Sunday, 12 July 2020

Short Order

by  Elaine Barnard

cola


   When the mortuary called me at midnight I took several breaths then got in my old pickup and drove to Portland. I’d known Trace since grade school. He was my best friend, the only guy I could confide in when I felt really down which was much of the time. And the same went for Trace. We ate our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches together at lunch and hung out after high school until Trace had to leave for work at Gina’s Pizza. He swore he’d be a top chef someday.  He was taking cooking classes on-line. But now with this pandemic Gina’s was closed except for takeout so Trace had a lot of free time. “Hey,” I said when I phoned him.  “Get off your ass and enter this marathon. It’s for disadvantaged kids. You could tote up some points before you enter the pearly gates.”
Trace wasn’t enthusiastic. “Get up? What for? I deserve a rest. Been on my feet all night doing takeouts. Besides I’m still in my pajamas. It’s nice. I think I’ll stay this way.”
“So how’s Sandy gonna like that?”
“Not here. Went home to Seattle. Afraid I might give her the virus.”
“Not a chance.”
“Right. I wasn't in front talking up the customers.  I was in back, isolated, doing my fucking job until now.”
“So what are Gina’s plans?”
“Who knows. She’s on a cruise to Hawaii or some place where it’s not raining.”
“So that leaves you in charge? Great.”
“Not so great. Nothing to be in charge of.”
“How come?”
“Well yesterday this gang of protesters smashed in Gina’s front. Looters took just about everything she had. Lucky I was in back or they may have smashed me in too.”
“Did you call the cops?”
“Like I didn’t?”
"I know you did. So?”
“So nothing. They filed a report. Gina’s under insured.”
“Bad news. Did you contact her?”
“I tried. Never picks up. Never answers my texts.”
“So what will you do?”
“Got any ideas?”
And it went like that. Trace, who never had a lucky day in his life was now stuck with this. Last I knew he lived alone in a trailer. His parents were  in jail again and no lawyer to haul them out. It had been that way since he was a kid. Maybe I saw him smile once when I brought him to my mom’s for Christmas. But he caught hell later from his parents for leaving home without permission. They were  in jail so how could he get permission?
So when I got this call from the funeral home I knew I had to go. No one else would or could. I was his best friend, his only friend. They’d kept him refrigerated. His black skin was sort of pale but aren’t the dead supposed to be pale? He was still wearing his short order outfit, white jacket, checked trousers, black hair in a pony tail.  “Hey Trace,” I said, “they got you big time. Life in short order.”
I didn’t know what to do then. It was like…like something had died inside of me. I had this strange empty feeling like maybe I needed to eat only I wasn’t hungry.  The funeral director, an old solemn guy, put his hand on my shoulder, “Someone dumped him at my door.  I found your number in his pocket, only one he had. Do you know how we could contact his parents? I’m sure they’d like to know.”

About the author:


Elaine Barnard's collection of stories, The Emperor of Nuts: Intersections Across Cultures was recently published by new Meridian Arts and noted as a unique book on the Snowflakes in a Blizzard website. In 2019 she won first place in Strands flash fiction competition. Her work has been published in numerous literary journals. She has been nominated for the Pushcart prize and Best Small Fiction. She was a finalist for Best of the Net. She received her MFA from the University of California, Irvine and her BA from the University of Washington, Seattle.



 


Saturday, 11 July 2020

Late Payment

by Robin Wrigley

black coffee

 

‘Hey Lillian’
     ‘What now Ted you really are becoming quite tiresome with your whining you know, don’t you?’ Ever since lockdown started their conversations began more like petty arguments conducted between Edward’s study and the kitchen.
     ‘That pair in number twenty-one haven’t paid their bloody rent again.’
     ‘What’s the date?’
     ‘It’s the fifth already and this is the second time they’ve been late in a row.’
     ‘Well give them a call.  They probably just forgot. You know what they’re like. To be honest I’m amazed they’ve stayed this long.’
     ‘I did naturally, several times and there is no reply.’
     ‘Now that doesn’t surprise me,’ Lillian had joined him in the study doorway wiping her hands on a tea-towel. ‘I hope they haven’t done a moon-lighter. That’s all we need, to lose a thousand quid at this time, not to mention the problem of finding new tenants. I’ll make a cup of tea and we’d better go round there, and by the way.’
     ‘What?’ Ted looked up trying his best to keep his temper under control.
     ‘Do try and remember to take the key when we go darling,’ she said over her shoulder on her way back to the kitchen.
     ‘Course you never forget anything, do you, little Miss perfect?’ he muttered under his breath at the computer screen.
     ‘I heard that.’
     Later that afternoon, having drunk their afternoon tea and Edward had dunked his two allotted digestive biscuits, (never enough as far as he was concerned but none the less Lillian religiously limited him to just two fearing he was putting on weight), they put on their coats and went outside to their car.
     It was only a fifteen-minute drive to the cottage they had rented out ever since they inherited it from Lillian’s parents when her mother died. It was a pretty little cottage sitting quite isolated up a short track on the edge of a wood on one side and open farmland on the other.
     The place looked eerily quiet and the curtains were still drawn even though it was only the middle of the afternoon. Having wrestled with the garden gate and walked up to front door Edward commented quietly to his wife that they would have to mention the state of the front garden again.
     ‘Bloody untidy isn’t it?’ he hissed hoping they might hear via the upstairs bedroom window which was wide open as he rang the doorbell with his latex-gloved finger. Having waited a reasonable amount of time he rang it again.
     ‘Don’t think they can be in,’ he turned and said to his Lillian, ‘so I think we’d better go in,’ retrieving the door key from his jacket pocket and inserting it into the lock he opened the door.
     ‘Anyone home? Freddie? Laura? It’s only us, Mr and Mrs Jackson.’ His request was met with silence.
     ‘Jesus, it stinks in here Lil, more than it ever did before. I don’t know what the heck they’ve been doing in here.’ They both walked into the lounge and started to look around. The couple had never been very tidy and today it looked no different. Fred and Laura Jackson were an old couple who had sold their flat in the town and rented the house because they wanted to be in the country, or so they said.
     ‘You’re right Ted it is a bloody awful smell,’ Lillian said while pulling a mask out of her pocket and clipping it in place. ‘I’d suggest you put yours on too Ted,’ which he promptly did even though always with great reluctance.
     Leaving the front door open they carried on into the kitchen which again was very untidy with unwashed plates and cutlery in the sink. They both looked out of the rear window over the sink into the garden. The grass was overgrown and a several old towels were hanging on the washing line.
     ‘This pair are no better than those new-age travellers we're plagued with every summer Lil,’ Edward turned away from the window and started back into the lounge.
     ‘C’mon let’s get on upstairs. Hello! Anyone up there Freddie? Laura? It’s Mr Jackson, I’m coming up.’
     As the couple advanced up the stairs he turned to Lillian and gasped, ’God the stink is even worse up here Lil, like a rat crawled up here and died.’
       Reaching the top of the stairs Edward tapped on the front bedroom door and gingerly opened it. He put his head around the door, gasped and instantly pulled it shut behind him.
     ‘Go back down Lil for Christ sake.’ He started to turn and face his wife. ‘Go on, quickly for pity’s sake Lil.’
     ‘Why? What’s wrong?
     ‘Just get down and get that back door open, quickly unless you want me to throw up over you.’
     Once they were both outside in the garden Edward ripped his mask off and wretched. 'They’ve only gone and croaked it Lil. The pair are still in bed dead as dodos, have been for several days as far as I can see.’
     Lillian searched into her pocket and pulled out her mobile phone and started to open it.
     ‘What are you doing now Lil?’
     ‘Phoning the police of course. We have to report this straight away Ted.’ She looked at her husband with a quizzical look on her face. ‘Don’t you agree?
     ‘Whoa, whoa girl just hold your horses. We’ve got to think this one out before we jump to any hasty actions that we might regret later.’
     ‘What on earth do you mean? Don’t start one of your games Ted. I know what your mind is like and I wouldn’t mind a quid for every time one of your hair-brained schemes landed us either in debt or worse.’
     ‘Look Lillian if we involve the police and the health authorities who will be close on their heels you can kiss six month’s rent goodbye on this place my darling. Mark my words.’
     ‘You can’t be serious Edward. ’ It was quite interesting how when contentious issues surfaced the pair always addressed each other with full unabbreviated Christian names.
     ‘I’m not saying that it is the way we will end up going but I’m sure as hell not going to invite policemen plod in here to mess up our retirement pension without some serious consideration.’
     Lillian sat down on one of the garden chairs and went into deep concentration chewing on the corner of the phone, an unfortunate habit of hers.
     ‘Yes, you do have a point. Those health and safety blokes probably would tie us up forever the way they go about things darling.’ Lillian was being manoeuvred around to Edward’s way of thinking which usually required some flattery and the odd endearment.
     ‘C’mon, Lil, let’s get this stink-hole locked up and go home for another cuppa. We have got a lot of planning to do if we are going to get rid of this pair and get this re-let.

About the author 


Robin is a regular contributor to CafeLit both on line and in the published annual anthologies. He is a member of the Wimborne Writers’ Group


Friday, 10 July 2020

Étude

by Roger Noons

a glass of cava


The flight was straightforward, as was our passage through Palma airport. The woman at Herz was polite. ‘Senor, you reserved a Seat Ibiza. It is ready for you. The tunnel leading to Soller is now open,’ she added, just before I closed the door. ‘Enjoy your holiday.’
    The dual carriageway towards Palma was busy, but traffic moved smoothly. As I turned onto the Soller Road I sighed and Julie beamed. ‘Good to be back,’ she said.

As we approached the tunnel, I saw road blocks. There had been an accident, the Guardia Civil Cabo said. You need to use the old road.    
    5.8 km along the curvy road, we crossed the bridge into Valldemossa and were brought to a halt. There were raggedly-dressed people and animals wandering along the rutted road; in particular three men pushing a grand piano towards the church. A notice was handed through the window.
    Julie translated, ‘Frédéric Chopin is performing this evening; new works.’
    Five metres to my left a horse reared. ‘I’m sure that’s a woman.’ I said.
    ‘It will no doubt be George Sand,’ she laughed. ‘Must be a re-enactment.’
    The air in the car became damp and the chill encouraged me to close the windows and turn on the heater.
    We slowly made our way through the throng and leaving the town, were pleased to lose the smells of animal dung and mostly, unwashed people.
    After Deia we made good time and arrived in Soller an hour before our dinner reservation. As we checked into Hotel Vila, I mentioned what we’d seen to the Receptionist.
    ‘Really Sir,’ he smiled. ‘I’ve heard nothing about any fiesta. It’s the wrong time of year.’ Seeing my expression, he stressed, ‘We are always told of such an event.’

About the author 

Roger Noons has been writing creatively since 2006. He has come to specialise in short, short fiction and his Slimline Tales was published by Chapeltown Books in 2018.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

North, South, East and Best by Dawn Knox

by Dawn Knox

champagne 


Previously: Eddie and chums are expecting TV travel show host, Ursula Best, and her camera crew on their island. If she gives them her endorsement, ‘Ursula’s Thumbs Up’, their resort is guaranteed to succeed. But if not…



North, South, East and Best

“Did anyone put clean glasses beside the champagne fountain?” Eddie asked.

“Yes,” Babs said, “You told me to do it earlier. #StopBeingBossy!”

“And did you #PutOutNibbles?” Eddie asked.

“Yes. And there’s #NoNeedForSarcasm.”

Eddie paced up and down the line of staff members near the jetty who were waiting for the television crew. Their boat would arrive before the rest of Ursula’s party and set up equipment so they could take some preliminary shots and be ready to film the star’s arrival.

“Did anyone put fresh flowers in Miss Best’s suite?” Eddie asked.

“Yes! Stop fussing, Eddie, we’ve done all we possibly can,” Babs said.

Eddie suddenly gasped, “Suppose she suffers from hay fever? She won’t want fresh flowers in her room!”

“I’ve checked six previous episodes of her programme and she had bouquets in each of the bedrooms where she stayed. Now stop panicking. They’ll be here soon.”

Eddie continued to pace up and down. 

“Eddie! Will you stop prowling! You’re making everyone nervous and you know that new squirrel, Molly, has a weak bladder. Every time you upset her, she needs to take a break,” Brian said. 

“Molly? I’ve been calling her Polly,” said Colin.

“I thought she was Dolly,” said Gideon.

“Will you shut up!” shouted Eddie. He clutched his heart.

“Will you shut up!” said Babs, “you’re hyperventilating again and if you’re not careful, you’ll end up in the medical room for the entire visit.”

“Any possibility of him being locked in there anyway?” Brian whispered to Babs.
“#LeaveItToMe.”

“Look! Look!” Eddie hopped from foot to foot excitedly, pointing at the yacht, Ursula’s Best, which was moored in the middle of the bay several hundred yards from the jetty. Members of the crew were clambering into the rigid inflatable boat which bobbed alongside.

“Right,” said Colin, “Remember what we agreed at the management meeting? You’re not in charge, Eddie, we all have a share in the resort. And as such, we want equal rights. You can’t keep taking over and speaking for the rest of us. Oh, and we want the name changed from ‘Eagles’ Rest’ to ‘Three Monkey Island’. And while Ursula’s here, leave the talking to Brian – he’s more diplomatic than you.”

“All right! All right!” snapped Eddie.


Eddie rushed along the jetty as soon as the inflatable boat arrived. A ferret stepped forward and introduced himself, “The name’s Jolyon. I’m senior producer,” he said and before Eddie could welcome him, he added, “If you’d be good enough to go back and join your friends, it’ll leave the jetty clear for my people to get all the equipment ashore…” he made an impatient shooing gesture with the back of his paw. 

Ferrets and penguins carried boxes, tripods and cameras to the beach and began to set up around Eddie and the others in the line. 

“Excuse me…” Eddie called to a hedgehog who was organising a large box of makeup and brushes under one of the beach umbrellas, “Are you ready for us now?”

“Ready for you?” The hedgehog checked his clipboard, “No, sorry, I haven’t got you on my list.”

“So, who’ll be doing our makeup?” Eddie asked. 

“Oh, you don’t get makeup. This is reality TV. You’ve got to look real.” 

“But we’ve been standing in the sun for half an hour. We’re all rather sweaty. Surely you can do something…”

“Look here, buddy! I do as I’m told and I’ve not been told to slap makeup on you! No one asked you to stand in the sun for half an hour and if you think things are hot now… well, you just wait t'il Miss Best gets here!” 

“Eddie!” whispered Brian, “I think she’s coming.”

Raising the telescope to his eye, Eddie watched the diminutive form of a koala, dressed in a pink, floral dress, matching hat and sunglasses climb into the inflatable boat with members of her team. On the journey across the soup, Ursula remained perfectly still, with her head bowed and her shoulders slumped. That struck Eddie as strange because when he’d seen Ursula on her show, she bounced with vigour and enthusiasm. 

Perhaps she suffered from soup-sickness. 

When the inflatable arrived at the end of the jetty, a wallaby tapped Ursula on the arm, making her jump. 

It’s almost as if she’d been asleep, Eddie thought.  

But once Jolyon shouted ‘Action!’ and the cameras were pointing at her, Ursula leaped from the boat, hat in one paw and sunglasses in the other, with her usual vivacity. She hurried along the jetty towards the resort staff, “Dahlings!” she said, “How lovely to meet you!” 

Eddie pushed in front of Brian and after welcoming Ursula, he led her along the line of staff members introducing her to each in turn. 

“So much for Eddie letting me do the talking,” said Brian.

“Wait until he gets to the end of the line,” Colin whispered. “He’ll look a total idiot. He can never remember all those squirrels’ names.”

“And this is… erm,” Eddie said when he arrived at the last three animals.

“I’m Polly,” one of the squirrels said, curtseying deeply.

“And I’m Molly,” the next squirrel said. She wobbled precariously in a curtsey.

“And this one is erm…” said Eddie looking at the last squirrel.

“I’m Dolly. I don’t know why you always forget my name – that’s the third time I’ve told you today!”

“Charming,” said Ursula, “So, we have Polly, Molly, Doodle-all-the-day…”

The film crew laughed uproariously. 

“My name’s Dolly!” said Dolly crossly. 

But Ursula didn’t notice. She was holding her paw to her ear, with a puzzled expression her face. “I’m sure I can hear music… Yes! It’s Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries! I’ve never been serenaded on arriving in a resort! How simply marvellous!” Turning towards the soup, she surveyed its surface. “Is that…? Surely it can’t be a…? Goodness! It’s a Great White Shark!”

Eddie’s knees buckled. 

“Oh, it’s just Chopper,” said Dolly dismissively, “that must be a new piece he’s learned how to hum. Usually, he does Beethoven’s Fifth.

“You’re acquainted with that vicious… predator?” Ursula asked incredulously.

“Chopper’s not vicious! He’s a love. If you ask him nicely, he’ll give you a ride around the bay on his back. It’s just like being on one of those inflatable banana boats.” 

“Really?” said Ursula, “And he’s definitely not dangerous?” 

“Chopper?” Dolly laughed, “No…” she lowered her voice and spoke from behind her paw, “he doesn’t like anyone to know this but he’s lost all his teeth and has to wear dentures—” She slapped her paw over her mouth and stared in horror at the camera lens which was focusing on her. 

“Oh dear!” said Ursula with mock dismay.  “It looks like you’ve just shared his secret with over a million viewers. Never mind! We love a bit of gossip, don’t we viewers?” She placed an arm around Dolly’s shoulders.  “I’m going to ask if I can add a trip around the bay on a toothless, Great-White-Banana-Boat-Shark to the list of delights that the resort of Eagles’ Rest is offering today!” she said, looking into the lens of one of the cameras and batting her eyelashes. 


“Cut!” called Jolyon and immediately, Ursula’s smile faded to be replaced by a frown.

“You!” she said to Eddie, “Book me the shark.” She turned and strode back along the line of staff members.

“Is that all right, Eddie?” the wallaby, who’d introduced herself as Ruby - Ursula’s PA, asked, “I’m really sorry Miss Best’s a bit tetchy this morning. She gets like that when she’s hungry.” 

 “Ruby! Where are you? Oh, there you are. Now, have you checked these people have catered for my very specific dietary needs?”

“D…dietary needs?” Eddie asked, “I didn’t know you had any!”

“Of course, I do. I’m a koala. We’re eucalyptarians.” 

A strangled sound came from Eddie’s throat.

“Well, lucky for you we have plenty of eucalyptus leaves on board our yacht,” Ursula said, her eyes rolling upwards in displeasure.

“But I thought you sampled the food wherever you stayed. I’m sure I’ve seen you eating different food on some of your shows…” He tailed off under Ursula’s icy glare.

Behind Ursula, Ruby looked horror-stricken and mouthed ‘Don’t upset Miss Best!’ She took the clipboard out of her pouch and rummaging in its depths, brought out a food box.  

“Yes, it’s true I sample food wherever I am,” continued Ursula, grabbing leaves from the box, “but my staple food is eucalyptus. However, I shall be expecting a gastronomic delight this evening.”

“Our chef, Luigi, is looking forward to it, Miss Best. He’s preparing something spectacular,” Eddie said, sweat dribbling down his neck. He was finding it hard to suck sufficient air into his chest.

“Really? And what exactly is on the menu?” Ursula asked through a mouthful of half-chewed leaves
“It’s chef’s exceptional Spaghetti Bolognaise.”

Ursula munched in silence for a few seconds, then fixed Eddie with a steely stare, “Well, it had better be good. I’ll have you know I’ve eaten more Spaghetti Bolognaise than you’ve had hot dinners. It’s very ordinary…”

“Ours is very special,” Eddie said, wiping the sweat out of his eyes with a wing. 

Ursula frowned but as soon as Jolyon yelled “Action,” her dazzling smile returned and she became the charming star everyone recognised. 

Despite her lack of enthusiasm about dinner, she appeared to enjoy all the activities the resort offered. She loved snorkelling with Brian on the reef and after Colin’s super deluxe spa package, Ursula told the viewers she’d just had the best massage she’d ever experienced. A brief round of golf had been followed by Chopper’s ‘banana boat’ ride around the bay which she’d adored. Even Eddie had been impressed, although how Chopper had enough breath to hum Ravel’s Bolero, increasing his speed in time with the music as he swam, it was difficult to tell. Eddie was finding it harder and harder to breathe and wondered what had happened to the air on the island. It seemed to be thinner than usual, forcing him to gasp to catch his breath. But strangely, no one else had mentioned it. 


The camera-penguins moved in for close-ups and moved out for long shots, catching each moment of the star participating in everything the resort had to offer until she called out loudly, “Jolyon! That’s enough! I need a rest!”

“Cut!” the senior producer shouted. 

It seemed as if Ursula’s batteries had died. The light appeared to go out in her eyes and she sagged against her PA who led her to the private villa, then quietly let herself out. 

Eddie hovered, not sure what to do. 

“Is she ill?” he asked Ruby, wondering how that would affect their chances of a thumbs up.

“No!” The PA laughed. “She’s a koala. They sleep a lot.” Then growing more serious, "Leave her to wake on her own. She gets very cranky if she’s woken from a nap. By the way, now’s a good time for everyone to rest,” she said with a wink.

But Eddie couldn’t rest. Not now he’d been warned that Ursula must not be woken. He walked back and forth outside her villa determined she wouldn’t be roused by anyone or anything. As he marched, he made a mental note to have someone come to the island to check the air. It was definitely substandard and it seemed to be getting even thinner - if that was possible. And oddly, his heart seemed to be racing too. 


“Why didn’t you wake me?” Ursula asked Eddie when she finally emerged from her villa, dressed in a sequinned evening gown and strappy sandals, ready for dinner, “I overslept. I do so hate to be late.” 

“You’re not late,” Eddie said.

“Then why are you standing there?”

“I came to escort you to dinner.”

“We have to wait for Jolyon and the camera-penguins. Where are they?” she snapped. 

At the sound of her voice, the senior producer and film crew arrived.

“Looking amazing as always, Miss Best,” Jolyon said. The penguins waddled backwards or nimbly side-stepped as they videoed the star from different angles while she smiled and twirled, allowing her sequins to sparkle in the evening sunlight.

“Cut!” shouted Jolyon, “Time for dinner.”

“At last,” said Ursula, “I’m famished.”

“Well, if you’d all like to follow me…” said Eddie. 


“This isn’t the way to the restaurant,” said Ursula as they filed after Eddie along a path into the forest. 

“No, indeed,” said Eddie, panting, “We’re dining al fresco – up the hill.”

“Hill? That’s a mountain! I can’t climb in these heels!” she said, peering down at her feet and then up at the slope. 

“We have a special conveyance for you,” Eddie said, hoping Brian and Colin had finished making it. With any luck, they’d supervised Gideon and hadn’t allowed him access to the nail gun they’d been using to attach a chair to several planks of wood and two poles. Eddie had been very upset with Luigi when he’d insisted they eat outside – especially when he’d learned a climb would be involved. But the chef had been adamant, and, as Brian pointed out, if Luigi went on strike again, there would be no dinner. 

As the path opened out into a clearing, Eddie could see the resort’s staff members waiting with a rather handsome contraption modelled on a Sedan Chair. A swift head count told Eddie that everyone was present so obviously Gideon hadn’t been let loose with the nail gun and if he had, he hadn’t accidentally pinned anyone down. Brian was holding the poles at the rear of the chair and Gideon was at the front, so presumably he hadn’t impaled himself either, although it crossed Eddie’s mind that the pig might have nailed his trotter to the pole. Time would tell. When he and Brian arrived at the dining spot, it would be obvious. 

“Action!” shouted Jolyon and camera-penguins sprang to attention, videoing the chair, the bearers and Ursula’s face. 

“How simply marvellous!” she cooed and with the help of Colin, she climbed on to the chair. 

After a few yards, Ursula’s shoulders slumped, her head fell forward and Eddie couldn’t be sure, but above his own wheezing, he thought he heard snoring. However, when they approached the clearing where Luigi had set up the tables, Ruby bounded forward and nudged Ursula, so when the cameras turned to record her reaction, she was smiling and clapping her paws together in delight. 

Eddie, who’d stopped several times on the climb to draw breath, arrived last. He’d been irritated that Luigi wouldn’t reveal his plans for dinner, other than to assure him it would consist of the best 
Spaghetti Bolognaise anyone had ever tasted. Why it had to be half way up a hill, Eddie had no idea. He suspected Brian, Colin, Gideon and the rabbits knew though. Recently, he’d noticed, they were being rather secretive and as soon as Ursula and her crew had gone, he’d have words with them all. He was in charge and he needed the full loyalty of his staff.

“Buonasera e benvenuti!” Luigi said, his forelimbs spread wide in welcome. 

Ursula stepped down from the chair and looked around in delight, ensuring the sequins on her dress caught the last rays of the dying sun. 

“What a view!” she said, looking down at the bay, “And what a beautiful spot to watch the sunset.”

“Si!” Luigi nodded his head, “Benvenuti to our volcano!”

“To our what?” squeaked Eddie. 

“And is this an active volcano?” Ursula asked.

“Si! Si! Come and see!” he said, beckoning for her to follow.

Why hadn’t anyone mentioned to Eddie there was an active volcano on the island? He tried to follow but his legs wobbled like rubber.

 Ursula put her arm around Luigi and smiled at the nearest camera, “Now, a little bird told me…” she paused, “Actually, it was a rather large, ugly, bald chicken told me… that there is only one thing on the menu this evening… That can’t be right, surely?”

“Mees Best, zat is true. You are about to experience a meal of such magneeficence you will never forget it! And I can show you why.” 

“Well, now you come to mention it, I can smell something rather delicious and it’s not Colin’s Chanel No. 5!” Ursula laughed heartily. 

“Come! Come!” Luigi said eagerly, “I show you zee bubbling crater.”

“Nooo!” wailed Eddie, “Health and safety! You can’t have guests next to a volcanic caldera!”
But no one was listening. 


“I’m going to have to complain to the chef,” Ursula said with mock severity to Luigi. She had her arm around his shoulders and she pouted at the camera. “This is the first time I’ve had to join a queue for my dinner! But then I’ve never been to a live volcano with Bolognaise sauce bubbling in its crater! And I can tell you, viewers, it’s absolutely to die for! Who’d have thought something as ordinary as Spaghetti Bolognaise could be raised to haute cuisine?”

Luigi beamed, his cheeks flushed with pride. 

“Come with me, viewers,” Ursula said and the camera-penguins tailed her to the enormous pot which was sitting over a crack in the rock. 

“This spaghetti is being cooked using heat from the steam that’s coming out of that crack in the volcano,” Ursula said, proudly pointing out the fissure in the rock as if she was responsible for the geological fault. “And then when the spaghetti is ready, a bucket is lowered into the crater to bring up the Bolognaise sauce.” She held out her plate for a camera-penguin to get a close up. “I can tell you, the result is culinary perfection! And, viewers, those naughty folk from Eagles’ Rest have sprung a surprise on me! You’ll never guess what!” She pouted at the camera, “After our meal, the famous rock band, The Three Wise Monkeys are going to perform! Yes! A whole concert for little old me!”

“It seems to be going well,” Babs whispered to Colin who sucked a long strand of spaghetti into his mouth with a slurp and nodded happily.

“By the way,” he said when he’d swallowed his mouthful, “have you seen Eddie? He’s been unusually quiet for some time.”

Babs looked about at the groups of people who were stuffing spaghetti into their mouths and chattering. 

“Oh, no!” she said, putting her plate down, “Quick!” 

Waldemeyer was just in time to grab Eddie’s leg and haul him back as he passed out on the edge of the crater. 


Eddie woke up two days later. 

“Where am I?” he asked Babs and then seeing he was in the medical room, he abruptly sat up, “Has Ursula gone? What happened? Did she give us a thumbs up?”

“#CalmDown,” Babs said, “It was getting in a panic which put you in this state in the first place. No sleep, no food and constant anxiety! That’s a recipe for disaster. No wonder you passed out. And you were very lucky not to have ended up in the Bolognaise crater. Chef would’ve gone berserk.”

“Pleeeese!” said Eddie, “Did we get a thumbs up from Ursula?”

Babs pretended to consider, then appearing to arrive at a decision, she called out, “You can come in now.”

Brian, Colin, Deirdre holding six kittens, Gideon, Waldemeyer, Luigi, the squirrels, including Polly, Molly and Dolly who now insisted on being called Doodle and with Bruno bringing up the rear, entered the medical room. 

Their expressions were glum. 

“Oh no!” said Eddie, “It was a thumbs down, wasn’t it? I can’t bear it!”

Brian sighed deeply. “I’m sorry, Eddie, we tried out best… but Ursula said she found you extremely aggravating and rather overbearing.”

Eddie groaned.

“Oh, stop it, Brian!” said Babs, “#StopTeasing. Eddie’ll relapse.”

“Of course, it wasn’t a thumbs down!” said Brian excitedly, “She loved us! In fact, she gave us a thumbs up with each paw! No one’s ever got two before. And she’s coming back for a holiday next month.”

“We’ve got bookings for the whole of this year!” said Colin, “There are weddings, conferences and holidays! Oh, and by the way, Ursula did say you were extremely aggravating and rather overbearing.” 

“So,” said Babs, “before I discharge you from the medical room, Eddie, we’ve got some demands.”

“Yes, old man,” said Gideon, “things are going to be very different in the future… they’re going to be more democratic.”

“Of course,” said Eddie.


“You know Eddie won’t change, don’t you?” Brian asked as he strolled with Colin and Gideon along the sand towards the jetty, “He can’t help being bossy and taking over.”

“I know. But at least there’s one battle we’ve won. We’ve changed the name of the island,” Colin said. “And there’s nothing Eddie can do about it now that Babs and Deirdre have started their social media campaign.”

They stopped to inspect the newly painted sign at the end of the jetty which read:
Welcome to Three Monkey Island Resort
More Fun than a Barrel of Monkeys
#MonkeyAroundWithUs

“Yes, but we didn’t win the battle completely,” said Brian, “It was Eddie who renamed our band The Three Wise Monkeys in the first place, against our wishes. So, actually, the new name was chosen by him.

“He seems to get his way about everything,” Gideon said.

“But if it hadn’t been for Eddie, life would’ve been very different,” Brian said.

“That’s true.”

They watched the waves wash up on the shore for a few minutes, taking in the beauty of the beach.
 “Well, shall we go?” asked Brian, “The others’ll be waiting for us to start the celebrations.”

As they headed back up the beach to the party at the champagne fountain, Chopper poked his head above the soup and hummed Rossini’s Overture from William Tell. 

“You know,” said Brian putting one arm around Colin’s shoulders and the other around Gideon’s, “Life is pretty good.”

Colin nodded, “As Babs and Deirdre would say, it’s #Perfection.”


Links to previous stories in The Macaroon Chronicles series
  1. The Macaroon Chronicles Prologue and the Three Wise Monkeys - http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-macaroon-chronicles-prologue-and.html?m=0
  2. #ChickenInCustard - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/02/chickenincustard.html
  3. The Fine Print - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/02/the-fine-print.html
  4. French for Cheese - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/02/french-for-cheese.html
  5. Porkies and Espiggy-onage (Lies and Spies) – https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/03/porkies-and-espiggy-onage-lies-and-spies.html
  6.  Nearly Death by Chocolate - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/03/nearly-death-by-chocolate.html
  7. Waxing Lyrical - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/03/waxing-lyrical.html
  8. Seduced by Zeros - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/04/seduced-by-zeros.html
  9. Soup-Legs - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/04/soup-legs.html
  10. The Year’s Most Popular Christmas Toy - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/04/the-years-most-popular-christmas-toy.html
  11. Holey Night - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/05/holey-night.html
  12. Aleema - http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/05/aleema.html
  13. Heading Home - http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/05/heading-home.html
  14. Moore’s the Pity - http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/06/moores-pity.html
  15. Eagles’ Rest - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/06/eagles-rest.html
  16. We Need A Thumbs Up! - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/06/we-need-thumbs-up.html
  17. Strike Negotiations - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/07/strike-negotiations.html

About the author

Dawn’s latest book is The Basilwade Chronicles published by Chapeltown Books. She enjoys writing in different genres and has had romances, speculative fiction, sci-fi, humorous and women’s fiction published in magazines, anthologies and books. Dawn has also had two plays about World War One performed internationally. You can follow her here on https://dawnknox.com, Facebook here DawnKnoxWriter or on Twitter here https://twitter.com/SunriseCalls 



Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Blind Man’s Bluff

by Sally Zigmond

dandelion tea


Arm in arm, Dick and I fight our way through the forest of uncut barley towards the church along with our neighbours. We do not speak. We do not laugh. Even the bairns are silent. The mill has rusted and we hear Tom’s best cow pleading to be milked. I will put her out of her misery when I can but God comes first.
When we are all assembled we silently count the heads but don't tell others although we all do it. There were sixty of us last week including bairns and babes at arms. Today there are fewer than thirty.
Susan’s not here,’ I whisper to Dick, ‘nor Luke, nor Seth.’ He shrugs.
Something’s different though. It’s neither the absent neighbours nor the silence. Nor is it the growing forest of candles that flicker in the gloom but fear so thick I can taste it.
More than ten summers ago, when my chores were done, I’d run to the church field and play blind man’s bluff with the other village children among the daisies and the grazing sheep. We’d dodge and duck to avoid the blindfolded figure stumbling towards us, never knowing who’d be caught next. ’Twas but a childish game. We didn't know what it meant.
As we leave I take Dick’s arm. Sweat beads his pale face although the wind is chill. I dare not lift his sleeve because I know what he is hiding in his armpit. I will open our door and bolt it behind me and wait. It will not be long..

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Forgive Me

by Rose McGrath

espresso


The door banged behind him. Jim, took small steps, hesitant like an inquisitive child entering a forbidden room. He followed the guard along the pathway that led to the main entrance of the prison. As he walked, he knew the prison guards, would be, just watching and waiting. Then a familiar voice called out.

        “Good luck, Jim boy!”
        “Bye, you fat bastard,” said Jim muttering under his breath. “I won’t be back.”
He took a deep breath, stood up straight and walked slowly out of the main gate, hoping his dad might be there to meet him. He thought about taking one last glance back and putting two fingers up to the establishment but instead he quickened his step and followed the flow of visitors out towards the one solitary bus stop at the end of the road.
Clutching his white plastic bag tight to his chest, he searched into the pockets of his long shabby coat for some coins for the bus. He jumped when he heard the sounds of car doors banging and children being dragged away crying for their fathers that were banged up. He witnessed the drained faces of the wives and girlfriends all dolled up in short skirts and high heel shoes tottering around as they looked back at the high security brick walls that kept their loved ones from them. Trying to read the times of the buses through the graffiti, Jim saw the reflection of yellow flames dancing, as the wives and girlfriends huddled together to puff their fags in the evening air.
Once the bus finally arrived, it slowly weaved in and out of the small narrow lanes then climbed further and further up into the hills. Tears wet his cheeks as he breathed in the fresh crisp air and saw brown and gold leaves falling from the trees, covering the footpaths and lanes. As he got closer to his home he looked out for a landmark, something that would remind him of happier times. One by one the passengers got off the bus. The thin grey-haired driver glared at him in his mirror. He kept his head down avoiding eye contact. He felt a knot in his stomach when he saw the sign for Hartland’s End.
He didn’t take the path to the village straight away; instead he followed the well-trodden path to the left that led down to the pebble beach that was hidden away between the rocks. He picked up pebbles and threw them into the sea. Thinking back to the times he had played on the beach, exploring the old smugglers’ caves. He thought of the mud pies he’d made sitting in the sand and the laughter from his friends as they played hide-and-seek.
The Black Boy pub where he used to drink was still there, but boards covered the windows now. Walking closer towards the familiar row of cottages, he noticed all but one of them was derelict. Smoke was billowing out from the blackened chimney. Gathering his thoughts, he paused at the door. He raised his hand to the knocker, then pulled away when he heard a radio playing. His mouth was dry, and his heart was beating fast. He pulled out a bottle of pills from his bag and quickly swallowed one. He walked away then paused and looked back at the dim light shining in the window.
“Tomorrow, I’ll go tomorrow,” he said.

Pulling out a piece of paper from his probation officer, Jim reluctantly made his way to the café at the crossroads.
He’d started drinking the odd glass of cider in his teens. Then moved onto nicking booze from his parents’ sideboard. A pint at the local pub with friends often turned into an all-night drinking session.
One night he was coming back from town, Carman was on his mind; he couldn’t understand why she dumped him. He didn’t see the outline of the lady at first, his lights blinded her. She stood motionless in the middle of the road not knowing which way to turn. Then there was a thump and her body was tossed up in the air like a rag doll thrown from a great height.
The flashing blue lights and haunting sounds of the sirens along the crossroads were still reminders of that day. It all happened so quickly he told the policeman, as he staggered out of his car onto the road. The blood was seeping from her head as the paramedics tried to resuscitate her broken body. He remembered the policeman shouting at him when he smelt alcohol on his breath, his friends looking on in disbelief. He had ended someone’s life in a few short minutes.
As he saw the café, guilt from that terrible night returned, a reminder of what he had done.
“For God’s sake, why here?” he said.
He stubbed out his fag. His hands were shaking as he opened the door to the café. Luckily for Jim the café had been taken over by new people. He hoped his past was behind him.

“I brought you a coffee and a piece of cake. You’re on your break, right?” said Lucy who was one of the waitresses.
“Oh, thanks, that’s kind of you.”
“Can I sit here, or would you prefer to be on your own?”
“No that’s okay, if you want.”
“If I want. Well, you know how to make a girl feel welcome.”
“I didn’t mean ...,” said Jim embarrassed.
It’s okay, I won’t take offence? Oh, by the way, I heard you giving that American couple directions to Hartland point. Are you from around here?”
“I was born here!” said Jim snapping at her.
“Okay, I was only asking. I’m sure things haven’t changed that much, right?”
 “Wouldn’t know, I’ve been away for a long time.”
“Really, where have you been – travelling?”
“Here and there.”
“You must have been to some wonderful places, soaking up the culture and the awesome food. I’ve always wanted to travel. Never got any money though. I’d go to Australia, so I could go for a surf on Bondi Beach. Riding the waves. They’d be unbelievable,” said Lucy looking out the window at the surfers.
“Do it, just go, live your dream, otherwise it can be snatched away from you.”
“Yea maybe I will sometime soon. It would be nice to have someone to travel with, who’s seen a bit of the world,” she said looking at him with a smile.
“That’s a strange thing to say snatched away from you. What do you mean?”
“Nothing. Don’t mind me,” said Jim moving away quickly.
“My break's over, I need to go, bye.”

Jim often watched her surfing. He could see her from the kitchen window at the back of the café. Her athletic body gliding along the surface of the waves as she travelled further out to sea. Every now and then he would look up trying to get a glimpse of her frame moving majestically in the sea, as he knew how treacherous the sea could be. With her wild sweeping hair and welcoming smile, she would wave to him when she returned to the shore. With a sense of relief, he would greet her, and they would walk along the beach together.
Weeks turned into months, then, he found himself singing along to songs on the radio and even dancing around the café kitchen. When she was on a shift, he’d find the courage to stop hiding in the kitchen and help her clear the tables.
They would go on long hikes, take a picnic, and visit places he remembered. One day when they were hiking up the Pike, to stop her falling he grabbed her hand pulled her towards him and kissed her tenderly, the numbness was leaving him, he felt alive and could hope for a future with Lucy. He was putting the past behind him but had one last thing to do.

Jim took the path and stopped at the white cottage. With a determination he knocked at the door.
“Who’s there?” the old man called out from behind the door.
“It’s Jim.”
“Jim, Jim who?”
“Dad it’s me,” said Jim softly. Slowly a crack in the door appeared.
“You’d better come in then.”

The once 6ft 4 tall man that Jim remembered was now a small, frail man. He pointed to a chair by the fire and barked at Jim to sit down.
“They treat you all right there?” said his dad smoking his pipe.
“It was like Butlins; what do you think?”
“I wanted to visit, but your mum, she wouldn’t go, too ashamed.”
“But you could have come. I spent years waiting?”
“Your mum said I should have pulled you up more. Gave you too much freedom.”
“I was young, wrapped up in myself, I didn’t think of the consequences. I’m sorry.”
His father just nodded then took a puff on his pipe.
“When you went to prison, we were treated as outcasts. We were shunned by the people that used to be our friends. Our family had lived here for generations, but it didn’t matter, we were outcasts, boy. Your mum, she blamed herself for lending you the money that night for a drink.”
“It wasn’t her fault, Dad, I kept on until she gave me some money. It was my fault not hers.”
“People don’t forget here; they just look for any reason to pull you down.”
“You stayed.”
“I wouldn’t be driven out of my home. Your mum she lost her job at the post office. Then they said she wasn’t needed anymore at the fisherman’s mission. Her so called friends crossed over the road if they saw us coming. It was harder for your mum; I was out all day working. She just gave up.”
“Why didn’t you let me know?”
“What could you have done from there!”
“I could have talked to her, told her I loved her. I missed her so much, Dad.”
“If you hadn’t been so pig-headed things would have been different.”
“I know, I know, Dad.”
“Get us a bottle of whisky out of the sideboard. We’ll have a drink, for the return of the prodigal son.”
“Tea’s fine.”
“You’ll take a drink with me,” he said banging his hand on the sideboard. "It’s the good stuff, boy. I put it away for when you came home.”
“Here, Dad, I can’t.”
“Suit yourself, I’ll not waste good whisky.”
“I used to love going out on the boat with you and your crew.”
“You could barely walk when I took you.Your little eyes used to light up when we pulled the nets in.”
“I was always scared we would drag in a sea monster or an octopus!”
“Our nets were full of sea bass, red mullet and cod.”
“We could fish as much as we wanted then. Nowadays there’s bloody quotas.”
Toby, Jim’s dad took a gulp of his whisky, and started to sing a fisherman’s shanty.
Come all you young sailor men, listen to me, I’ll sing you a song of a fish in the sea, Jim joined in where he could  remember the words.
After the song, Jim stood up and gave his father a hug.
          Toby, finished the bottle of whisky and fell asleep in the chair. As Jim got up to leave, he reached over and kissed him on the forehead. Covering him up with a blanket, he saw the wooden tugboat sitting on the shelf that he made when he was in 3rd form. Next to his father’s chair he found an old tin stuffed full of pictures of him growing up. There had been no contact for the past fifteen years, but at least he knew they hadn’t forgotten him. That night he slept well, relieved that this day was finally over.

As the summer approached the café got busier. Jim left the kitchen and helped Lucy take orders. When they were locking up one evening Lucy asked him to meet her folks. He couldn’t say no as it meant a lot to her.
As they entered the house with the blue door next to the harbourmaster’s office, he became agitated. His breathing became heavy, and he felt sick. He’d been here before with his parents a long time ago. He remembered the blue and white ship's anchor lying in the front garden. Sitting in the lounge waiting to meet Lucy’s parents he glanced up at a picture on the mantlepiece. There with pride of place was a picture of Jean, the lady he hit with his car.
He was a different person to the man with the long brown hair that sat opposite them in the courtroom. Would they be able to forgive him; how could they? As the voices got closer his breathing became heavier, he saw his chance and slipped out through the patio doors.

Packing his bag, he thought of Lucy and what might have been.
She deserves better he thought as he pushed an envelope for her under the café door.
“Forgive me,” he said as he took one last glance back at Hartland’s End.

About the author

Rose, originally from South London now lives in Banbury in Oxfordshire with her partner.
She has had a passion for writing since an early age, but over the year’s life has got in the way. As the family are now grown, she has found more time to write and complete her BA in Creative Arts from the University for the Creative Arts.
These are her first published short stories in CafeLit.