Extract from The Edge – a story to be told

1938 Belgrade – someone knew the war was coming. The Edge is an untold story about relationships and friendships, betrayal and love at the onset of the Second World War in Europe.

The coffee pot was empty. The spirit had been drunk. Whilst Mirko was in the bathroom having a shave a note slipped thourgh his letterbox. Ready to go out in his shirt and trousers, he noticed the paper lying on the lino flooring. Finally he thought, the letter is here. He folded it neatly and put it in his shirt pocket, ready to head into town.

Belgrade was busy, always busy. It never stopped. It was going to be a hot summer’s day. Already at nine in the morning, the concrete roads were hot, never having cooled down from the previous day, or the day before that. It was going to be a long hot summer. Most people were out in their summer clothes, no jackets. Some ladies had a cardigan draped over their shoulders, but most were just in dresses, ocassionally slacks and a blouse. Everybody looked smart. No one would have guessed that times were difficult, but then no one was sure just how much more difficult they were going to be. Mirko decided to call in at the office to hear the latest news, he may go down to the palace later if he got the chance.

The newsroom was quite busy, a fan whirred lazily in the corner, waiting for the temperature to rise so that it could break down, as it did every hot day. Typewriters were tapping away and the ker-ching was a welcome sound to Mirko. He liked to be in the press office, even on his days off. He just couldn’t stay away.

“I have it here” he said to the editor. “It came this morning. I haven’t read it yet.” He was summonsed into Branko’s office -a large man with a cigar stuffed between his fat fingers. “ Sit” commanded Branko. “Read”

Mirko nervously opened the thin envelope from America. He wasn’t sure what it would reveal, he hoped it would give him the answers he was looking for. Branko folded his arms and leaned over his desk. “Let’s hear it” he said. For an editor, he was a man of few words, thought Mirko. It was in cyrillic, written by hand on airoplane paper in a light blue ink. He skimmed over it with is dark eyes. 

“It’s all lies says Nedjo. None of it is true. We aren’t going to get in to a war.” Mirko and Branko looked at each other, neither of them believed what Nedjo was saying. It was counter- everything else they were hearing and what the family was saying. Neither of them wanted war for sure and they wished Nedjo’s words were the truth.

“Do you think he is lying to us and misleading us” asked Branko.

Mirko shrugged his shoulders. “Why would he do that? Maybe he believes nothing will happen. He has nothing to gain from printing lies, none of us have. If there will be a war, there will be a war.”

“Well we can’t use his letter to print a story, it’s just rubbish”. Snorted Branko dismissively. “Do what you want with it. In fact call him if you like and listen to his voice and what he has to say on the telephone. I need more from him to make a good story here.”

Mirko nodded, He agreed it would be good to give Nedjo a call. He would do so later. “I’ll be back in tomorrow, I’m off to the palace to see what they make of it.”

Branko grinned. “You and the Queen Mirko, you are like this” he crossed his index and middle fingers.

“Don’t invent something that isn’t true Branko,”warned Mirko, feeling protective.” That’s the last thing we need.”

Branko smiled and nodded bidding Mirko good bye for the day.

There was a long route to the palace, that takes in the Kalamegdan Park and the River Sava, or the Danube. It takes around an hour and a half from the press office and there are a good few cafes on the way to choose from. Mirko had arranged to meet his old school friend, Mirjana whom he was very fond of and hoped he would get her to agree to marrying him one day. He chose a small cafe on the embankment and sat and waited, knowing that Mirjana would walk down from the north as she always did, looking out for him, wondering where he would choose to sit. She liked this little game of his.

Mirjana was a good-looking woman with dark hair and sharp blue eyes, and had what Mirko described as a ‘wicked smile’. He liked her playful manner and her open mind. She was an intelligent woman who knew what she wanted, and was very independent minded. This appealed to Mirko very much. He looked her over as she headed in his direction, her pace increasing as she noticed him. She loved his dark eyes, very much.

“Cigarette” she offered him as she sat on the seat opposite him, across a small circular iron table. He nodded as she lit one for him and then handed it over. He stroked her hand as he took it from her and gazed into her eyes as he inhaled.

“Where have you been lady, I haven’t seen you for days. Are you hiding from me”

“I might be”, replied Mirjana teasingly. “I might have found another man, perhaps a big strong soldier”.

Mirko quirked his brow. “Well in that case, why have you come to meet me today, is it to taunt me by telling me you have another man?”

Mirjana laughed. She could never really tell when Mirko was being serious, or if he believed her teasing or not. She knew he was deeply in love with her, perhaps more than she was with him. But she did care about him more than anyone else in the world.. He knew this.

In editing mode…all thoughts appreciated. What do you think? 

Foraging through the human mind

I believe quite firmly, that humans and fungi have a lot in common. Delving deeply into my current writing project and taking time to savour the personalities of my characters; I can enjoy the subtle flavours of each as it develops.

The last two years I have ripped my way through nanowrimo, in sixth gear letting my mind do its thing, bringing in people from the subconscious and adding them to the pot of plot soup.

Not this year, there’s a sense of darkness and deepness that is foraging for fungi in the woods -further in like Red Riding Hood, secretly willing the wolf to appear.

As my life reveals over recent months the devious, selfish and festering minds of unfulfilled adults -reaching a maturity of age, yet not of soul -my heart grows cold towards them. They have become fly-infested mushrooms. There’s not much can be done about their existence, but it is a shame to think that a person can get so far in life and then go off.

The thing about fungi is you can’t always tell what’s edible and exactly at what point.

I’ve been foraging in the past -as a child with an Austrian woman who was a keen gardener and gatherer -she knew where to look for food in city parks and woods. She would explain very carefully to me how fungi worked under ground, how beautiful they were above (sometimes) and how dangerous they could be. Like people, she said.

“Mushrooms are like people, all kinds everywhere around you. They are at their best for a short time then they grow dark and deadly and fall apart. These purple ones are pretty, but they will make you sick. And you know the big red one is bad and you shouldn’t touch it.” she once told me.

She carried on,”This one is strong, growing out of the tree and this one here hiding under the bracken is playful -a big round ball begging to be kicked so it can spread its spores further. These are good to eat -at the right time of course.”

“Then there are the small ones, oh so similar to each other with inky caps or orange tendrils -it takes an expert to decide which are good for you and which will make you hallucinate”

And so the world of fungus has influenced my writing this season, quite aptly. Mushroom soup is my favourite, as are people despite the rot that sometimes sets in -I’ll never be turned off my soup.

Extract from The Edge (unedited)

As the pot of water bubbled on the stove, he turned down the heat and spooned in a large mound of finely ground coffee beans. Dark and rich, the smell was always comforting. He stirred whilst bringing the pot back to the boil. The coffee was ready – strong and dark and thick. There was a set of small cups and saucers on the shelf above the stove. Mirko took one down and placed it on the table, along with the coffee pot and a bowl of sugar cubes. He took a shot glass from the corner cupboard and pulled out a bottle of grape spirit. The table was almost set for the morning ritual,just the ashtray was missing.

Once everything was in place, Mirko opened the doors to the balcony and sat on the chair soaking in the heat of the morning sun. He loved mornings, especially when he was alone with time to think and not being hassled to have his breakfast. Coffee and spirit was a good breakfast he thought to himself. The sun shone into his dark eyes, darker than the black coffee by his side. Nothing penetrated his eyes, they were almost black. His face was slender, and his nose long and thin with curled nostrils that gave him a dismissive air.

He lit his cigarette and inhaled through his curly nostrils, sucking his cheeks in then releasing the smoke through his mouth. It felt good. It took the edge off a bad night’s sleep.

I think he’s the strong, edible kind…we’ll see.