Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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Sharing Previews

I’ve just found out I can share previews of all my books on Amazon. I have no idea how long this has been available but it seems like quite a good idea. The only one I’ve tried so far allowed a free read to well into the fourth chapter so readers should have a pretty good idea by then if they want to buy the book and read the rest. Or if it’s more suitable for their mother for Mothers Day, or their teenager. I’m going to attempt to list all my books here with the links to FREE previews.

STONY CREEK

THE ROAD TO KARINYA

RED WINE AND SUMMER STORMS

THE GIRL WHO LIVED UNDERGROUND

THE LETTER 

HER FLESH AND BLOOD 

THE INHERITANCE

NOT GUILTY

RUNT OF THE LITTER

WONDERLAND

BEAST OF WAR

DARK INNOCENCE

Maybe not all then, but if anyone wants a preview of any of the others I’m happy to provide one. Happy Mothers’ day!

                                                                                                                                                     


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Writing Challenge–Future tense

Hubby and I went to Melbourne on the train the other day for a show and on the way back, in the dark, with nothing to look at, I started thinking about story ideas. I tend to write in both first person and third person in my novels but I do like to mess around a bit with the occasional short story. I’ve done one in the present tense and I decided to try the future for a change. If you’d like to join in the challenge there’s no prize but you’re welcome to put a link in my comments section so everyone can have a read. Here’s my effort:

Tomorrow

© Christine Gardner

 In the morning I’ll get up at six o’clock. Steve won’t even notice; I’ve been getting up during the night lately and he’s a heavy sleeper anyway. If he does wake up he’ll presume I’ve gone to the toilet and go straight back to sleep. He will never imagine I could leave.

I have my bag packed and hidden in the linen cupboard, with just some essentials that will do for a couple of days until I get sorted. He never looks in there. I always make sure there’s clean towels in the bathroom and clean sheets on the bed, so why would he? I won’t stop for breakfast, just in case. I’ll just grab my bag and head out to the car. My little Pulsar. I won’t take Steve’s BMW because, after all, he’ll still need it for work. And I don’t need it, not really. Mine’s a little dented from when Steve backed into the fence but it runs okay; he’s very good at stuff like that. Everything in our house is well oiled and runs perfectly. Everything except me.

Will he be sad or relieved? Of course I know the answer to that; he’ll be furious. He’ll try to ring me first and then he’ll start driving around looking for me.

I’ll go to Maccas for breakfast, but not the one near us; I’ll drive over a suburb or two, maybe Richmond. I don’t know. I’ll find a Maccas somewhere, or a Hungry Jacks. Somewhere I’ll be ignored and I can just eat whatever junk food I want with no-one looking over my shoulder. Steve doesn’t like me eating junk food, especially now, but he’s always been a stickler for healthy eating while I just like to have a breakout occasionally. Mostly I eat healthy food but just now and then I like a change. Not Steve. He might be more horrified at my eating junk for breakfast than at me actually leaving him!

He’ll think I’m just doing it to annoy him; he thinks I deliberately push his buttons but I don’t. I try so hard to do what he wants—to be what he wants me to be. I’m just not that person—not Mrs Perfect—and I’ll never understand why, or how, he thought he could make me into something I’m not. Maybe he’ll find her once I’m out of the way.

After breakfast I’ll head over to Mum’s house and she’ll be surprised to see me so early, but glad Steve’s not with me. When I tell her I’ve left him she’ll be flabbergasted; she’s been nagging me for months to do just that and she doesn’t even know anything really. I never let her see me with black eyes and it’s easy enough to come up with a story about broken bones; she says I was always terribly clumsy as a child.

Then she’ll insist I call the police and I’ll say no, so she’ll call them. I’ll cry, I know, and she’ll probably shed a few tears as well, more for herself and her own memories than for me though.

The police will come—no doubt there’ll be a sympathetic female cop and a male who looks as if he can handle any irate husband. They’ll take my statement and suggest I move to a shelter for women like me—somewhere safer than my mother’s home. She, who protected me throughout all my childhood, can’t protect me anymore. I’ll agree of course, because I don’t want to put my mother at risk, but she’ll be at risk anyway. Steve will look for me there and won’t believe she doesn’t know where I am. He and Mum never really see eye to eye about anything, even though they both love me. It’s my fault. Steve’s right about that, I know. I have said bad things to Mum about him and of course she doesn’t like him. She thinks he’s a monster like my father but if I was better, a better wife, he would be perfect. And he’ll be a wonderful father.

The police will probably take me somewhere and then go to arrest Steve. There’ll be bail though and if he gets out he’ll go after my mother. If he doesn’t get out then he’ll go to gaol for a while and then be released and look for me again. And my mother.  And my child. My child will be born while her father is in gaol. How long will he be there for? Will she understand why her father’s not with us or will she grow up thinking he deserted her? Will I take her to see him in prison and have her know her father’s in gaol? That he hit her mother? That he had no regard for her safety, tucked away in her mother’s womb?

I sigh and pull the quilt further up around my neck. My child moves inside me and my husband, sound asleep, throws one arm over me, as if to prove ownership. My woman; my child. In the morning I won’t be leaving. I can’t condemn my child to a future with a father who’s in gaol; I’ll be a better wife. I’ll try harder to make my marriage work. Life wasn’t meant to be perfect; I can do better, I know I can.

***

For information on all my books please visit my author pages  Amazon.com, Amazon UK and Amazon.au

 


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The plural of ‘you’.

It used to be Australians used the term ‘youse’ and some still do. I don’t think I do and it’s generally considered one of those ‘bogan’ words the rest of us avoid. Well-known Texan, Dr Phil, uses y’all, which has a nice ring to it if you have the right accent, but I suspect that’s the American version of youse and is not universally acceptable now in the US if it ever was.

So what is the plural of ‘you’? In the news today our Australian of the Year, David Morrison, has chastised people for using the term ‘guys’ to refer to people of both genders. I must admit I’ve never been offended by this. If you were to call me a guy, as an individual, I might be, but if, for example, I get a text saying “Are you guys home?” it’s clear that refers to both my husband and me. If the text said “Are you home?” then it refers to me only. I’d probably be offended, or puzzled at least, if I got a text saying “Are you men home?” but the term ‘guys’ has somehow become gender neutral, hasn’t it?

I have five adult sons and I tend to still call them ‘the boys’ but since they now all have wives or girlfriends I might use the term ‘guys’ if I’m talking about the guys and the gals together. I’d be interested to see some feedback from our friends in the USA, since we obviously took over ‘guys’ from you. Has the usage changed there? Is it more or less non-gender specific or are we just lazy? Maybe we should speak correctly and say “Are you and your husband at home?” Generally language issues do annoy me but in everyday speech and texts I think we should all just take a chill pill. The language is evolving and BookCoverImageconnectionsit will continue to. She’ll be right mate.

sanctuary cover 2014

‘Sanctuary’, my Sci-fi novel for young adults, is free right now (June 1-5) on Amazon and my collection of short stories, ‘Connections’, will be free from the 3rd to the 7th. For details on all my books please visit my author pages at Amazon.com or Amazon UK.

 

 

 


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Agony and Ecstasy–Designing your own book covers

Beast_of_War_Cover_for_KindleI finished my latest book a week or so ago and decided to spend some time before I start the next one working on covers, one in particular. I’ve done all of my own covers and currently have 15 books on Amazon; most of them I’m reasonably happy with but the children’s books in particular are really crying out for an artist. There’s no way I’m ever going to find an image of 3 teens, one who’s green and extremely tall and thin, one blue and muscular, and one tiny with white skin and pointy ears, for ‘Beast of War’!

When my youngest son started school I did too and I spent a few years studying art before I decided writing was more my forte. It was fun and hard work and I think the design aspect has proven worthwhile but unfortunately my drawing skills are just not up to scratch, certainly not now if they ever were. Then again my handwriting has deteriorated a lot since I started spending so much time on a computer too and that might be part of it.

Anyway, back to the drawing board–or at least the free photos at morguefile. I did find a picture there that I used for a new cover on ‘Beast of War’, which gives it a fresh look at least. Maybe next year I’ll try the local community college–see if I can find an artist who’ll work for nothing!

 

The only cover I’ve paid for is ‘Inheritance’ and I’m very pleased with that one (from fiverr). I had planned to get the same designer to do my latest new the inheritance coverbook, ‘Red Wine and Summer Storms’, and since it’s book 3 of a series I wanted the other 2 re-done so they’d all sort of match up. I wasn’t happy with his design and I realise now what I actually love about the design of ‘Inheritance’ is the actual picture, which was from one of those sites that sell them, so I went looking for pictures and found one I liked at istock for around $14. Then I redid the titles on the others so they match up reasonably well.

not guilty 2014 coverMy favourite cover, for ‘Not Guilty’, is one of my own photos and the layout is one of Createspace’s, which is considerably easier than using your own.

I’d love to hear from other self-published writers about your cover design stories.

‘Beast of War’ is FREE on Amazon from 4th to 6th December (USA time) and ‘Not Guilty’ is free 4th and 5th. My book of short stories, ‘Connections‘, if free right now, today only.

 

 

 

 

Sunset Vineyard


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Freebies on Amazon and Smashwords

Has anyone had any luck making their ebooks permanently free on Amazon? I have a couple of small ones free on Smashwords, one a short story, an excerpt from my short story collection, and the other a book on grammar and punctuation. The short story, obviously, is a promotional effort, leading to the collection, while the other one, at only 19 pages, I’d simply like to give away to help anyone who needs to improve their written English. It’s not, by any means, a comprehensive guide to the English language but I have a few little tricks to help remember where apostrophes go and indeed what they are actually for, among other things.

I read somewhere to go to the book’s page on Amazon and scroll down to Product Details and then below that to ‘tell us about a lower price’, then type in Smashwords URL and the price. I did do that and I also emailed Amazon, who said they can’t offer any books for free, apart from the 5 days through KDP Select. They do though and I suspect if I can get enough people to inform them of the lower price available on Amazon they will eventually match the zero price.what did

It might seem an odd request, to help me get my book prices lowered to zero, but I’d appreciate it if you take a minute to do that for me and I’ll let you know if it works.

The books in question are ‘Brown Dog’, at Amazon and at Smashwords, and ‘What Did You Say?’ at Amazon and at Smashwords.

My YA book, Sanctuary, is free on Amazon for two days, July 1st and 2nd, and I have a Countdown offer on Not Guilty, starting at 99c on June 30th and then 1.99 on July 1st. Not Guilty is a true story about a mother who killed her three children, in 1910, in a country town in Australia.

It’s freezing here, and wet. Winter is well and truly with us and I’ve had enough of it and am ready for some sunshine. Still it’s nice and cosy inside and I’ve been getting stuck into some writing–hit the 10,000 word mark in my latest novel today so pretty pleased with myself. Trying to discipline myself with a deadline of sorts and commit to 1000 words per day, except when I really have to go shopping or babysit, or anything else that comes along . . .


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Writing Challenge–Present Tense.

I would never read or write a novel in the present tense; I’ve often thought a short story could work quite well but hadn’t got around to trying it. Having just finished my novelette, Dark Innocence, I decided to set myself a challenge to write a short story in the present tense. It’s a very short story so I’m posting it here intact.

I’m hoping some of you will take up the challenge as well, either a short story or just a paragraph. There’s no prizes but if you’d like to post your first paragraph in the comments section of my blog you’re welcome to link it to the rest of the story on your own site.

Here’s my effort:

The Here and Now

© Christine Gardner 2014

 

She stands at the open window watching the traffic. She feels like some kind of goddess watching from the heavens as the mass of humanity swirls below her, frantically going about its day to day business; people leading their boring ordinary lives, thinking themselves so important. She can see them for what they truly are, ants—no—less than ants. Ants rush about with some purpose; they collect food for the whole colony. Not like people, who only collect for themselves.

And what pointless things people collect, she muses. Money, mostly. She doesn’t need to look in the direction of the bank opposite; she knows it all too well, inside and out. Every evening she crosses the busy road, at the traffic lights on the corner, and walks briskly back along the dark street to the forty storey building, where she shows her ID to the security guard; the same guard almost every night for ten years or more. Every evening he stares at the tiny photo and then stares at her face. Every evening he makes some inane remark, such as, ‘Don’t look much like you’, or if he’s in a particularly jovial mood, ‘Don’t really flatter you, if I do say so myself’. On these occasions he winks and looks her up and down. She’s used to it but it makes her uncomfortable still, not least because she feels as if he thinks he’s doing her a favour; that she should appreciate the undeserved attention. She knows very well how drab she looks in her work clothes—she wears grey track pants and a faded blue top or sometimes a faded black one which almost matches the grey pants. Not that she cares.

Every night she picks up her equipment from the supply room and spends the next six hours looking at the leftovers of others’ lives; the lives of people she will never meet. The lives of people who live on, almost, a different planet to her; she picks up framed photographs from untidy desks and studies the smiling families. Are they real, she wonders sometimes, or did the pictures just come with the frames. She can’t remember her family ever being like that—the perfect white smiles, the matching outfits.

What did any of it matter? You live and you die. Or, as some eloquent person has put it, on a tee shirt somewhere, ‘Life’s a bitch and then you die’. Too true, she thinks, and sighs deeply.

Her black cat, Shirley, interrupts her, winding itself round and round her legs, making its presence felt, and she leans over and picks it up. ‘At least you’re honest, aren’t you?’ she says, holding the soft black fur against her face. ‘You’re here for the food and shelter and don’t need to pretend anything else, do you?’ She puts it down gently.

It starts to sprinkle with rain and the cat looks anxiously at her and retreats to the doorway.

‘It’s okay, Shirl, it’s just water.’  The rain settles into a steady beat and she sighs and steps over the worried cat into the kitchen/dining/living room of her apartment. Shirley follows her and leaps onto the bench as her mistress opens the cupboard and takes out a can of cat food, then jumps back to the floor and starts the manoeuvre in and around the legs again. The cat keeps begging until the food is in the bowl and then is pushed away while her mistress puts some drops of something into the food.

Sniffing suspiciously at first, the cat eventually finds the smell and the flavour of the tuna strong enough and tasty enough, to overcome any misgivings about that mystery substance. The bowl is clean in the time it takes for her mistress to pour a glass of wine and sit on the couch, where Shirley joins her. Settled onto a familiar and comfortable lap, the cat is soon fast asleep; it twitches once or twice and is still.

The woman finishes her wine and walks over to her computer; she wonders what she will say and to whom she will address her note. She almost laughs out loud; if there was anyone, then perhaps there’d be no need for such a note. Perhaps she’d feel differently about her life if there was someone, anyone, to share it with her. It’s not the job she hates or the dismal apartment; it’s being alone in this city of millions. Always alone.

There is no-one to write to and nothing to say. No-one to miss her—would anyone even notice?

She washes and dries her glass and the cat’s bowl and tidies the kitchen bench, then walks through the apartment, just to make sure everything’s tidy. Then she walks back out to the balcony, climbs over the metal railing and, with no hesitation, she jumps.

 

 

 

 


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Free Short Stories

My short story collection, Connections, is free on Amazon until October 31st. If you’ve read a previous version this one does have those stories in as well as several new ones. I’m posting a few excerpts to pique your interest in the hope you’ll download your free copy and then write a fabulous 5 star review on Amazon for me! You might not like all the stories but you’ll almost certainly like one–they’re all very different.  And if you like one I’ll be happy for you to review the one you like.

I’m rather pleased with the cover on this one. It’s a photo of the Pinnacles in Western Australia and has nothing to do with any of the stories but I think it looks good. It’s an amazing place and was part of an amazing holiday hubby and I took a few years ago–actually part of a trip to watch our youngest son perform in a national musical theatre competition. He won of course and it was our first time in Western Australia so it was just fantastic.

THE RUNT OF THE LITTER

© Christine Gardner 2013

The boy stood at the edge of the cliff, staring at the waves smashing onto the rocks far below him. His coat, handed down from his father, flapped around his ankles in the roaring wind. Hugh was small for twelve and an onlooker would think he was in grave danger of losing his footing and slipping over the edge at any moment, but he was accustomed to the wind and had stood in this same spot far too many times since the death of his father four years earlier.

Before his father’s death, Hugh and his sister and brothers would never go anywhere near the cliff top; their father built a wall of rocks to keep his children and his sheep safe from the dangerous precipice. Since his death the wall had crumbled somewhat from the harsh and icy winds raging across the Atlantic Ocean and the cliff top had become a sanctuary of sorts for Hugh; a place of quiet isolation. Away from his stepfather.

THE COLD TRUTH

© Christine Gardner 2013

The water was dark and cold and she wore a strapless gown of pure silk—white with pearls sewn onto the bodice. She could feel the icy water up to her knees and she clung to him, trying to draw on his strength and calm.

He was dressed in a tuxedo and, at last noticing her shivering, he took off his jacket and helped her into it; she held her arms out like a child and she looked childlike as she stood there, tiny and trembling in the man’s jacket.

GOING HOME

© Christine Gardner 2013

“Get the hell out then!” she screamed at me through the screen door. So much for worrying about the neighbours. That was another ‘home’ I’d lost, the third in as many months. This one had lasted exactly two weeks; two weeks of tip-toeing around the house so as not to disturb the ‘man of the house’ who worked nights, and trying to avoid his blatant advances when he was awake.

Of course the landlady didn’t believe me; she was a lot like my mother that woman. All that stand by your man shit; all very well, but did they have to be deaf, dumb and blind?

INDEPENDENCE DAY

©Christine Gardner 2013

I’d been driving along the dirt track for about an hour when the noise started—sort of a regular clunk, clunk, clunk. I ignored it for five minutes, having a long-standing theory that most unwanted noises will go away by themselves if only they remain unacknowledged. It is, I admit, an as yet unproven theory and was not to prove itself on this particular occasion. I then decided I must have picked up something on one of the tyres, which would of course eventually drop off without any interference on my part. When the shrieking noise began, somewhere under the bonnet, I had to rethink that idea; I would have thought of a perfectly reasonable explanation for that too if only the car hadn’t then just stopped.

A PERFECT STRANGER

© Christine Gardner 2013

“So you risked your life for a perfect stranger?” She smiled at the camera and managed a look of astonishment for Harry’s heroism.

“Dunno about perfect,” someone in the crowd muttered.

“Pardon?” said the blonde.

“Wouldn’t say old Dick was perfect.”

HELPING OUT

©Christine Gardner 2013

I think a lot these days; not much else to do really. I like to think about the old days; stands to reason I suppose. I was a child after all; life must have been easy mustn’t it? I can’t recall any time when my life was all that easy. My childhood?  Well some of it was easy enough but it certainly was never any golden age of happiness and innocence. My family wasn’t much like a TV family.

A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT

A young man stood at the door, car keys dangling in his hand. He smiled, showing sparkling white teeth; he was well dressed and nice-looking, with neatly trimmed hair. So Lorna ignored the little niggling warning bell in her brain and said of course he could come in and use the phone. His car had broken down a kilometre away and hers was the first house he’d come across.

THE COST OF PEARLS

A dreadlocked head emerged from beneath the wildly coloured quilt. “I did?” The girl was sixteen and as emaciated as a model; heroin chic for real. She looked as if she hadn’t had either a shower or a change of clothes for at least a month; in fact it had been six weeks. Flora had been unable to persuade her to do either the previous night. She had only managed to put her to bed and remove her shoes. She would just have to wash the sheets today, that was all.

 

 Connections 99c at Amazon

 


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Formatting for CreateSpace

Book number six on CreateSpace and I think I’ve finally figured it out! All the text fitted in first time and was accepted immediately–then I read the proofs and found a couple of typos but that was easily fixed. Feeling pretty good about all that I decided I’d get that first page number business right. I’d never been able to work out how to start the page numbers on the page I want them, which in this case is page 5, after the Contents page etc.

I confess I’m not good at reading instructions–never have been and probably never will be. My eyes sort of glaze over and my brain goes to a happier place when faced with technical details.  I used to sew a bit, for myself and my kids when they were little. I managed, usually, just by cutting out the shapes according to the paper patterns and sewing them together in a logical manner. If I started to read the actual instructions I’d give up. Too hard. I’m one of those people who have to learn using the hands on method, I think.

My CreateSpace experience, therefore, has been very . . . um . . . let’s just say it’s probably taken me longer to figure it out than if I’d read the instructions properly the first time. A lot of trial and error later, here I am at my first properly formatted book. I’m still not sure about the font though, or more so, the size of the font. What do you use? I’ve used Bookman, which I like, but while size 12 looks good to me it’s hard to say until I have the actual book in my hands. The book, by the way, is an extended version of Connections, my short story collection. I’ve added several more stories to it and a new cover, which was fun and I’m happy with. The POD version is available now for $5.65 and the kindle should be up next week. It will be free for a few days and I’ll announce that here, so stay tuned. BookCoverImageconnections

If anyone has found this post via linkedin please reply here. For some reason my computer seems to have taken a sudden dislike to linkedin and won’t allow any emails through from them. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Thanks.


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Having a break from murder . . .

I’ve been writing short stories lately, after spending the last few years on true crime and novels, and rather enjoying the change. For some reason though, my creative thoughts keep turning to murder. Those of you who’ve looked at my book list may not find that so strange but the beauty of writing short stories is the variety and I don’t want to get stuck on the one genre.

‘A Twist in the Tail’ is a step away from that then and, since I have nothing to write about today, I thought you might like to read a little tale.

A Twist in the Tail

© Christine Gardner

Shelley sprawled her lithe body on the black rock, trailing the fingers of one hand in the waves as they caressed the shore. It was a glorious spring day and she stretched luxuriously and arched her body, her naked pert breasts pointing skywards.

She smiled secretly to herself. They would all be watching, she was well aware. And Daniel would pretend to be cross at her public display but she knew he was proud of her and pleased that everyone envied him. He was the most handsome of all the guys and they were the undisputed leading couple at the school.

She’d known Daniel pretty much all her life and had always known they were destined to be together, but it wasn’t until they hit puberty that they became a couple. Their relationship developed from friendly flirting to secret kisses and at last to passionate lovemaking. Both sets of parents were happy with the pairing and, since they’d waited until they were both sixteen before their first sexual encounter, had no problem at all with their connection.

Daniel was like the other half of Shelley; everything about him was the opposite of her. His hair was black like the rocks here at their favourite bay and his eyes, she told him, were like the ocean on a stormy day—green and grey and somehow changeable. His temperament was serene and not at all like the stormy sea, while Shelley could be, she admitted, somewhat tempestuous.

Shelley, Daniel said, had eyes as blue as the ocean on a calm summer’s day, and her hair, which was silky and fell to below her waist, was the colour of the white sand on the beach. Together they were complete; together they had everything.BookCoverImageconnections

Today was a special day. Daniel didn’t know yet but he and Shelley would be leaving the school—leaving their friends behind. She stroked her flat stomach, smiling her secret smile. When a girl became pregnant she and her partner had to join the family group and they’d see little of their old friends at the school until, each in turn, they would also join the family group.

Shelley and Daniel would no longer be the unofficial king and queen at the school but Shelley was looking forward to becoming a mother and she knew Daniel would make a great father. He had a lot more patience than she did.

She sat up at last. Daniel would be thrilled with her news and she suddenly couldn’t wait a minute longer to tell him he was going to be a daddy. She turned around to face the ocean and slid into the water. Gracefully she dove under the waves, swimming well underneath the white surf, and the cool water was welcome after the warmth of the sun.

Daniel and the rest of the school had watched her enter the water. He smiled, relieved; she tended to overdo the sun at times.

When she reached the group she emerged from the waves with a joyful jump into the air and the others joined in, playing like dolphins and showing off their blue-green tails, sparkling in the sunshine. None of the school noticed when Shelley took Daniel by the hand and led him away to their secret place to tell him her news. It was time for the school to find new leaders and time for Daniel and Shelley to join the family group and nurture their own little mermaids.

Please visit my Amazon Author pages at Amazon.com and Amazon UK for information on all my books or check out my book page.


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Study in Blue–A very short story.

STUDY IN BLUE

©Christine Gardner

George Arnold got up at six thirty Wednesday morning. He had set the alarm for 6.45 but his inner clock had woken him at six. He lay under his warm eiderdown for half an hour, thinking through his plans for the day, then he jumped out of bed and ran for the bathroom. He allowed himself an extra five minutes in the shower since he was up so early and he soaped his obese body thoroughly, lifting up his hanging belly to lather underneath, making sure he was scrupulously clean.BookCoverImageconnections

He shaved his underarms, his chest, his legs and as much as he could reach of the rest of his body. When he’d finished showering, he shaved his face, and then very carefully his head. He looked at his bushy eyebrows and then whipped them off with the razor as well.

He stood, naked and relatively hairless, in front of the full-length bathroom mirror. Then he picked up the spray can and began to paint himself blue. It took him a good 20 minutes. Every time he thought he was finished he would spot another bit of white flesh. He shut his eyes tight and sprayed his face. He sprayed his ears, hoping the paint wouldn’t block the ear canals. He needed to hear especially well today. He sprayed blue paint on all his most private parts, parts no one but himself had seen. Well, not for 50 years anyway. He had certainly looked considerably different when his mother had changed his nappies.

When he was quite sure he was totally blue and dry, he opened the front door, and walked straight out into the bright sunlight. He held his head high, and his eyes front. He saw Mrs Jones in her front garden from the comer of his eye and said “Good Morning”, but she didn’t answer. She was a little deaf, after all.

George was beginning to enjoy himself. It was cold, but the paint kept him warm to some extent, and it was very liberating feeling the fresh air where he’d never felt it before. He had lived in this street all his life; he knew every house would have a curtain opened and a face peering out. He just looked straight ahead, all the way to the end of the street.

When he knocked on the door of number 35 Rose opened it, her mouth gaping wide open at the spectacle on her doorstep.

George knelt on the prickly welcome mat. “Rose, you were right. I have led a boring life up to now. I thought I was too old to change, but I was wrong. You see me now as I can be, free and uninhibited. Now will you marry me?”

Rose laughed and grabbed his hands to help him to his feet. She put her arms around his immense bulk, drew him inside and shut the door. “George,” she said, “How could I resist this gorgeous body? Of course l’ll marry you.”

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