The Word Jug

It’s about time I posted again. This is the trouble with having three blogs! Anyway I thought I’d put the Word Jug up again because I came across a rather interesting word this week. Initially I thought maybe it was some sort of medical state but I was way out.

Chthonic  (adjective)

Definition:  of or relating to the underworld: infernal

Appears to be pronounced THAH-nik

Origin & Etymology:  it comes from ‘chthōn’ which means ‘earth’ in Greek and is associated with things that dwell in or live under the earth. It is commonly used in discussions about mythology. 

Maybe it will be useful for you writers of fantasy!

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Reincarnation … Choose carefully!

A Short Story

The five garden gnomes had cheery faces and rosy cheeks. Painted-on happiness. But it was a thin veneer. Their little group was arranged in a semi-circle under the bird bath in the corner of the garden beside the apple tree. Autumn was developing her favourite colours and splashing reds and oranges on bushes and trees. The blackberries were ripe on the brambles growing over the garden wall and the apple tree was laden with fruit – which the blackbirds kept knocking off.

‘Damn!’ cursed Harry, who was on the end of the semicircle, as an over-ripe apple hit the ground with a thud and tore towards him like a missile. It missed him by inches. His eyes fixed themselves on the blackbird that had flown down to check out his prize. ‘Feck off!!’ he shouted. But the bird couldn’t hear him and busied itself pecking at the apple.

‘It’s just a bird Harry,’ mumbled Bill who was two gnomes to his right, ‘There’s no need to get so angry.’

‘He’s not angry at the bird,’ said Snowy who was to the right of Bill, ‘He’s angry because he can’t accept his new incarnation.’

Mutters of agreement went along the line.

‘Well it’s not fair!’ said Harry, ‘I didn’t ask to be a stupid gnome – one that can’t move anything but its eyes!’

‘You probably wanted to be a famous footballer or a film star, that was the trouble,’ said Bill, ‘You were too fixed in your choice and there were obviously no vacancies for the rich and famous when you snuffed it, so that’s why you came back as a gnome. What did you want to be?’

‘None of your business!’ muttered Harry angrily.

‘No good sulking,’ said Tubby, the portly one, who stood next to Harry, ‘You need to accept it because you could be here for years.’

Much mumbling of agreement along the line.

‘Years!’ Harry’s voice had risen a few octaves in abject horror. ‘How long do you gnomes live then?’

We, you being one of us,’ said Tubby pointedly, ‘are not exactly sure. Long enough that we’ve forgotten when we were born.’

Harry started to cry softly. Tears dribbled down his cheeks and found little pathways through his beard. They dripped onto a dandelion that had started to grow between his boots.

Little coughs of embarrassment came from the others as they listened to him wailing.

‘So where did they buy you from?’ asked Snowy, hoping a change of subject might help.

Harry stopped wailing and lapsed into silence.

Stavros, from the other end of the line chipped in: ‘We all came from different places. Henry, the kid who lives here has started to collect gnomes. I came from the Fork-in-Hell Garden Centre.

‘I was in the Call a Spade a Spade, there were lots of us there,’ said Bill.

‘I came from Tesco,’ said Tubby.

Tesco!‘ Harry seemed so appalled by the idea that he shrugged off his misery. ‘At least I came from John Lewis!’

‘Well, maybe your up-market attitude is what got you here in the first place,’ chuckled Snowy, ‘Henry rescued me from a skip in the village.’

‘Well all you lot must have wanted to be famous, like footballers or movie stars, or prime minister, or you wouldn’t be here either,’ retorted Harry.

Silence. Small coughs and the clearing of throats.

‘So,’ began Harry, pleased that he’d caught them out, ‘How long do gnomes really live? You must have some idea?’

‘No one knows how long gnomes live, or even what causes them to die,’ said Bill as he watched the blackbird attacking the apple with gusto, ‘I ended up next to an old second-hand chap made of stone in Call a Spade a Spade and he reckoned he’d been about in all sorts of different gardens over his years. He had a date stamp on the bottom of one of his feet, I saw it when he got knocked over one day, and it said 1929. He was nearly ninety. Of course stone lasts for years, there was none of your old plastic rubbish back then.’

‘Nearly ninety!’ Harry’s eyes started rolling around and around and around in his head.

‘What are doing?’ asked Tubby, he could just make out Harry’s right eye doing circles as he peered sideways at him.

‘I’m trying to see what I’m made of! Why can’t we move anything but our eyes!’ yelled Harry in frustration.

‘You’re made of resin,’ said Stavros.

‘Resin? How do you know?’

‘You have a chip on your shoulder, I noticed it when the boy brought you home and got you out of the shopping bag.’

‘How long does resin last?’

‘Forever.’

‘No!’

‘Certainly does, probably as long as stone.’

If Harry’s face could have gone white with shock it would have, but being resinous he stood straight with his never-ending grin plastered across his face.

Halloween October 31st 11pm

The teenage trick-or-treaters, slightly worse the wear for a half a bottle of vodka liberated from a parent’s kitchen cupboard, and a quantity of cider purchased by an older brother, were on the rampage. They preferred tricks to treats and spotted the little group of gnomes in the corner of the garden.

‘Less kidnap the gnomes!’ slurred a lad wearing a Frankenstein mask.

‘Yeah! Gnome-napping! Less-do-it!’ cackled his mate in a werewolf costume.

‘D’you think you should?’ giggled their girlfriends in matching witch outfits.

But the boys were already over the wall and stumbling drunkenly across the garden, laughing helplessly, minutes later scrambling back with four of the gnomes, one in each hand.

‘What you going to do with them?’ asked one of the witches.

‘Throttle them Precious!’ growled Frankenstein, trying to sound like Gollum, and he took off up the street and stopped by some bins. Holding Harry by the neck he made strangling motions, then he opened the bin and chucked him inside. Next was Snowy, by which time the werewolf had caught up and was waving Tubby about.

‘The fat bastard just had a heart attack!’ he yelled, dumping Tubby over the edge. Last to go in was Stavros after the werewolf had murdered him with a viscous bite to the neck. The bin lid was slapped shut. And Halloween continued.

November 1st, Early Morning

The bin men reversed their truck up to the bins. With a clang and a bang the machine picked up each bin and dumped the contents into the stinking cavity, then the hydraulic press came down and crushed it. No mercy was shown.

In the garden Bill stood alone, wondering where the others were. No doubt they’d be found and brought back and the thieves would be punished. But no gnomes were returned. Henry came over to Bill with tears rolling down his cheeks.

‘I’m sorry Bill, but your friends have been stolen. I’ll get you some new friends, Mum says we can go to the garden centre at the weekend.’

On Sunday afternoon Henry came tearing across the lawn with a shopping bag. He carefully extracted a fat female gnome with a big nose and a red apron.

‘Here’s a new friend for you Bill!’ he said, delighted, ‘I hope you like her, I’ve named her Sharon.’ Then he dropped his voice to a whisper, ‘She looks like a girl in my class at school!’ He stood Sharon so the two gnomes could look at one-another, then he heard his mother calling him in for tea.

‘Hello Sharon,’ said Bill.

‘Feck off! And DON’T call me Sharon!’

Bill knew that voice. It just didn’t fit the face. ‘Harry?’ he said in astonishment, ‘Is that you Harry?’

‘Of course it’s me!’

Bill couldn’t believe it. ‘What happened? Where are the others? Why are you … different?’

‘I’m different because there were no male gnome positions left!’ cried Harry in a disgusted voice. ‘And what happened was we all got dumped in a bin the other night and crushed to death the next morning when the bin lorry came round. Then Stavros and Tubby and Snowy got the reincarnations they wanted, but I didn’t. It’s SO unfair.’

‘What on earth did you want to be?’

‘The same thing as last time, and all the other times. I wanted to be a dinosaur,’ cried Harry.

Bill thought for a minute, ‘May I ask how old you were when you died, all those times ago?’

‘I was six, I was in a car accident.’

‘And how many times have you requested to be a dinosaur?’

‘Every time! But next time I’m definitely going to choose something else.’

‘Yes,’ said Bill carefully, ‘And I’d also try and avoid sabre-toothed tigers, woolly mammoths, dodos, and great auks. You can’t come back as something that no longer exists!’

One of my Books is in a Library!

I phoned my oldest and best friend, Joyce, in Kaslo (British Columbia, Canada) the other day and part way through our conversation she said excitedly ‘Hey, your book, A Red Waterproof Jacket, is in the Kaslo library!’ I was amazed and asked her how it got in there but she wasn’t sure. I had no idea how books are chosen for libraries, so I’ve just checked on Google and found an interesting post. Although written in 2010 I’m hoping the same information will be true today. This is on an American blog but I’m thinking maybe Canada has a similar process for choosing books. If you’re a writer you may find it interesting to know how your book may be chosen.

http://www.sfwa.org/2010/04/guest-blog-post-how-libraries-choose-books-to-purchase/

Quite a chunk of A Red Waterproof Jacket took place in Kaslo where I lived for ten years, so I suspect someone who knew me back then may have read my blog or heard about the book somehow and enquired about it. I may have to give the library a call because my curiosity is killing me! Either way it gave me a real little feeling of pride to know it’s there, and I do hope people enjoy it.

Kaslo, B.C Canada

A Little Poem to Keep You Going

One should post regularly on ones blog, but sometimes one has difficulty thinking of something new and original – so one digs a beetle out of ones photography archives and posts it with a poem – that one was forced into reciting on stage at primary school – which brings back memories of being scared shitless!

A little  green beetle

Flew in from the damp

And dried his wet wings

By the warmth of my lamp

He hovered a moment

Green-gold in the light

Then flew out of the window

And into the night.

 

Isn’t that sweet!

(I just wasn’t born to be on stage)

Amnesia

New Year 2015

The New Year’s party was in full swing. Queen was blasting out Bohemian Rhapsody and then someone turned the music down and turned on the TV just in time to catch Big Ben booming the first strokes of midnight. A chorus of ‘Happy New Year!’ started up around the room and the bubbly flowed even more freely. Party-poppers popped, and the party goers launched into a slightly slurred rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

It was after three when the last two guests stepped out of the farmhouse door.

‘So you lucky sods are off skiing,’ said Geoff Harding, who owned the farm across the valley from the Blakelocks, ‘Where did you say you were going?’

‘Austria, we’re driving.’ Simon Blakelock pointed over to the new silver BMW X5 with the ski-rack perched on top and two sets of skis in smart zipped carry bags. ‘Linda hates flying and we’ve got plenty of time.’

‘I can’t wait,’ said Linda, sliding an arm round her husband’s waist and grinning up at him with huge blue eyes.

‘You’re lucky to have found that one,’ said Sue Harding attempting to wave a finger in Linda’s direction as she listed slightly and grabbed Geoff’s arm for support.

‘Don’t I know it!’ laughed Simon just a smidge too heartily.

‘Who else would put up with you!’ giggled Sue.

Geoff steadied Sue as she nearly missed the next step, ‘Come on,’ he said, ‘Just because he’s been married a dozen times doesn’t mean he’s that bad.’ He let out a huge guffaw.

Simon hugged Linda too him, ‘Hey! Steady on! She’s only number four!’

‘Well you guys have a great time, we’ll see you in a couple of weeks,’ said Geoff.

‘Send us a postcard,’ burbled Sue as Geoff guided her to their car.

‘Come on darling,’ said Linda, ‘There’s a lot of cleaning up to do before we leave.

Three Weeks Later

Simon came round slowly. There were bright lights. Someone was shining a torch in his eyes. What the hell …

‘Simon?’ said a pleasant male voice, ‘Mr Blakelock?’

Simon came to a bit more. His vision cleared. The man with the pleasant voice was wearing a white coat and had a stethoscope around his neck. Then he realised he was in a hospital bed.

‘What’s happened?’ he stuttered in a panic.

‘It’s OK Simon, you’re going to be fine, you’re in hospital. My name is Doctor Zigler, and you have had a bit of an accident, a pretty bad bang on the head in fact.’

‘I … I don’t remember!’

‘That’s not entirely unusual with a head injury,’ reassured Dr Zigler.

‘But I don’t remember anything!’ said Simon.

‘Not even your name?’

‘No.’

‘Your home – where you live?’

‘Nothing.’

‘OK. Well the worst thing to do is to worry, and stress yourself, because that won’t help your recovery. I can tell you that your name is Simon Blakelock and you live at Foxburn Farm, just outside Foxton. You’re forty-six. Two days ago you were on your bicycle when you had a collision with the post van. Apparently your brakes were in bad shape and you shot out into the road from your farm drive and into the path of the van.’

‘Lordy!’ mumbled Simon. ‘So when will my memory come back?’

‘That’s impossible to say. You’ve had quite a severe injury. The CT scan shows slight bruising to your brain. Some people can take quite a while to regain all of their memory; it often comes back a bit at a time.’

‘Hello!’ said a voice. Dr Zigler looked around and Simon looked up. A woman with a cheery smile and a shock of dark hair had poked her head through the curtain surrounding the bed.

‘Ah, Mrs Harding,’ said the doctor, ‘Simon, this is Mrs Harding, she and her husband are your neighbours. They’ve been keeping an eye on things at the farm for you. I must get on now. Maybe you two would like to have a little chat.’ He turned to Sue Harding, ‘Simon is suffering from memory loss, thanks to his bump on the head, maybe you could try and fill in a few blanks.’ Sue’s face dropped. Simon looked at her blankly. Why did the doctor’s request seem so unwelcome? ‘I’ll see you again tomorrow morning,’ said Dr Zigler.

After he’d left Sue Harding eased herself onto the edge of Simon’s bed.

‘Hi,’ said Simon.

‘Hi Simon, we – Geoff and I – didn’t know about the memory loss. What do you remember?’

‘Nothing, absolutely nothing. Not the accident or anything before it.’

‘Shit,’ muttered Sue.

More bad news surmised Simon. Could things get any worse? ‘Please,’ he said, ‘Tell me, whatever it is, just tell me. I need to know. I’m living in a massive blank at the moment.’

Sue drew in a huge breath. Why me, she thought. But someone was going to have to tell him. She moved onto the visitors chair next to the bed and took one of Simon’s hands in hers. Very bad news thought Simon.

‘OK, your name is … ‘

‘The doc has filled me in with name, age and address,’ he said quickly.

‘Right, OK. So … you were married Simon, last year you married Linda. Then at new year you guys drove to Austria and went on a skiing trip. Because you were both experienced skiers you went off-piste in the glacier area. You shouldn’t have been there, but you both love a bit of risk taking. There was a terrible accident and Linda lost control and fell into a crevasse, a deep crevasse. Bottomless. There was no hope of reaching her.’

Simon’s voice trembled, ‘My wife is dead?’

‘I’m so sorry Simon. You came back from Austria in pieces. Nothing would comfort you. You were still trying to get your head round it all when this accident with the bike happened. You’ve just not been with it.’

‘Have I got any kids?’

‘A son from your first marriage, but he’s in Canada.’

‘Parents?’

‘Your dad died some years ago, your mum is in a home.’

‘Great.’

‘Geoff and I have the farm across the valley from you,’ said Sue kindly, ‘We’re going to help you as much as we can.’

September 2015 – Eight months later

Simon poured himself a second cup of coffee and stared out of the window. Harvest was over. Sue and Geoff had been great this year, helped him with the farm and filled him in on various bits of missing memory, but there were still some great big holes. ‘A memory like bloody Swiss cheese,’ he muttered. The gleaming yellow of the stubble field in the distance beckoned in the sun. He must get the plough out; start preparing to get the winter wheat sown. He sighed and shrugged off a sense of loneliness. How could he be lonely for someone he only knew by name, and from information given to him by friends. Emotions were all still a blank. He finished his coffee and went to get his coat. Might as well get the ploughing done.

It was just after lunch, the big tractor droned steadily in a nice straight line as the plough turned the moist earth into orderly furrows. A small flock of seagulls had come inland and were following the plough, scavenging for worms and any other grubs and insects. A few rooks had joined them. Simon liked the birds. Not only the feathered kind he mused to himself. He must find himself a new woman. What if he wanted to marry again? Did the law require him to wait a certain number of years because his wife’s body couldn’t be found? He had no idea. He chuckled, if he met a fit bird he’d just have to live in sin. It was at that point that the birds behind the plough suddenly became seriously active, diving and wheeling and squawking excitedly. Simon heard them and looked back. Something pink – material of some sort. The birds were going crazy. Simon stopped the tractor, hopped down and walked back to whatever it was that had them so excited. He got within a few yards and stopped dead with shock. A mess of partially shredded pink material lay exposed above the earth. Entangled in it was a skeletal human hand.

‘Jesus Christ!’ Simon just stared, eyes fixed in horror. Then he dug out his mobile phone and phoned the police.

Some weeks later – in the Foxton Gazette

Farmer With Memory Loss Ploughs Up Wife He Murdered!

Simon Blakelock told friends and family that his wife had fallen into a crevasse while skiing in Austria, but detectives have proved that no such incident took place. Blakelock murdered his wife and buried her in one of his fields. It’s believed that he would come into a large inheritance on his wife’s death. Police are looking into the deaths of his three previous wives.

The Word Jug!

Sitting here today wondering what to write on the author blog. It’s easy with the photography blog, having a huge library of photos to choose from.  I don’t want to become repetitive and keep putting up short stories, and there’s not much news on my books at the moment. Then I thought about words. Some words fascinate me and there are just so many that I don’t ever think of using, and many that I don’t even know the meaning of. They say that most of us have a pretty small vocabulary in fact. Anyway I wondered about doing a word post once in a while – explore the meaning and the sound and maybe the history of a word. Or even just talking about a word I particularly like. As I was thinking about this the word bumptious leaped into my mind, I haven’t a clue why. It’s a word I remember from childhood, a word my mum used to use when referring to a cousin. ‘Sally’s rather bumptious,’ she would say, in a slightly disapproving tone. I didn’t know what it meant but from my mum’s tone I suspected it wasn’t good. So here is the first word out of the jug – a very old jug now, that my mum used for flowers when I was a kid.

Bumptious: presumptuously, obtusely, and often noisily self-assertive : obtrusive,  unpleasantly confident, someone who is proud or self-assertive in an obnoxious or irritating way.

Do you know someone like this?

Etymologists (that was a new one on me today as well!) believe that bumptious was probably coined, perhaps playfully, from the noun bump plus -tious. (Think of the obtrusive way an overly assertive person might “bump” through a crowd.) When bumptious was first used around 1800, it meant ‘conceited’.

My mum was born in 1903, and so this word was probably pretty common to her, but language changes and evolves and some words probably never see the light of day any more.  I like the word bumptious, it’s got a bouncy sort of sound to it! How many of you are familiar with it, or ever use it?

Beware the Dust Bunnies! (a short story)

June 2017

Canada:

It started suddenly without rhyme or reason. No one knew why. It was like the beginning of life, when the first creatures crawled out of the sea. Only this time they were born from dust.

Every night it grew. The whispering. Every night as Teresa slept. It was so faint that even the the old dog and the ginger cat couldn’t hear the dust bunnies communicating their terrible message under the bed.

‘Grow!’ breathed Fred gently, he was the biggest and hairiest of all. And at his command tiny particles of fluff and dust and hair gravitated towards them. And they grew bigger.

France:

The woman of the house had become obsessed with writing and for too long had ignored the housework. The vacuum cleaner, unemployed for weeks, had allowed the dust-bunnies to congregate. They had received messages on the air. Messages from the grand master hundreds of miles away in Canada. Now they grew softly, surreptitiously, under the beds, couch, and easy chairs, pulsing gently, whispering. Spiders gave them a wide berth, terrified of being caught up and fluffocated.

Australia:

Bruce lived alone in the outback. He was a simple man with simple ways. His ancient broom was dragged out every so often to do a minimalistic sweep around the kitchen while his arthritic knees defied any attempt at cleaning beneath anything. His guests, only one or two old mates a year, were hardly going to be peeping under the furniture. The dust bunnies picked up Fred’s message which reached them on the Australian breezes. The grand master must be obeyed.

Two years later

And so it was nearly everywhere in the world, under anything that could harbour them, the dust bunnies waited. Inconspicuously and stealthily they listened for the call. Compacted now, condensed, and hidden, crammed under any available shelter, they were ready.

In Canada Teresa had just got up when it happened, it was eight o’clock and she was sipping her first coffee. In France it was five in the evening and Jude was on the computer trying to think of a plot for a short story. In south-west Australia it was eleven o’clock and Bruce was sitting on his porch, eyeing the stars, his old sheepdog by his side and a cold beer in his hand. They all stopped what they were doing at the same moment and listened. A strange groaning was sounding throughout their houses, a creaking and a stretching and then the sharp splintering of wood. The dust bunnies were free at last.

Bruce glanced back over his shoulder at the open front door, wondering what the noise was. His jaw dropped. All he could see was grey fluff – a huge compacted writhing ball trying to force its way out onto the porch. His dog whined and cowered beside him. Bruce got unsteadily out of his chair, wondering how many beers he’d had, and backed across the yard, eyes glued to the front door.

The monster bunny was squeezing and squeezing, pulsating and pushing. Suddenly it burst forth and rolled out into the yard, rocking gently and expanding by the second to astronomical proportions as Bruce stared up at it. ‘Christ! It’s breathing!’ he said. It could engulf his house! But it didn’t. It suddenly took off, rising fast into the night sky, as though pulled by some unseen force, and in a flash it was gone. Bruce shook his head. Had he been on the whisky before the beer? Had it been a bad dream? He walked cautiously back to the house, put the TV on and sat down. The TV was showing a news bulletin; film of large balls of something in the sky, videos shot with mobile phones from all over the country. Then the newsreader was back, animated and excited.

‘These same sights are being reported from around the world. From just about every corner of the earth we are witnessing enormous balls of something, initially thought to be fluff, bigger than houses, travelling across the sky. Reports would suggest that they are all heading towards north America but nobody knows why. Fighter aircraft, scrambled in the U.K the U.S, here in Australia and in a number of other countries have reported that the balls don’t in any way appear to be dangerous – unless they fall on you!’ The newsman chuckled at his own joke. ‘Stay on this channel for further reports on what are being called the ‘Behemoth dust bunnies!’

Bruce was right, he hadn’t had too many beers! And it hadn’t been a bad dream.

Teresa, bare-foot, stepped through her shattered front door and gazed up in horror at the thing that had obviously been lurking under her bed – now overturned in a corner of the bedroom. It hung in the sky, a pulsating hairy monster, expanding by the second, blocking out the morning sun as it grew. All the neighbours were out gawking. ‘Mrs Clean’, as she was known, from three doors down, was in the street staring up in fascination.

‘Looks like a dirty great dust bunny, to me!’ she laughed, ‘I wonder where it came from.’

Apparently you could eat your supper off ‘Mrs Clean’s floor, it was that clean.

‘Who knows,’ muttered Teresa. Certainly not from under your bed she thought. She went back into the kitchen and picked up her phone. The front door needed fixing where the monster had burst through it. She watched the news on the TV in the corner while she waited.

The Breakfast News had just started.

‘The Behemoth Dust Bunnies appear to be heading right here!’ said the newsreader, ‘Reports say they are joining together at times to form even bigger balls.’ And almost as she said this the light faded. Screams from outside made Teresa drop the phone and rush to the door. Bumping and crackling sounds were coming from the sky as more giant bunnies came in fast from all directions. Open-mouthed the people in the street stared up in stunned silence as the new arrivals merged with Fred the master. And they kept coming. And a great shadow fell over the earth. And there was darkness.

The world held its breath. And then light, faint at first, started to return as the dust bunny as big as planet earth itself slowly rose, higher and higher, way past the clouds, further and further. And then it suddenly it gathered speed and in a flash it was gone.

Teresa stared up in awed relief as the sun fell on her face. She brushed some fluff off her bare feet and cursed the dog for nicking her slippers again. Then she went back in to phone the repairman.

Six Months Later

Teresa put her coffee on the table and switched on the TV. Someone was interviewing an astronomer called Bill Moon.

‘And you discovered this last night?’ asked the interviewer eagerly.

‘Yes, yes! It’s quite phenomenal,’ said Bill who was being photographed next to the biggest telescope in the world, ‘I’m really just an amateur, but sometimes I do get lucky and spot something really good. I discovered it last night, right at the end of the Milky Way. It’s the fluffiest planet I’ve ever seen! I got some rather amazing close-ups.’

The TV camera zoomed in and Bill’s close up filled Teresa’s TV screen.

‘It appears to be made of fine hairs, feathers, cobwebs and many other fibres,’ said Bill, ‘What I’m not sure about are those two small, but prominent, bright pink protrusions on the left hand side there.’

The camera zoomed in for an even closer shot.

Teresa sat bolt upright, and nearly spilled her coffee.

‘Those are my frigging slippers!’ she cried.

author of fantasy, fiction and memoir