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Hi. I wrote this a while ago. The aim, to some extent, was to experiment with writing as a female first person narrator. I enjoyed the process – but would value feedback from the reader’s perspective. Thanks. Peter.

 

Rock Chick (1193 ww)  

 It's a stiflingly warm afternoon, and I'm lazing beneath the patio table parasol at the rear of a rather tired-looking six-bedroom country house. I must remember to get the decorators in to repaint those flaking window frames. I did mention it to Dave, but he never got around to sorting it out. It's up to me now, I suppose. After all, the house is mine, and I can certainly afford it.

'Nanny?" It's my granddaughter.

"Yes Millie?" She's a lovely kid – just seven. Pretty – all tumbling blonde curls and an enchanting smile. A potential heart-breaker if ever there were one. She looks a lot like me when I was her age. Yes – more like me than her mother. They do say that looks can skip a generation.

"Mommy and Daddy must have lost this ball when they played tennis this morning."

"I'm sure you're right Poppet. Leave it here on the table then, and you can give it back to them when they come to pick you up later."

"Okay, Nanny." I watch Millie as she places her find carefully on the table top, before skipping down the garden towards the tennis court to resume her exploration. I envy her energy. I used to have lots of that too – but I’m almost a pensioner now, darn it! Ah well!

Nudged by a welcome, though all-too-brief, gust of marginally cooler air, the ball rolls across the table towards me. I pick it up. It's just a tennis ball. Yellow. Slightly scuffed. Like any other. Like ... yes ... like the ones we used when we had knockabouts at Deepfields Hall, back in the day.

We'd just returned from a big US tour – our second of three, and by far the most successful. The heavy rock band had come home to rural Shropshire in order to rest and recuperate and write songs for our next album. We’d rented that thumping great manor house – bigger even than this one – complete with its own recording studio, outdoor pool, games room, and a tennis court. The idea was that we'd work and also have some fun.

I have a few photos inside. I'll fetch them. I'm not sure that revisiting days past is necessarily all that wise though – especially given the circumstances. I'm no longer the same woman. Not by a long chalk.

Okay. What have we got in here? There are pictures of the band members – mugshots, I guess you’d call them. I’ll lay them out on the table. Chris Watkins, Steve Randall, Brian ‘Mick’ Michaels, Dave Taft, and me – Lucy Donoghue – before I became Lucy Taft. There are a few photos of the guys on stage here as well. Blimey. Look at us – all hair and hormones. Dave and Mick are at the front with Steve standing back bashing away at his bass, while Chris at the rear batters the drums in a frenzy of flying dreadlocks and a shower of perspiration. That was Phoenix, and it was quite a night, as I recall. Better than the first time we’d played there – when our original drummer, Neil Spender, keeled over after injecting some dodgy heroin. He never woke up again. God! Stupid bugger! What a tragic waste!

People used to believe, and still do, that touring with a band is a dream lifestyle. In truth, though, it can be an absolute nightmare. We’d spend several hours on a plane, before spending many more cooped up in a van or a bus. You can only tolerate being confined to a tin box for so long, before the mind begins to rebel. Sadly, the search for an alternative so often leads that mind into a bottle of booze or, worse still, pills, or even a syringe. Of course, it’s all too easy to be wise after the event!

Another photo of Dave. This was taken in calmer times at Deepfield. He used to wear those rather sexy shorts for tennis. I wonder what he did with them. I don’t remember seeing them again afterwards. We didn’t play all that much tennis, mind, and neither of us was any good really. It did bring us together though – albeit in a rather bizarre way. I can still feel the pain in my eye. Dave didn’t mean to hit me with it, but I was distracted by his gorgeous tanned legs and took my eye off the ball just long enough. Poor Dave. He was mortified. I dropped to my knees, howling, as I clutched my eye, fearing blindness at the very least. He helped me to the kitchen where he patiently – and very gently – dabbed it with a cloth dipped in cold water until the ache began to ease. There was no lasting damage to my eye – but our professional relationship was about to be completely blown apart. Dave was almost overwhelmed with sorrow and I had to shout at him.

“Dave! Stop apologising!”

“I’m so sorry Lucy.”

“Dave. I said stop it.” I pointed at my still sore eye. I couldn’t help myself. “Now kiss it better.” We were married about three months after that. The match was drawn. Love all! Ha!

We had over thirty years of marriage and some great times together – along with the occasional squabble. It’s so sad: even though Dave had a full and productive life, a fatal heart attack at 62 still seems so unfair. It’s been ten months now. Crikey – I do miss him. Still, I have my daughter, and her daughter, Millie – who I can now see trying to sneak up on Gint, my ginger tom. She’ll be lucky.

What about the remaining photos? There’s another of Brian Michaels – or ‘Mick’ as he was known. He was at Dave’s funeral. Of all the guys in the band, he’s the one who seemed best able to hold his life together. He didn’t marry, although he always had a pretty girl in tow. In truth, he was the best looking – even better than Dave. Nice guy, too. He was so supportive when Dave died. If ever I needed anything – even if it were just a shoulder to cry on …

Here’s a picture of me on stage, viewed sideways-on standing at the keyboard, and wearing the tiniest of denim hot pants. People used to say that I had a great ass. In fact, it was voted the best female backside in rock and roll two years running – according to Butts and Boobs magazine anyway. On reflection, it’s all a tad mind-boggling. I mean, did people really read that stuff?

My daughter, Cassie, came round to collect Millie a short while ago, and I’m now alone in my oversized pad. It holds so many wonderful memories, and I’m not yet ready to part with it.

It’s been a hot, sticky, day and I just enjoyed a cool shower. Looking in the mirror as I dry myself, it’s good to note that I still have a half-decent butt – despite my age. And now, as I peer through the window, I can see that Millie has forgotten that tennis ball after all.

Hmm! I wonder if ‘Mick’ Michaels might be up for a game. 

 

Comments
  • Depends on the tone you're after, but to me, Lucy comes across as cozy and asexual. Women are pretty clear about when they have a great ass (or similar attribute). And a rock chick is just as likely to remember having the hots for one of the guys in the band...and for her husband. But if it's a cozy-grandma feel you're after, ignore what I just said. 

    From a writing point of view, you might be able to get more impact by starting later - with her looking at the photos and reminiscing so that the reader gets pulled in to the story right away. That would allow you to weave in some of the other elements in an organic flow. 

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    • Thanks Constance. That's useful. As I said, I enjoyed the gender swap process, but I reckon I'd struggle with a cozy-grandma perspective. Maybe I just lack ambition. 😉

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      • It's inherently ambitious to swap genders. Bravo for that! 

        I liked the story, btw, in case I forgot to say that. Just thought maybe the grandma could show more visible sassiness. 😀

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      • Hi Peter. Thanks for sharing. 

        Is this solely to experiment with a female voice or are you trying to create an engaging story? If it's the former, I think youv'e done well with the voice. I like Lucy, and can see a quite ordinary, reserved lady sitting there reminiscing about her wild rock n roll days. If it's that latter, although it was an easy read and well written, albeit a little tightening needed in places, there's not enough of a story there for me. There's no strong conflict, and not enough emotion, seeing as though her husband had recently passed. 

        I agree with Constance that the story could have been started later. The beginning seemed not to lead anywhere, and the relationship with her late husband and band members was the core of the story. That's where it needs to start. Particularly as the death of her husband came across to me as just a passing comment.

        I hope this helps. Well done for leaving your comfort zone and experimenting with another gender. I like doing this. It can really broaden our understanding of psyche and behaviour.

        Oh, one more thing. I'm assuming this is a story set in Britain, but Mommy is generally an American way of spelling.

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        • Hi Charlie. Thanks for the feedback. The story was written originally for a local writers' group meeting (Obviously - it's been a while since we last met up face-to-face, due to Covid). I feel that these sort of gender swaps are potentially useful anyway, as they're good practice for POV changes in longer stories, including the romances I write. I'm not sure about the Mommy issue (American?). The alternative, I guess, would be 'Mummy'.

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        • I think that pushing the boundaries of your creativity by writing in the opposite gender is a worthwhile exercise.  Rose Tremain created a very believable male character, Merivel, in her novel Restoration.

           I need to understand what makes a characters tick before writing from their perspective.  As a white, working class, retired engineer, I can write from my own experience, imagination and insight from life experiences.

          Some of this can transfer, genderless, to character of the opposite sex.  So, for example, I wrote a short story about a white witch.  Her gender was irrelevant.





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          • Thanks Brian. Interesting stuff. Of course there's a guy by the name of Harry Bingham who writes about a female detective in Cardiff. I think he does it rather well. Cheers.

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          • Hi, Thanks for sharing the story! I have to agree that writing in the voice of the female is a good exercise. I also agree with the story starting a bit later. You have something nice to work with so maybe you can add a plot. Look forward to seeing more!

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            • Thanks Nancy. There have been some interesting and helpful comments posted about this one.

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