The Ambitious Drifter

Words, Images and The Occasional Noise


A New Flash Fiction Contest!

What’s the most important (or interesting, or unexpected) thing about blogging you know today that you didn’t know a month ago?

A new fiction contest, 225 words within the day. It’s a good creative exercise and it really makes my Friday.  There are prizes to be won! It’s from Faber’s, a famous name in publishing.  I love challenges and this contest really involves writing to a deadline. If you want some writing practice, add this to your calendar!

I submitted this piece to the Faber Academy  Quickfic challenge this week.

  I need to include the original prompt photo so that the piece makes sense. In line with the Ambitious Drifter’s house rules, I’ve also included one of my own photos.

faber promp2t

 The Family Album

 Do you remember this one? It was Florence, one of those weekends away. You  always were a different child, always the centre of attention, always with a crowd  around you. Showing off mainly, even at that age.  Mugging the pigeons for seed, I  think you thought they were getting peanuts or sweets. The talk! ‘Don’t they feed  that child?’ You know the kind of thing. Your poor Mum didn’t know where to put  her face. I suppose there’s always one, you were ours. No wonder Terry wouldn’t  come on holiday with us after that!

Getting you back wasn’t easy either. That bloody dog didn’t help one bit. I wasn’t surprised, but plenty were. Flying off like that. Couldn’t you have a been a normal kid and just run away with the circus?

If your Mum hadn’t had that Mars bar in her handbag I don’t know what we would have done. I’m sure there’s a photo of it somewhere, though I was too busy to take one myself. There you were, sitting on top of that frightful Neptune statue. Thank God it wasn’t the ‘David’ but that had netting around it. It’s lucky that the Carabinerie have a sense of humour, I suppose it’s the comic opera uniforms. Florentines are so laid back, ‘Bambini eh?’ a shrug, a smile. Perhaps they’d seen it all before.

Well, you grew out of it in the end, luckily. You probably don’t remember the seagulls at Whitby either. What a day that was!

wpid-img_20141206_003234.jpgFrom my lounge window, Figeac, France.

More Fiction

 Mr Faraday’s Cage & Other Tales of Obscure Science. 

Mostly Frank

 Copyright notice.


In My Beginning Is My End

I wrote this short piece for the Faber Academy‘s Friday QuickFic contest. Flash fictioneers should check it out!  Yes, it’s the ‘Faber’ from Faber & Faber, the famous publishers. This week’s prompt came from a  quote by TS Eliot, one of  their most illustrious writers. For some of us, he IS Faber. If you’ve never read it, I recommend you read ‘East Coker’.  My piece has references from the poem, although that wasn’t necessary for this fun creative exercise. 

I didn’t win, but a fellow WordPresser did, very good it was too!

In My Beginning Is My End

My kitchen is all old stones, I look to make sense of them every day. I’d have them plastered, but there’s words in there. One day when the light is right, I’ll see them clear enough. One wall was chopped out of the rock, too neat to be anybody but the Romans. What stood on this site is barely known, but the stones are everywhere along this road. I live in the kitchens of a castle, itself as old as Richard the First. In the mornings I am older than any of that and further along into my life. My knee is turning to stone as I shuffle down the stairs. Each day I am a little more of a fossil.

I live along a pilgrim road, older than the shrine they’re going to. The pilgrims are living artefacts, some trudge past each day. It’s a very long walk from here, but it doesn’t seem to stop them from coming. It will end in glory, even if they never get across those fierce mountains. They have begun and that is everything. To die on the road is reward itself. However is the ending, is the ending.

For me, another coffee, staring at the intriguing walls. I make patterns, I see patterns, patterns emerge. It’s my only pilgrimage, the best I can manage now. Surprised to be an old man, I must still be an explorer.


Dried vine tendril


Where Do You Come From?

Some flash fiction for this week’s challenge. Thought up as I got my dinner ready. The essential question, ‘Where do you come from?’

The storm, they said, was a once every two hundred years one. But I don’t know how they count off the time. The tree had been through two at least, but this one had been too much. I heard it go over, through the walls and with my feet. It sounded closer than it was.  It was off in the woods, a bit up the road. In the morning it stood out like a missing tooth, a gap in the trees where the light came in. The council men were already there, it’d blocked off half the road. The tree had gone clutching a fist of soil, wrenching out a crater and toppling rocks down the hill.  They’d already sawed the trunk in half.  In the hole there were stones and bones. The police had just been called.

They arrived in a hurry, as you’d expect, but didn’t stay here long. This may have once been a murder, but it was not for them. They taped off the scene and warned us all, ‘no taking souvenirs now!’  They left slowly, disappointed I think. Some time later, a white van came. Archaeologists, I guess. I’d fought the urge to fossick, but I was curious. Besides, I’d been left on guard. My neighbours had better things to do.

I’d spent a quiet hour staring at his skull, as close as I could be without touching. The jaw was intact, there were lots of teeth. His lower half was still in the soil, bones sticking out from the crumbling hill. He’d slept by the tree for some five hundred years, maybe more, they said.

It’s beyond the houses, there isn’t much here, just the forest and the ancient road. It’s a pilgrims’ way, still used today. Before the saints came it was a Roman road, but I don’t think he’d be that old. There was not much to see really, it was all quite quick. He hadn’t been buried with anything much. The leather he’d been wearing, gone with the cloth, it’s too damp here for much to survive. There were no spears, swords or treasures, just the bones were left. Good teeth, they told me, he was probably not old, and yes, he had been a man.

I wondered, I still think now, why was he left out here? It’s twenty minutes to the centre of town, was he close as that, or had he just set out? I think he was a stranger, to be buried right out here. I’m sure he was a pilgrim, come from far away. There were no friends or family, that’s why he was resting here. It doesn’t matter now if he had made it to the shrine. He died on a pilgrim road, so his salvation was assured.

I dreamt of him several times, but it wasn’t with any fear. I think he’d had a pleasant face, maybe an honest smile. I wish we could have talked, but all I’d want to ask, is ‘Where do you come from?’ and listen to him speak.  I would not want to ask him  now  ‘Where are you going?’  It  doesn’t seem to matter after all this time.


Forest road, La Curie, France.

More Fiction

 Mr Faraday’s Cage & Other Tales of Obscure Science. 

Mostly Frank

 Copyright notice.


The Pie In The Sky

A Weekly Writing Challenge. 

This week I invite you to write about pie.

Flash fiction fresh out of the oven. Oh goody, no one’s used it yet….

I’m not sure when we all began calling it ‘the pie’, probably after our stupid media guy did his last interview. Management had hated it, the press had gone wild. Dull subject, great tagline.   ‘Yep’ he’d said ‘It’s just like a fly on a pie. We’re gonna land, penetrate the crust, scoop up a bit of what’s inside and go home.’     It was my line originally, but I’m not owning up to it. He’d wanted an analogy. You know what those are? Yeah, one of those. The probe was just a six hundred million dollar fly. There was a four mile wide pie hurtling past the Moon. Yep, they have a crust. We wanna know what’s in it. My bad, should have drawn a few more pictures for him.

The press were delighted. You can guess what came next. ‘Pie in the sky’. Alright, we now know that six hundred million dollars worth of pie could feed a lot of orphans for a long time. Somebody worked out the numbers. You’re ahead of me, aren’t you? Yep, they made a pie chart. Management again, not amused, especially the nameless ones that have to talk to the Senate Committee about the money.

It wasn’t all our money either. The Brits had put in a few pounds and a team of helpers with incomprehensible accents and  long sideburns. ‘We have finger in pie!’ screamed the Daily Morrow. Not much text, but a large photo of an undiscovered model called  ‘Miss Delia Honeypie’. The team at Nullborough University didn’t mind that at all. I gather she’s in line for an honorary doctorate if the probe gets home.

I was the one that had to front the angry mob, my bosses bosses bosses. I’d expected to be one of those fairly cute extras in a zombie film that gets eaten alive early on. It wasn’t that bad. It turned out that our rulers are practical people. They’d weathered great storms than this one.    ‘So what’s in it for us?’ they asked. Several people asked that in different ways. It was only the last of them that summed it up so succinctly. I’d got this worked out already.

‘It’s like  that Bruce Willis film.’ I said ‘Where he saves the world and all that.’ There was a sigh of relief. Of course, saved by popular culture.

‘Anyway, if we know what’s in these things, we’ll know what to do if one crashes into us.’ That went down well. ‘So we can blow up the pie, right?’ said someone who hadn’t said anything yet.     ‘I guess so’ I said, ‘if we armed a probe.’ They seemed disappointed, wasn’t that the right answer?      ‘Erm’ said someone ‘we can’t blow this one up?’ I explained. We don’t know what it’s made of, we haven’t got a bomb and no one would see it anyway. It’s the wrong side of the moon. Well that seemed to work.

All was good. The new media person was able to get a selfie with Bruce Willis. It turned out he was quite willing to help out his country by standing next to Miss Delia Honeypie. She’d cost us an airfare from London, but we got a lot of positive coverage. It’s all mathematics really. The less coverage she wore, the more coverage she got.

I stayed up for three days and nights trying to manoeuvre the probe onto the pie. Flies make it look really easy. Then again, this pie wasn’t just left out on the windowsill to cool down. It was zipping along at 34,058 miles an hour. Well about that. We made it up really. Anyway, we landed finally and I went off to bed. Team Krusty over at Nullborough could do the rest. Little Jack Horner had sat quietly in his corner for long enough. Time to put in the thumb. This was the proof of the pudding. See? I’ve been reading too many English newspapers.

I got about six hours of the well deserved and then the phone rang. I put in another two hours happy slumber and the damn thing rang again. Better see what’s happened. ‘Yeah, me’ I said, ‘What?’.       Well some good news. ‘You’ve won the sweep!’. We’d all put in suggestions as to what we’d find up there. ‘Giant carbon dioxide slurpee’ was generally expected to win. We’d all put in a few silly ones too. Hey, we’re scientists!

‘So?’ I said, trying to sound interested. ‘It’s a muddy icecube then? Water?’. There was a silence. Then one of those ‘erms’ that people say before the have to say things they really don’t want to say.  Another silence. ‘It’s a chocolate raisin!’. Oh not again. Mars had been bad enough, how could we cover this one up?  The universe is one big sweetshop. Still, I’d beaten Hoskins again. At least it wasn’t really a pie.


From the International Pie Observatory. La Curie, France.

More fiction

Mr Faraday’s Cage & Other Tales of Obscure Science’. 

Mostly Frank

 Copyright notice.


Sorry Is A Hard Word

Someone’s left you a voicemail message, but all you can make out are the last words: “I’m sorry. I should’ve told you months ago. Bye.” Who is it from, and what is this about?

A Daily Prompt

I played it back a few times, it wasn’t a voice I knew. After about the fifth time, I did know something though.  It wasn’t a voice I liked.  The message system was running fine, nothing had been missed. She was simply one of those people who picks up the phone and starts talking. ‘Wait for the beep’ I’d said… in English and bad French.Someone hadn’t waited.

I’m a creative type of guy, good imagination (some days). My mind did what minds do in this situation. It ran a gamut. That’s a gamut of emotions. Is there any other sort of gamut out there worth running?  My mind wandered. A flash of clear light, gamut…. en francais that’s ‘gamme’… a range.  Running a gamut and wandering off, that’s just like me.I’ve got a  whole range of emotions in no particular order.


 It wasn’t my doctor, he’s French. I ruled out that particular aspect of bad news.  Was the news actually bad?  My caller’s voice hadn’t made that clear.  There was a slight impatience there, I could hear that.  There was also some kind of relief. This was something she’d finally been able to get off her chest. It was also something she’d meant to say a long time ago. It was almost boring for her now.    I’m being dumped?  I’m being dumped by a woman who’s voice I don’t recognise?  Well no wonder she dumped me. Maybe I’ve failed to get a job I can’t remember applying for. I wouldn’t hire me then, my memory is no good.

Was it good news, somewhat postponed? There’s always the Lotto, but I check my own numbers. It was all a puzzle, but I’d run out of gamut.  If I hadn’t been told months ago, then I didn’t need to be told today did I?   I ran a quick survey of the bleedin’ obvious for the ‘well duh!’ scenarios. Nope. She hadn’t told me, no one else  had told me either. I made amental note to look up gamut and promptly forgot about it.

A few days later I was down in the kitchen when I heard the sound of my own voice. Someone was talking over me. Ah yes. The answering machine, my ‘not at home’ speech. I didn’t quite dash, that’s not my style, but I got upstairs anyway. I’d recognised the voice. A successful lunge for the receiver, she was still there. ‘Hello?’ I said, friendly but questioning. Silence. Then about another half a silence, then a breath. ‘Oh’ said the voice ‘Wrong number, sorry. Bye!’.

Twice this woman has rung me up to tell me she’s sorry. I think it must be a quite  hard word for her to say. I’ll never know though, will I?


My mind went blank. I was in a very dull place.

More Fiction

Mr Faraday’s Cage & Other Tales of Obscure Science’. 

Mostly Frank

 Copyright notice.

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Some Things Are Brighter At Night

Weekly Writing Challenge.

In today’s writing challenge, you’ll choose a scenario (or invent your own) and write a poem, a short story, a vignette, a scene, or flash fiction based on Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

Well I hate making a mess, hey Red, you got an ashtray? Take your time, the man needs his drink first up. Yeah I got a light,the lady’s got one for me. Just right there when I need it. You know I was wondering about that match-book. One of you was bound to still have it, you’re all tidy people. You’re not smokers either, I am. You notice that kind of thing when you ain’t got no lighter. Yep, just the one match missing. You were a smoker once lady? Gave it up for your voice of course. Smoky enough already huh? Needed to steady your nerves I guess.

Move it Red, that man needs his drink real bad. But you’d know about that huh? I know about that, I can see it all here in front of me, I got brothers too. I knew you’d all come here. Yeah, I know, nothing I can prove. Our friend with the shaky hands wouldn’t lie, not if he wants to keep doing his sermons. He doesn’t look quite right though, out of uniform like that.

Red’s alright, aren’t you Red? Never left the diner, not for a moment. Little Miss Scarlet here, on stage at the club. Everybody saw you, right lady? All illusions, all well done no doubt. I don’t have illusions, not any more. I’ve seen too much. And you know what? I don’t care. I can guess why, but there’s a thousand ‘whys’ out there. Look for a motive? Who don’t got a motive for this? Had it coming? You could say that.

There’s plenty of working stiffs back at the Precinct House would have done the same thing. Not smart enough though, not as smart as you people. One real smart family. The church, the club, the diner… all in the same business when you look at it. All working for the lonely souls. Here you all are then, hiding in plain sight. My Ma was a redhead, you know that? It’s how it I spotted you. Just passing by, long day that one. Wasn’t going to come in, but there you all were, plain as day.

I’ll be on my way when I’ve smoked this thing. Trying to give up too. Hey Red, put the match-book in the trash can out the back will ya?  They ain’t going to find it, and if they do? Ah yeah, just another nighthawk that came in for a brew.

hopper - bombed

Meanwhile, Jake & Dinos the two dimensional art bombing Trivialians congratulated themselves on how well they’d blended in.

My apologies to Edward Hopper.

More fiction….

Mr Faraday’s Cage & Other Tales of Obscure Science. 

Mostly Frank

 Copyright notice.


Mostly Frank – Coffee Takes You Places


His Coffee Machine Tried Too Hard.

His Time Machine didnt look like anything I’d ever seen before. Then again, I’d only ever seen time machines on television and they were all made up. This was real enough, I was no longer when I should be. It did look slightly like something I’d seen before. The shiny chrome was oddly familiar.

It also made coffee, quite good coffee really, if you could get the grind right. So, a space/time ship that made a decent cappucino?  Not exactly, he told me

‘It’s a coffee machine with Features’.

The Triviandians had gotten into a product race with the Seigneurs of Lopdor. It had started out innocently enough (as they all do) with an inbuilt conical grinder. That was followed by a ‘good morning!’ timer system followed in turn by a time machine. It knew exactly when you wanted a coffee.

‘Yep’ he said ‘got it real cheap of G-Bay!’.

Cheap apparently because the Trivandians had started experimenting with molecular gastronomy and destroyed their entire galaxy. ‘And the Lopdorians, sorry, Seigneurs of Lopdoor?’ I asked.

‘Oh they went broke, invested all their money in a 5 D cinema chain. Couldnt get it quite right though.’

‘What went wrong?’

‘Well, whatever time you turned up, the film had already started. Plus you’d already seen it.’

As time froze across the universe, nobody really needed a time machine anymore. Why bother going forward to Right Now?  It only really worked where there were still mathematical constants other than just today’s date. To work properly, it needed things you could really trust… eg. the irrefutable fact that there’s always a Goth on Newtown station.

I was ahead of him on this one. I knew why the damn thing didnt work properly anymore.

blue shift


More Frank

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