642 things to write about – The Bicycle Accident

I’ve been entering a lot of short story competitions lately – to no avail but you’ve got to keep trying – and as a sideline to editing Choose Yr Future I decided to try some writing prompts to see if I could come up with something that I could develop further so I would have a bank of stories. 

You wake up at the side of the road lying next to a bicycle, with no memory and no wallet. What happens next?

When I open my eyes all below me is grey. The surface is cold and I’m stretched out on it. My arms are over my head and I’m nose down. There is pain but it is non-specific. All over. Everything hurts.

First step, raise head. The world is still grey. Clouds meet the road on the horizon. Pushing up further brings about twangs and clicks. Specific pain runs up and down both arms. What have I been doing? Pause before next step while I steel myself for the pain to come. Deep breath. Onto knees. Now legs are joining in with groans of pain and stiffness. The question comes to me from the side, how long have I been here?

A further look around. The road, the hedges, the bridge mean nothing. Low menacing clouds which threaten and suggest I should get home but where was that?

Final step. On feet and scanning properly. My head spins a little as the blood finds itself on high once again. There is a house up ahead. Was that home? It was still a good walk away. But it was a direction to head in. I look behind me, turning slowly which is wise because everything shifts sideways and I wobble. I bend to put my head between my knees and slowly stillness returns. As I’m bent, I see the means of my getting here. Well, I assume. A bicycle. A vision of the air flying past my head and the ground rushing up to me sends me dizzy again. I sit down heavily and each joint and muscle takes its turn in shouting out the pain.

Time passes. I can’t move. My head is too unreliable. I check through my pockets. I could phone someone perhaps. But they are absolutely empty. No phone. No purse. No keys. Nothing. No bag. Not even strapped to the bike. Had I been robbed? Maybe everything had scattered from the bike. But no chance of finding that until I could stop the dizziness.

A car. It is moving fast and I do the same. Foolishly. Darkness grabs me and the next thing I see is a concerned face, quite close to mine. He smiles and a wave of relief comes across his weathered face.

“Thank God.” His voice is soft. He doesn’t want to frighten. “I’ve no idea how to do the kiss of life.”

Books read in 2014 – 40. If You Liked School, You’ll Love Work by Irvine Welsh

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Genre: short stories, Scottish fiction

Narrative Style: varies – five stories in collection

Rating: 3/5

Published: 2007

Format: Paperback

Synopsis: Rattlesnakes – three friends drive out into the desert to take drugs and end up stranded with unexpected results. If you liked school, you’ll love work – an expat struggles to juggle all of the women in his life. The DOGS of Lincoln Park – a trendy young woman who loves her dog more than her friends is disturbed by the arrival of a Korean chef in her apartment block. Miss Arizona – a struggling screenwriter meets his match in lonely Miss Arizona. Kingdom of Fife – Jason King and Jenni Cahill struggle with the boredom of living in a small Scottish town.

Book Challenges: Eclectic Reader Challenge – Anthology genre

This collection was a mixed bag. I’m not a massive fan of short stories but Welsh’s previous collections (The Acid House and Ecstasy) were both excellent so I thought I’d give it a go for the anthology genre in this year’s Eclectic Reader Challenge. I’m not sure why they didn’t quite grab me this was fairly typical Welsh fare. All the usual ingredients. But then maybe that was the problem.

Rattlesnakes started well. You know you’re in a Welsh story when someone gets bitten on the penis by a rattlesnake and the only way to avoid death is for his best mate to suck the poison out. However, this story was spoiled by the borderline racist depiction of a psychotic Mexican. When he finds the pair in their tent, the story becomes pointlessly seedy and the main aim seems to be to make the reader as uncomfortable as possible. So far, so Welsh, you may say but there was nothing underneath the shock, no subtext or cleverness, just smut.

If you liked school, you’ll love work seemed like a case of masculine wishful thinking. The narrator takes great pains to say that he isn’t particularly attractive or slim, yet woman love him and despite some close calls, he never does get caught out. Nothing about this character or any of the women rang true. A series of stereotypes in a series of false set pieces.

The DOGS of Lincoln Park. This is where the collection started to pick up. Welsh carefully plays with racial stereotypes as he forces the reader to make certain assumptions about his Korean chef’s eating habits. You are then left with uncomfortable feeling that you believed the racist hype and assumed that the dog had become dinner.

Miss Arizona. This was a little bit Tales of the Unexpected but very enjoyable. The narrator is clearly trapped somewhere when he starts to tell his tale of making a documentary about his favourite director and interviewing his ex-wife who is heavily into taxidermy. It isn’t too hard to work out what has happened but is a good read nonetheless.

Kingdom of Fife. This is the only story set in Scotland and as such rings the most true. Welsh really does have an ear for his native tongue and captures Jason’s voice well. However, his depiction of Jenni Cahill was less successful and I wasn’t really convinced by her or her sudden change of heart about Jason either.

Keeping it small

I’ve never been very good at writing short stories. The smallness of the idea never seems to last. Choose your future started life as a fairly simple idea about a woman having a melt down in a supermarket because she couldn’t cope with the perfection of the genetically modified tomatoes. Once I started to write it though, it very quickly grew to the current 60000 words of a novel. The universe very quickly expanded outwards – like universes tend to do, I suppose. Because it is set in the future, I suppose there are details and ideas that I wouldn’t have to deal with if this was set in the normal reality of everyday life and this is pushing up the word count.

Now I am concerned that I have too many ideas. I’m already thinking that my first edit will be a drastic one, hacking away all the ideas and characters that do not work or are unnecessary. At the minute though, I am willing to let it expand. It might sound ridiculous  that I would let it grow to untold size in order to crop it at some point in the future. All I can say is I cannot tell at the minute which branches it will be that are culled and which will be allowed to stay. I have to let it sprout with absolute freedom. Only when I have seen the whole will I know about the various parts.