Tag Archives: short short

1957. Class break

A group of pulchritudinous young ladies at St Ursula’s Finishing School for Girls were sitting in the sun during a class break discussing Ms Heidi Antrobus-Biddlecombe, their omphaloskepsic teacher.

“She’s a trichotillomaniac,” said Sylvia. “Her head’s all patchy.” All agreed.

“She looks like a pig,” suggested Angelique. “Her nose has been xenotransplantated!” Everyone laughed.

“Thank goodness she’s not polyphiloprogenitive,” said Denise. “We’d be overrun. AND she has ants in her pants!” It was a nice play on their teacher’s name!

“What a relief we’re not myrmecophilous!” exclaimed Petra. “Ugh! How disgusting!”

Again everyone laughed, except for Susannah who had been silent up until now and admitted she didn’t know what the word “omphaloskepsic” meant.

“I know the word omphaloskepsis,” she said. “But I have never heard of omphaloskepsic.”

Oh dear! What an ignorant little girl.

“Come along class!” called out Ms Heidi Antrobus-Biddlecomb in her wheezy smoker’s voice from the window of the Infants’ Classroom. “Playtime is over!”

“Good gracious!” exclaimed Minnie. “She sounds like she’s got
pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis.”

All went inside for their favourite class of the week: colouring in with crayons.

1943. A train to catch

I was scurrying to the train station to catch my usual morning transport. I was running late because I had spilt coffee on my trousers (thank goodness it had cooled) and had to get changed. In my haste I forgot to take my phone out of the wet trouser pocket, so I didn’t know by how much I was running late.

The clock on the town tower was renowned for its unreliability. Going by what it said I had five minutes to get to the station to get on the train to take me to work. I work as a bank manager, and today the big boss is coming for an important meeting. VERY important, he had said on the phone.

Only four minutes to go. I thought I’d start to run; actually trot along, as I didn’t want to be all sweaty during the VERY important meeting.

Two minutes to go. I simply cannot afford to miss that train. What the heck! I’ll have to run, sweaty or not! I can explain to the boss why I’m perspiring so profusely. And…

Made it! Phew! That was close! I got a seat too. No sooner had I sat than the doors closed and the train began to noiselessly slide away from the station.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said a voice over the intercom. “Welcome to the non-stop day trip to the capital city. Refreshments are available throughout the trip in the cafeteria carriage.”

I was on the wrong train. It was going the wrong way and it would take all day to get there.

1939. To die alphabetically

Jerome Holke Barbarich-Askelund’s doctor had given him bad news. He had not been feeling well and was not at all surprised when the doctor announced (in a kindly and tender manner) that what Jerome Holke Barbarich-Askelund had was terminal.

“Oh well,” shrugged Jerome, “we all eventually get our marching orders I suppose.”

He went home and within a week had become obsessed with the death notices in the morning paper. Here was a list of those who had died – usually the day before. Jerome began to work out each morning where his name would go alphabetically if he had indeed passed away on the preceding day.

Amor
Austin
Baird
Burgin
Cain

If he had died his name would appear between Baird and Burgin.

Ackerley
Alexander
Batwell
Blayney
Blight

If he had died his name would appear between Alexander and Batwell.

And there, on the third day, BARBARICH-ASKELUND! There it was in print! In black and white! What a mystery!

Anderson
Atherfold
Aycock
BARBARICH-ASKELUND
Butt

“As far as I know,” said Mrs. Barbarich-Askelund, “we are the only ones in the country with this family name. It’s a complete bafflement. I’m in a state of stupefaction.”

After two weeks, Mrs. Barbarich-Askelund’s friend, Gloria Wiggins said, “Look Myrtle-Bianca, you have to admit that he’s been dead for two weeks now. You can’t go on pretending it didn’t happen. “

“Oh Gloria!” sobbed Myrtle-Bianca Barbarich-Askelund, “to die is one thing. To appear in print between Aycock and Butt is shocking. Jerome will never forgive me.”

1912. Woodland ghost

Whenever Russell went to stay with his grandmother she would tell him stories. Grandmother never read from a book; her stories were real. They were about things that happened in the old days, like when the river flooded and washed away their woodshed, or how the cat got stuck up a tree and the fire brigade came with a big ladder and rescued the cat.

This time Grandmother told Russell something true but a little scary. It was how a ghost appeared one night to her uncle. Her uncle was now dead, but when he was young he was walking home one evening and suddenly a ghost appeared from behind a tree in the woods. Her uncle got a huge fright, but then he calmed down a bit.

The ghost told him that he was enchained in the afterlife unless he could help a person on earth for a whole year. This was because when on earth the ghost had been mean and selfish, so he had to earn his eternal happiness another way.

Russell’s grandmother’s uncle said he was happy for the ghost to help him for a whole year. So the uncle invited the ghost to stay in his home.

The thing was, the ghost was not a nice ghost. It was a trick he was playing on the uncle, and within a month the uncle had completely disappeared. Just like that. It was suspected that he was murdered by the ghost and then the ghost inhabited the uncle’s body. “My uncle began to act very strange,” Grandmother told Russell. “We knew it wasn’t really him.”

Russell told Grandmother that he didn’t believe in ghosts. “The story can’t be true,” he said. “You made it all up.”

Grandmother assured Russell that it was true and he must be careful when he walks through the woods in the evening.

“Pooh!” said Russell. “It’s nonsense.”

Goodness! It was already evening. Russell would be late for dinner. He took the shortcut home through the woods.

“I like it when history repeats,” smiled Grandmother.

1910. Grandfather Giuseppe

Giuseppe felt out of place. Several months earlier he’d come from his home in Italy to see his daughter and meet his three grandchildren for the first time. It hadn’t worked out well. His grandchildren couldn’t speak Italian and he couldn’t speak English. After the initial excitement of the first meeting tension simmered.

Still, he maintained a positive attitude. With his daughter – now a solo mother – at work he was left to mind the grandchildren during the day. It was summer. They took advantage of him, especially the oldest who was fourteen. Giuseppe suspected, gauging things from the tone, that some of the English words used at him were not the politest.

Now with the summer over and the grandchildren back at school, Giuseppe set sail for home!

1901. Some things don’t change

There can’t have been that many in the world with the name Clauderic Winslow McPherson; let alone many with that name living in the little hamlet he came from. Strawfordton-on-Tiddleswing had decided to erect a monument to honour the local folk who had died in the war. There were three names, and Clauderic Winslow McPherson was one of them.

The trouble was that Clauderic Winslow McPherson wasn’t dead. He certainly got the surprise of his life when he saw his name. As the only survivor of the village folk who had gone to war he was asked to lay the wreath when the monument was declared open. The mayor pulled the rope that released the flag that covered the engraved names, and there it was: Clauderic Winslow McPherson.

“But I’m not dead,” said Clauderic Winslow McPherson.

There was much muttering going on among the village aldermen, and among the considerable village crowd of twelve for that matter.

“Who does he think he is? He must have got his wires twisted. That fellow can’t be Clauderic Winslow McPherson. Clauderic Winslow McPherson’s name is engraved on the monument and therefore he is dead.”

Clauderic Winslow McPherson was arrested and thrown into the local jail cell. Impersonating a war hero! Goodness me! The level some people descend to. Clauderic Winslow McPherson was kept in the jail cell. It was a lot cheaper than having to redo the monument. And the town council was a bit short on the funds, which is why they kept Clauderic Winslow McPherson’s war pension that came in every month.

Some things don’t change.

1885. Kent’s gabions

Kendall suggested to Kent that what his (Kent’s) back garden area needed was gabions. Kent’s back garden area was susceptible to flooding. By putting up gabions along the stretch of creek that ran along the bottom of the section, when it rained heavily the creek wouldn’t drown the garden he had so lovingly tended.

Gabions – in case you don’t know the word, as the writer at first didn’t – are basically a pile of rocks stuck inside a wire cage. They can look quite pretty. Artistic even.

Kent went even further. If he slightly dammed up the creek he might be able to use the water in the heat of summer to irrigate his plants. The dam wouldn’t be big of course. And he would be able to open it so that during a storm the water could flow naturally.

It was a lot of hard work, but Kent, with the help of his friend Kendall, created a flood-proof backyard complete with a little irrigation dam. It not only was practical, it also looked good.

One weekend, when Kent was away attending a gardening convention, it rained heavily. Kendall was on the ball. He went over to Kent’s house and opened the floodgates, just in case things flooded.

By evening the creek was a raging torrent. The gabions held the water at bay. There was no flooding in the garden! But my word! The streamlining of the water flow meant the water shot past at a terrific rate. It couldn’t spread out, so it sped up.

The neighbour’s back garden was completely flooded. The raging waters had simply washed all soil away to the sea or somewhere. There was nothing left but stones and rocks.

Rather quickly, Kent (with the aid of his friend Kendall) removed the gabions and dam and no one was the wiser.

1880. No bucket list

How pathetic is that? Caleb had been given six months by the specialist, and he didn’t want to make a bucket list. How backward is that? It’s not as if he was incapacitated. It would be a while before that happened. The disease would slowly work its way towards completion. There was plenty of time to write a bucket list and see the list come true. Provided it was practical.

But no! Caleb would have none of it. “Why on earth would I want a bucket list?” he said to his wife, Leticia. Leticia had been the one who carped the most about his creating such a list.

Why don’t you climb that mountain? You’ve always wanted to.
Why don’t you go to visit the Soda Factory Museum? You’ve always wanted to.
Why don’t you take up golf? You’ve always wanted to.

It seemed that Leticia had made out a bucket list for him. Of course, it was her way of coping with the impending doom that waited down the track. She was doing her best, and perhaps some of these things on the list they could do together – and for the last time. Perhaps they could make a few more memories.

In the end, Leticia won the day! Together they climbed the mountain, both physically and figuratively. “It was very satisfying,” said Leticia. “We’re both feeling pleased with ourselves! The view from the top was stunning. And such a happy memory!”

Together they went to the Soda Factory Museum. “We’ve always wanted to do it,” said Leticia. “It’s so silly really, because the Museum is just down the road. Only twenty minutes away by car. So at last we’ve done it and it was fascinating to understand the history of soda manufacturing.”

Together they played golf. In fact Caleb and Leticia went to the golf course once a week. It was a measure of Caleb’s health and strength. At first they played eighteen holes; later, fifteen holes was enough. Still later it was nine holes; then four. After that, they never went again. “But it was such fun,” said Leticia. “It was something we did together that we both enjoyed.”

The sad day arrived. Caleb passed on. No matter how prepared one is for the death of a spouse, it’s never at all like one imagined.

Cleaning out his things Leticia came across a small piece of paper tucked away as a bookmark:

My bucket list:
To make Leticia happy.

1862. Large family

Hi. My name is Nona. My mother named me that. My father apparently didn’t like the name much because it means “ninth” and I happened to be only the third.

“But I want a Nona,” said my mother.

“Who the hell is going to pay for all those babies if we have nine?” asked my father. So my mother, not to be stymied by silly particulars, named me Nona even though I was only number three.

These days Nona is not a very common name, mainly I suspect because people don’t have large families anymore and to get up to nine children could be scorned upon by the disparaging masses. I like having a not-so-common name. I have a younger brother called Octavius and an even younger sister called Decima.

Once my father abandoned the family, not long after I was born, my mother met my stepfather. By the time my mother and stepfather had reached number nine they couldn’t use Nona so they named number nine after the number three because three hadn’t been used. That is why I have a younger sister called Triana. Strictly speaking I should have been named Triana and my sister named Nona.

People these days stare if we all go out together. Just the other day my mother took all ten of us to the zoo and we went by bus. No sooner had we all sat down than an old lady asked my mother in a very loud voice, “Are they all yours, Sweetie?”

My mother said, Yes” and the old lady said “Goodness, that’s a lot. Aren’t you embarrassed?” I was so mortified.

When we got home from the zoo I heard my mother ask my stepfather what the Latin name was for Eleven.

1861. Strange goings-on

Una was one of a kind! She worked as a professional photographer. Well, sort of. That’s what she had posted on the sign on her office door: Una Devereux, Professional Photographer. If the truth be known, she didn’t even own a camera. The sign on the door was a cover-up for what was really going on in her office.

If anyone knocked on her door to make an enquiry about getting a photo taken, Una would say, “Dear me, I’d love to, but I’m utterly swamped with work at present.” Of course, if they knocked on the door to enquire about other matters that would be a different thing altogether.

Una always arrived at her work place late; it was usually mid-morning. She was gone by mid-afternoon. Occasionally, and it was very rare, she would return for a few minutes in the evening.

For all of these comings and goings we have a fairly reliable witness; Zita Pfahlert had an office in the same building right opposite to Una’s door, and Zita worked long hours as a dressmaker. She couldn’t help but notice Una’s movements.

Zita was pretty sure that Una didn’t work as a professional photographer, so she got her cousin, Milly (who was unknown to Una), to knock on Una’s door and ask about having a photo taken. “Dear me, I’d love to,” said Una, “but I’m utterly swamped with work at present.”

So with that, Zita was none the wiser. Zita thought of breaking into Una’s office to sniff things out. She thought better of it, although she did try her own key once in Una’s door. All with no luck.

Then one day, Una didn’t turn up at her office at all. There was nothing unusual in that. Her absence lasted a week. Zita at first presumed that Una was away on vacation. Things stretched out to two weeks; then three; then four. Una never came back.

Zita never did find out what really happened behind Una’s office door. And nor shall we. It’s a good lesson to us in minding our own business.