Category Archives: Fiction

1898. The dead tree

I don’t know if you can see the photo of these two old trees. One’s dead, and the other is barely alive. My husband and I planted these trees years and years ago. He’s dead now – the husband. He planted the dead one. I planted the other one, the one that’s gnarled and barely alive. I’ll be eighty-seven this coming October.

There used to be a house roughly where the person taking the photo would be standing. That was our house. The first and only house we had. The two children were born there. It was our dream place; a lovely house, not too big and not too small, set on twelve acres of what could only be described as park land. We planted those two trees (and a number of others here and there) as part of the “landscaping” of our park. Our life was like a perpetual honeymoon.

Jude had built the house himself. And I helped of course, as best I could. I sewed drapes and did the painting and wall-papering and so on. Jude was the one with the saw and the hammer and the screw driver and the muscle. It was like a dream come true!

After the birth of the second child things fell apart. We’d been in the house for four years and we put it up for sale. No one ever bought it and Jude disappeared before any divorce proceedings began. I leased out most of the land to a neighbouring farmer and stayed in the house with the children. They’re gone now – the children. Tony’s a lawyer up in the big city, and Rachel manages a business that teachers adults how to do basic computer things.

My current house gets quite cold in winter, so I’ve asked Tony to come and cut down that dead tree for firewood. The one that’s barely alive has a few more years left in it. It might sound cruel but I’m looking forward to burning logs of Jude’s tree throughout the winter. It’s good he’s serving some purpose at this stage of my life. Apart from building the house he wasn’t much good for much when he was here. In fact he was useless. And mean; really mean. It’s why I did him in.

1897. The maze

It really was rather annoying. It was wearing her parents down to a frazzle. Aurelia wanted to try the local hedge maze. She was only nine years old. She wanted to do it on her own.

It was summer time. Every time they drove passed the maze place Aurelia would pester her parents.

“Can I go in the maze on my own?”
“I want to go in the maze.”
“Let me do the maze.”
“Monica went in the maze.”
“Muriel went in the maze.”
“Why am I the only one not to have done the maze?”

Enough is enough! Aurelia’s mother stopped the car (she was driving).

“Here’s four dollars,” said her father. “We’ll pick you up in an hour.”

That was seventeen hours ago.

1896. A compromising situation

Dear Heart Throb
I really don’t know who to turn to. I am eighteen and my uncle’s wife claims to have information on me that could prove embarrassing. I don’t know whether to confront her about it or ignore it and hope it goes away. She claims to have photos of me in a compromising situation even though I know I’ve never been in a compromising situation like that. It’s amazing how photographs can be doctored these days to make them look real. Any suggestions?
Disgruntled Nephew.

Dear Disgruntled Nephew
You seem like a nice young man. How awful to be accused of being in a compromising situation and never having been in a compromising situation. You’ve got the worst of both worlds.

May I suggest you make a list of possible compromising situations – experiences that theoretically would embarrass you if knowledge of them got out into the public arena. An example could be getting videoed while stealing something valuable from a shop; or being caught having an affair with a popular film star. Things like that. Then choose one from the list and GO OUT AND DO IT. Make sure it gets noticed and recorded, and then leave it in a place where your uncle’s wife will find it. Doctoring photographs simply doesn’t work. She’ll want the genuine stuff. You’ll find that often the general population will be in awe of you and your compromising situation. You’ll be something of a celebrity.

Hope this helps.
Heart Throb

1895. Cruel names

Merry was called Merry because she was born on Christmas Day. Clearly her parents didn’t realize that the proper spelling of Mary had also some connection with Christmas. Merry spent her entire life, as a punishment for her parents’ lack of knowledge, saying, “No! That’s not how you spell it!”

Just over two years later, when her little brother was born, it was New Year’s Day, so he was named “Happy”. It was a providential name because when he grew up and began a career in looting he shot a couple of policemen and was known within close circles as “Trigger Happy”.

There was a third child in the family. He was called Roger; short for Roger Mortis. The parents thought it a huge joke because he was born on the very day that Grandma died. Spelling was not the parents’ greatest strength so “Rigor” was registered as “Roger”. Otherwise if he had been born on an ordinary day of the year they had in mind to call the baby Plain Jane if a girl, and Joe Blogs if a boy. And then Grandma stepped up to the plate. Roger had escaped from having a life lumbered with silliness.

Honestly, a number of people were relieved that the parents didn’t create further children. “I’m sure any uncreated children would be more than grateful that they never came into this world,” declared a neighbour, Ms. Stacey Meldrum. Stacey herself has a host of kids. I can only remember the names of three of them; Tabernacle, Vernacular, and Genuflection. After these three Stacey developed an interest in organic chemistry.

1894. Wild game

Pieter had an obsession with wild game. He had tried to eat as many legitimate wild things as possible. He not only hunted them, just one of every variety, but he thoroughly researched the best possible way to cook them. What was the best way to prepare wild pork, for example? Did one devour it with an accompanying apple sauce or perhaps wild blueberry chutney?

His list of tasty wild creatures was comprehensive. His favourite game taste at present stood at wild turkey, although the drumsticks of a wild turkey were quite stringy and tough. It must be because of all the running and scratching these wild birds do. But it was far tastier than the domestic turkey and quite different. People don’t realize.

Of course, although it was legitimate to hunt some things Pieter stopped at having grilled bat. One never quite knew what dingy guano-riddled cave the bats had been in. Besides, Chinese cooking wasn’t Pieter’s favourite form of culinary delight.

Although wild moose meat was good enough there was an awful lot of it. A single animal filled Pieter’s freezer. His wife wouldn’t touch moose – “too gamey” – so Pieter spent months ploughing through the moose carcass. He was not one to waste things, but by the end of it he was totally sick of elk.

There were two creatures on Pieter’s list that he had never tried: wild hare and wild swan. Where he lived one could hunt swan, although numbers hunted by each hunter was limited. Still, one needed only the one to try it. And then Lady Luck stepped in!

A friend gave Pieter a hare and a swan on the same day. The same day! Pieter was ecstatic. “When shall we eat them?” asked Pieter’s wife. Pieter knew exactly what they would do:

HARE TODAY, SWAN TOMORROW.

1893. Daily shower

Judy rather proudly proclaimed in her stringent voice (it was actually a private conversation but she spoke loud enough for everyone to hear because she was so pleased with herself) that her golden retriever puppy had learnt to open the bathroom door and then open the shower door and get into the shower.

“Right when I’m having a shower,” she said. “Right when I’ve shampooed my hair and have my eyes shut. The first time I got a huge fright, but I’m used to it now. Such a clever puppy! Intelligent! He loves playing in water. And then by the time I’ve rinsed the shampoo out of my hair and opened my eyes, the puppy’s gone. But he always turns the light on. Isn’t that clever?”

“I thought you were going to say it was the fancy man that visits your house every day around that time,” said Ivan.

“What fancy man?”

Of course, Ivan was making it up, but he hated show-offs.

1892. Damp bath towels

It had been raining for what seemed like weeks. Quite honestly, Leon was running short on bath towels. The first batch of washed bath towels he pegged out on the outside clothesline in the rain. Often it would be fine the day after rain, and having laundry rinsed in the rain added to their freshness once they had dried. But this batch of six towels simply did not seem to want to dry.

It wasn’t as if he was made of towels. He had eight altogether, three red and three grey and two white. After the initial wash he was left with two dry towels that quickly dampened when Leon took a shower.

There were a few other things Leon was trying to dry as well. For example, his wife’s woollen pullover had been damp for so long that he thought it really needed a quick rinse to freshen it up again.

His living and dining rooms were festooned with drying laundry. The backs of chair, the table, even the television, had towels draped over them.

Leon thought of going out and buying a new set of bath towels. But then what would he do with this lot of towels once they had dried? Would he simply throw them away? Why wouldn’t they hurry and dry? These six towels that he had used to mop up his wife’s blood after he’d shot her. The woollen pullover, once dried, he would burn.

1891. On talking to a telegraph pole

I’m constantly amazed at how stupid some space aliens really are. The other day I caught one having a conversation with a telegraph pole. A telegraph pole!

I said, “You’re talking to a telegraph pole you stupid idiot. It’s not a living thing; it’s just a pole for holding up wires. It’s inanimate.”

“Oh yeah,” it said. (I’m not sure with the aliens if it’s a girl or a boy. Possibly neither. I read, apparently they breed like mushrooms. Sort of clouds of spores. I’d better watch out! Ha ha!) It continued: “Perhaps if you tried talking to a telegraph pole yourself you’d realize they are not as inanimate as you might think. Here! Try it!”

“Hello telegraph pole. How are you today?” I said.

Suddenly there was a cloud of spores floating all around me. I said that these spores were like mushroom spores, but really it was like a pollen explosion in a pine forest. I was so immersed in the all-pervading floating pollen that I could hardly see the alien. It was smiling in a ghostly manner; it was mesmerizing. Quite frankly it was grotesque.

Anyway, I had to dash off home. I was so excited, as was my wife. I just realized something then and there. Poof! In a flash! We’re going to have a baby! Possibly tomorrow morning.

1890. A spelling competition

Once upon a time a coven of witches were having a spelling competition. These weren’t the nice witches that one finds in real life; these were witches one finds in fairy tales; bad ones. For example, Noratia Cacklebother had been involved in the abduction of Hansel and Gretel. On this particular day it was raining and all the witches were sitting in a circle bored out of their tree. Rutterkindle Not(e)worthy suggested they have a spelling competition, and since she was the only one with a dictionary it seemed wise that she be the compere and ask the questions.

There were many interesting words thrown up for consideration. Noratia Cacklebother got stuck on spelling “Handkerchief” because she pronounced it without the “D”. They had gone around the circle three times and everyone had got things right except for Noratia Cacklebother who also misspelled “pharaoh” and “cassowary”. She was embarrassed. She was enraged. She stood. She proclaimed.

“You want to know how to spell?” she screamed. “Then I’ll teach you how to spell.”

By the left eye of the crocodile,
With a little nip of parsley and a slither of snake,
By the tuatara’s middle eye,
With a dash of nutmeg and a wriggling worm half-baked.

All the witches were completely caught off guard.

WHOOSH! waved Noratia Cacklebother with her wand. All were turned into frogs. Permanently.

Good riddance, I say. They were a nasty lot. But be a bit careful if you bump into Noratia Cacklebother. She’s still in a fluster.

1887. The Harmonious Blacksmith

It was Grandma Hilda’s 75th birthday coming up. She loved to hear twelve year old granddaughter, Lydia, play the piano. Grandma Hilda liked old-fashioned music. Not that Lydia didn’t, so Lydia thought she would surprise Grandma Hilda by playing a piece specially learnt for the birthday. Lydia thought and thought and thought. In the end, she decided to learn Handel’s The Harmonious Blacksmith. She practised and practised and practised. It was quite hard, even though she was very good at playing the piano.

Grandma Hilda’s birthday arrived. Lydia and her parents went to visit.

“Happy Birthday Grandma!” said Lydia. “I’ve learnt a special piece on the piano for you!”

“That’s lovely dear,” said Grandma Hilda. “As long as it’s not a piece by that awful composer called Handel. His music goes boom, boom, boom, and I can’t stand it.”

“No,” said Lydia. “It’s by Scarlatti.”

Grandma loved it. She didn’t know the difference. In the circumstance it’s possible that Handel wouldn’t have minded.