Tag Archives: fiction

1904. Marriage Enrichment Program

Lucia and Basil were a most annoying couple – and they weren’t even married. They had lived at the same address for eleven years. What was annoying about that? What riled Christian and Deliah was they had gone along to the Marriage Enrichment sessions only to discover in the end that the facilitators weren’t even married. They were full of advice as to what to do and what not to do. And they argued. In fact they spent most of the sessions spitting tacks at one another.

“It came as a shock to us,” said Rupert. “Molly and me went along to the Marriage Guidance sessions to enrich our marriage and we got lectured at by two people who have never taken the plunge. Their conduct was appalling.”

“I can’t believe it,” said Hilary of Plazaville. “Herman and I attended knowing that our marriage was headed for the rocks, and all we got was superficial advice from a couple of people who didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. In fact it was like looking in the mirror to hear Lucia and Basil have a shouting match for a good half hour.”

“Ferdinand and I were engaged to be married and we thought pre-nuptial sessions would not simply enrich the day but enrich our future as well,” said Katie. “It was hardly enriching to be told that the institution of marriage was antiquated. And we’d paid good money for the course. It made us wonder if we should get married immediately and not wait until we had paid off the mortgage.”

“I was glad, although it might seem mean, when Basil dropped dead in the middle of spouting about marriage when he’d never even been married,” said Hilda. “I couldn’t help but think that reality catches up with everyone. Seeing Lucia go into hysteria almost made the cost of the course worthwhile. At least she wasn’t screaming at Basil anymore.”

“That’ll learn ‘em is what I say,” said Fred. “All twelve of us on the course agreed before Basil kicked it, that him and Lucia needed to be taught a lesson. That’s why we applauded when Rupert handed Basil a can of Mountain Dew and said ‘Cheers! Drink this!’ And that was curtains for him.”

“We all concur,” added Molly, “that the whole incident has certainly enriched our marriages. Rupert and I are talking again, and I believe other couples have had similar experiences.”

The organizers of the Marriage Enrichment Program have advertised for a new couple to run the next group of sessions. The couple must be diffident in their relationship. And unmarried.

1903. Vegan and non-vegan pies

Maia was between a rock and a hard place. She detested Luke, her brother-in-law, ever since he married her sister, and her sister and Luke had squandered the family inheritance. Now he was coming to stay – just for a few days. He said on the phone that it would be a helpful way to come to terms with the death of Maia’s sister, his wife.

Maia’s problem was this: all her murderous, noxious-filled, undetectable poisonous recipes involved meat, and her brother-in-law was vegan. This was a murder that Maia had wanted to accomplish for many a year and she wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip through her fingers. She was in need of a recipe that was undetectable, delectable, and kind to animals.

Usually Maia, when she had murderous intent, would make the most scrumptious looking steak and kidney pie. (For those not heavily into steak and kidney pie, I apologize). The offending poisonous recipe she had downloaded off the Net several years ago, and it worked a treat. Gradually Maia was able to clear inconvenient personages from her life and live free from nosy, noisome, niggly nerds. The most difficult victim was in fact her sister. She ate meat, but was a picky eater; in fact she picked out the pieces of kidney and ate only the chunks of steak. Thank goodness the downloaded recipe had specifically said to make sure both kidney and steak were to be carefully poisoned.

After quite extensive research, Maia settled on concocting a poisonous sweet potato and lentil shepherd’s pie for Luke. Maia had to admit that it smelled delicious, but of course she couldn’t taste it – not even a tiny sliver sliced surreptitiously from a corner. She didn’t want to poison herself!

Luke arrived. “I’ve made a sweet potato and lentil shepherd’s pie for dinner tonight,” said Maia.

“That’s lovely,” answered Luke. “I knew you weren’t vegan and would go to trouble, so I baked especially for you what looks to be a lovely steak and kidney pie. I downloaded the recipe off the Net.”

1899. Digital poppies

Yvette came up with a brilliant plan, although it may not have been as brilliant as one might like to think. She had come across a website that listed the fallen dead in various wars. If you clicked on a button on the page dedicated to each fallen soldier, you could leave a digital poppy.

Yvette chose the First World War. Some soldiers had a single poppy left, others had several poppies. One or two, here and there, had dozens of poppies. Most soldiers however had none. These soldiers had been forgotten. There was no one left who remembered them; no one to be grateful specifically to them for their sacrifice. Yvette knew exactly what she was going to do.

Methodically, because she was a careful and methodical person, she would make her way through the pages dedicated to the fallen soldiers of the First World War. If they had no poppy she would click on the button to show that the world still cared.

It was early August. If she hurried she could give each a poppy by the 11th of November; that was Remembrance Day, also known as Armistice Day. Oh, but there were millions of names! Yvette quickly discovered that there were too many for her to say “Thank you” to.

“This year,” thought Yvette, “I shall simply do those whose family name starts with an A. Next year I’ll do the B’s.

Remembrance Day came and went. She was nowhere near finished; not even halfway through. Not even a quarter. “I know,” thought Yvette, “I’ll get it done by Christmas!”

Christmas came and went. “I know,” thought Yvette, “I’ll get it done by New Year!” New Year came! Would you believe! Yvette had finished the As! She finished at 11 o’clock on New Year’s Eve!

Midnight came. It was the New Year. The computer program deleted all the poppies left in the past year. This was a New Year. The leaving of poppies would start from scratch.

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

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.

1886. A small tragedy

(Dear Friends – a footnote at the top of the page! All my poems in the past have had an audio except for “Self-portrait in landscape” which was promulgated the other day. I’ve fixed that omission, so there’s now an audio of me reading it if anyone is interested. None of this has anything to do with the following story!)

When Charmaine was peeling potatoes she accidentally cut off her baby finger. Her mother had always said, “Charmaine! Don’t peel the potatoes with a sharp knife! Peel the potatoes with a proper potato peeler!” But you know young people. Charmaine knew better. It was inevitable that one day she would cut off a finger with the knife.

It wasn’t just the tip of the baby finger; it was the whole hog; the entire pinkie on her left hand.

Part of the tragedy was of course that Charmaine was a fabulous concert pianist. What a fabulous concert pianist was doing peeling potatoes I have no idea. Nor did her mother, my wife. Naturally, her hysterical mother phoned for an ambulance after wrapping the little finger up in several pieces of paper towel, the roll of which sat on the window sill above the kitchen sink. There was blood on the cutting board and kitchen bench and everywhere, and the couple of potatoes that had been already peeled were ruined.

I said to Charmaine that I wouldn’t mind paying a famous composer to write a piece for piano that used only nine fingers, and she said “Don’t be silly Daddy. How would a famous composer know it was my pinkie on the left hand that was missing?” I wouldn’t have thought that such things mattered.

And then the ambulance, while turning off the road into the driveway, missed and drove into the ditch. It was stuck. And what is more it was blocking the gate so that the next ambulance (that my wife had called for immediately) couldn’t get in. To add to the inconvenience, the ambulance personnel got the stretcher through the gate, but with Charmaine lying on the stretcher they couldn’t squeeze it between the stuck ambulance and the garden wall. It simply wasn’t possible to turn the stretcher on its side. Not with Charmain in it.

The ambulance crew tipped Charmain onto the grassy verge and managed to get the stretcher through the gap. They then had to get Charmaine through the gap and onto the stretcher and into the usable ambulance.

That is when I said, “Look Charmaine, I can tell the famous composer which finger is missing when I commission the piece.”

And Charmaine said, “Oh Daddy, it’s not the same.” I didn’t have a clue what she meant. She can be so obtuse at times. But anyway, before long the ambulance was on its way and I followed (with Charmaine’s mother as a passenger) in the family car which fortunately I had parked on the side of the road outside the gate. Somehow the ambulance got through all the heavy traffic but we got stuck. We were sitting on the road in the car halfway to the hospital, and I said “Well at least the right vehicle got through”, and my wife said “Yes, but I have her finger in my purse. There’s no hope now.”

I said, “That settles it. I’m commissioning a piano piece for nine fingers from a famous composer. I’ll do that tomorrow.”

That is when Charmaine’s mother’s phone rang. “Hello? Hello?” The batteries went flat. The phone was dead. Now it’s going to be hours before we find out what the lottery numbers are.

1883. Garden tools

Let’s face it: Stella wasn’t a greedy person. She was a spinster, lived alone, and was retired. She had worked as a nurse all her life. She had looked forward to her retirement. “At last! After all these years I shall be able to potter all day in the garden!”

She owned her own home, and it had a fairly extensive garden. It was one of those gardens that looked bigger than it was. One could get lost in it. Go through a gap in the shrubbery and a new vista, a new “room”, was revealed. Stella had a “theme” for each area; vegetables, flowers for cut flowers, herbs, and so on. The problem was that Stella could live satisfactorily in retirement but there wasn’t much left over for much else. That was when her lawn mower broke down, her garden rake disintegrated, her hedge clippers fell apart. It seemed that at least half the garden tools had gone on strike.

It would be simple enough to replace a garden trowel or something, but to replace half the tools at once was a burdensome impossibility. Stella conceived a plan! She advertised through the local Garden Society that the following weekend she would have an “Open Garden”. It’s true! Stella’s garden was a picture. At her gate she would have a sign and an honesty tin with a slot cut in the lid: GARDEN SHOW: ENTRY BY GOLD COIN.

When it came to gardening Stella wasn’t simply a weed-puller; she was an artist. She arranged the watering can, and the wheel barrow, and the spade, and all the garden tools (even the broken ones), in a nonchalant way around the garden, as if to say the gardener was busy but had just taken a break for a cup of tea. It was artistic; it was… well… very Stella. The arrangement in the delphinium bed was perfect: all that the placing of the watering can and spade needed was a robin to perch on the spade handle to create a postcard scene!

The Saturday was sunny. Quite a crowd came on this first day. Stella didn’t want to appear to be nosy, but at the start she could hear the gold coins go clang as they were put in the tin at the gate. She knew the tin was collecting even more coins when it ceased to clang as if it was empty. What a successful day!

When she went to collect the honesty tin in the late afternoon it had been stolen. As had all her garden tools. Even her spade that awaited the perching robin had disappeared.

1882. Hovering space craft

There is no doubting the certitude of some things. It took only a couple of drinks at a party and Warwick would corner any and every one and talk about Unidentified Flying Objects. Tonight he had buttonholed Brandon.

One of the more concerning things about UFOs – said Warwick – is that they are always seen hovering near military establishments. Military bases of various kinds. Or if not, at least an air force plane or an aircraft carrier. It implies that these UFO aliens are snooping on our military. One would think that aliens would be interested in Nature – our mountains and lakes, our trees and animals. Even our weather. But no! They snoop around the military bases, and this implies that their intentions are not friendly. Don’t you think?

Brandon felt trapped. He clearly had to respond, because there was no one else in on the conversation. Just him and Warwick. So he said that Warwick’s point was very perceptive. Yes, it did look like these cosmic aliens were preparing for an Earth take-over. One would think that if the aliens were going to surprise the Earthlings they would cover their intent by making appearances at less war-prone environments. Why not be furtively seen in the sky at the Chelsea Flower Show, for example?

Quite true! Quite true! said Warwick excitedly. The signs certainly point to an imminent attack.

Brandon made a mental note to pass this observation on to his headquarters, somewhere in the vicinity of Proxima Centauri.