Guest Post: Gary Holdaway

I am delighted to be able to present a guest post from a young British writer, Gary Holdaway. Here is his own short bio.

A young writer from the UK with big ideas, and an even bigger passion for words. A multigenre author of both novels and short fiction, Gary has a flare for the suspenseful, the frightening, and the unknown.

It is a short story, inspired by this photo.

The Cabin

In the time it had taken Dr Mark E. Redwood to trek the nine miles through dense woodland before finally arriving at the cabin, he had tripped at least six times, soaked his feet in a failed attempt to jump a small creek, and had picked up multiple scratches to his face and neck fighting through malicious low branches. He was useless when it came to the outdoors. Hopelessly, utterly useless. But he didn’t care. He had to do this. For the sake of his sanity, God please, he had to do this.

Another day spent filing paperwork, flicking through Mr What-you-call-him’s files to find the correct dose of haemorrhoid cream —because Mrs What-you-call-him is oh so worried about his scratching again— he would reach into his desk drawer, take one final long drink of his aged bourbon, and blow his own head off with daddy’s antique shotgun. Nature was the answer, Julie told him, but not a holiday in the sun, no, that was too commercial. That’s what all the doctors do when they need a break, she said, sipping another of her vile green health drinks. He needed to get out into nature on his own, have nothing to do and nobody to speak to, rediscover himself.

He saw her logic, but with the frequent buzzing and wafting of mosquitos, he scorned it. He lugged some fire wood from the pile by the porch through the rickety door, stubbing his toe on a small chest as he entered. “Ah fu…God’s sake.” He stopped himself from cursing. Getting out on his own wasn’t enough, he had to try to control his anger, you see. Cleanse his soul, grow closer to God. (She told him.)

Searching the cabin high and low for rogue creepy crawlies took him most of the afternoon. To his surprise he only found one spider… but in it’s defence, it was frickin’ huge. That was an ordeal. By the time he found something suitable to whack it with, it had crawled off into the crack between the wall and the bed frame, a particular hiding spot that filled him with dread. He coaxed Mr Eightlegs out with a coat hanger, and from a distance you could only describe as laughable, threw the phone book at him. Why would a cabin in the middle of nowhere, without a phone, have a phone book anyway? He wrote it off as one of life’s mysteries and wiped the squished insides of the spider from the wall, hurling the phone book, and with it the butchered remains, far beyond the cabin’s porch. Just in case, you know… The little bastar— spiders, play dead. Dr Redwood, one, nature, zero.

The rest of the night was spent shivering by the fire wrapped in his duvet, once he got the damned thing lit of course. By nine-thirty, or maybe ten, he was asleep, and his sleep was heavy and dreamless.

Morning came along a stream of mixed birdsong. Dr Redwood’s watch told him it was five-thirty, and the sun was painting the sky with pretty oranges and pinks. It complimented the colours of the autumnal forest, and with that thought, he chuckled to himself. Here he was stretching out under a canopy of trees, in a cabin, on his own, thinking about colours and the beauty of nature —considering painting, even— when just yesterday he was behind Mr Sneath on all fours, with a latexed finger up his arse. Sorry, anus.

He considered for a moment, just a moment, the direction his life had taken. He had become a doctor just like his father had told him. He had learned to shoot clay pigeons, play golf, and meet with pharma reps. He had married his childhood sweetheart. That’s as far as that one goes. She hadn’t been his sweetheart since a few years after college, but he loved her well enough and she was already carrying his firstborn by then. He had stayed faithful, at least, which is more than she could say. It was his fault, she said, you’re never home. His parents simply stated that he had made his bed when he didn’t wrap it up and got her in the ‘family-way.’ So he worked, he smiled, he stayed true to his vow, and he done what every working family man must. He chugged along.

But here in the morning light, the thought intoxicated him like a drug. what if… What if?

He spent his day walking the forest. Despite looking like Rambo at the end of First Blood, he enjoyed himself. He lit the fire —using a lighter he snuck into his backpack when Julie wasn’t watching— and plonked himself before it in the rocking chair. He stared into the dancing flames, each ember casting shadows across the wooden clad of the interior walls.

Without first washing his hands, without first changing his clothes, he sat in peace, wrapped in his duvet, rocking back and forth to the cracking of the hearth.

Tomorrow he would go home. Back to Julie and her not-so-secret affairs and health drinks and yoga instructors. Back to haemorrhoids and prostate checks and writing antibiotic prescriptions for the common cold. He’d go back to his picket-fenced suburban home with his white marble floor tiles and grandiose ornaments. Still though, that thought, as he rocked back and forth in the calmness and serenity of his own mind.

What if?

(Copyright Gary Holdaway, 2018)

Gary’s own blog can be found here. I hope you will have a look at the rest of his work, and give this ‘revived’ blogger some support.

If anyone else would like to take up the photo prompt and send me their own story based on this, or any other photo, I would be happy to publish that too.

36 thoughts on “Guest Post: Gary Holdaway

  1. “When writing submissions for publication, it’s amazing how much thinking and work goes into a simple 1200 words!” (Gary Holdaway)

    Pete, as one on a fiction binge, I’m sure you appreciated that statement.

    Reading Gary’s comments, I appreciated his honesty with respect to imperfections inherent in first drafts. I did spot a few mistakes. And, of course, I’m guilty of making mistakes, too. I think writers should always make a solid effort towards producing perfect draft, but experience has taught me that perfection is very hard to achieve. At some point, you simply have to accept what you’ve written, and move on.

    I enjoyed the story. The forest seems just the ticket for someone named Dr. Redwood. He just needs to face those critters a little more boldly.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Many thanks for your comment and your own thoughts, David. I am indeed writing around 1300 words of fiction every day at the moment, and find it gets easier as it goes on. Once the story is ‘living’ in your heard, it’s just a matter of typing it all out. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks a lot for posting this! Overall it was fun to write, not to mention a little different for me. Having spent some time away from writing, I’m trying to stretch myself into new styles, blending the typical consistent style I’m used to, with new and experimental genres. In this particular short, I tackle humour, and try to tie it in with this laughably hopeless character that, like a lot of us, isn’t entirely happy with the direction of his life. Having read it back, I do like it. I’d go back through and clear it up a bit, pick up some moments where I slipped into passive voice (a trap I fall into too often, around the time the story starts to tell itself,) and switch it out for an active sentence. I hope you, and your readers enjoy the piece. It was fun to write, and I’m delighted to be seen on your site!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Where’s the fun in that? One of the things I always loved about blogging was its raw, fluid form. No writers are perfect, and when writing for a blog, while we check over our work for spelling and grammar errors, I tend to post the work in its first draft stage. I always find this is a great exercise in cleaning up your first drafts too, so that there is less work when it comes to rewrites and deep edits! That, and it’s simply fun to churn out lots of stories. When writing submissions for publication, it’s amazing how much thinking and work goes into a simple 1200 words! I find first draft posting refreshing and enjoyable 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

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