Flash fiction, short stories, poetry …
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I Made £65.70 for Sick Cats Last Week

Hello wonderful readers.

Fear not, work progresses on my ‘Black Door’ serial. I’ll have the next instalment up today or tomorrow, digital gods willing.

Thing is, the latest Black Door is quite long (and pretty dark) so I thought: I’ll post a #Friday Flash as well and I’ll make something a bit, y’know, upbeat. So here it is, my ‘little flashy’. And, I think there’s plenty of quirk in this one, but it’s also too darned long at around 1370 words.

In all conscience, I couldn’t call this Flash Fic, so it’s posted in Short Stories. Yeah, what a dimbo.

As for the serial, I’m probably gonna chop the latest episode in half, or I might wear you all out. On the plus side, it features Mr Softly, and he’s all about chopping things in half.

Stephen.

I

’m Laura [60p!]ing Campbell, and No, I’m not proud of myself.

Did you know that fairies can’t stand bad language?

I didn’t know that.

I mean, I can totally imagine those razzy, little, flittery critters dropping the ‘F-bomb’, so why should it bother them?

Stupid Sindy Dolls with wings.

Well, apparently, fairies have a ‘sensitivity’ to such things, and you aughta’ stop-up your gums if you’re gonna cuss the ‘blue end of a bus’, or a fairy might just jump out and do you in with Chinese rope burns n’ stuff.

Or maybe, a good old cuss-word or two could save your life. How about that?

That’s what I tell my mom, now, every day.

And she says, ‘Little miss, just you stick another 20p in that swear box. I heard that language what you was using, so delicate, like.’

An’ I say, ‘It’s not a box, dearest mama, it’s a [60p!]ing bear with a slot in its head.’ Then she says something equally rude, in the steamy hiss of a kettle, and the Sick Cats of Bearsham and Barthem get £1 for both us slackers.

Shakespeare we ain’t.

Short an’ up, I pretty much got a paper-round to support a forty-a-day F-word habit. I really did – Gordon Ramsey aught’a come cook in my kitchen. Then he’ll learn a word or two.

But think of the kitties – I’ve got them all on-board the ‘rabbit in gravy’ train with every exquisite expletive.

Anyway, there’s this old set of allotments down by the railway. I help out the oldies there: Toothless Tony, Nick the Nettles, Fingers M’ilotment and the rest of the Green Gardening Mafia. It ain’t all Dons, either, so a shout out to Molly Flower, Two Tins Tallulah, an’ the rest of the ‘Rattan Pack’.

Their whole area might once have been romantic, when the steam chuffers went past, taking coals toNewcastle, or whatever (or is that just a euphemism?).

Anyway, now, it’s kind of red crumbling brick at the bottom the hill, grass grown over old plots, walls shrouded by ivy, the occasional hoop of corrugated iron; while to the top, it’s pristine allotments, neat little sheds, shades of blue paint, dahlias dancing in the wind.

They call me Little Sweet Pea Soup up there, on account of me bein’ fourteen and three quarters (which is fifteen goin’ on sixteen right?) an’ a lay-dee an’ all, an’ a Campbell.

That nickname put at least 60p in the tin, day one.

I hate the nicknames those old codgers and codgettes come up with for me. Couldn’t they get a cool name from Ben 10 or something?

But mom says mind your P’s and Q’s [I don’t know any swear words that begin with ‘Q’. Those that start with ‘P’, kick off at around 10p and peak at around £2.10].

Anyway, down at the railway end, they’ve let the allotments grow over. I asked why. They said, “On account of…”

And that was it.

Uh? Hello?

See them little dots. That’s actually what they said. No, not ‘dot, dot, dot’, but nothing. Then, like they forgot or was havin’ a senior moment, they’d add: ‘Oh, hey… there’s a plant that needs watered’ or ‘Hey, Jim, got a lovely set of marrows there.

[To which Jim now owes 30p on account of his ‘Ooooh, Matron!’ shenanigans. That’s 3x10p = 30p for sick cats, which is cheap on the account of no actual rude words bein’ spoken, but plenty of Nintendo].

What I’m saying is, that all I got was ‘On account of…’ avoid, avoid, avoid.

And I knew the mysterious thing wasn’t dry plants, or Jim and his oogly marrows, but something strange that made the committee of Red Barns and West Allotment Association let their greenest and most abundant plots – judging by the size of those hocks – go to waste.

But another thing, didn’t my grandfather have one of those plots? If he did, well, there’s a kind of inheritance scheme up here…

So I went through the records, secretly one night, then tabled a hostile motion over a wheelbarrow. The Sunflowers (the ‘yays’) carried the day, but the Sprouts (the ‘nays’) weren’t too happy about it.

Elbows nudged back and fore, glances exchanged, there were dull harrumphing sounds behind soup strainers, the odd heave of a bosom and potting trowl, until one Mr Roy-Boy Berloti was pachinkoed forward, hat in hand. His fingers ran along the peaked brim of his cap like he was typing LOL over and over.

He says – wait for it – he says, “Sweet P” –”  [20p in the bear] – “SP,” he says. “You can’t go dig that allotment on the account you may get grabbed.”

“Grabbed?” says I.

“Grabbed. Yeah. Your old man, Al Capon [Gramps, on account of his chickens] knew what’s what and he let that strip go fallow.”

“Well tough rhubarb,” I say. “It’s time for a stiff broom, and afore that, a stout spade and a spruce up with a fork.” What-the-fork? Ha, ha. [0p – No, that doesn’t count. Besides, I only thought it.].

“Anyone got a scythe?”

“Out back,” said the long faces.

I went and got it and a whetting stone and some oil. Grass flew and then I broke and I spaded and finally I pricked out some seeds.

The sun was shining, there wasn’t an F-word in sight.

When, I was grabbed [£3!].

Old door and peeling paint, crawled up and crazy-paved like that old painting mom has over the fridge (I call that poster ‘Moaning Lisa’, on account of  her looking a right moany moo, and she’s obviously hot-breathing a few choice words).

Anyway, grabbed.

And when I say grabbed – really grabbed. I couldn’t move. At first I think I’m lying on a compost heap. There’s old wizened carrots, and leaf, and an earthy smell, of rot and humus, sweet beets maybe. Tar from the roof.

My new, best joggies were covered in clart [20p!]. I looked around. It was cold [20p!], dark [40p!] and unfamiliar [50p!].

There could’ve been [80p!]ing rats.

Only faint slivers of sunlight rafted in through the wood roof, and even those gaps were shrouded in leaves. Dust motes danced in the fingers of light. I tried to sit up. Nothing doing.

Then the mound shifted. [£1.50!].

I was sprawled in the lap of what can only be charitably called a heafter of a huge, fat hag (my, my how delightfully PC).

There was no fee, fi, fo, fum. But this old, bearded besom had me held tight, my head resting aside her crook chin, back to her breasts. I could see right up her nose, to nose-hair like root-bound geranium. Warts bulged like splitting rose buds, fingers clasped around me like roots and twigs grown in.

“Stop with your yammering, child. Your mother teach you to talk with a mouth like that? All cussing up words like old broken stones? No good trying to twist n’ turn, little missy, I got you held, as close as ivy spreading its leaves, or flesh grown to the bone.”

And her organic fingers synched in all the tighter.

I was of course polite and reserved, in this situation of extremis.

“Well, I wish I was a pile of [£1.85!]ing [£3!] what you was holding. How’s about them potatoes?” My voice was all hand on hip, red lippy, snark-snark.

The hag twisted uncomfortably, her stubble scraping my neck.

“And another thing,” – as those hands crushed tighter – “you old [50p!]er, you aughta stop [£1.50!]ing around and let us go. Eh?”

With that, ma exquisite potty-mouth was too much for the old dear. A hag all dainty and proper you say? What courtly places she been lately? But still, there’s a screech that could lay-off a slug at fifty meters on a cloche frame.

“[2/6d!] Take her away!” she commands.

There’s a patter of ickle wings. Zoot I’m out cold, zoot I’m back on the ground, earth in my hair, ants on my face, grit on my tongue, and sunstroke, so they say.

–oOo–

“Laura Campbell? Yeah, that’s the [50p!]ing ragamuffin down the bottom of the [50p!]ing allotments. She’s got us all [60p!]ing swearing, on account of the [80p, 60p, 60p!]ing fairies!”

 

September 16, 2011   10 Comments

Samuel Watches the Cat

S

amuel watches the cat. The cat is completely unaware of the Jew – it clumber-saunters along the up-and-down planks of the fence with some awkward claw work. Samuel waits with a stone. He has turned it so that the sharp edge points out like a shark tooth. He runs his finger along it experimentally, visualising piercing the cat’s hide.

The cat teeter-totters along, up-and-down. Rage burns in Samuel’s brain at the unabashed disrespect, as the cat nuzzles the clambering honeysuckle, dishes its backside through the willow, swats at a fly – an odd, three-legged operation, with the cat hanging on like a crab and the fourth paw high-fiving a plank and skittering around. It’s the perfect moment to throw the stone.

Cara wanders out of her yellow shed, brushing compost from her soft, brown hands. She spots the cat and strokes it. The cat arches its back appreciatively. Cara’s hair is down – long, black, glossy hair that suggest oil and hazelnuts and sparkles on an Irish oxbow lake. She laughs her soft Irish laugh. She is everything a twenty-two-year-old Irish girl should be.

Samuel hides the stone – for now – in the soft cotton pocket of his jeans, twisting the cat’s demise around and around, out of sight. He waits patiently for the glowing figure to notice him, where he stands by the butt and compost, in the shadowy lee of his own shed. His shed is weathered and dirt-grey, where soft, untreated wood has retreated. There is no paint – no colour – that appeals to him.

She doesn’t see him. She lets the cat twist about her hand. The cat sniffs appreciatively. Samuel scowls.

Later, Cara is watering her hydrangeas with a ridiculously small watering can. It’s a child’s thing, of purple, with a yellow plastic flower for a spout. This boggles Samuel’s mind. There is no sign of the bastard cat, but he has the stone ready.

Cara is sowing seeds – tiny, black, mustard grains – a seed at a time. She holds them between her finger and thumb, with some difficulty, where her long pink nails scissor together. The drops are both delicate and awkward. As each seed is placed, she carefully shifts a little soil on top with one of those self-same nails. Samuel might have thrown a fistful of seeds over half an acre in the time it has taken Cara O’Dare to plant her immaculate half-dozen.

When dusk falls, and the midges begin to whine and buzz about – suddenly brave now the heat of the day has passed – Samuel strikes a heavy brown match and lights his paraffin lamp. The lamp is burnished in black soot and oil, mirrored, in places, between the rusting seams. A coat hanger holds it in place, embedded in the chest of a dressmaker’s dummy. The dummy sags in brown folds of torn material, hunched over in its wooden ellipses and metal stays.

Clara looks up from the birdbath she is rotating: pulling it one way, then the next, walk-dragging it into position. It’ll make a nice centrepiece, he assumes she assumes. He can’t help staring at her chest – two globes of firm, brown, flesh that spread out from her dungarees. Gravity and her movements are page three conspirators. She waves cheerfully.

Samuel nods. He is using a tough pair of pliers to throttle a hosepipe, twisting heavy-duty wire around the fleshy, green rubber. Where he kneels, the stone is digging into his thigh. A little bit of the hurt for the cat has found him instead. But he will get his revenge when he next catches sight of its black-and-white patches, and when he is alone. Revenge is best enjoyed quietly and carefully, where hands can throttle rather than ball up impotently. Samuel wants, needs, to get his hands on the cat – or at least a stone in its flank. It is getting too dark to throw stones, though. Neither is he alone.

An hour later, and it’s too cold to continue. He pulls on his jacket, safely padlocks his shed, and walks off the allotment. Cara has already gone – gone with the sunshine – her shed ‘secured’ with a willow branch she has painted with spirals.

Back at home, Samuel stares through the television. The cat lolls on top of it, occasionally dropping a tail or paw down, but mostly just snoozing in the warmth from the vent at the back. The stone is in Samuel’s jacket pocket; the jacket is hung neatly in the hall. It would be no good anyway, he is not alone. Samuel’s wife strokes the cat and sits down heavily with the remote control. She has brought Rich Tea biscuits and strong coffee.

The cat cracks an eye open, studying Samuel disdainfully, before drifting back into sleep.

September 26, 2010   No Comments