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by dharker 

Posted: 30 May 2011
Word Count: 500

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As the sun rose, John walked the drystone miles that made up Hollyoak; the farm that had been in his family for countless generations. The peaty bog sucked and slurped under his boots. This high on the moor, even in July, a bitter Northerly wind hissed through the sedge forcing the grasses to nod and dance.

A stubbornly determined man, John had fought to keep the farm going, often working late into the night going over the books, praying to God that somehow he had missed something. But it wasn’t to be. The farm was losing money and there was nothing he could do to stem the tide.

“Diversify!” said Rupert, the rural business advisor, and Johns' wife Jill had leapt on every hare-brained recommendation the man made. She had even suggested turning some of the stone barns into Holiday Lets. When John pointed out the cost of conversion, she countered that there were rural assistance grants to be applied for. But John was a proud man, besides they would still have to find half the cost themselves. And the coffers were empty.

Then Jill had joined the Parish Council and her mood lifted. She’d always been quite happy at Hollyoak, content to run the house and help with the lambing and suchlike. Now she was out at least three times a week, sometimes late into the night. He told himself countless times that she was just trying to help save the farm, that she was out discussing ideas for rural regeneration schemes to help the local community. She thought she was being clever; that John wouldn’t notice the new underwear and the reappearance of makeup that she hadn’t worn for years. But he noticed far more than she would have believed. He noticed the smell of aftershave on her blouse, he noticed the light in her eyes as she left and closed the door, and their dimming when she got back.

Then, when he couldn’t ignore his suspicions anymore, he followed her into the village. With relief he saw her park at the Parish Hall and go inside. He’d been waiting for less than 30 minutes when he saw the doors open and out walked Rupert, followed a moment later by Jill. He watched her take his arm and press her body against his as they walked to his car. Without turning on his lights, he followed them out to Aysgill Force, where they stopped and walked hand in hand down towards the falls. John parked and followed slowly, their every giggle and laugh cutting chunks from his soul. He watched in stony silence as they kissed and Rupert undressed his wife; he watched as the man lay his wife down; he watched as the falling water deadened the sound of their love-making. Having seen enough he turned and walked away.

John walked the drystone miles. The bitter Northerly wind laughed in his face and pulled tears streaming down his cheeks. John cursed the wind and pulled the trigger.

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Comments by other Members

Cornelia at 11:25 on 30 May 2011  Report this post
It worked all right in The Archers - renting out the cottages, I mean. I like holidays in country cottages.

Looks as if Jill's trying her best, but rather her than me under that waterfall in November.


dharker at 11:38 on 30 May 2011  Report this post
LOL! Intensely practical Sheila The Northely wind blow over Sleddale and Ten End... its quite calm down near the force



ahem: problems tryping with rented fingers.... Northerly wind blows over

tusker at 14:16 on 30 May 2011  Report this post
I enjoyed this, Dave.

A sad tale of a stubborn man struggling and a wife who finds there is life away from the farm. He, unable to go forward. She, fed up, finds some pleansant distraction.

Must admit, I felt a shiver when Rupert undressed her. Love, of course, numbs all sensible senses.



I should say lust not love.

Desormais at 09:54 on 31 May 2011  Report this post
Very dramatic and very evocative Dave. I felt as though I were there. I loved the 'drystone miles'. Well done.

dharker at 10:44 on 31 May 2011  Report this post
Thanks Sandra! So glad you liked it...


Gerry at 20:46 on 31 May 2011  Report this post

Yep - evocative and dramatic. Great stuff. Enjoyed this a lot.


dharker at 21:21 on 31 May 2011  Report this post
Thanks Gerry!


Bunbry at 13:03 on 02 June 2011  Report this post
Hi Dave, this is really well written – I’ve noticed that your writing is much smoother these days and this has some lovely phrases in it.

Unfortunately, a cuckolded husband blowin’ his own noggin off is a difficult story to pull off as I’m she it’s been done a million times before.

To be honest I’ve always felt that an MC killing himself at the end of a Flash is a bit of a cop-out as it’s an easy answer to the question “How do I end this dramatically”.

Personally, I rarely if ever go down that route, and always try and find a cleverer, more original ending, and that’s what I would urge you to do with this.

Indeed, a challenge one week could be to write a Flash where the MC dies at the end, without it being rubbish!


dharker at 15:09 on 02 June 2011  Report this post
Hmmm... thank Nick! I see what you mean but from the outset I was thinking of rural suicide rates which I know are humungous... the pressure of making the land work, the ever decreasing price that lambs bring and the loss of income from wool all mean that hill farming is no longer a proposition in its own right. Diversification is something that is being pushed strongly for those who can afford to change direction.

For poor souls like John, losing the family farm that they and their ancestors have stewarded for hundreds of years is not an option. His suicide is probably more this imminent loss than the betrayal by Jill. If she has any culpability then it is in his perceived loss of her support in his fight for the farm - were it simply the cuckolding then I'd see it more likely he'd fetch the shotgun to them before topping himself.

In my mind I think he sees himself alone in failing the farm, and almost understands Jill's need for a life away from the farm.

That's my take anyway - didn't intend for this to be an "easy" ending...


fiona_j at 15:36 on 02 June 2011  Report this post

I liked this a lot. The affair was believable and understandable to a point. John's despair is well written, woven well with the wind and the bitter cold.

To be honest, though, at the end, I thought he was killing his wife!! That doesn't make sense at all though and I don't think it's your writing that deceived me, I just had that in mind!

Nick - I would change that challenge slightly to not just any death, but suicide that isn't rubbish.

But Dave, I thought this was a lovely and sad story. Well done.

Fi x

dharker at 15:45 on 02 June 2011  Report this post
Thanks Fi!


V`yonne at 15:48 on 02 June 2011  Report this post
Having read all that I come back to my own reaction which was that I need to change one word

joyous love-making.

leave out the adjective.

I think maybe the you need to make a decision in your mind about the date of the events so that they are not freezing as per the change here perhaps?
The bitter Northerly wind laughed in his face and pulled at the tears streaming down his cheeks.

I felt sad at the end for this farmer who'd lost everything. Farming is such a struggle!
I liked it very much Dave.

dharker at 16:36 on 02 June 2011  Report this post
Thanks Oonah... As you point out there is some ambiguity with the time of year that this happens so I've changed things a little and had a re-jig to meet the word limit. I hope its clearer now and that the ladies amongst you feel more comfortable with the shinnanigans down by the falls!

I love your idea of the "bitter" wind - giving its double meaning of "cold and harsh" and its alternative "resentful and angry".



Bunbry at 19:05 on 02 June 2011  Report this post
Hi Dave, just to answer your point about it being the farm's failure that drove him to suicide and how that happens a lot these days.

That doesn't change the point I was making which is, your basic plot was 'Crap happens so bloke tops himself'.

You said it wasn't an 'easy' ending but how long really did it take to come up with that denouement? My guess is, not that long.

I would always spend time trying to come up with something an audience wouldn't easily see coming.


dharker at 20:56 on 02 June 2011  Report this post
Hmmm... good point Nick. The development of this was always leading to him going up the moor, a place where he can see his and his ancestors land, and ending his life. You're right - in that light it is an easy ending. I'll bear this in mind in future stories but in this case I'm happy with the ending as it stands.


crowspark at 11:11 on 05 June 2011  Report this post
Hi Dave. Great flash! You set the mood well with your scene setting.
Rural suicide has been with us for a while. Yes, when the farm you are losing has been in the family for generations I'm sure it does feel like a personal failure and when the loss of a partner follows this ups the damage.
I was expecting him to shoot the lovers but that would not have fitted into your main theme so I don't have a problem with that.
You might consider lengthening this because for me its strength is in the journey of reader experience and not the ending.

dharker at 18:45 on 05 June 2011  Report this post
Thanks Bill - I'll see what I can do. Really happy you enjoyed it!


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