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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Mawgrim's Prompts - 1. Prompt 856 - Moving Day

It had been a long drive to Shirebrook Farm in steadily worsening weather. When they had left Leicester, the sky was merely grey, but the further north Andrew drove, the more threatening it became. 

Matt looked up from his phone screen. ‘There’s definitely snow falling across the Peaks now,’ he said. 

‘Remind me again why we had to move in the middle of winter?’ 

‘We didn’t really have much choice in the matter, what with the second lockdown slowing up the whole process. Anyway, it’s February now. It’ll be grand watching the garden spring into life and the orchard blossom.’ 

Matt always saw the bright side of everything, Andrew reflected. ‘I know,’ he said. ‘I’m just a bit nervous now it’s really happening.’ The decision to sell their comfortable suburban home for a place in the country hadn’t been taken lightly. They’d been thinking about it for a year or two, once Andrew had taken early retirement with a good pay-off and a decent pension. It had been during the first lockdown, last spring, that they’d realised how much they both missed walking in the countryside and how restricted they’d felt traipsing the suburban streets and the small park near to their house. Matt’s business, running writers and artists retreats had been steadily growing and it was clear that if they moved somewhere suitable, he could develop it still further. 

They’d visited Shirebrook Farm on a balmy September afternoon with golden sunshine spilling through the ancient, moss covered trees and ripe apples hanging from the branches in the small orchard. The old stone farmhouse came with an acre of garden, mostly lawn and long-established shrubs and a couple of hilly fields, rented to a local farmer for summer grazing. A long, low barn, built of the same local stone (which Mrs Bradshaw referred to quaintly as ‘the shed’) would be perfect for conversion into studios and rooms for the guests to stay. The place was peaceful and secluded, yet only a ten minute stroll from the nearest village, which sported a pub, Post Office and a couple of shops. Andrew’s main concern had been that someone would snap it up before they had managed to sell their house. Fortunately, that hadn’t happened and their offer had been accepted towards the end of October. But then had come lockdown, causing all sorts of delays. 

There was a plaintive meow from the back seat. Both cats were in their travelling boxes, placed on top of a gaudily coloured beach towel in case of accidents. They weren’t enjoying the journey. Matt glanced back to check on them. ‘Muffin’s not happy. He’s clawing at the side of the box.’ 

‘How’s Smudge?’ 

‘Sleeping, as usual.’ He looked forward again. ‘Satnav says ten minutes to go. Hope they can hold on until then. Don’t really want to have to open the windows.’ 

‘No.’ The frost warning had chimed just after they set off and the temperature had dropped a couple of degrees once they’d left the motorway. Now the sky was leaden and the first tentative flakes of snow began to hit the windscreen. ‘The removal guys are going to love unloading in this.’ 

‘Our furniture won’t appreciate it, either,’ Matt said. ‘Although I’m sure they have contingency plans in case of bad weather.’ 

‘Like finding the nearest transport café and sitting it out.’ Andrew turned on the wipers as the snow began to fall faster. ‘Let’s hope the heating works in this place. I mean, log fires are all very romantic but I’d rather not be sweeping out the hearth every morning.’ 

‘Poor old Cinders,’ Matt joked, waving his phone like a magic wand. ‘You shall go to the ball,’ he added in a silly falsetto. 

‘Turn left in two hundred metres,’ the satnav announced. 

Andrew carried on driving. Surely the road hadn’t been this steep and narrow before? Still it had been a few months since they came this way and places looked different when the seasons had changed. Stark stone walls bordered fields of rough grazing, where sheep huddled against the weather. A few gnarled trees with black branches stooped against the direction of the prevailing wind. His nervousness grew. It hadn’t looked this bleak back in the autumn. 

‘I think our drive is just a bit further on the right.’ Matt leaned forward to peer through the snow. There was a sign, wasn’t there?’ 

There had been, but they’d missed the turning last time and that had been in far better weather. 

‘You have reached your destination,’ the satnav said, unhelpfully. It had done that before, as well, recognising only the postcode area rather than the actual location of the farm. 

‘There it is,’ Matt said, pointing.  

Andrew had to brake hard. Thankfully there was no other traffic and the cat baskets were securely strapped in place with the rear seat belts. He recognised it now. The track led upward from the main road.  Snow dashed against the screen in a hypnotic blur as the wipers cleared it away. As they crested the hill, he caught his first glimpse of Shirebrook Farm, nestled in its valley. The stream of the same name had been barely a trickle under the stone bridge when they’d viewed the place. Now it was a muddy torrent, racing downhill. Bare trees reached spiky fingers to the sky. He wondered if they’d be cut off from the village should the snow storm become any heavier. ‘Let’s hope the removal van will be able to get up that hill.’ 

‘It’ll be fine,’ Matt assured him, laying a comforting hand on his arm. ‘You always worry too much.’ 

Andrew pulled up close to the front door, digging in his pocket for the keys. ‘I’ll get the door open, if you want to bring the cats.’ 

‘Sure. We’ll put them in that small bedroom, out of the way, like we said.’ 

‘And I’ll get the kettle on. I’m sure the removal men will be gasping for a cuppa when they arrive.’ If they arrive, he added silently. 

‘I don’t think we’re supposed to give them refreshments with the Covid restrictions.’ 

‘Hmm. We’ll see about that. Anyway, I know I could do with one. And a cup of tea,’ he added as Matt smirked. ‘That’ll be later on, once we’ve got everything settled.’ 

He hurried across the cobbles to the porch, searching for the right key. The bunch was crowded. Andrew guessed that the old lady had been the type never to throw things away and that as locks had been changed over the years, she’d simply added the new keys without removing the obsolete ones. Eventually the lock turned and the door opened onto their new home. The hall was dark and chilly. He fumbled for the light switch and a bare, old-fashioned bulb glowed dimly, revealing the red quarry tiles he’d so admired. They’d need restoring of course, but they’d known this house would need some work. The Bradshaws had lived here for almost fifty years, before Mrs Bradshaw’s husband died and she had finally decided to move to a modern apartment close to her daughter.  

Matt came in, carrying a cat basket in each hand. Both cats were alert now, knowing they’d arrived, yet smelling all the unfamiliar scents of this new place. The stairs creaked as he climbed them. 

Andrew opened the door leading to the kitchen; the main room of the house with its solid pine table as a centrepiece and the Aga stove tucked away under a brick archway. Thankfully, she’d left it alight and a welcoming warmth pervaded the room. 

A postcard lay on the table, covered in tiny, crabbed writing. He remembered Mrs Bradshaw’s arthritic hands as he held it closer to the light from the window. She’d probably left some instructions about the heating, as he’d mentioned he was unused to the system. 

I’m sorry but I had to leave Doris behind,’ he read, deciphering the scribble. ‘I’d arranged for her to be picked up yesterday, but she refused to go.’ 

He heard Matt’s footsteps coming back downstairs and looked up as he walked into the kitchen. 

‘What’s that you’ve found?’ he asked. 

‘I’m not sure. It sounds like there was someone else living here with her, who won’t leave.’ 

‘Well, upstairs is definitely empty.’ Matt leaned over his shoulder. ‘What else does it say?’ 

Andrew scanned the next sentence. ‘Says she’s left some money in an old wallet in the dresser for food and…’ he paused to make sure what he’d read made sense.  ‘No, that can’t be right.’ 


‘I’m pretty sure it says here she’s in the shed.’ He handed the postcard over for Matt to double check. 

‘Oh my God! It’ll be freezing out there,' he said, after a few moments.

‘I can’t believe someone of Mrs Bradshaw’s age would be so irresponsible.’ Andrew shook his head in disbelief. He’d heard stories about the odd ways of country folk, but this beggared belief.  

Matt read the card a second time. ‘Doris. That sounds like an old person’s name. A sister, possibly?’ 

Andrew shook his head. 'Who knows? Maybe she’s got mental health problems, or something. We’ll have to call social services…’ Surely Mrs Bradshaw should have done that herself, rather than just leave them with the problem. 

‘Well, whatever, the first thing we need to do is get her inside. We can’t leave her out there in this, or we’ll have a dead old lady on our hands.’ 

They went back out into the yard. Snow was settling on the cobbles now and the wind was bitter. The door to the shed was firmly shut. ‘Doris,’ Andrew called, tentatively, not wanting to scare her. ‘Are you all right? We need to come in.’ He tapped gently.There was no reply, even when he leaned closer to the faded paintwork.

‘Best just go in,’ Matt said. ‘She might have hypothermia and be unconscious.’ 

Andrew struggled with the rusty mechanism, but an application of brute force did the trick and it eventually opened with a creak. ‘We’re coming in,’ he said. ‘Don’t be frightened. We’re here to help you.’ 

Inside, it was dark. The floor was made of the same cobbles as the yard, although some straw had been spread around. He looked around for a light switch, but couldn’t see one. The only illumination came from the opened door and a small, dirty window. A pungent smell reached his nose.  

Behind him, Matt swore softly. ‘How could anyone live in here?’ 

Andrew stepped further inside. There was an unseen rustling from the farthest corner. He thought he caught a glimpse of movement. Images from horror films flashed through his mind; a mad woman with bird’s nest hair and tattered clothing leaping for his throat.  ‘Doris?’ he said, cautiously. 

Something stirred in the darkness. Andrew recoiled involuntarily, bumping into Matt. In the bleak, grey light, his face echoed Andrew’s own fear. Maybe they should have waited until the removal van arrived, rather than rushing in alone?

As the creature came towards them and was at last revealed, Matt broke the tension with a chuckle. Doris was a small brown and white goat. 

Prompt words: a snow storm, a beach towel, a postcard, an old wallet, and a goat.

Copyright © 2021 Mawgrim; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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😆 OK.  I was expecting a dog or a cow or a chicken.  A goat?  Oh, that’s good!  I can just see them trying to get settled in a new house, getting used to a new life in the country and learning how to deal with a stubborn goat!  This was great!  I hope this is the start of many more stories! 🐃

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Well, I woke up with an idea for the prompt that made me laugh and goats are a change from dragons!

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4 minutes ago, Mawgrim said:

Well, I woke up with an idea for the prompt that made me laugh and goats are a change from dragons!

You need a break every now and then to refresh.  When you get stuck for D’Gar and the others, come back to Andrew and Matt and see what’s up with them.  Country life is very different from city life, and now they have Doris to make things interesting! 🤣

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That’s funny. What will Matt and Andrew - and the cats - make of this new addition to the family? This was a great response to the prompt. 

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Might I suggest a couple prompt for another chapter in this?  This is starting out very well.

"Andrew liked to read stories about dragons."

"Matt was looking back over notes from past writers conferences, and saw that Jaxon had written a short story about a dragon who liked ocean fish.  Jaxon was also signed up for the upcoming conference -- which made the third time he would attend Matt's conference."

Edited by ReaderPaul
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The atmosphere evoked by the building clouds and snow storm as they were heading in the dark to a farm house which they hardly knew how to find was great. I thought it was a horse the old lady had left behind and kept thinking to myself, good luck bringing it into the house. Very nicely done!

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2 minutes ago, Talo Segura said:

thought it was a horse the old lady had left behind and kept thinking to myself, good luck bringing it into the house.

That's why I put the prompt words at the end, so it wouldn't spoil the surprise.

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Just now, CassieQ said:

This is adorable and very well done.  Thanks for sharing!  (I guess the guys have a goat now)!  


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5 hours ago, Mawgrim said:

Well, I woke up with an idea for the prompt that made me laugh and goats are a change from dragons!

Than god the goat was named Doris and not near a volcano!!!!😆

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Glad to see this spoke to you. As the one who created the list, I quickly figured out who Doris was. I enjoyed this a lot and wouldn't mind more.

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