Category Archives: Fiction

2232. Aunt Josephine’s painting

I’d always liked the painting Aunt Josephine had on her dining room wall. I don’t know why I liked it, but I did. It was simply a portrait of an unnamed woman. It was painted in oils, waist up. Her eyes stared out directly into the room. I was delighted when I was left the painting in Aunt Josephine’s will.

I too hung it on my dining room wall. It was on a side wall behind where the head of the table would sit – not that we followed such a custom. We sat where we liked. On one of the longer walls was the fire place, and on the wall opposite the fireplace was an expansive window. The lady of the painting overlooked the table; the fireplace to her right; the window to her left. It was as if the portrait had been painted especially for the room.

Not long after I had hung the painting, my sister visited. She knew I had been given the painting. Where is it?

“It’s in the dining room,” I said. “She overlooks the table.”

We went there, and the lady’s eyes were no longer looking straight ahead. She was looking out the window. It was creepy.

I soon took the painting down. I didn’t like to store it in the attic for who knows if it would go bump in the night. It was possessed.  I burnt it in the fire. Bit by bit. I remember especially burning the piece with the eyes.

That evening, when we sat down to eat, the picture was back up. Entire. Complete. The eyes were staring steadfast and cold at the fireplace. And her lips had a smile that wasn’t there before.

2231. Cemetery shortcut

There was someone, or something, watching me. I felt it. That night I shouldn’t have taken a shortcut through the cemetery. It was to change my life.

I had been working late at the law office. I was going to grab some junk food somewhere on the way home (I would go to work on foot and lived alone) but then I remembered some left-over soup in the fridge. Waste not, want not – as my granny used to say. It’s a motto I’ve lived by. So I was hungry and eager to get home. That is why I took the shortcut through the cemetery. I normally wouldn’t do that because to be honest I don’t like cemeteries, let alone at night.

I got goose bumps. The hairs on my arms and back of my neck stood up. I wanted to turn around and look. There was no sound, no footsteps. I was telling myself, “Don’t turn around! Don’t walk faster! Stay calm and quietly walk forward and you’ll soon be out of here.”

And then I heard it. A little sound. Very quiet. Very soft. “Help! Help!”

I stopped. It seemed to be coming from a tall gravestone monument – a pedestal with a marble angel on top. “Help! Help!”

My first thought was to wonder if this was a trap. But what if it wasn’t? What if the child was in genuine need? (I presumed it was a child because the voice was so small). I decided to investigate. It was a child indeed. A little girl. I asked her what was wrong, but she would answer nothing but “Help! Help!”

“Come with me,” I said, and she followed. We went home and I contacted the police. Over the next few weeks messages went out about the little girl. It drew a blank. No one knew a thing, and the little girl spoke but would never say her name or where she came from.

That was fifteen years ago. As the years went by I realized something: it wasn’t the little girl who was watching me. It was someone else.

Tonight we celebrate Sasha’s twenty-first birthday. We made up the age and date and name. I know that Sasha and her boyfriend Sam are going to announce their engagement. She has been the joy of my life.

2230. Bravo Valerie!

Valerie was in charge. She’d been in charge all her life; in charge of everything. Now she had been promoted (at last! at last!) to become the Director of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force at the University’s Department of Human Evolutionary Biology. At last she could demand real science from the lecturers. None of this namby-pamby nonsense of there being only two sexes. If multiple sexes were good enough for mushrooms it was good enough for humans. Had not fungi and humans evolved together on the same planet? If one wakes in the morning and feels like a marsupial then one is a marsupial.

We must rid ourselves of white, middle class, male, deeply-entrenched European concepts of science. When did we last teach the profound science of the Yoyontze Tribe? They could tell the time of year from the singing of birds. The weather was forecast in the flowering of the sontigaga vine. Warfare between villages was necessary to prevent the gene pool from getting too restricted. The science went on and on. And on. Butterflies are to be admired, not dissected. Oh look! There’s one now!

Yes, Valerie was in charge. She had expelled from the university’s teaching staff all who could not follow the science. After all, that’s what the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force was for. There are even rumours that Valerie is going to be nominated by the President to be the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – once the current holder kicks the bucket.

Bravo Valerie!

2229. A real man writes poetry

Only a real man writes poetry. At least that’s what Aunt Winifred told Nephew Hayes. Lesser men grovel around in prose, but a real man writes a poem.

Hayes had been dating Mabel for over a year now. He wasn’t an overly clever chap but he thought he might string together a line or two of poetry. Anything to impress Mabel. Anything to make her go weak at the knees.

Mabel’s such a pretty name
It makes the birdies sing,
But I can’t make it rhyme with anything.

Hayes screwed it up and dropped it on the floor.

You are my sunshine on a rainy day
You are a restful park bench on my way
You love me especially when I pay.

Again Hayes screwed it up and dropped it on the floor. There was getting to be quite a pile of paper there now. It was also getting to be late afternoon, and Hayes was getting depressed. He began to think he’d be better happily grovelling around in prose for the rest of his life.

A violet by any other name would smell as sweet
And you smell.

Hayes screwed it up and threw it on the floor. And then the doorbell rang. Hayes answered the door. There was an envelope. It was a message from Mabel:

It’s over.

2227. A sudden medical event

Don’t take this the wrong way but I’m not after sympathy. My wife died unexpectedly two days ago. We had planned to go on a seven week luxury cruise around the Pacific Islands. There she was starting to pack our things for the experience of a lifetime and the next thing she was dead.

This is starting to sound like I’m more shocked with missing out on the cruise than I am about my wife’s sudden departure. We had been married for fifteen years. There were no children; that was from choice and not from the vagaries of Nature. So we were quite free to go on a seven week cruise without too much responsibility for what was left behind at home.

We were both in the bedroom when it happened. The luggage lay open on the bed. Suddenly she couldn’t breathe like she was being strangled. She was flaying her arms about and making a horrible screeching noise. And the next thing she was on the floor dead.

I honestly didn’t know what to do next. In events such as this one plays things by ear. I didn’t call for an ambulance. Instead I took the luggage off the bed, picked her up, and lay her down. I know when a corpse can’t be resuscitated.

The problem now is how to get rid of the body before Betsy-Sabrina and I leave to go on a seven week luxury cruise around the Pacific Islands.

2226. Revenge is sweet

The Canasta Club was a thriving retired persons’ venture in the town. Every Thursday evening about sixty people would gather to play canasta and socialize.

As with every such group there is always a head gossiper. Cushla was such. Not a snippet of intrigue escaped her attention. This week it was about Damarius. Damarius was over in the corner with his group playing canasta, and Cushla was on the other side of the room with her group.

“Did you know,” said Cushla, “that Damarius’ old truck was parked outside the only pub in town for several hours? I believe that can be interpreted only one way; he has a problem with drink. He clearly needs to seek help. There’s a club somewhere in town for alcoholics that meets regularly. With his truck parked outside the pub for so long it definitely points to his alcoholic tendencies.”

This juicy piece of gossip was quietly spread from card table to card table. “Damarius is an alcoholic. His truck was parked outside the pub for hours, and everyone in town knows that truck.”

Word reached Damarius’ table. He didn’t say a word but went on quietly playing canasta.

Later, he parked his truck on Cushla’s driveway, took the keys, and left the truck there all night.

2225. Fewer deaths on Sunday

Alexia used to joke – and goodness knows it was the same joke every midday Sunday – that there were fewer deaths on Sunday so she would indulge in a wine or two and a cigarette.

They always had the main meal at midday-ish on a Sunday. On other days of the week the main meal was in the evening. Alexia’s little joke was undoubtedly because the list of names in the death column of the Sunday paper was a lot scantier than the list of dead people during the week. In general, all Sunday news was scantier. Of course in reality the number of dead on a Sunday was averagely the same as every other day.

None of this stopped Alexia from her little weekly joke as she settled in an armchair during pre-prandials, pouring a wine, and lighting a cigarette. “It’s safer to drink and smoke today because there are fewer deaths on Sunday.”

When Aunt Ethel called from the kitchen door that “Dinner’s ready!” (Aunt Ethel always cooked the Sunday meal) all rose except for Alexia. The newly lit cigarette held between her two fingers had burnt to the butt. So quiet and sudden was her death that not even the ash had fallen to the floor. No one had noticed.

2224. Write great in twenty minutes

Something caught Clifford’s eye on the computer screen while he was doodling away the hours on search engines. It was simply a link that said:

Click here to learn how to become a great writer.

Clifford clicked.

Do you wish to write a novel, a play, a poem, a flash fiction, a short story…

Clifford clicked the flash fiction link.

Do you work on a tablet, a phone, a computer…

Clifford clicked the computer link.

Are you interested in cooking, romance, western, science fiction, fantasy…

Clifford clicked the romance link. Gradually, with one click after another and a good twenty minutes of clicking, the Writing Website was satisfied that there was enough information to proceed.

Congratulations! You are ideal to undertake our online writing course! Do you intend to pay by credit card, bank transfer, or Paypal?

2223. Morgan’s pet insects

Honestly having pet hornets can be no fun at all – it’s fun for Morgan of course, but for the neighbours it can be absolute hell. Morgan was the one who collected hornets’ nests as a hobby. Three nests hung on the apple tree at the end of the back lawn. Morgan was all of twelve and when grown up wanted to study entomology at university.

For the time being it was insects, insects, insects! The hornets were merely the tip of the iceberg, but definitely Morgan’s favourite. There were ants, and bumble bees, and daddy-long-legs, and moths, and butterfly caterpillars. Even flies were encouraged but it was proving expensive to feed them because they had to be locked up according to species and therefore were not free to scavenge for food on their own and return to their specific display cabinets. Morgan’s father was a cabinet maker and as keen as Morgan about insects, so he had made lots of pet insect display cabinets which were set up in a big shed next to the garage.

One thing lacking in Morgan’s collection were Murder Hornets. Murder Hornets would have been the jewel in the crown. The curator at the Federal Insect Museum invited Morgan to come and see the Murder Hornets destroy a honey bee hive. It was part of the attraction at the museum. Enthusiasts would pay ten dollars for a ticket to view the massacre – all done once a week and behind glass of course. Morgan was allowed in for free.

The Curator of the Federal Insect Museum was surprised. He had always presumed Morgan was a boy and not a girl. Morgan is one of those transgender names. As you read the story, how did you picture Morgan?

2222. A bit of a whine

(As usual, an interesting number – look at those four 2s! – can mean a deviation from fictional story-telling into an autobiographical vignette).

I hate it when people make fun of me. I find it really depressing. I don’t know why some people have to put others down. In New Zealand it’s called the “tall poppy syndrome”; no one is allowed to stand higher than anyone else.

Someone told me that people are critical because they’re jealous. I’m not sure about that. I think they like making fun of me because they think I’m ugly or something. No one ever invites me to their place for a social occasion or makes a pleasant visit to my place.

It’s not just looks either. They make fun of the way I talk and the stupid things I say. Some even point and laugh. For example the lady librarian at our local library was hysterical with laughter when I took out a book on Greek Philosophy. She said, “What do you want that for?” I told her she wouldn’t know a quiddity from an oddity. I understand Greek philosophy quite well, thank you very much. That’s what I said to her and she screamed even louder with laughter. “What a Hoot!” she shrieked. “Toot! Toot! What a Hoot!”

I don’t like Planet Earth very much. When my leader asked me to represent Planet Hoot on Planet Earth I thought it would be fun. But as it has turned out, it’s the Earthlings that get all the fun; making constant ridicule of my eleven tentacles, five eyes, and twenty-two nipples.