The Girl Who Floats Up Hills

Couple Embracing

Simon doesn’t do heat, and he doesn’t do hills. He comes from the Marshes in Southern England, where it’s cool and damp and you can see for miles. So how he found himself in the centre of Lisbon, walking up a steep incline in the midday sun, is a mystery to him.

Simon spies a shady spot up ahead where two tall buildings are closing in on each other, squashing the shadows between them. He thinks if he can make it to the shade he’ll be fine.  He’s starting to sweat, and mosquitoes are crowding round him like a personal entourage.  He doesn’t mind, though, they remind him of home.

As he pauses for breath, Simon notices a girl on the other side of the tram tracks. She smiles at him and calls out, ‘American?’

Simon, who thought his mid-length trousers and navy blue t-shirt made him look quintessentially English, is a little put out. ‘English,’ he says, frowning.

The girl smiles and skips over the tram tracks towards him, her flower print dress fluttering around her knees like a thousand butterflies. Simon tries to return the smile, but it’s more of a grimace as he’s still panting from his short walk.

‘You should have taken the tram,’ the girl says. She sounds almost American, but Simon detects an accent hiding in the elongated vowels. ‘Then you wouldn’t have to puff and huff.’

‘Huff and puff,’ Simon says, in between huffs and puffs.

‘Excuse me?’

‘We huff first, then we puff,’ he explains. He holds out his hand, ‘Simon.’

‘Adelina,’ says the girl, but she doesn’t take the sweaty palm Simon offers. ‘Thank you, Simon, I will try to remember to huff first. But you should have taken the tram. I don’t think you will make it to the top.’

‘The tram looked hot and crowded,’ Simon explains. ‘And at the hotel they told me to watch out for pickpockets – especially on Electrico 28. Anyway, I’m fine, I’m fitter than I look. I’ll make it.’

Simon pushes on up the hill, he turns once to see if the girl is following, but she’s just watching him, an amused look on her face. Simon’s legs are pumping like pistons, his heart is bursting out of his chest, and the sweat marks under his arms have joined together, turning his t-shirt almost black. It is only the thought of Adelina’s mocking that keeps him going.

When he reaches the shady part of the route he leans against a dilapidated graffiti-laden wall, the plaster crumbling on contact and falling to the ground in a blizzard of flakes. Adelina laughs and runs effortlessly up the path towards him. It’s as if she’s floating on a breeze, only there is no breeze, just muggy oppressive heat.

‘Half the way there, Simon,’ she says and claps her hands.

Simon looks up and sees that Adelina is right. On two counts. He is only halfway there, and there’s no way he’s going to make it to the top.

‘Maybe I should take the tram after all,’ he says.

‘But the pickpockets!’

‘I’ll take my chances.’

Adelina smiles, ‘I make you a deal. I teach you about pickpockets so you can take your tram, okay?’

‘And in return?’ Simon asks. Adelina doesn’t seem to understand. ‘What do you want from me?’

‘A kiss from a beautiful English boy!’ she claps her hands again and laughs.

Adelina and Simon lean against the wall side by side. ‘See the man there,’ she says. ‘In the green t-shirt, and that one, the tall one behind the fat man with the blue and white striped shirt, and the lady in yellow, do you see them? They are working together. They dress like tourists, but see how they stand back from the crowd? They are looking for a victim. Now watch.’

Simon watches. As the tram trundles up the street, the first man steps forward and drops something on the ground, as he bends down to pick it up his accomplices close in on the man in the striped t-shirt. They move fast. The tram reaches the stop, blocking Simon’s view.

‘Did you see it?’ Adelina asks.

‘I think so, the tall man took the fat man’s wallet, right?’

‘No, you missed it! It was the girl. The green t-shirt is the decoy, but so is the tall man, he pushes to make the victim push back. When he’s busy pushing the  tall man, that’s when the girl moves in and takes the money.’

‘So the girl has the wallet, shouldn’t we do something?’

‘Too late, see the man over there,’ Adelina points down the street. Simon can’t see anything except a man in the distance hurrying away. ‘He has the wallet now.’

‘Him? He’s miles away!’

Adelina nods. ‘Now you know all about the pickpockets, I claim my kiss,’ she says.

On a narrow street halfway up one of Lisbon’s famous seven hills, a sweaty English boy and a mysterious Portuguese girl in a flowerprint dress embrace and kiss. They take their time, enjoying the taste of each other’s lips. The girl wraps her arms around the boy’s body and kisses him gently on the neck, then pulls away.

‘Now, go catch your tram, English boy,’ Adelina says, still laughing. ‘And no more huffing and puffing!’

Simon watches her skip up the hill. She slips down a side street and disappears. Simon realises he is grinning. His jaw hurts, but he can’t stop. He feels almost light enough to skip after her, but his legs still ache so he crosses the road and queues for the tram.

He is still grinning when the tram pulls up. He grins at the pickpockets, unnerving them so they step back and leave him alone. He grins at the conductor when he asks for his fare. And he even grins when he reaches in his pocket for some change and discovers that Adelina didn’t just steal his heart. She stole his wallet too.


Written for the Daily Post: A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words Challenge. Click the link for details and maybe give it a go yourself? Mine is exactly 1000 words –  it wasn’t obligatory, but I like counting words and it just happened to be pretty much 1000 words worth of story. Hope you enjoyed it 🙂

Friday Fiction – Midlife Crisis

This is my second Friday Fictioneers and it’s a tricky one – the photo almost had me stumped. I’m not even sure that my entry makes any sense but, as promised last week, I have stuck to exactly 100 words so at least it follows the rules even if it is a bit … odd.

For those who don’t know, this is a challenge to write a 100 word story from a picture prompt. It’s hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and anyone can play. Thanks for hosting, Rochelle!

Here’s the picture:

Copyright -Douglas M. MacIlroy
Copyright -Douglas M. MacIlroy

See what I mean? It’s a tough one – I don’t even know what those poles with chains on are! Anyway, here’s my entry  – let me know what you think. You can be brutal, I can handle it 🙂

Midlife Crisis

I’m washing up when Margy calls. It’s Derek’s turn, but I’ve not seen him since he started his new project. He’s been holed up in the den for days.
‘So you don’t know what he’s up to?’ Margy asks.
‘I did peek,’ I say. ‘When he popped out for glue.’
‘It looks like he’s making a giant ball.’
‘At least it’s not women or fast cars.’
‘Fair point. Give me giant balls over women any day.’
I’m still laughing when Derek appears, all morose.
‘It fell on the floor,’ he says. ‘And now it’s all hairy.’
Poor Derek.

Friday Fiction – Don’t Blink

This is my first Friday Fictioneers – and I’m blaming JackieP for this. I’ve been following her Friday offerings for a while and finally plucked up the courage to join in – so be gentle with me!

For those who don’t know, this is a challenge to write a 100 word story from a picture prompt. It’s hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and anyone can play.

Here’s the picture:

Copyright-Rich Vosa

And here is my little offering (105 words I think, so nearly there!)

Don’t Blink

If I can just get to the end of the corridor then I’ll wake up. I know I will. There’s ten doors to the end. I’ve counted them many times.
I walk forward, staring straight ahead, running my hand along the wall as I count. The wall is warm to the touch, the doors cold, hard, lacquered wood. One door, two doors, three doors. Getting closer. My eyes are hurting, but I won’t close them. Not this time. Four doors, five.
I blink.
The scene resets.
One door, two doors… if I can just get to the end of the corridor then I’ll wake up.

Out For The Count


I like counting things.

When I’m walking home and it’s too dark to read, I count my steps in twenties. First forwards, then backwards, then in French, then in Spanish. If I’m still not home, I start again. I’ve had several pedometers too – they do the counting for you, but I still join in to check they’re working properly. Am I sad? Probably.

NaNoWriMo was great for counting – number of words written, number of words still to write, average words per day. I even did the 666 thing (I found out about it on the forums) – where you write down the 666th word and the 1666th and the 2666th and so on, and then you see if there’s some kind of secret message from the dark side.

Anyway, December hasn’t been much fun on the counting front because I’ve been sick for days. My brain stopped functioning completely as soon as NaNo was over –  all I could manage was groans and whimpers punctuated by the odd moan. It was one of those special ‘variety pack’ illnesses too, a new symptom every day, sore throat, cold, headache, fever, general bleurghiness etc.  I manage to trawl through a few blogs and occasionally mustered up enough energy for a virus-laden ‘like’ or a flu-filled comment, but that was all.

So, total word count since December 1st (not including this) – I’ve no idea but I think it’s somewhere between one and three. I vaguely remember trying to write something on fever day, but I tore it up and threw it away the next day (coughing-my-guts-up day).

Today is the first day I’ve felt okay, but I had to go back to work, so my word count remains effectively zero.

Tomorrow though, I’m going to write, because my brain is functioning again and I really really miss writing. And then I’m going to count the words, and then I’ll count them in French and Spanish (maybe even backwards) because I really am that sad.

Photo credit: designwallah / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
Photo credit: Strep72 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

By the way, in case you were wondering, here is my message from the other side.

“Postman them my radio splutter It’s left but of is thins close what’s wear Speed it be knot is to anywhere hasn’t after button much me That rather all really then the They’ve start our or jump for go down when trouble A you in on fighting until police No of find.”


Beware of NaNoWriMo Rule 9.3333

“9.3333) Reward yourself copiously for embarking on this outrageously creative adventure.”

I did as I was told, and now have a monster hangover (thanks NaNo)
Photo credit: Mike Licht, / Foter / CC BY

But I also have this:

So it’s all good


The Sofa’s Gone All Chucky On Me.
Photo credit: Akbar Sim / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

It’s probably my fault for getting cocky. I was speeding along with my NaNoNovel, clocking up 2000 words a day, thinking how easy it all was. There were a few dodgy days where the words didn’t seem to come, but nothing to write home about 🙂

And then all of a sudden the words stopped coming, just dried up, disappeared, went on holiday and refused to come back.

I tried all the tricks including:

  • Forcing myself to write anything which came into my head. This actually turned out to be a very useful exercise, after 20 minutes I had a comprehensive shopping list for the next couple of weeks. No actual NaNo words though.
  • Closing my eyes and writing. I’ve been told about this exercise before, it’s supposed to release your inner thoughts. It probably works better when you’re typing rather than handwriting.  I have no idea what I wrote during this exercise, there was a word that looked like mubbleflumps, but the rest  was completely undecipherable.
  • I even tried sneaking up on my notebook (I was sure the element of surprise would work), I walked past my desk whistling and looking in the other direction. Then, just when it was least expecting it, I jumped into the swivel chair, grabbed the pen and started writing. It was a massive failure.
Photo credit: Kalense Kid / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Yesterday I gave up and asked my characters what they wanted me to write about. This was a very bad idea. The Sofa Whisperer was a mad enough idea in the first place (talking sofa, chair and footstool that only Layla, a teenage kickboxer, can hear), but 3000 words later it’s taken insanity to new heights. George the footstool has decided he doesn’t like humans, because he has to put up with their smelly feet all the time (I can sort of see his point), and the sweet, slightly pathetic sofa has turned psycho. It’s decided it doesn’t want to be ‘cured’ of its talkativeness, so it’s gone crazy and taken control of everyone’s emotions – turning them all into crazy, raging, hormonal teenagers.

I think NaNo may have permanently warped my mind.