Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Uncle Jack Came Back

 by Dawn De Braal

a glass of porter 

Uncle Jack's body was found in a peat bog by a local farmer, thirteen years after he'd gone missing.  Irish authorities contacted my grandmother to let her know of the gruesome discovery.  The detective noted that Uncle Jack's body was in "remarkable" condition for being buried so long, but neglected to mention that Uncle Jack's head looked as if it had been run through a mangle iron and had been made flat.  Grandma was insistent on having an open casket ceremony and would not take no for an answer.
We waited months before the authorities were finished with the investigation for the body to return to us.  The investigation resulted in no answers. Uncle Jack was shipped back to the United States thirteen years to the day he disappeared in Ireland searching his ancestral background.  With the discovery of his body, part of the mystery solved as to where he had been all these years but not how and why he ended up in the swamp.
 I barely remembered my uncle.  I was six-years-old when he left on his trip. Standing there with my immediate family before the casket reminiscing, faint memories of baseball tossing, head rubbing “noogies,” and an indomitable laugh, came back to me.  Uncle Jack, the teller of tall tales and the carrier of butterscotch hard candies in his pocket where ever he went. I wondered, when they uncovered his body, had they found those sweet candies in his pocket?
 The entire family stared in awe, admiring the shape of Uncle Jack's head which appeared to have been elongated due to the weight of the peat. The faint smell of "swamp" permeating the funeral home, was undeniable. Mr. Gooding, the funeral home director, asked to close the casket before our guests arrived. It took some convincing, but finally, Grandma conceded. The lid on Uncle Jack's coffin, was closed.  My less adventurous Uncle Ned told the story of a farmer who was digging in the bog in Ireland when he discovered Uncle Jack's' body. Upon further investigation, it was mentioned that several holes had been drilled into Uncle Jacks' head! There had been many bodies found in those bogs with the same condition.
 I have never been able to get that thought out of my mind those drilling holes. Had Uncle Jack been murdered? Had he gone mad after having some medical procedure done and confused, wandered out into the bog to his demise? Had someone been mining Uncle Jack for those tall tales? A mystery to be sure, but he was home again and that was all that mattered to Grandma.

About the author 

Dawn De Braal lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two rat terriers and a cat. She loves is  telling a good story and is fast learning that they can also be written.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

The Reunion



by Lucy 

tea or coffee

Coffee shop. 3 pm. Wooden table. Pot of tea. One empty chair. She took one sip of her tea, her eyes staring on a door. She felt nervous a little bit. Her hands were shaking slightly. 3:01. He’s late.

“Excuse me, are you Roz?” asked a male voice. She turned her head and looked in the eyes of a young man. He could be in his twenties. She smiled and nodded. She felt more nervous. He sat down, and looked at her. People around them were chatting, laughing, and having conversations. Except them. They were just sitting and looking at each other.

“So, Tom...,” she started. “It is nice to meet you,” she tried to act casually, tried not to be nervous, but her hands were shaking even more. She folded them in her lap.

“Yes, nice to meet you too... Roz,” he smiled. In his eyes she could see, that he has lots of questions. 

“I am sorry I was late. There was traffic on a way here,” he started and she nodded.

“So you do have a driver's license then,” she said.

“Yes. I got it two months ago.”

“Congratulations,” said Roz and took another sip of her tea.

“Thank you. If you just excuse me for a moment, I would like to order some coffee,” he said and she nodded. Tom stood up and left the table.

Roz took a deep breath. This was harder than she expected. She was shaking. But she has to face it. She has to get this thing done in her life so she can move on.


Tom came back in a few seconds; he sat back down and looked straight in her eyes.

“I am really glad you agreed about this. I mean... I have lots of questions and I just want to know the answers,” he explained. Roz noticed that he was getting nervous as well.

“Go ahead,” she said quietly.

“Why did you...” he started, but then the waitress appeared with a cup of hot coffee. “Thank you,” he said.


“Why did I what?” asked Roz.

“Why did you give me away?” he asked.

Roz looked at him. She wasn’t expecting that he will ask this question straight away. She could feel the sweat dripping down from her neck.


“When I discovered that I am pregnant,” she started, “I felt scared. I wasn’t ready to have a baby. I was only twenty-one and that night when it happened, it was just one big mistake. When I told my doctor that I don’t want to have a baby, he told me that it’s too late for abortion so I decided to give you better life with better people because I wasn’t ready to be a mother. I was still studying and I was living only with my dad. When I told him, that I am pregnant, he went mental. He was shouting at me, calling me a whore and a slut but he didn’t know how it happened and I was too scared to tell him the true story” Roz swallowed hard. 

“What is the true story? How it happened?” asked Tom, his eyes were full of tears. 

“Listen, I’ve never told anyone and I don’t want to tell you because it’s not a nice story. I just want you to know, that I wanted to give you better life and I hope that it turned out well. I hope you’ve had an amazing childhood with lovely parents and with all the things I wouldn’t be able to give to you.”

“I spent my childhood in a system. No one wanted me until I was 10 and then one day, I was adopted. I...” Tom wiped his eyes and Roz looked at him.

“Tom, I am so sorry. I had no idea...”

“Of course you had no idea! You just gave me away!” he shouted. He sounded hurt. “I bet you didn’t even look at me when I was born! You just turned your head away!” He was crying now and all the people stared at them. Roz didn’t say a word. She tried to take his hand but he didn’t let her. 

“Tom, please...,” she tried to explain. 

“No,” he said. “Just answer me this question: have you ever thought of me? Have you ever regretted your decision?”

Roz looked at him.


She remembered that day when Tom was born. She was in so much pain, crying and wanted the pain to end. It took twelve hours to give a birth to that little baby. 

“It’s a boy,” said the doctor who was holding the crying baby. “Are you sure you don’t want to look at him?” 

“Take him away. I don’t want to see him,” she said. She was tired. She felt sorry for him, for the innocent little boy but she couldn’t look at him.

“Do you want to name him?” the doctor asked.

“Tom,” she sighed.  

The baby was crying even more. He wanted to be with his mum, to feel the warm feeling of love and be loved. Roz didn’t turn her head. Tears were falling down from her eyes, and in a few minutes, she didn’t hear him anymore. He was gone.

After few days, when Roz was able to leave the hospital, the doctor asked her, if she wanted to change her mind, but Roz shook her head. She was ready to leave this part of her life behind her.
So, after twenty years, when she got an email from young men called Tom, she was terrified. But also one part of her wanted to meet her son; she wanted to know how he looks like, what is he like.

“Can you answer me then?” said Tom and Roz blinked. She was back in a presence. “Have you ever regretted your decision of giving me away?” he asked again.

Roz took a deep breath. “No,” she said clearly and then she left. 

About the author 


Lucy is originally from Czech Republic. She moved to England two years ago. She has always loved writing and making stories.
She started Creative Writing in Woodbridge which in September 2018.

 


Monday, 18 February 2019

Digging A Hole To China

by  Dawn De Braal 

coal with ice 

Jimmy Cocolatta was 10 years old when he learned from his Grandpa that he could dig a hole to China. He’d always wanted to go to China so when that thought was put into his 10-year-old brain he got to work right away.
It started out innocent enough, a sinkhole near the sidewalk, he always wanted to know what caused the swale in the earth that never could quite get filled. Every year loads of dirt were shoveled down that hole only to reappear as a dip after the first rain. Jimmy felt this was the best place to start because there was already a three-foot drop in the earth and would save him some time digging his way to China.
The spade was new and sharp.  He went around and clearing the grass from the dip near the sidewalk in front of his home. As it was summer and he had no school to go to for the next few months gave Jimmy a lot of time to dig. Every day the hole in the earth grew deeper and the dirt next to the hole grew taller. Neighbors walking by would stop and ask Jimmy what he was doing.
“Why I’m digging a hole to China!” he’d call back and they’d chuckle and shake their heads. Soon word got around the neighborhood and other kids wanted to help dig the hole to China. Jessup Manning told Jimmy they couldn’t dig a hole to China because the earth was filled with molten magma and he would burn up as soon as he hit it. Jessup was in 6th grade and was so much more “worldly” than Jimmy.  When curiosity got the best of Jessup he brought over his shovel and started digging too. All was good until Foster’s dog fell into the hole. He was missing for a couple of hours until someone heard him barking. An extension ladder was put down the hole and Fosters’ dog was brought up without any fuss, at least from the dog.
Neighbors started to call the Cocolatta’s hole to China a nuisance. Each day more kids flocked to the hole waiting for the magma to come up and burn the diggers.  Buckets on ropes were being lowered and dirt brought up and dumped near the sidewalk. 
Someone called OSHA and they cited Jimmy for not reinforcing the hole claiming it could cave in. They put a barricade around the hole and put danger signs up. No one was allowed to go near. The city sewer system sent some people down the hole and discovered several sewer pipes had caved in. That was why there was a swale there in the first place. They opened the hole even bigger and reinforced the sides, working on the hole for days while Jimmy stood off to the side watching his hole to China get dug for him.
“Caution! Stand back! Keep Away! Men Working!”  Yellow tape around the site kept everyone at bay.
Sitting next to the hole in a full moon feeling defeated, Jimmy thought he would never be able to prove his grandfathers’ theory. Looking into the hole having heard something, he could not believe his eyes when a real-life China Man in a full Yat-sen suit came up the ladder bowing to Jimmy he exited the hole, stepping around the caution sign and walked down the street.

 

About the author 

Dawn DeBraal lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband, two rat terriers and a cat. Recently retired she is turning her love of telling a good story into enjoying writing them.   

Sunday, 17 February 2019

The Woman Who Couldn’t Make Up Her Mind

by Copper Rose

black coffee 

Jackie shoved her hands in her pockets, stared at her reflection in the store window, hot sun beating down on her shoulders. She sucked in a deep breath, forced it back out. She scuffed one foot along the cement sidewalk, watched an ant skitter away from the dirt in the crack. Something tugged at her to move, to go to work. She needed the job, needed the money. She scuffed the other foot and studied her reflection again.
The spell Eugenia had cast rendered it impossible for her to make up her mind.
Jackie pulled her hands from her pockets, stared at her reflection in the store window.
The ant skittered back, crawled over the toe of her shoe. 

About the author 

Copper Rose perforates the edges of the page while writing unusual stories from the heart of Wisconsin. She also understands there really is something about pie.

 

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Dangerous Words

by Allison Symes 

bitter coffee

The biography of my long dead great-aunt whom I cared for, it was over a decade in the end, was a revelation, a bloody one at that.  No wonder she didn't want this coming out during her lifetime and I'm heartily wishing I hadn't been sent this book.  Someone wanted me to have it but who and why?  And why send it now?

Frankly, I'm not sure what I want to do with this.  The logical thing would be to burn the wretched book but how many copies were produced?  How could I find out without revealing what I know? And whoever sent this is expecting some reaction I guess.  There's nothing to stop them sending me other copies either.  Have they gone to the police?  Well let them... I've done nothing wrong except be a beneficiary to a sick old lady whose family abandoned her.  Except I now know why they dumped her.  Has one of them finally decided I ought to know? Or are they going to try to take my inheritance from me?

What did I find out?  That my great-aunt knew quite a bit about biology as it turns out and where exactly to stick the knife. She wasn't always crippled with arthritis!   Said knife ended up right in the backs of anyone to whom she was a beneficiary.  Collected quite a sum in the end - well over £500 K.  People have been killed for less than that.  What I can't figure is how she got away with it.  All I know is I'm keeping that money and I am getting out of here now.

About the author 

Allison Symes is published by Chapeltown Books, Cafe Lit, and Bridge House Publishing amongst others.  She is a member of the Society of Authors and Association of Christian Writers.  Her website is www.allisonsymescollectedworks.wordpress.com and she blogs for Chandler’s Ford Today - http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/author/allison-symes/

Friday, 15 February 2019

The Mesabi Miner

by James Bates

black coffee


The huge iron ore freighter was thirty miles out when Jerry Jorgenson saw it appear on the horizon, barely visible, a tiny spec. He pulled down his seed company cap to shade his eyes, and used his binoculars to watch as the ship slowly made its way toward where he was standing, close to the shipping canal between Lake Superior and the Port of Duluth. They say that death and taxes were what you could always count on. Well, to that you could add the Mesabi Miner, thought Jerry, as he watched the huge vessel's slow but steady progress. The freighter had been carrying iron ore back and forth across all of five of the great lakes for seventy-three years, Jerry's entire life. It was as dependable as the day was long, was how he looked at it.          
            It took nearly two hours for the ship to make the journey, and as it approached the entrance to the canal it began slowing down, making ready to leave the lake. By now Jerry was surrounded by a boisterous crowd of men, women and children from all walks of life. Everyone was excited and the festive atmosphere blended in perfectly with the bright sun and warm sand and raucous seagulls. The huge vessel was so close he could almost reach out and touch it's riveted steel immensity: one-thousand feet long, one-hundred feet wide and over fifty feet deep. It was fully laden with nearly eighty-thousand tons of iron ore, and it gave him a thrill beyond words to be standing so close to it.
            The wheel house was seventy-five feet above the water. Unexpectedly, a figure appeared at the small window, leaned out and saluted good naturedly to those gathered below. It was the captain. The crowd called out and waved back excitedly. Not Jerry. He wasn't what you'd call a demonstrative person by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, he watched closely as the captain doffed his cap, expecting to see a grizzled and weathered seaman. But that's not what he got. He did a double take, and then had to raise his binoculars to make sure his eyes weren't deceiving him. They weren't. It wasn't a man who was doffing a cap and commanding his beloved freighter. It was a woman. And, even more remarkable, she wasn't even very old. He was stunned beyond belief. What was going on? Was this a sick joke of some kind? What had happened to manly tradition and the stoically competent seafarers who were supposed to be safely guiding the huge iron ore freighters across the always treacherous Great Lakes? More to the point, what was this woman doing on what he always thought of as his ship?
            Jerry could not accept what he was seeing. It made him almost physically ill. Then as if to add insult to injury, the captain (That woman!) shook her head and set free long tresses of blond Scandinavian hair that shown in the sun like the finest imported satin. Her tanned face broke into a big smile as she gave the jovial crowd an impish wink and waved enthusiastically to them.
            Jerry was aghast. She's going to smash that ship, that's what she's going to do, he thought to himself. I'll bet my pension check from the steel workers union that she's going to sink the Mesabi Miner to the bottom of the canal. Then they'll be sorry. Everybody knows that only men have the knowledge and skill necessary to make it through that narrow passageway and into the port beyond. He folded his arms tightly across his chest in a huff, as if challenging her to fail. Then he watched and waited, expecting the worst.
            If the young captain could sense Jerry's skepticism, she didn't let on. Undaunted, she turned seriously to the task at hand and, like thread through a needle's eye, she cool handedly guided Jerry's beloved iron ore freighter through the narrow canal into the safe harbor beyond, completing the Mesabi Miner's journey by tooting it's horn three times. The crowd erupted as one and began wildly cheering. Not Jerry. He turned away in disgust, the roar in his ears almost too much to bear.
            He took two fast steps, and in his haste to get away almost knocked over a young girl about ten years old wearing a Minnesota Twins baseball hat. As he sidestepped her it occurred to him that his own granddaughter was about the same age. She was a delight to be around and was already an accomplished hockey player. It dawned on him that her mom, Jerry's daughter, was about the same as the ship's captain. She not only was a wonderful mother, but also a highly respected veterinarian. Damn. It was a pain in the ass to do so, but he had to admit that the world he used to know was changing. Sometimes too fast for him, but it was.
             He quickly apologized to the young girl who smiled and said cheerfully, "That's okay, mister."
            He took a few steps and then stopped and thought to himself, Hell, that lady captain actually did do a good job steering the freighter through the shipping canal, way better than I could have anyway. His shoulders slumped ever so slightly as the realization hit him. Yeah, she really was pretty good.
            He straightened up tall, having made what was for him a momentous decision. He turned and gave the departing vessel as snappy salute. Then he begrudgingly joined in with the crowd and began applauding.

About the author

Jim lives in a small town three hours south of the shores of beautiful Lake Superior. As much as he loves to go there, he doesn't get there nearly as often as he'd like. More of his stories can be found at: www.theviewfromlonglake.wordpress.com

Thursday, 14 February 2019

On Both Sides

by Amanda Jones

a simmering hot chocolate with marshmallows


He watched her. He admired every part of her. The kink in her arms bent at the elbow to form an embrace with air. The pout of her lips with concentration. The gleam in her eyes, alive with the music. The erect back and supporting shoulder. The spread of her legs surrounding the body. Her young, supple fingers glided smoothly over the strings and the contact between flesh and gut or wire-bound nylon was extremely satisfying. He loved her with desire and hated her talent which prevented him from touching her now.

She was unaware of the face flickering with emotion beside her. She fascinated him with her tempting movements stroking the strings but was playing in innocence. She did not mean to fill him with lust and envy. She wasn’t aware of him as she caressed her harp.

It came from Wales. She lived in Swansea and had bought her instrument as a comfort. She had played a harp when she was younger, but it had been destroyed with fire when her parents divorced. Her father had burned with it. She knew her mother had set the fire up but so, so slyly that it was never arson. She rarely saw her now.
Music released her. She was able to escape from the stress presented at the office and problems displayed by Anna. Anna, how she loved her. She was four now and would soon be starting school, Anna.

Nick helped her, but she didn’t love him. He wasn’t the father of Anna. Chris had left her pregnant, he couldn’t face up to the responsibilities. She had to. Then Nick had come along. Nick had always helped her and loved her but she had never loved him. He insisted on visiting her daily although he despised her music. She wasn’t going to stop playing for him. Circumstances had stopped her before but not this time.

She earned enough money from working at the office and her house was beautiful with a colourful arrangement of flowers blooming in spring and summer. She had been working at the office for five years now. She had left school, done a brief typing course and now spent her life staring at a monitor. She always had headaches after work. Paracetamol was her only comfort apart from Anna and her harp.

Nick bought her things. She didn’t really want them but he insisted. She kept telling herself that she’d have to say goodbye to him but he was so persistent, persuasive and wouldn’t let her go. It would hurt him if she told him to go and she wasn’t totally insensitive to him. Besides, she liked him to kiss her.

He wanted to kiss her now but she was playing that bloody harp. Always producing such splendid sounds from the thing but ignoring him. He knew she didn’t love him but you could cultivate it, couldn’t you? Surely he’d be rewarded one day, she did like him to kiss her. That was a positive sign, wasn’t it?

So sweet. So crisp and flowing. If only everything was. She delighted in her music, it kept her alive and even Anna wanted to play. He thought, not two of them. It’s bad enough with one, even though he liked it secretly.

They were happy though. Nick often stayed and was a perfect father figure for Anna. How long could it go on without love on both sides? She’d love him soon, surely? But she seemed incapable of love since Chris left her four years ago. Maybe she didn’t trust him. She didn’t.

About the author
Amanda has ongoing work in horror, poetry, short stories and non-fiction. Author of the Missy Dog series for good causes, her book ‘Missy and the Whitts’ is the first, about her dog Missy who dreams about real history. The second book ‘Missy and the Old Fossils’ is being published online.
 

Her Go Fund Me campaign supports good causes through my Missy Dog Books.

Her books are available from the links below through Missy’s Matters and through Kindle.

Missy’s Matters is my Conscious Crafties Shop full of creative, handmade goodies with many donating to good causes. https://www.consciouscrafties.com/crafties/missys-matters/


Virus-free. www.avg.com

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Do You Believe in Magic?

by James Bates 

creme brulee latte

 Carrie and I were out to dinner, sharing a meal at our favorite restaurant, George and the Dragon. We'd been dating for over a year and were thoroughly enjoying each other's company, so much better than our previous relationships. We were young, in our late twenties, and both had good jobs: I was a software engineer for a medium size electronics company and Carrie worked in the art department for a graphic arts design firm. We'd met at a stargazing class the winter before and had hit it off immediately (under the glow of the Aurora Borealis, I might add.) Now, after all these months, we'd grown very close and felt like we had something special between us.
            It was Saturday, February thirteenth, and our date had been a chance to celebrate the end of a rather hectic work week for each of us. Earlier in the evening we'd gone to the Guthrie Theater to see Glensheen, a captivating play set in the nineteen twenties about the life of a young servant girl at the Glensheen Mansion, located just north of Duluth on the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior, a place we visited every chance we got. We'd decided to top off the evening with a late night dinner at George's, and it had been as scrumptious as usual. We were enjoying a shared dessert of crème brulee when out of nowhere the magician appeared, and he changed our lives forever.
            He introduced himself as Theodore and asked, very politely, if we minded if he entertained us with, as he put it, "Some special magic."
            Carrie, being artistic and left brained, immediately said, "Sure. Sounds like fun."
            Me? Well, I'm analytical from the word go and didn't believe one bit in magic, special or otherwise, but played along since Carrie seemed so enthusiastic.
            "Great," Theodore said, smiling as he handed me my watch, saying, "I believe this is yours."
            My first thought was, Hey! How'd he do that? But I didn't spend much time dwelling on it, because I was immediately hooked.
            Theodore regaled us for maybe twenty minutes. He didn't do your normal sleight of hand card tricks or anything like that. He was way more subtle, and I think that's what not only impressed both Carrie and me, but also drew us into his world. He took a silver coin, made it disappear and then reappear under my water glass. He pointed to my shirt pocket and asked if he could borrow the spoon that was sticking out of it. Once he said, "Excuse me. Is this yours?" as he reached down to the floor and picked up Carrie's thin, gold chain necklace and gave it to her, much to her delight. And then a few minutes later, did it again. He was marvelously entertaining.
            But it was his last bit of magic that really blew our minds and it's stayed with us all these years. I hesitate to even call it a trick - it was so much more.
            He was getting ready to leave, after handing Carrie her necklace for a third time, when he paused and asked, "Excuse me, but you two seem so happy. May I ask how long you've been together?"
            "Just over a year," Carrie said, giving me a questioning look, like, what's going on?
            "Why do you want to know?" I asked, keeping my voice pleasant. With someone else I might have felt he was prying but not with him. He was just so engaging, and a nice guy to boot.
            "I was just wondering. I get the feeling that tonight's a big night for you two. Is that right?" he asked, in all seriousness.
            We both smiled a little at him.
            "Well, not much more so than any other night," I said.
            "Just a normal date," Carrie added. "Why?"
            "Oh, nothing," Theodore said, looking perplexed. Then he lifted an unused napkin, "It's just that I thought this might be yours."
            He picked up an object from underneath and set it between us on the table. It was a ring. A thin, gold band with tiny agates encased around it that sparkled in the romantic restaurant lamplight. It was beautiful, and, I swear, looked exactly like one we'd seen on a trip we'd taken up to Lake Superior that last summer. We'd come across it in an agate shop in Two Harbors and remarked on its beauty, both of us thinking at the time (but not saying it out loud) what a perfect wedding band it'd make someday for Carrie.
            Theodore let the ring lay on the table and then stepped back. I looked at Carrie. It had been such a wonderful evening, like all of our times together were. We were not only happy together but good for each other. The best part of my life was being with her. In that moment, something came over me, a tidal wave of love and emotion that was overwhelming, and, with it, the certainty that she and I were meant to be together for the rest of our lives.
            I picked up the ring and said, "Carrie, I love you more than life itself. Will you do me the honor of marrying me?"
            I'll never forget what she did. She leaned over the table, kissed me and said, "I thought you'd never ask."
            Then I slipped the ring on her finger (it fit perfectly) and we giggled like school kids, looking into each other's eyes, knowing without a doubt that we'd made the right decision.
            After a few minutes, it dawned on me that it was Theodore who had prompted this unexpected event. I wanted to thank him, however, when I turned to do so, guess what? He was gone.
            Later, when we went to pay out bill, I asked the manager about the magician. He shocked us by saying, "There was never a magician here. Never was, never will be. Don't need the hassle."
            Well, that was curious. But we didn't dwell on whether the manager thought Theodore was at the restaurant that night or not. For us he had been, and that's what was important. On our way out the door I glanced at my watch. It was now the early hours of Sunday, February fourteenth.
Carrie and I have been married over thirteen years now and have two wonderful children. We celebrate our engagement at George and the Dragon every year on Valentine's Day, where we enjoy a romantic meal, share a crème brulee for dessert, and talk about how lucky we are that we are together. And you know what? Every time we go there it never fails to take us back to that remarkable night so long ago, when we made a lifelong commitment to each other, and I went from being a skeptic to a believer in the mystery and power of magic.

About the author

 Jim is a romantic at heart and truly believes in the power of magic.

 

           

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

The Food Demonstrator

by Kim Martins

cognac

Swiss Emmental. Provolone. Monterey Jack. I’ll need to learn the names of the fancy cheeses, and know the semi-hard ones and the extra-sharp cheddars. But I’ll certainly need to avoid the blue vein - smells like boiled cabbage or unwashed socks.

Here comes that prissy woman. I can’t make a mistake and offer her soft brie on a salty cracker, when she looks like a Gruyère lover. I bet she likes a rich, slightly nutty cheese. She probably has fondue parties on Saturday nights, and knows Gruyère is the perfect earthy cheese for swirling crusty French bread or an asparagus spear.

I should pick up the platter and step into the aisle. Last minute check; yes, that’s the Gruyère, although the fluorescent lights in this supermarket really wash out its lovely pale honey colour.

“Would you like a sample of our Gruyère?” I say as she passes by me, her fruity fragrance lingering in the aisle.

“No.” Short and curt.

Ah, well. I’m sure old Mrs. Taylor will snap up any free samples I offer. She’s not so picky, and she particularly likes the aged Gouda.

I glance down at my ID - Food Sample Demonstrator - making sure the plastic tag is sitting straight and not hidden by the lapel of my tight-fitting fuchsia jacket. Wandering back to the cheeses, I count
each sample, and then shift from one tired leg to the other. It’s not easy standing around for hours, handing out food samples.

My mind wanders back to when I first saw him in aisle sixteen, right between the confectionery and laundry detergents. Black hair slightly silvered at the temples, and I couldn’t help but notice his shopping trolley was stuffed with canned beans, beer and cat food.

I imagine him to be a Roquefort man: decadent and intense. King of the Blues. Might have to reconsider my dislike of blue vein I think as I pick up a mirrored-compact, fluff my bleached hair, and make sure that my lipstick isn’t smudged (customers love a broad, bright smile, so I’m wearing my favourite Honolulu Pink shade. It matches my jacket oh-so-perfectly).

There’s that irritating bakery guy just down the aisle, setting up his food station. He’d better not have those tiny jam doughnuts that people swarm around. After getting a sample or two, customers walk by the cheese station licking sugared fingers, ignoring the shaved Stilton and creamy Camembert.

No time to worry about it though, because here comes Mr. Roquefort.

“Could I try some ricotta, please?” he asks. A gentle smile, voice low and throaty.

“Ricotta?” I stutter. How bland!

How to tell ricotta from the cottage cheese, though? They both look like grainy lumps.

I offer him the platter, hoping he’ll know the difference, when an annoying kid darts underneath. The platter falls to the floor and breaks. Porcelain shards and cheese samples splatter everywhere.

Bakery guy looks over. There’s a smirk on his face.  “Hey, Irene,” he sniggers. “Still dreaming of that promotion? You’d best get back to aisle two, and serve those tiny cocktail sausages you’ve been serving to customers for years.”

About the author

Kim Martins lives in New Zealand. Her poetry and flash fiction has been published in The Copperfield Review, Furtive Dalliance, Barren Magazine, Plum Tree Tavern, The Drabble, Flash
Frontier, Flash Flood Journal & “a fine line’. A keen photographer, inspiration comes from photos and observations while walking. With a BA (Hons) in History, her stories and poetry often have historical themes.

Monday, 11 February 2019

February Evenings

by Roger Noons


 Magno Spanish brandy



The sun had warmed the land before it sank behind the mountain, but now there was chill in the air. I was grateful for the warmth of Sandy’s Bar, welcomed by Dave. Leonard Cohen growling in the background.
     The barman always had a faint smile, whatever the time, irrespective of the weather. ‘Usual?’ he said.
    ‘No, I’ll have large black, one sugar, please.’
    ‘No Magno, I’m afraid.’
    ‘Fundador will do, or Veterano,’ I told him. ‘Still quiet?’ 
    ‘How I like it.’ After serving me, he selected a goblet from the counter. Holding it gently by its stem, he began to polish.
    A man of few words, Dave, which meant you had to graft for a conversation. Two minutes later he changed the CD. Still Cohen, with remixed tracks. I was content to listen, sip my cognac and slurp my Nescafé.
    The door opened, cold air flew along the counter. I shivered.
    ‘Hola.’ A woman’s voice behind me. ‘Has he been in?’
    As I stared at her reflection above the bottles, Dave shook his head. Her lips formed a silent expletive. I took another sip.
    ‘Barry’s opened Grumpy’s tonight. You might try there.’
    ‘Thanks,’ she muttered and the door was opened again. Another blast of Santa Eulalia’s ozone flooded the room.    
    After Dave set the refilled glass on the counter alongside my right hand, he explained. ‘Two nights a week she locks Jock in their casa, goes off to play bridge. If he can’t find any booze, he breaks glass and climbs out through a door or window. She gets home and finding him missing, tours the town.’
    I shook my head.
    ‘She’ll settle his bar bill, load him up and take him home.’
    ‘What about other nights?’
    ‘When she’s there she serves his drinks, knows how much he’s had, puts him to bed at ten.’
    I shrugged.
    ‘Barry used to clean for them, might still do.’
    ‘Barry?’
    ‘A retired hoofer. Gets by tending bar and cleaning house.’
    ‘Does he wear a pinny?’ I grinned.
    ‘Not when he’s behind the bar.’ Dave didn’t smile. ‘Jock’s like a lot of them here. They work all hours God sends in the UK, get to sixty and retire. Move to Ibiza with no hobbies, no friends and having drunk little all their life, spend their waking hours catching up. Livers give out in three to four years.’
    I shook my head and emptied my glass.
    ‘Another?’
    ‘No thanks, not after what you’ve just said. I’ll perhaps see you tomorrow.’
    As the door closed behind me, I heard the volume of the music increase.

About the author


Roger is a regular contributor to  CaféLit and The Best of volumes.