he noticed when consciousness returned; thick leather pressed into his forehead and he wondered whether it would leave a mark. The thought seemed puzzlingly amusing, but his body was lethargic and he couldn’t have laughed even had he wanted to.

A groan started somewhere deep in his chest but barely made it out of his throat as a long sigh as his eyelids flickered and his vision, blurry at first, focused upon the lilac glove in front of his face.

“I wouldn’t bother,” a strong confident voice said, not unkindly. “Really,” the voice continued, “you’ve got enough drugs in you to stop any strong attempt, and any weaker effort will just make it worse. Trust me, I know.” And that was when the view in front of him snapped into focus, and for the first time he was genuinely scared.

“Ah, you’re waking up properly,” the voice said, seemingly pleased. The man in the chair looked at the tattooist. He knew what was about to happen and he tried to make his limbs work, but they resisted every entreaty from his brain; the signals just wouldn’t get through. The tattooist moved his facial muscles and with sudden insight, the man realised the figure holding the tattoo needle was smiling; it was an odd smile, as if the person making it had once been told how to smile and was attempting to exactly follow the instructions.

There was no further noise for a moment, and then the needle buzzed twice. The tattooist looked away, and there was a sharp short nod of the head and an equally short sharp exhalation, as if confirmation had been sought and obtained. “Just a bit of business to get out of the way first,” the man with the needle said, then pressed a button and the needle buzzed again, louder now as it approached the restrained man.

“You have been found guilty of…” another look away, then back, “well, no need for the full list; suffice to say that you have been a naughty boy, haven’t you?” He didn’t wait for an answer; he knew none would be forthcoming. “And your sentence? Harsh, but that’s the law for you, I’m afraid,” he sighed, as if reluctant to continue.

There was a quick movement of the hand and the needle buzzed; the man felt the briefest pressure on his cheek and then the tattooist leaned back.

Was that it, the man in the chair wondered. Was that what all the fuss was about? His eyes widened and the tattooist laughed. “Oh, no…” he continued, “that was just me signing my work. Always nice to get it out of the way, at the start; it’s messier afterwards. The drugs you’ve been given will stop you protesting, but will, of course, intensify the pain. All part of the sentence, I’m afraid.”

The man tried to struggle, but his limbs remained as still as if he was consciously remaining as still as possible.

“Now, you’re to be tattooed inside your eyes and your mouth, your Adam’s apple and soles of your feet, as per your sentence. Solid areas of ink, as coarse as possible.”

There was a sharp exclamation as the tattooist put down the needle, and then shook his head. “I’m terribly sorry,” he said, “I always forget this part.” Then he lifted a bottle of single malt scotch and drank it down in nine large swallows. Then he placed the bottle down, lifted another full bottle, and the man saw the amber liquid swallowed. “I’m supposed to be dead drunk,” the tattooist said, then he burped twice, and shakily lifted the needle. “That’s better.” Another belch.

“Open wide,” he said. And smiled again.

And then lilac glove and needle both grew large in the restrained man’s vision as the tattooist leaned forward and commenced work, humming quietly to himself as he administered the latest sentence passed under The Restorative Justice Act 2037.

© Lee Barnett


See you tomorrow, with something else. 

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

Some more fiction for you… As I’ve mentioned previously:

Elephant Words was a fiction site to which I contributed stories, on and off, for several years. The idea behind the site was simple, based on the old tale of several blind people describing an elephant based only on touch; one described the animal as a long snake, another that it was hard and bony, still another that it was like a tree trunk. Every week, one of the participants would put up an image, and over the following week, people would write a story inspired upon the image alone.

Occasionally, a story didn’t need the image to contextualise the tale, but I always tried to use it to the point that if the image wasn’t there, I’d have had to change something about the story.

Here’s another one of them; an image, and the story it inspired me to write.


 

THAT MORNING

The fat old man sat at the table, idly watching the patrons of the small coffee shop as they entered, ordered, consumed their fare, and exited.
He was a regular patron, always arriving around ten in the morning; always staying about ninety minutes. The waitresses – for it was a coffee shop that held to the old traditions, despite only having been in business for twenty years – liked the old man. He tipped well, for one thing. And given their location, and the type of clientele that frequented that area of the city, he was polite. Never obsequious nor affected; merely… polite.

He washed as well.

This set him apart from many of the other customers, some of whom seemed to view personal hygiene as an optional extra during this portion of their lives. Not the old man, though. Every morning, he’d… arrive. None of the waitresses, had they thought about it, ever remembered him walking into the coffee shop. Nor, had they been asked, and correctly recalled, had any of them seen him leave. Oh, they could remember him pushing his chair back, recall him patting his right trouser pocket and the brief smile every day as he discovered enough change to pay for the toasted rye bread and the cups of tea he’d ordered and duly consumed. They would enjoy the moment as he found he had just enough change to leave a generous, though not overgenerous, gratuity. He always had just enough change. And as they moved towards the counter to pick up one of the pink and grey towels to clean the table, they would ask themselves why every customer wasn’t like the fat old man.

That morning, the fat old man had been sat at his table (he always thought of it as his table) for a little over an hour, enjoying the flow of people. Business had been slow in the coffee shop, but in the primary reason for his being there, the red painted wooden fronted store with the garish yellow sign across the road, trade was brisk. And with every purchase made, the old man shuddered almost invisibly. As every patron entered, he smiled. As every customer left, he smiled. Not quite as widely. But he smiled nonetheless.

The door to the coffee shop opened and a shadow fell over the old man and his table. He knew who had entered without looking up. And he frowned. No one could have detected the frown, but then he had perfected the art of invisible expression when he had been young, when none of those present (apart from the newcomer) had known him. And even had they known him, it was unlikely that they would have recognised him in the dowdy suit that had seen better days, and the faded brown overcoat.

Then the shadows moved, and the newcomer followed them. A large man, in that way that mountains have of being large, walked to the old man’s table and without waiting to be asked, sat.

They smiled, genuinely pleased to see each other again, though equally concerned at what point the other might lift a weapon or in some other way indicate unhappiness.

It could be argued that gods rarely spend time in coffee shops; it is an argument one would lose. And whether that is because of the nature of gods or the nature of coffee shops is a hypothesis best not considered.

But as the patrons filed in and out of both the coffee shop and the sex shop, the Greek god of pleasure and the Roman god of war discussed demarcation.

© Lee Barnett


See you tomorrow, with something else. 

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

Some more fiction for you… As I’ve mentioned previously:

Elephant Words was a fiction site to which I contributed stories, on and off, for several years. The idea behind the site was simple, based on the old tale of several blind people describing an elephant based only on touch; one described the animal as a long snake, another that it was hard and bony, still another that it was like a tree trunk. Every week, one of the participants would put up an image, and over the following week, people would write a story inspired upon the image alone.

Occasionally, a story didn’t need the image to contextualise the tale, but I always tried to use it to the point that if the image wasn’t there, I’d have had to change something about the story.

Here’s another one of them; an image, and the story it inspired me to write.


 


CONTINUITY OF POWER

As the Prime Minister left the chamber, he smiled. His final appearance at the dispatch box had gone precisely as he’d hoped it would, neither a complete triumph nor a total disaster. He knew what the members of his Cabinet would say to each other after he left. They’d say he’d done “all right”. He knew the opinions that would be expressed by his backbenchers, when they gravitated towards one of the many bars in the House of Commons. They’d agree that he’d done “all right”. And he knew what the press would print. Again, they’d be unanimous in their view that he’d done “all right”.

“All right.” Those two words had followed him throughout his political career like a persistent smell. He chuckled to himself; so many people thought he was annoyed at the phrase, but in contrast to how many of his predecessors had left office to approbrium, he knew beyond peradventure that he was leaving at his own accord, on his own timetable. And that, too, was “all right”.

And now he walked. He glanced at his wristwatch, pleased that he’d timed his exit so well. He had another fifteen minutes yet before his final meeting of the day, the final meeting of his premiership in fact. He intended to enjoy every moment of it. And so he walked, a gentle stroll, unaccompanied except for the large man with the padded jacket who walked a few paces ahead of him, his eyes constantly moving.

He walked past members of parliament, some of whom nodded politely in his direction; others smiled, while the rest just scowled. But that was expected as well. He walked through the corridors, enjoying the musty scent of history. He nodded at a particular portrait on the wall, a short sharp movement of his head, a personal quirk he’d picked up twenty years ago when first elected. He’d been told that the subject had allowed principle to supersede policy. And so he nodded, which was so much more polite than laughing at the stupidity of this long dead politician.

He continued to walk, surrounded by memories of times gone past, of years spent in obscurity before the sudden rise to power. He’d never liked opposition, but had barely liked ministerial portfolios any better; responsible for everything and affecting nothing was how a colleague had put it, and the Prime Minister had thought the same before his appointment to the highest office.

His watch vibrated twice, and he sighed. No more wanderings, no more power. He smiled, memories of what he’d done while in office, the sheer fun of patronage, the delight he’d taken in reshuffling his oponents to meaningless ministries: Minister of Sport (with special responsibility for droughts and floods) had been a favourite.

He paused outside his private office. His final meeting, his final minutes as Prime Minister.

“I won’t be long,” he said to his bodyguard, who duly planted himself outside as he walked into the room. The room was empty when he walked in, but by the time he’d closed the door, the demon had appeared and was leaning on the large desk, picking his long shiny teeth with what appeared to be a sharpened bit of bone.

“Ready?” the demon asked, although it knew the answer. The man had been ready for over a year. For one year, one month, one day, one hour, and one minute to be exact. It knew the man currently inhabiting the body of the Prime Minister was done. The demon watched the man fall to the ground as a purple mist surrounded the body. Then the fog evaporated and the man stood, and stretched his arms and legs, enjoying his new body. In the chamber of the House of Commons, the sitting was suspended as for the fifth year in succession as yet another member of parliament succumbed to a fatal heart attack.

The Prime Minister blinked twice, and smiled at the demon. “See you next year,” he said jauntily and left the room, heading towards his first meeting of the day.

© Lee Barnett


See you tomorrow, with something else. 

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

Some more fiction for you… As I’ve mentioned previously:

Elephant Words was a fiction site to which I contributed stories, on and off, for several years. The idea behind the site was simple, based on the old tale of several blind people describing an elephant based only on touch; one described the animal as a long snake, another that it was hard and bony, still another that it was like a tree trunk. Every week, one of the participants would put up an image, and over the following week, people would write a story inspired upon the image alone.

Occasionally, a story didn’t need the image to contextualise the tale, but I always tried to use it to the point that if the image wasn’t there, I’d have had to change something about the story.

Here’s another one of them; an image, and the story it inspired me to write.


 

POINTED CONVERSATION

Long after the last visitors had left for the day, in those hours after dusk fell but before night commenced, they summoned him. He entered the big room, wiping the sweat from his forehead and cursing. They ignored the former, and didn’t care about the latter. As long as he came when they called, that was all that counted. He was taller than many, this man who constantly sweated and swore, but all of them gathered could remember taller, though none less diligent. He had inherited his role, as had his father before him, and that man’s father before him, and so on going back as long as there had been plants here, long before Kew Gardens existed.

The man took off his coat and casually dropped it carelessly upon the path. All present noted, however, that no part of the coat covered anything green; the man would not make that mistake again. Not after the first and last time. He stepped over one of the short runs of chicken wire and prepared to lay upon the cacti. This was a part the man disliked intensely, yet those present cared little for his preferences, and to be truthful, even the man knew the discomfort was as nothing compared to the unpleasantness of the communication.

As the thousands of pinpricks entered his skin, the plants around him moved; ferns covered his extremities and the man felt a rush of warm air as the door to the carnivorous plants was pushed open. He could smell the unpleasant odour but he knew they were merely there as guards, protectors for the president of the gardens. He looked up as the stag fern stretched out to him, covered his face and received his report, then gave him further instructions. No, the triffids had not been found yet; yes, there were some plants not native to the UK intended for bedding shortly; no, the amount they paid him was not enough, but would have to suffice.

Later, when the man had gone, once again the old arguments commenced, but as always the president had the final word. The private investigator of the plant world would continue his duties, and the plants would endure.

Soon the lights would come, and the water, and the plants – even the carnivores – would be happy.

Until they were not…

© Lee Barnett


See you tomorrow, with something else. 

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

I like coming up with ideas for stories. I like it even more when I get the idea down on paper and turn it into a story. Many wise people – far wiser than me* – have made the point* that any idiot can come up with ideas… it’s finishing a story that turns you into a writer. 

* not hard
** repeatedly, yo me

And while I enjoy reading other people’s stories, occasionally I wish I’d come up with the idea myself. Like the comic book whose creator pitched it as Witness Protection Scheme, but they’re placed in different time zones, and the master list is discovered by criminals with their own time machine. What a great idea, and possibly, just possibly, one I could have come up with, but didn’t.

Then there are the many, many more ideas that other people have and I know that I’d never have come up with the idea. I’m currently enjoying the television shows Blindspot and Quantico; no way on earth would I have come up with either idea though, not even if I’d had a decade to think of a puzzle-drama show.

(Small diversion; while typing Quantico, my autocorrect changed it to Quantick… and now I desperately want David Quantick to guest-star in Quantico.)   

Ideas.

Every so often, like any writer, I’m asked “where do you get your ideas from?”

After 700-odd fast fictions, and a few dozen other stories, I’d be lying if I said I knew where every story came from. Some came from snippets of conversation, some  from hearing a piece of news and wondered ‘but what if…?” Still others have come from mixing and matching ideas I’ve had that just didn’t work individually but synergistically they combined. 

And one fast fiction, I recall, came from a pun upon the word chosen – halibut – that just ‘worked’ with the title offered; as I recall, I’d been playing with puns for something else and I was already in that frame of mind.

All of the foregoing is just introduction to explaining the following.

The idea for the story below was prompted by something that happened decades before I wrote it, a drunken, stoned and very silly evening at university, playing Trivial Pursuit. Something happened, something was said by my closest friend at the time. 

And almost 10,000 days later, I was asked to write a piece of fast fiction for A Thing and the story below … directly inspired by that night, that comment…  was what resulted. 

Enjoy.


THE JOB

And to think that three weeks ago, all I knew about the alimentary canal was that it had no gondolas.

And now I’m immersed in it, clearing out the detritus from last night’s excesses for a woman who’d rather pay than trust her own enzymes to do the job. The limits of miniaturisation mean that I’m shrunk to about the size of a medium-sized beetle. And she has to swallow me.

And I have to be swallowed. The suit protects me against everything other than odour, but it’s not as unpleasant as it sounds. 

I’ve told the lie so often to new recruits, but they correctly never believe me. Because yes, of course, yes it is. It’s exactly as unpleasant as it sounds, but it’s a job. And it pays. 

She can feel me inside her, moving through her pharynx and then oesophagus, before reaching her stomach. Once there, I squirt a compound made up of acetic and hydrochloric acids and her own concentrated digestive juices, harvested while she slept. Oh, and the company’s Solvent X. I don’t know what’s in Solvent X. I don’t want to know. The rumours are bad enough. Then it’s another squirt, with some kind of solidifying gel; compresses it down to 1000th of the volume.

The sludge that’s left is sucked up into the container on my back. I don’t ask where it’s later emptied, but ever since that outbreak of food poisoning last summer, I no longer eat in the subsidised staff canteen. 

They paralyse her once I’m in and later movement is involuntary, which suits me fine.

An hour later, I’ve finished and I trigger the reflexor, which in turn forces me down and then out with the waste. It’s a crap job, I’ll agree, but it’s a living.

© Lee Barnett


See you tomorrow, with something… different. I’m not quite sure what yet, but I have a plan. And if it works, then it’ll be something special for you tomorrow.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.