Tag Archives: Short stories

A Dozen Red Roses (a short story)

June 8th 1990

The flower shop smelled beautiful. Emmy inhaled the glorious scent of freesias, her mother’s favourites, but she wasn’t shopping for her mum. She found what she was looking for in a tall glass vase near the till.

‘Can I help?’ A slim, dark-haired young lady appeared from the back room, carrying a small bucket of pink and white carnations.

‘Yes please,’ said Emmy, I’d like some red roses … a dozen.’

The assistant put the carnations down next to a pot of tulips and came around to the desk. She dug out an order pad and picked up her pen. Emmy gave her the details and the message to go on the card, then she paid in cash.

‘Must be a special someone,’ said the assistant gently, picking up on a certain sadness around her customer. She had learned to read people well. Flowers so often spoke of emotional occasions in her business – happiness and sadness – weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, funerals.

‘Yes, very special’ said Emmy softly.

The assistant handed her her change and her receipt.

‘Thanks,’ said Emmy. Then she walked out of the shop and back to her car. She carefully folded her copy of the receipt and pushed it deep into a corner of her purse, biting her lip, willing the tears not to start.

2010 – Twenty Years Later

Dennis Hitchcock plonked a shoe box on the kitchen table and eased himself into a chair with a loud belch and a groan. He was getting old. Rampant indigestion when he over-ate, even though he’d cut down, and bloody arthritis. Every bit of him ached and it seemed ten times worse in the cold weather. Maybe he should hike the thermometer up a couple of degrees. Not that he couldn’t afford it. But there again he could always put on an extra pullover and save a few quid.

He pulled the box to him and took the top off. Stuff. Bits and pieces belonging to his wife, killed in a car accident over twenty years ago. He had let go of all her things the same year as the accident, cleaned everything out he thought, but now one of the kids had found this box in an old suitcase in the loft. He picked up the card on the top, a birthday card from her sister Lucy. Emmy had been close to Lucy. She’d been closer to Lucy than she’d been to him he thought with a pang of resentment. In fact the longer their marriage had gone on the wider the gap had become. The pang of resentment grew into a tight acidic ball in his stomach. Hadn’t he allowed her to have her interests? Allowed her to take a job? Let her take up art classes? She should have been grateful. And yes she had been a dutiful wife, a good cook and gardener, and had kept the house spotless. But the physical side and any speck of affection had died a death within a few years of their marriage. He had chewed and obsessed about it for years but could never understand what he’d done wrong.

Dennis sorted through the stuff; Christmas cards, birthday cards, letters from a pen-friend in America, a key-ring, a pair of brown leather gloves he’d given her which still looked brand-new. She’d never worn them. He sat back, stroking the gloves and thinking. He never could get it right. Never got her gifts she was genuinely pleased with. Oh yes, she made the right noises, but in a subtle way let him know he’d got it wrong, again. He threw the gloves in the pile he’d made to be binned, which so far was everything.

The last item in the box was an old red writing case which she’d used for years, he vaguely remembered it had originally belonged to her mother. He unzipped it. There was still a pen in the holder and the remains of a Basildon Bond writing pad, even a couple of old stamps. Too bad they were too old to make use of. There was a letter from an Aunt under one of the flaps and a photo of her mother’s little dog – that snappy little dachshund that had never liked him. He shoved his fingers under the flap on the other side and felt around. Some thin paper … maybe a couple of old pound notes! He pulled it out. Not money, just folded paper. He was about to bin it, then at the last moment he opened it up. It was a receipt from a flower shop in Birchford dated June 8th 1990.

Twelve long-stemmed red roses. £42.00.

Message:

‘A piece of my heart goes with you’

Dennis stared at it, puzzled. There was nothing to say whom or where the flowers were to go to. He turned the paper over and then back again, and stared at the message. Then there was a knock at the door.

‘Come in!’ he shouted.

The door opened and a tall, fit looking man, a few years younger than Dennis stepped in.

‘Ah Leo! How nice to see you,’ said Dennis, ‘Cup of tea?’

Leo pulled out a chair and sat down at the table. He looked at the pile of papers and cards, then grinned at Dennis. ‘You look busy, how are you keeping anyway?’

‘Lousy,’ said Dennis, ‘Aching all over, knees, shoulders, everything.’

No change there then thought Leo.

‘I’m just cleaning out an old box of Emmy’s stuff that one of the kids found in the loft,’ said Dennis hauling himself out of his chair and heading for the kettle. He filled it up and put it on, then he grabbed an old shopping bag ready to shove the rubbish in.

‘I’ve just found something a bit weird,’ he said pointing to the receipt on the table. Have a look at that.’

Leo picked up the receipt and stared at it, after a few seconds he cleared his throat. ‘It’s a receipt,’ he said casually, shrugging his shoulders.

‘Yes, but a dozen red roses … and why was it in Emmy’s writing case?’

Leo scratched his head. ‘It’s dated over twenty years ago.’

Dennis put two mugs of tea on the table and flopped back into his chair. ‘But who were they sent to, and who sent them? And look at that message!’

‘I’m sure there’s a logical explanation,’ said Leo staring hard at the receipt. ‘What are you thinking?’

‘I’m thinking what if she was having an affair.’

‘Surely not,’ said Leo, rubbing casually at the back of his neck, ‘I remember you two always being so happy.’

‘Never judge a book by its cover,’ grunted Dennis. ‘She was distant as hell for the last five years or so before she died. I never could figure out why.’

Leo sat up suddenly and tapped the receipt. ‘Wasn’t that around about the time Emmy’s father died?’

Dennis sat back and sipped his tea. Leo was right. And there had been red roses on the coffin. He felt a shiver of relief go through him. ‘You’re right,’ he said, ‘You’ve got a good memory. And she was devastated at losing her father, awkward old sod that he was. Thanks Leo, I’d completely forgotten that.’

A while later after they had put the world to rights Leo finished his tea and got up. ‘Well, I must be getting on, Maggie will wonder where I’ve got to,’ he said, ‘Shall I put this lot in the bin for you on the way out?’

‘Thank you kindly,’ said Dennis, ‘Good idea.’

Leo shoved the contents of the shoe box into the bag.

‘Stop in any time for tea,’ said Dennis, ‘I always enjoy company.’

Leo dropped the bag in Dennis’ recycling bin and made his way back to his car further down the road. car. He got in and sat for a few minutes then opened his hand and stared at the receipt. He unfolded it and the message hit him again like a hammer. ‘A piece of my heart goes with you.My darling Emmy,’ he whispered.

Dennis sat at the table sipping the remains of his tea and eating a biscuit. A chocolate Hob-Nob. He’d kept them in the cupboard while Leo was there. Lovely chap, Leo, but Hob-Nobs were expensive. Leo had been a good friend all those years ago before he moved to Australia. He’d been single then, then met and married Maggie while he was out there. Nice that he’d moved back and took the time to drop in for a chat. When did he move out there anyway? He couldn’t remember. For some reason it bugged him. Bugged him enough to dig out his old diaries. He had kept careful records of everything going back donkeys’ years: events, family, friends, the price of diesel, purchase of cars, weddings, funerals, birthdays, money lent, money repaid, the list was endless. An hour later after much careful searching he found a note he’d made in his diary … on June 8th 1990. How strange. It read: Leaving party for Leo at the Red Lion. Good bash. He leaves for Australia tomorrow. Emmy didn’t go, had one of her bad heads – probably due to the approach of her father’s funeral next week. Dennis put the diary down slowly with a slightly sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. ‘A piece of my heart goes with you.‘ He’d never know.He glared out of the window and wondered when Leo would come for tea again.

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Transported (a short story)

 

He was jolted by the slamming of the cab door. A few minutes silence and then there was a massive rumble and a vibration as the engine started up. He noticed rain was hammering in from the side, freezing cold, straight under the truck.

The driver, unaware of his extra passenger clinging beneath the lorry, lit his second fag of the day and put the radio on. The weather man announced in a cheery voice that it was going to rain all day, so remember to take an umbrella. What the hell, when you’re in a nice warm cab it didn’t matter. The roads across the fens ran long and straight as a dye, and his first trip was to Birmingham, eighty miles or so, to deliver the lettuces and carrots that had been loaded late last night. The immigrant workers worked hard, he had great respect for them, bent over those fields all day. It was now five o’clock, the veg would still be fresh as a daisy when it hit the supermarket shelves. He switched the wipers on and watched them slap the water off the sodden windscreen, back and forth in big arcs, then he flipped the light switch and shoved the gear stick into first. The truck sighed and ground its way out of the yard and onto the main road.

He shouldn’t have done it. Shouldn’t have crawled in here. He was small and space was adequate, and he could easily fit underneath, but the vibration and movement of the truck made things far more dangerous than he’d realised. He stared down at the tarmac flying past below as the truck picked up speed, and hung on for grim death. He’d wanted change, he was sick to death of lettuces, and the same old routine, he wanted adventure! Now he had it, but it would be short-lived if he fell off.

An hour up the road and the weather worsened. The truck tyres picked up standing water and mud and spewed it up at the stowaway, showering him in a filthy concoction. He hung on desperately, eyeing the lethally spinning tyres just a foot away.

At 07.30 the driver pulled into a truck-stop. A full English breakfast was in order. He hopped down out of the cab and made his was into the café.

Under the truck the stowaway tried to clean the mud from his eyes, then he peered down onto the gravel and considered slipping off here while the truck was still. But then he saw it, the hedgehog. He shrank back, terrified, and gripped even more tightly to the metal. The hedgehog wandered about, snuffling, searching for breakfast, and after a while disappeared into the far hedge. He had to make a break for it. Had to do it now. Summoning all his courage he slipped out scanning around for danger, moving cautiously forwards. The door handle of the truck felt cold to his touch.

The slam of the café door signalled the sudden return of the driver who had forgotten his cigarettes. He walked over to his cab door and stared up at it, a look of disgust suddenly flashing across his face as he took in the silver trail up the door and the large spotted leopard slug on the door handle. He found a stick, balanced the slug on the end of it and twanged it over the hedge.

The stowaway flew through the air and landed with a splat in the garden next door. After a few minutes he unfurled his eyes. He was looking down a long row of lettuces.

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!’

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.

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.

SHOT! (a short story).

SHOT!

The Volvo estate pulled into the lay-by at the edge of the wood. An old blue Renault 12 was also parked, but the driver wasn’t in the car. The woman who got out of the Volvo was in her early fifties, she wore a loose-fitting blue top over a flowery gathered skirt, and flat shoes. She looked around quickly before taking a narrow path into the wood.

The man with the gun parked in the lay-by opposite, three or four minutes later. He locked his Land Rover and hurried across to the wood, taking the same path as the woman.

The man who owned the Renault was forty something and in no way handsome. He was a maths teacher, and dressed like one. But he was a passionate maths teacher; not in-love but harbouring a great lust. He waited expectantly in a secluded glade fringed with tall ferns. The woman in the flowered skirt ran the last few steps towards him, throwing herself into his open arms and kissing him with unbridled passion. They tore hungrily at each others clothes and sank into the ferns.

The man with the gun was a silent hunter. He was ex-SAS and schooled in stealth. Slipping like a shadow through the trees he took in every movement, every sound. Almost invisible in his camouflage gear.

The couple, coupled in the ferns, were in a world of their own. Bits of clothing scattered carelessly around them. Her red silk knickers, his corduroy jacket with the elbow patches.

The man with the gun spotted his quarry. Just as he’d suspected they were in the same place as last week. Same time of day. He smiled to himself and slowly raised his gun.

The couple, ignorant of the man in the woods were going for seconds already. His cords now down round his knees, and her matching red brassiere had joined her knickers. Wild cries and sighs, and moans and groans emanated from the ferns as passions peaked.

The man with the gun squeezed the trigger. He was an ex-SAS sniper. He never missed a target. There was a loud crack as the rifle fired once and then again, and a terrible scream rent the stillness of the wood. Damn! He’d have to use his knife to finish the job.

A minute or two later he was walking back to his car when a man tore past him, attempting to carry a jacket in one hand and hold his trousers up with the other. Close behind the man was a woman in a flowery skirt, white-faced and clutching something red to her chest, part of which tumbled to the ground as she fled past.

The man with the gun set down the brace of rabbits he was carrying and picked up what the woman had dropped. A pair of red silk knickers. It was too late to stop her. She and the man had disappeared from view. He shook his head and grinned as he heard two cars start-up somewhere ahead, then he hung the knickers on a hazel bush at the edge of the path, picked up his rabbits, and headed to the Land Rover.

Marjorie’s Revenge

Another short story that may give you chuckle or two. Enjoy!

Marjorie’s Revenge

Under cover of darkness Marjorie Butterworth slipped out of her back door. The night was starless and the autumnal fog hung low as she scurried along the road. She pulled the hood of her hoodie further down over her face whenever she passed a lighted window, head down and hands deep in the pockets of her camouflage trousers. Mrs Butterworth was nearly seventy and not a hoodie or a camouflage type of person, she was in fact an upstanding member of the community and a member of the parish council. But she’d been pushed too far.

The recent council meeting had done it. George bloody Blair! Again! Mrs Fairweather, the butcher’s wife, had brought up the subject of dog-fouling and ways of controlling it, and Blair, the pompous old sod, had jumped in and raged on about dog owners, and why did they want dogs anyway, all they did was shit and bark, and little old ladies should have budgies if they wanted pets instead of rats on strings! The chairman had looked suitably miffed at the outburst and George had sunk back into his tweed waistcoat and wound his handlebar moustache back in.

Marjorie became more furious as she made her way through the churchyard. How dare that bastard allude to her dear little Binky, a most beautiful pekingese, as a rat on a string! George Blair needed to be taught a lesson, him and his unbending, bombastic, military attitude. He was intolerable and intolerant. He’d recently tried to stop planning permission for an extension on a cottage in the village simply because the owners were gay, and now refused to buy his papers from the village shop because the new owners were Indian. The man was a dinosaur.

Marjorie hurried down Brook Lane, George Blair’s house was at the very end, a lovely old Cotswold stone building with wonderful views of open farmland – except he’d only be able to see them from upstairs. The back garden was surrounded by high walls, with ivy trailing over the top. If Marjorie’s plan was to succeed she had to get into that garden. Her cunning plan was to raid George’s pumpkin patch. The old blighter had done nothing but brag about the pumpkin he’d grown for the Harvest Festival Pumpkin Competition and at every parish council meeting his pumpkin got bigger, and was now apparently a pumpkin of Olympic proportions. Marjorie was going to prick his balloon. By way of nabbing his pumpkin.

Blair’s side gate creaked hideously. Marjorie held her breath. The mist swirled around her. After a minute she continued on tiptoeing up the path to the tall arched doorway that opened into the back garden. At least she needn’t worry about a dog hearing her. The big old wrought iron handle on the door was well-oiled and turned easily. She pulled the heavy door open and slipped inside, quickly taking in the perfectly mowed lawn, edged with flowerbeds, and at the far end of the garden she could make out a good sized potting shed. Keeping to the edge of the lawn and ducking under various small trees she hurried down to the shed and dodged behind it. To her delight she found she was standing in the vegetable garden right next to the old git’s pumpkin patch!

Best check all was clear before she got to work. She peered round the shed. A downstairs light had come on. Not a worry. Probably having one of his hideously expensive whiskies he was always bragging about. ‘Give me a pint of Guinness any day,’ she muttered. Marjorie dug in her pockets for her little penlight torch. The small beam quickly picked out an enormous orange blob in the middle of the patch. ‘Good lord!’ she muttered when she stood beside it and took in the size, ‘The mother of all pumpkins!’ Blair hadn’t been exaggerating after all. It wasn’t going to be easy getting this monster home, in fact it was going to be nigh on impossible without a wheelbarrow, and she only had a sack. There was no way she could carry it. But she could still ruin his day. In a few minutes she was getting down and dirty beside the pumpkin with her penknife, carving out an enormous wedge. The moon slipped out from behind a cloud as she manhandled the pumpkin piece into her sack, stood up, and slung it over her shoulder. She was just going to set off when she thought she heard a cough. She froze. Had she imagined it? Cautiously she crept back to the side of the shed and peered at the house. Across the lawn the patio doors were open and the downstairs light was still on. But no sign of anyone. She decided to get out now. Leg it!

Marjorie pulled her hoodie well down over her face and taking a firm grip on her sack she launched herself from behind the shed.

She collided heavily with a tall blonde woman coming from the opposite direction.

‘Aagh!’ they both yelled.

Marjorie, who had lost her balance, and ended up on her ample backside, peered up from under her hood at the blonde in the moonlight. She didn’t get it. Blair had never talked of a wife or girlfriend. The dirty old sod had kept this quiet! The blonde was looking equally shocked. Marjorie noticed she was wearing a bright pink ballroom dancing dress and silver high heels. Her gaze travelled up to the woman’s face – a dreadful make-up job from what she could see between the strands of long blonde hair. Two puddles of black mascara and … a handlebar moustache!

‘George?’ gasped Marjorie in amazement.

George Blair grabbed at a set of earphones which snagged in the blonde hair and whipped the wig off with them. Marjorie caught a few brief strains of James Last’s ‘Somewhere My Love‘.

‘Please Marjorie, I’m begging you!’ George’s voice was stricken with panic.

Marjorie got up, smiling. ‘Dancing round the garden in drag to James Last George. What will the neighbours think?’

‘Please! … Marjorie! … I’ll do anything!’

‘I’m sure you will George. From now on I’m sure you will!’

Marjorie picked up the sack and slung it over her shoulder, the pumpkin would make a nice bunch of pies for the Harvest Festival.