Category Archives: Tales

2014. A smoking gun

Jude had not been brought up well. His father was an alcoholic; at least he was until he turned up to work drunk and “accidentally” fell down an elevator shaft. Jude’s mother was addicted to quinine and her kidneys had packed up and she too was dead.

Jude had an older sister who took over his care, but she was on drugs and got her drug money in the entertainment business. She worked from home.

When he was fourteen, Jude didn’t “discover” for he already knew, but “realized” that there were easier ways to make money than to work. He’s made a few contacts via some of his sister’s clients. He looked a lot older than fourteen. School had long gone down the drain. He worked as a pimp with the occasional bit of burglary thrown in for luck.

Then his big break came. One of his sister’s ex-clients said he’d give Jude ten thousand if he did his sister in. Jude said he would but what way was it to be done? The guy said he didn’t care, so Jude got a gun and shot his sister dead point blank. It was all pretty easy.

When Jude went to get his money the ex-client turned him in. “This guy murdered his sister.”

Jude got life. The ex-client got off scot-free. He was clever like that.

2013. Don’t count your chickens

Maree was trying to instil into nine-year old Vincent a sense of the value of money. He must learn to work and save and spend. Since they lived on a small life-style block Maree came up with an idea based on their living conditions: if Vincent fed and looked after their poultry she would buy the eggs off him. It was quite simple: Maree and Vincent’s father would continue to buy the feed for the poultry, but the rest was over to Vincent. She would pay him thirty cents an egg. There were only three hens, but with careful saving money over a reasonably short space of time things could build up into a handy little nest egg.

Three eggs a day! Not quite a dollar a day! Almost seven dollars a week! Roughly 27 dollars a month!

For two months Vincent acted as a faithful chicken farmer.

“Have you spent anything of your savings yet?” asked proud Maree.

“Nothing yet,” said Vincent. But he had learnt and done a few things. He had gone to a local poultry farm and they had given him an old rooster.

“Is that crowing I hear coming from the hen house?” asked Maree.

“When there’s no rooster,” said Vincent knowledgeably, “sometimes a hen will start crowing like a rooster.”

After several weeks Vincent started going to the grocery store and buying a carton of eggs. He would sell his mother three eggs a day. In the meantime his three broody hens were sitting on a dozen eggs each!

When his money ran out, Vincent announced that his hens were moulting and not producing eggs, so Maree began to buy eggs from the shop.

Within a few months there were more than thirty hens and roosters scampering around the life-style block.

“What’s all this chicken food I’m having to buy?” asked Vincent’s father.

Within a few weeks more Vincent was able to sell his mother a dozen eggs a day. Not that she needed that many eggs, but she passed some to her sister and some to her mother. Now and again Vincent would get a bonus – five dollars for a freshly killed and plucked rooster.

“Well,” said Vincent’s father to Maree, “I think your little money education plan worked. From now on he can buy his own chicken feed.”

By the age of eleven, Vincent was selling fresh eggs to fifteen different households.

2012. Traditional wedding plans

Amanda was a solo mother. She had the one daughter, Anita, who was eighteen. Amanda knew that one day, perhaps sooner than later, Anita would get married. She knew that although Anita would say it doesn’t matter she really would like to have a lovely wedding. Nothing lavish; but a lovely wedding with flowers and pretty clothes and a modest but enjoyable feast. Of course, Amanda didn’t have much money but she had saved little bits for a long time. In fact, every Saturday Amanda would sell herbs growing in pots at the town’s Saturday Street Market. It was a dollar here and a dollar there.

Nineteen years earlier, Amanda had got married. She had always dreamed of a wedding. It ended up being “a rushed job” because Anita was on the way. Two weeks later, Kevin was killed in a car accident. It was partly why Amanda was determined to give Anita the best wedding possible.

Suddenly, an engagement was announced! Fintan was the loveliest. Amanda couldn’t have wished for a better possible son-in-law! His father was a lawyer, and Fintan was in his first year practising as a family doctor. Amanda couldn’t wait to meet his parents!

His parents said they’d pay for the wedding drinks; that was the tradition, and Amanda would pay for the rest. They suggested they limit the invited guests to two hundred each. Amanda said she didn’t think she knew that many people, and Fintan’s parents said that it was a good thing because they could invite more on their side to make up the numbers. It was, after all, a society wedding. He was an important lawyer in the town. Things had to be done properly.

What a mess it was for Amanda! What stress! She would have to tell Fintan’s parents that she couldn’t afford it. But first she would have to tell the happy couple.

Anita and Fintan laughed! They had a solution! They’d already thought it out. They were eloping. Tomorrow. And they did!

Fintan was disinherited. It didn’t matter too much because his medical practice flourished. These days Amanda has three grandchildren to help her on Saturdays at her herb stall. Fintan’s parents have no grandchildren; well, none that they care to know.

2011. Visiting an aunt

Let me tell you about my aunt. Her name is April. One day I decided to visit her, so I went to the train station to buy a ticket.

When I was lining up to buy a ticket a plumpish lady pushed past me in the line and said, “Get out of my way, you wheezy little wimp.”

To be honest, I saw red and retorted with, “Who the hell do you think you are?”

The man in the line behind me said “That’s no way to talk to a lady” and I said “Zip it, Sweet Pea”, whereupon he punched me on the jaw. I wasn’t taking that sitting down so I punched back. We got into a huge fight; in fact the whole queue of people got into a huge fight; in fact the whole railway station got into a huge fight. And half the people fighting didn’t even know what they were fighting about.

After a few minutes the police came, and I got arrested and taken away, so I don’t know how the incident ended. I got put in a room (I suppose it was a cell – I’m not sure what the inside of a cell looks like) and told to wait. I reckon I waited about two hours. When this woman eventually appeared I said, “Look, I think I lost my wallet in the scuffle,” and she said “Who cares? It’s your own fault. Shut up and show us some ID.”

I said “All my ID is in my wallet, you dumb cow,” and she stormed out saying “Wait here.”

Well I reckon I waited two more hours and then a policeman turned up and I said I needed to go to the bathroom, and he said “You’ll have a place to pee soon enough” and asked for my ID. I told him about my wallet and he said the same as the woman: “Who cares? It’s your own fault.”

He then asked if I could phone someone who could verify who I was and I said I lived alone and didn’t know anyone in town because I was relatively new here. So he said, well where did you used to live? And I said that I used to live with my Aunt April. The policeman said, “What is your Aunt April’s name,” and I said “It’s April you nincompoop. I just told you. You don’t know diddlysquat. ” And he said well he couldn’t contact everyone in the world called April. She must have another name, and I told him it was none of his business. I don’t have a right to be handing out people’s names willy-nilly.

The policeman said, “Wait here” and left. I tried all the doors and they were all locked except one and that was a toilet thank goodness. The policeman reappeared again and said the same thing, “Wait here.” And that’s what I’ve been doing these last two or more hours; waiting. I guess I won’t be visiting my aunt today.

2010. Happy Thanksgiving!

Every year, apart from whose turn it was to cook the turkey, the Haslett family drew lots as to who would bring what on Thanksgiving. Over the years it had crumbled a little into abeyance because Olga always did the pumpkin pie. In fact she usually did two pumpkin pies. Even those who detested pumpkin pie thought that Olga’s pumpkin pie was to die for.

With her husband off work now with various shut-downs, money was a little tighter than usual so Olga was pleased that in an earlier time she had made some pumpkin purée and stored it in the freezer. Everyone else was a little hard-pressed for cash too, so they all jointly decided that they would make do with ingredients they could find without too much extra expense. Decima’s husband had an excellent vegetable garden so the responsibility for side dishes fell to Decima – although Stacey said she’d do a salad. It was Connie’s turn to do the turkey, and Arnie was an expert at concocting homemade apple cider.

All went hummingly. It was pumpkin pie time! It didn’t look quite right, but Olga said she had varied the ingredients a little according to budget demands. Oh dear! It turned out not to have been pumpkin purée at all, but carrot soup. Both are orange. Everyone screamed with laughter, but coupled with an extra glass or two of Arnie’s homemade apple cider, all agreed it tasted none-too-bad.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!

2009. Tortino di riso alla valdostana

“Don’t bother calling this number again,” shouted Belinda, throwing her phone vehemently on the floor.

It had been a bad day. First she had discovered at breakfast that there was no orange juice left. She had darted out to the nearby shop and the time wasted meant she missed her regular bus. She was therefore late for work. When the boss reprimanded her for lateness, Belinda replied “You can stick the job where the sun don’t shine, you toffee-nosed chimpanzee.” That kind of ended her employment, and rather suddenly. Anyway, job termination had been on Belinda’s mind for some time. This merely gave things a push.

Upon returning home she quickly scanned the Net for job vacancies and it seemed that every suitable job stipulated: “Reference from previous employer required.” It was hardly something she could ask from a toffee-nosed chimpanzee.

And now her mother had phoned. “Would you like to come to dinner because the Caltabiano’s, nearby neighbours on Brookland Avenue, are coming and bringing their son, a nice young man that I think you’d like. I thought we would dine poolside.” That’s when Belinda shouted “Don’t bother calling this number again,” and threw her phone vehemently on the floor.

Jobless or not, Belinda decided she would spend a little on herself and go out to lunch at a semi-fancy restaurant. She selected an Italian restaurant, dressed herself nicely (just a little bit to get out of her work clothes) and set out. The waiter was very nice; in fact adorable; in fact quite the most stunning man Belinda had spied in a long time; in fact Belinda was so stricken that she almost couldn’t eat her tortino di riso alla valdostana. “I shouldn’t be saying this,” he said, “but would you like to go dancing this evening?”

Indeed she would! And indeed they did!

“I was meant to go out with my parents this evening,” he said, “to some fuddy-duddy’s place on Brookland Avenue to have dinner poolside because they reckoned they had a lovely daughter. My mother’s always trying to set me up with someone. But honestly, I prefer this.”

2008. Cruising the Universe

Long John Silver (his real name wasn’t Long John Silver but he was known as Long John Silver by his closest associates) had given the exact location of Planet Earth. He had stumbled across Planet Earth while cruising the Universe and thought it to be a fairly fascinating place. (It’s where he had picked up the name Long John Silver from. It had tickled his fancy).

Now a group from Long John Silver’s planet were travelling in a space pod to Planet Earth. The voyage would take just over eight months, which was a phenomenally short time given the distance to get to Earth. Speed is of the essence in space travel.

Already two of the men on board had given birth to babies. (These aliens were sort of like Planet Earth’s sea horses where the males did the gestation).

How exciting to be nearing Planet Earth! Conditions on Earth were so similar to their own that they could simply step off their space pod and be assimilated incognito into earthly daily life (apart from the men having babies, which would be hidden if it happened).

They reached the location stipulated by Long John Silver. There was nothing there. Planet Earth had self-annihilated. It had blown itself up. It was so disappointing for the tourists.

2007. What to do?

(Just before today’s story! – a quick note to say that my childhood “autobiography” – Bits of a Boyhood – has been wonderfully reviewed by Iseult Murphy – HERE! She is the most prolific reader online and she posts many reviews that are well worth it. Thank you, Iseult! And so to today’s story:)

 

Francine didn’t know what exactly she had in mind when she said “I would very much like to have some time alone.” She had said that to her husband. She needed space. It’s not that he did anything untoward; it’s just that she needed the occasional break from his sporadic odd behaviour. He wouldn’t go to the doctor; possibly he didn’t need to go to the doctor, but Francine was not capable of diagnosing “what was going on”. For example, he would open and close a door four or five times before going through it. He didn’t always do that. Things like that went in “bouts”.

And that is why Francine needed to take the occasional break. This time however, things were different. He had taken his pet canary out of its cage and thrown it to freedom out the window. He had set the dishwasher going three times when there weren’t any dishes to wash. And now he was standing at the door between the sitting room and the dining room and opening and closing it and saying over and over “Come in! Come in!”

Francine consoled herself by joking that perhaps he was trying to welcome back his escaped canary.

Eventually she said, as she had said before, that he needed to go and see a doctor. But he answered (and he seemed quite normal and lovely in his answer) that he didn’t need to do that. There was nothing wrong with him. The stress was all in Francine’s head.

And that is when Francine said, “I would very much like to have some time alone”. Arnold said, “Alright then, why don’t you go for a walk?” So Francine put on her walking shoes and went for a long walk, and thought about things without coming to any conclusion.

When she got home Arnold was in the kitchen cooking some bananas in the oven. She asked him what he was doing and he said the television had said not to feed the dog raw meat.

“But bananas are not meat,” said Francine, “and we don’t have a dog.”

Anyway, by evening Arnold was back to normal. They watched a TV program together and had a normal conversation, and then Arnold went to bed.

Francine sat in the armchair wondering what to do. She honestly didn’t know what she should do next. If Arnold had dropped dead it would be sad of course but definite. Instead, everything was so “up in the air”.

2006. Online business meeting

Well! What an unbelievable mess! Olga, who lived in New York, had been asked by Hector, who lived in South Africa, to organize a meeting online. The two of them were to discuss an important business deal with Jack, who lived in Scotland.

The meeting was to seal a multimillion dollar transaction. Jack in Scotland had the money, Hector in South Africa had the imagination, and Olga in New York had the drive. It was easy-peasy! All three knew it. A deal could be struck so effortlessly that possibly a deal could be struck even before a deal could be struck!

The business of different time zones was easily solved; as was taking into account Summer Time and all other unnecessary foibles of modern time-foolery. Such a thing was simple arithmetic. All three came online at the same time. That was when the confusion began.

Not a single one of the three had the slightest inkling as to what the other was saying. The accents caused total muddlement. It was all Double Dutch. Olga, Hector, and Jack might as well have spoken in turn in Njerep, Kaixana and Paakantyi.

The meeting was worse than a waste of time; it was a disaster. Afterwards, Olga jumped off a bridge (in fact it held up traffic for quite some time). Hector took his elephant-hunting gun and went for a walk (he has never been seen since). Jack went and dined as usual in a fancy restaurant. (He had so much money he didn’t give a hoot about some silly failed transaction).

And that is why the antidote for the common cold has never been made available.

2005. Ornamental argument

Christine disliked garden ornaments immensely; ugly gnomes and pink flamingos, plastic things that spun in the wind, little tinkling bamboo and metal wind chimes… The unfortunate thing was that Joanne, Christine’s next door neighbour, loved garden ornaments.

“Her place,” said Christine of Joanne’s garden next door, “looks like a junk yard.”

“Her place,” said Joanne of Christine’s garden next door, “looks so bare and sterile.”

The time came at last when their differences could be decided officially. The city was organizing a street by street competition: which house in each street has the best garden? And then all those selected would go into the final part of the competition: who has the best garden in the whole city?

Joanne went all out. She purchased ceramic lizards and butterflies, outside wall mirrors that made the garden look more spacious than it was, little battery driven water fountains… On the other hand, Christine maintained her garden to perfection – the perfect lawn, not a weed in sight, the recycling bin in a hidden corner…

The garden judges came. The garden judges left. A winner was announced. Congratulations Cassandra.