short story by Bea Graansma

BG 157 – Too honest

In the early morning she had left by public transport, from her hometown in the north of the Netherlands on her way to the Mediapark in Hilversum, to audition for the tv quiz The Weakest Link.

(In it, candidates take turns answering questions at a rapid pace that are asked by a so-called strict female presenter. Before being asked a question, each candidate can press the button and shout ‘bank’ to secure the amount the team has accumulated so far. In case of an incorrect answer, the counter goes back to zero. The longer the chain of correctly answered questions, the higher the amount to be banked. At the end of each round of questions, the candidates write down and read aloud who they think was the weakest link in that round. The presenter humorously embarrasses a candidate here and there and then asks one or more of them why they voted for that particular person. They are supposed to give an original and witty answer. The one with the most votes is eliminated – “With four votes you are… The Weakest Link! Goodbye!” – and then has to leave the game in shame through the center of the circle. The next round is therefore played with one less candidate. The last two candidates standing will play against each other to ultimately win the accumulated amount of money.)

The journey was long and tiring, but she arrived in time. After she had registered at the reception desk, she was handed a stack of papers and a ballpoint pen and shown the way to a canteen, where dozens of people, alone or in groups, were already seated around big round tables. She had to write down answers to all kinds of questions…

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BG 141 – The Swing Realm

“Not too high on that swing!” shouted an unfamiliar male voice behind her. But she didn’t care. The construction creaked every now and then, but it was able to support her almost mature body just fine. With her hands tightly wrapped around the rough ropes, sitting on the smooth-worn oak plank, she swung her legs straight forward and hanging in the ropes with the wind through her hair she went higher and higher.

At the highest point she felt for a moment like her intestines made a little jump, then she swung back down again. Past the lowest point she pulled her feet up toward the plank. High up at the back she hang motionless for a split second before whizzing forward again with even more speed and stretched legs, pulling on the ropes.

She went higher and higher. She felt like she was flying, like she was being released from the ground, from this playground, from her old neighborhood, from her narrow minded home.
Woohoo! Higher and higher! Forward – stretch, backward – fold.
Stretch – fold, stretch – fold, stretch – fold.
She could already look over the trees in the distance and see miniature houses and tiny cars and tiny people moving.
A sense of ultimate freedom washed over her.

“Not so high on that swing!” the same male voice called from behind her. Oh no? …

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BG 134 – The Clap Cow

This morning The Maakster on her daily walk through Quiet Belgian Village came along the Noensewegel, an idyllic bicycle/footpath with on the right, behind a wire mesh fence and then a ditch, cows in meadows. It was customary in good weather for a group of cows to be in one of the meadows, but this time the farmer had spread them over several ones, probably because he had recently made hay and there was not much left to eat per field.

The Maakster stopped to look at a cow that lay close to her, a meter from the ditch, ruminating, each time banging her teeth together with a remarkable noise. As if she had bad fitting dentures.
It was really just an ugly animal. It had a dirty white color with a few light gray spots here and there that looked like you could just rinse them off with a garden hose. But she had something special: that clapping of her teeth. The beast struggled to get up with her thick elongated body on rather short legs, …

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BG 132 – 100 Words Fiction

Damn tree with shit birds

Lying on his back, in the young grass, under the curly hazel.
The branches move gracefully in the wind. The leaves are bright green, the sky above blue, the sheep clouds cute white.
He shuts out the city noises, concentrates on the twittering of the birds.
Magpies, magpie-birds. There are two in the curly hazel every day.
The same every day? He doesn’t know, he can’t tell them apart.
She will not come again. Not today, not tomorrow, not all summer.
She will never see the magpie-birds with him again.
Goddamn, right in his eye!

BG 125 – 100 Words Fiction

New route

This time everything was different. The route, the feeling, the arrival time, the destination. She walked along the deserted track and felt the cold rain, but in the distance there was always the mountaintop, sometimes shrouded in mist or watered by rain, more often silvery gray in the distant sunshine, while she walked in the shadows. Last time, on the previous route, she was he. He walked elsewhere, in another time, towards another fate. Initially, today was more promising, more challenging, but in the end still normal, as always. She walked close to where he used to walk.

BG 122 – A thriller in 33 words

His heart beat fast and sweat stung his eyes.
He pressed his back against the rock face and heard the stones fall.
His shoes barely found grip on the remaining patch of ledge.

BG 105 – Kitty from Hamburg

Just last week he had called her. She had sounded cheerful.
“No, no, no, don’t!” she’d yelled, laughing.
“What’s that, aunt?”
“I was talking to Kitty from Hamburg.”
“To who?”
“My kitty!” she laughed, “I was talking to my kitty!”
“Ah okay.” That spoiled rotten cat of hers…
“She ran off with my bead again, hahaa!”
She had always been a little strange, his great-aunt.

And now she was lost.
This morning she hadn’t come to drink a cup of coffee with her neighbors, the Nose couple, at her usual time. She didn’t answer the phone, the newspaper was still in the mailbox, the back door still locked, and she didn’t even respond to the doorbell.
Oh my, oh my.
Couldn’t he come by with the spare key? …

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BG 100 – I lived a hundred lives

Although I don’t get out much, I already lived more than a hundred lives this year.

How is that possible?
I read over a hundred books and in each of those stories I empathized with the main characters.

I visited almost the whole world together with tireless travelers, I relived early love together with teenagers, I endured setbacks together with people of all ages and backgrounds, I fought off attackers together with people who wouldn’t let it happen anymore, I fought against injustice together with people who refused to be suppressed any longer, my personality developed together with that of people who struggled through obstacles in their lives, my compassion grew together with that of people who went through a lot but learned to forgive, I felt a vibrant new energy together with people who pursued their passions, but also the ultimate emptiness together with people who reluctantly started every new day, I prepared for death together with people at the end of their lives, I mourned together with those left behind, I found solutions for complicated problems together with real go-getters and their friends, I programmed and hacked my way out of tricky situations together with computer nerds, I won matches together with champions, and lost them together with people who didn’t make it to the top, I barely survived together with people who were struggling, I committed murders together with hardened criminals, tracked down criminals together with disillusioned detectives, I solved the climate problems together with clever minds, I traveled through the last stretches of untouched nature together with nature lovers, and I experienced how much effort it takes to create something original – that pleasantly surprises, or provokes thought – together with other artists and writers.

By the time I die I will have lived not one but a thousand lives!