Tuesday, 11 August 2020

mantra of her Life

By Roxy Bennett Thomas

ginger beer


Don’t feel, tame anxiety with rituals

Don’t talk, family secrets

Eat cookies, read a book

Adults in the real world are weird, characters in books make sense

The mantra of her childhood

 

Don’t feel, therapeutic boundaries, vicarious trauma

Don’t talk, confidentiality

Drink coffee, have a donut

People can be evil, monsters in books are safer

The mantra of her therapist training

 

Don’t feel, embrace the wellness program

Don’t talk, never bring up organizational problems

Drink the corporate Kool-Aid

Real whistleblowers never get promoted, they are heroes in books

The mantra of her administrators guidebook

 

Feel everything

Talk about what you want

Drink wine on the beach

Books are still amazing, but don’t replace family and friends

The mantra of retirement will be different



Monday, 10 August 2020

Freedom


by Jim Bates

English breakfast tea

 

“Hey, Norman, stop!”
“Yeah, you idiot. Don’t make this any harder than on yourself than it has to be. We don’t want to have to hurt you.”
Norman glanced over his shoulder. The orderlies he thought of as Huey and Dewey were in hot pursuit, but he hitched up his pajamas and kept running. He was on the West River Road in Minneapolis high above the Mississippi. To his right he caught a glimpse of the river sparkling a hundred feet below in the early morning sunlight. It was a beautiful view, much better that being stuck in the group home two blocks away.
A third voice broke into his thoughts. Louie. The meanest of the orderlies. “I’m going to get you, you crazy fool. Then you’ll be sorry.”
Damn! He was terrified of being caught and sent back to more injections and medication and counseling. He clutched the urn carrying the remains of his beloved family to his chest and made a snap decision.
“You’ll never get me!” he yelled.
Then he leaped over the guard rail and began plummeting down the side of the steep embankment. Behind him he heard the orderlies cursing. Serves them right, he smiled. Then he concentrated on not smashing into a tree and killing himself as he rolled over and over and over.         
Oddly enough, time seemed to stand still as he rolled. He could see the world so very clearly; the red buds on the sumac bushes, the dried-out bark on the ancient oak trees and the hollowed-out burrow of an animal, possibly a fox. All those images were crystal clear until they sped up and collapsed in upon themselves, turning into a blur, like an old-time motion picture that had jumped the reel.
A branch slapped him in the face and he ducked. Then another one, this one catching him across the cheekbone momentarily stunning him and opening a wound. He wiped blood from his eyes to try and clear his vision.
He kept tumbling, crashing through bushes and getting smacked by branches, all the while unwilling to let go of the urn clutched to his chest, the ashes of his wife and son and daughter; his darling Ann and young Ethan and Leslie, killed by a drunk driver on the way back from soccer practice while he’d stayed home and cooked them a surprise spaghetti dinner. Upon hearing the news he’d collapsed and hadn’t been the same since. The doctors told him he’d had a complete breakdown. Post-traumatic stress disorder they’d called it. He couldn’t handle the loss and the pain and the despair of having lost the three people he’d loved most in the world. That had been over two years ago.
But no more. Now he was free. Now he could be with Ann and Ethan and Leslie on his own terms and not under the watchful eyes of the doctors and nurses and those three crazy orderlies.
Above the river was a ten foot drop over the edge of a limestone outcropping. Norman tumbled off it and crashed onto a sandy shoreline holding his urn tightly. The landing knocked the wind out of him. Dazed, he lay on his back, semi-conscious, looking up at the sky and watching gulls float overhead against a brilliant blue sky. He caressed his urn and smiled. He was almost free.
He got to his feet and brushed leaves and other debris from his pajamas, then stepped to the edge of the river and bent down, splashing water on his face, washing the blood off.  Behind him, coming fast down the embankment he heard the cursing and yelling from Huey, Dewey and Louie. They would be on him in seconds. Panicking, he did the only thing he could think of; he stepped into the river.
He was about to start swimming when he noticed a partially submerged log floating downstream toward him. He gave a silent cheer as he stepped in further up to his waist. The water felt good, cool and refreshing and natural, not like the smelly chloride loaded stuff at the group home.
He gripped his urn tightly and was just reaching for the log when a strong hand grabbed him by the shoulder, “All right there, Norman. I’ve got you. You aren’t going anywhere. Let’s get you back to the home.”
At the sound of Louie’s voice, Norman shook himself awake and opened his eyes. What he saw shocked him because he wasn’t in the river preparing to swim to freedom anymore. Instead, he was lying flat on his back on his bed in his room at the group home with Louie holding his shoulders down, looming over him like a deranged beast.
            Norman raised his head and looked around. On either side of him were Huey and Dewey. What was going on? Had he been dreaming? He looked frantically for his urn and spied it on the dresser like always. He breathed a sigh of relief. Good. His family was still with him.
            “He’s finally coming around,” Louie was saying. “He’s in bad shape. The doctor might want to adjust this weirdo’s meds.”              
            “The nurse is on the way,” Huey said.
            “Yeah with something to calm him down,” Dewey added.
            Their pointless chatter filled the room and Norman closed his eyes, tuning them out. In his mind he hadn’t been dreaming; it had been too real. He was sick to death of being treated like a nutcase. Right then and there he vowed he was going back to the river. He needed to escape and knew that he could. He just had to be quicker. A plan formed as the nurse entered the room to give him a sedative. He kept his eyes shut while Louie held him down and the nurse slipped the needle in his vein. Next time he’d grab his urn and run faster. They never catch him. Next time he’d get away for good.

About the author 

Jim lives in a small town west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stories have been featured in many on-line and print publications. This fall a collection of his short stories entitled “Resilience” will be published by Bridge House Publishing. His stories can also be found on my website:

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Castel Vecchio

by Robert Ward


a glass of Italian white wine, perhaps Vernaccia di San Gimignano


NOTE: It may help the reader to know that the Ghibellines in fourteenth-century Florence were those who sympathised with the claims of the Emperor, whilst the Guelph party were supporters of the Pope. In this story the Malatesta, over-lords of the territory, cleave to the Ghibellines and to the emperor, whilst the Buonacorsi, who hold the castle, have papal sympathies. The Dominican order, to whom the latter have given refuge, were ardent preachers of Catholic orthodoxy.

'Did you not hear my lady go down the garden singing,
echoing all the songbirds, and setting the valleys ringing?
Did you not hear my lady, out in the garden there?
Shaming the rose and lily, for she is twice as fair...

All archaeology is violation. That’s Rule One. It’s the first thing we teach. It’s no use getting squeamish about it now.’

This isn’t about archaeology,’ protested Benedetta, ‘it’s about theology' - but the  director of the dig had already turned on his heel and left. Benedetta turned in appeal to her university friends, working with her through the summer on the site at Castel Vecchio - the old castle. ‘This is about allowing 
the dead to rest in peace. Where they were buried, with full Christian ceremony. To wait for the coming of Christ’. 

So overt an appeal to Christian sentiment found little sympathy. One or two of the boys openly scoffed and walked away, and the girls turned after them. Benedetta was left, feeling isolated and misunderstood. 

A short distance away people were gathering in the partially excavated castle chapel for the most anticipated event of the season. The opening of the vault that lay before the sanctuary step, directly in front of the altar. Benedetta, unused to unearthing the dead, felt that by her presence she was somehow complicit in what was about to be unleashed in spite of all her protestations, so lightly set aside. Seven hundred years or seventy, it seemed to her to make no difference. And yet, as the expectation and anticipation mounted, she knew that she couldn’t opt out. She too would be there in the circle when the contents of the vault came up into the light.
*
Seven hundred years before, on 13th May 1391, a different circle of witnesses stood around the open vault- all of them men, all of them cowled and vested in the black and white of the Dominican order; all of them turned inwards as the heavy stone sarcophagus was lowered. The choir, standing around a large book of antiphons on a lectern in the chancel, sang the propers from a requiem for the departed. Fra Bartolomeo watched as the casket 
was lowered to the bottom.It had only been a short time since the young master had fled to them in the forest from the vicious man-hunt which had been initiated in the town. He had arrived among them like a wild animal, eyes fearful and wide open, sides heaving as though his heart and lungs wouldburst. He had thrown himself on the mercy of the Ghibelline lords of  the Castel Vecchio and they in turn had entrusted him to the safekeeping of the Dominican brothers who tended the chapel. Clearly he believed that he was fleeing for his life. Fra Bartolomeo as infirmarian had received him into the hospitium.Gimignano is an unsafe place for me to be,’ the young man had explained to his host, as they sat together by the warming fire allowed in the accommodation for the sick. ‘There are spies everywhere. They say that walls have ears and the words we speak in our bedchambers are repeated in the open square.’

The guest master smiled very slightly. The allusion was not lost on the friar. This young man, like the members of his own Dominican Order of Preachers, was evidently well versed in the scriptures. Moreover, he spoke with an eloquence and an accent which marked him out from the inhabitants of the region. Like the friar, he was an outsider here. ‘You do not come from these parts?’ Bartolomeo ventured.

No. From Firenze. I was born there and learned my letters from the brothers at San Marco.’ 

Again, a point of contact with the brothers at Castel Vecchio. The same order. The same path almost that Bartolomeo himself had trodden. The older man smiled more openly. You’re a stranger in the town?’

I came to speak on behalf of the Guelph party. To win the city over to their persuasion. To bring the people home to Christ.’ 
The old man’s smile broadened. His eyes softened further. There was a moment of silence.

Then the younger man continued. ‘All seemed to be in order, everything to be going our way. I spoke in the market place and found a warm response. But then…it was as though the town went mad. Quite suddenly, overnight. There was rioting in the town square. Two 
of my companions were lynched by the mob. The agents of the Pope had been at work, whispering in the streets, in the public squares. The mood of the people was unsettled, anti-clerical feeling was stronger than we had bargained for.' He faltered, thinking perhaps of those
whom he'd thought he could trust, whose loyalties had proved shallow, and whose faces had turned away from him when the hue and cry were raised, as much as to say, 'I never knew you.' 

They sat in silence for a time, a condition with which the older man was well acquainted and with which he felt at ease. Eventually, it was the other who resumed. 'I came to this place, through the forest, knowing I was hidden all the way. At the gates, I knew I'd be given refuge. The sympathies of the Buonacorsi are known for miles around.' He looked at the older man with the hint of a question in his face. 

'Today, you are safe. Tomorrow... who can tell? There are envoys here as well. News from the town, as you say, is not good. There are armies on the move. Men, horses, machines of war. My brothers were given refuge here, it's true, by the Buonacorsi, but this quarrel is about something other than the keeping of men's souls.'
There came at that moment a commotion in the courtyard out beyond- the percussive sound of armour, horses' hooves, men's voices raised. 

'Nowhere is safe.' The friar rose and took the younger man by the hand. 'Come with me and do exactly as I say.'

'On the twelfth day of May in the year of Our Lord Thirteen Hundred and Ninety One, from His Most Serene Highness Prince Vincenzo Buonacorsi Buonvicini of Castelvecchio to His Most Serene Highness Prince Pietro Malatesta: Greeting. Whereas it has seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit to accord to our brothers in Christ of the Sacred Order of Preachers safe passage, and whereas that safe passage has been granted in accordance with our word, we now accord to our brother of the Malatesta our most heartfelt and cordial allegiance, in token whereof we this day send out of our territories those whom we have sheltered hitherto, and know that in return we shall enjoy the favour of His Most Serene Highness Pietro of the Malatesta and shall hold in peace our castle of the forest lands in perpetuity; as a token whereof we hereto affix our seal on the Feast of the Blessed --- --- in this year of grace Thirteen Hundred and Ninety One.'

The departure was a hurried one. There was a meeting after dawn  between the Prior and the Lord Vincenzo. The Lord Vincenzo told the Prior, 'My duty to my earthly lord demands that I must do that which I would rather not do, whilst my duty to Our Lord in Heaven demands that I do you the courtesy of this meeting face to face. You will have safe passage until you are beyond the lands of the Malatesta. We are men of honour and he will not betray his word. There is however the matter of a a refugee from the court of the Malatesta - a young man, the cause of an affray in the city and the subsequent deathsby violence of several leading citizens of the place.' He looked away from the Prior, fixing his gaze on a distant point. 'You know, I think, something of this man?'

There was an urgent consultation between the Prior and his chief  officers, the cellarer, the sacristan, the infirmarian. There was hastily convened an emergency meeting of the inner initiates of the community of brothers, and a last strained liturgical leave-taking of the 
place which had been their refuge these eleven years. It was, appropriately, a burial. Eleven brothers stood in a circle around the vault which they had constructed below the sanctuary step, in the place of honour, for the Buonacorsi race. The stone sarcophagus, 
unknown to their lords, they had prepared in readiness- there would not be time on hearing of a death in the central chambers to prepare a casket fit for such a lord.

And in the morning it was there that they buried the stranger who had come to them by night, hastily, yet with due reverence, in the stone coffin. And then, in a similar spirit, they prepared to leave their home.

*

Steady as she goes!’ the director cried, as they heaved upon the ropes, raising the stone coffin to the surface at a precarious angle. There was some concern that the ropes might fray beneath the weight but all held good, the coffin lid fastened in place so that it would not slip or fall back into the vault. 
The winching apparatus set up above the tomb performed its task, the men hauling on the winches responding to the calls – ‘Lower the feet! Steady! Steady! Now guide it down.’

Other hands set to and the colossal weight was guided to rest at the side of the open shaft. 

Benedetta held her breath. Whatever private feelings she had voiced earlier in the day, she could not stay away. The tension and the excitement of the occasion were all the greater for being mixed with apprehension. What was happening had violated for her some taboo, some sense of what was best 
left undisturbed.

The carving was crude and simple, the coffin long and narrow like a canoe, the lid thick, slightly ill-fitting, pitched like the roof of a house - and the whole encrusted with the damp accretions of seven hundred years. Benedetta, like the others present, wondered what would shortly be revealed. As the ropes were unfastened and the top began to slide aside, her fascination with what was soon to be revealed battled with her urge to turn away. She had heard of bodies preserved incorrupt, both in the lives of saints and in conversations with fellow archaeologists, and of bodies exposed to the 
air which held together for a moment and then crumbled into dust. More likely than either was the sight of bones, wrapped perhaps in garments thin with age, discoloured, she imagined, as a result of…..The top was off. A cry went up. She saw - nothing but a casket  filled with rock. On the lid was carved the single word: ‘Resurgam.’ I will rise again.

*

The brothers left the castle shortly after noon. The heat was up but they had more than half the daylight hours to travel, to reach shelter in the neighbouring territory by dusk. Their hearts were heavy, all but one. A twelfth member of their company went his way among them with a heart as light as the noontide, happy and secure, if inappropriately vested, in the black and white habit of the order. For him it seemed that all the birds for miles around did sing.

About the author

The Revd. Robert Ward is a priest in the Church of England who has an interest in the medieval religious orders and in what Bishop Rowan Williams once called 'rekindling the imagination of the English people.' CafeLit recently published two earlier stories, also influenced by visits to religious sites in England and in Tuscany.

 

Saturday, 8 August 2020

The Dusk Walkers



by Henry Lewi

Goldwasser on ice



 Did you notice sometimes out of the corner of your eye, sometimes in the shadows, the number of people who were out in the early hours of the morning, usually alone very occasionally in pairs? They kept to the shadows, silent and watching. Both Men and Women any age, all with bright shining eyes. If you approach them, they’ll quickly and silently walk away, their only distinguishing feature are their eyes. Who are they? What are they watching? What do they want? and what do they do?

It all began during the Virus lockdown in 2020, I had returned to help out at the local hospital where I’d worked as a surgeon for the previous twenty-five years. Although retired I responded to the request for retirees to volunteer to help out. My role was simple: it was to check on patients who’d been discharged from hospital or those who’d reported mild symptoms of the viral disease to their GPs. After contacting many patients, I became aware that some were reporting severe symptoms of recurrent persistent eye pain and a hypersensitivity to light or as we medics like to call it - photophobia. I dully filled in the contact forms highlighting the symptoms described but during the height of the epidemic everyone was far too busy to comment.

 After working in the hospital for about a month I tested positive for the Virus but had no symptoms. However, a couple of weeks later started to experience severe eye pain, and sensitivity to light. The pain was so severe I couldn’t sleep but wasn’t tired despite preferring the night hours to sit outside in the garden, doing little more than listen to audio-books or the news.
  Over the next few weeks the pain became less but the light sensitivity remained, interestingly my night vision improved so much that it seemed on many an occasion night became day.  I found it difficult to go out in the bright daylight without sunglasses and my vision became clearer and crisper so much so that I had to discard my glasses that I always wore full time.  The only problem was that I seemed to have a number of floaters in both my eyes.
  As lockdown was eased, I managed to get an appointment at my Optician’s who confirmed that my vision was now perfect,  the shortsightedness and severe astigmatism had completely reversed, but he was troubled by the changes in the eye which he jokingly stated – “If I didn’t know better I’d say that you’ve got gold flakes in your eyes, which is why they look bright and shiny – I’ve never seen that before! Look I’ll arrange for you to see one of the guys at Moorfields Eye Hospital – I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about at least you don’t have to buy any glasses!”
 At Moorfields the consultant was puzzled and called in one of his colleagues to have a look, then another, and another and finally the Professor was asked to have a look. Nobody came up with an answer, so I was asked to stay in “for a number of tests” as they put it.  I was given a nice private room and was subjected to a whole battery of “tests” including scans, bloods, numerous eye examinations, and visits by numerous ophthalmic surgeons, neurologists and a couple of doctors who introduced themselves as metabolic specialists. I must have given a pint and a half of blood and the conclusion at the end of this? Yup I had deposits of gold flakes in my eyes – why? It must be a consequence of the Virus infection they said – How? Well here’s the outline as I can remember – There’s a series of enzymes in the body classified as Cytochrome P450 that has a huge range of functions which include binding heavy metals to form what’s called a metallo-enzyme. We all have a bit of gold in our bodies notably around the heart, in the joints and in our nerves. Somehow the Viral infection subtly altered the function of the Cytochrome P450 which allowed it to leach out the gold from its normal sites and for some reason deposited it in the eyes.  Jokingly they said that maybe this was the basis of the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg story? Really! So, what next? I asked – Well – pause- We don’t really know, but yours is not the first – we’ve now heard of many similar cases throughout the country and from all over Europe – someone has even coined the name – “Goldeneye Syndrome”. What next – we don’t know, but it would seem that the condition should, emphasizing the SHOULD, stabilize, as there is only a small amount of gold in the body that can be deposited. Stay out of the sun, wear sunglasses, eat a healthy diet, and we’ll keep a regular and close eye on you. 
 So it was, the days turned into weeks, I avoided the daylight hours and lived my life in the dusk and night and on occasion I would meet someone in the shadows with the same problem, you can identify us by the fact that we wear sunglasses at night or by our shining metallic eyes.
  It was all going OK till the news broke on TV with the exclusive, titled – “They Carry A Fortune in Their Eyes”.
Now I hear that people with Goldeneye, or even anyone wearing sunglasses are being hunted for their eyes, and I can’t go out anymore.
There are no more Dusk Walkers around.
Where have they all gone?
Where can I go?

About the author

 Henry has retired from the NHS. He occasionally writes short stories. He is a member of the Canvey Writers’ Group.

Friday, 7 August 2020

Forgotten

by Mark Readman 

Indian pale ale

Edward Watts had volunteered to take the afternoon sessions at the local school, though he had been due to retire back in March. The government had seen fit to have these places of learning open for the key workers children. With no curriculum for the students to follow it was up to him to engage them in any subject of his or their choosing. The class size was a lot smaller, he had found them to be very respectful for their age group. 

The classroom door was open.  It was a relief to have some of the windows open as well to lessen the chance of infection, these were strange times and Twenty-Twenty would be remembered as a year the world was changed by an unseen enemy.

Though the students had gone home Edward took his time to remember how the class of eight had reacted to his question of remembrance of V.J. DAY. The look on their faces said they had no idea of such an occasion, though V.E. DAY this year had been given its special place in their minds and it was possible they would remember that in years to come.   

Knowing that Covid 19 would over shadow everything else in their lives for many years; he hoped they would also remember thousands of people died fighting a war for the freedom we enjoy in Britain today.                                         

Though Burma is far away it would have been a disaster had it fallen to the Japanese, for then it was still part of the British Empire. This had drawn the students into a good debate on the rights and wrongs of the empire and Edward had to steer the subject back to V.J. Day . Yes some of the students only aged fourteen had seen the Film Pearl Harbour and thought only the Americans had been at war with the Japanese.  It was easy to forget the grandparents of the generation he had been talking with hadn’t been to war to protect the British Isles with the exception of the Falklands. He had asked that question did any of them have a family member with a military back ground; this had been met with blank looks. It was interesting that one girl had asked, a question for which there’s no answer. Would the war have carried on if the Japanese had beaten the British in the conflict?

Dutifully wiping the desk with a disinfected cloth, collecting his jacket from the chair and covering his face it was time to leave. The cleaners signalled with thumbs up as he passed them in the corridors.   No car today. There was no point. It was only a forty minute walk, and now the shops had reopened there were less walkers and cyclists riding on the pavement, even the short cut through the park was now a pleasure.

The post person had managed to jam several large envelopes into the letter box, one of which was his pension application papers. From the study he watched the birds on the feeders, hanging from the apple tree grandfather had planted all those years ago on his return from Burma. Four generations of the Watts family had lived here; Edward and his father James were the only ones never to have fought in a war, though unlike his father Edward had escaped the governments’ national service programme.

 Pictures of family members hung from the walls, he took a while to study the one of grandfather and grandmother standing in front of the apple tree in their Sunday best. Sunlight glinting off his medals it wasn’t long after this picture was taken they had both passed away he couldn’t recall his exact age when that happened.     

Like the teenagers he’d spoken with today, he would have been in his early teens, he recalled being sad for a few days then his life had moved on and they would become a distant memory but the medals take pride and place in the glass cabinet along with other family memorabilia.                                                                                                                                                                                                     
Likewise his own mother and father passed away and for whatever reason he doesn’t always    remember to celebrate their lives.                                                                                                                                   

Try as he might he couldn’t get it out of his head that his grandfather had fought in a war that in future years the nation would probably forget. People just wouldn’t remember unless the media mentioned wartime Britain.  For Edward these things matter, mainly because his teaching subjects are military and social history from the nineteenth and twentieth century. Though it now seemed that no one had any interest because they have no connection with those times and the people that did care have all but passed away.                              

In twenty five years time it will be the hundredth anniversary of V.E.DAY or will Corona virus be the headline news? As they remember those who sadly passed away while Britain was in lockdown.  There is a small chance that one of his students today will remember the afternoon they talked of the forgotten war.      
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 About the auhtor

Mark Readman enjoys writing short stories for his own pleasure and of course sharing them with the writing group he attends once a month, which is most helpful as they are able to help each other with good writing practice. Cafelit has inspired him to share his work with a wider audience.


Thursday, 6 August 2020

The Difference Between Llamas and Alpacas

by Wendy Pike

carrot juice

Do you know the difference between a llama and an alpaca?

I put that question to Google, the mighty conundrum-cracker.

In seconds it delivered answers which confused me even more.

But I learned much about the animals that I didn’t know before.

They’re both camelids from South America, mostly from Peru.

One simple fact separates them which I gladly share with you.

It’s true they’re mucho cute and look very similar to untrained eyes. 

When it comes to telling the cousins apart, alpacas are a smaller size.

It should be easy to solve who is who but for one slight snag, amigo,

Unless they’re standing side by side, who is smallest?  How’d you know?

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

The Hard Shoulder



by Henry Lewi

double macchiato 


   Stranded on the hard shoulder at 9 o’clock on a deserted motorway is one of the loneliest places on the planet he thought. Moments earlier he’d suffered a rear blowout of his tyre. Swerving across the three lanes of the road he’d managed to bring the car under control, and although it sounded awful, he’d coasted the car onto the hard shoulder, put on the hazards, and quickly got out of the car. Shaking and with his pulse racing he tried to think what to do next.

Right get the mobile phone, get the cigarettes, get help in that order. The first two were on the nearside passenger seat so he retrieved them promptly and lit up a cigarette gradually calming his nerves. Well he’d survived so far. He convinced himself to look at the rear tyre. 

“Bloody hell” he said to no-one in particular, the tyre was completely shredded, and the Alloy wheel was sitting directly on the ground. OK so what next? who to call? For a start there was no spare tyre, the new Mercedes SL used run-flats only. 

“Pity they didn’t prevent complete blowouts”, he muttered to himself. So, he needed an emergency breakdown and  recovery service but definitely not the police -  stay behind the barrier for safety. 

“Bugger it,” there was no service on his phone on this part of the deserted motorway. 

“Ok where’s the emergency telephone, there must be one either up ahead, or behind, I really don’t want the police involved”, he thought.

 “Right, so let’s get to the phone and call for an emergency recovery and get them to transport me and the car home, at least then I can sort this mess out.”

   There was little traffic around, but he really envied those driving past, snug and warm in their heated cars, listening to the radio, they really didn’t know how lucky they were. He walked forward to the emergency phone, carefully keeping close to the barrier, he really didn’t want to end up as another statistic of motorway fatalities. 

 There, about 200 yards ahead was one of the emergency phones, alone and isolated it was an orange beacon, beckoning him closer.  Arriving he picked up the phone and was quickly put through to an operator. He quickly outlined his problem, emphasizing that the car was undriveable and  requested an emergency recovery, agreed the price it was going to cost him and carefully detailed the make, model and registration of the car. He gave the operator the location number of the emergency phone making sure he emphasised that the car was parked a few hundred yards behind the phone. 

“I’m sorry Sir but could we have some credit card details for the emergency breakdown service,” said the operator.”

“No problem,” he replied, pulling out the wallet from the pocket of his jeans, and read out the long number, security code and expiry date, giving his name exactly as it was printed on the front of the card. 

 “Righto sir,” replied the operator, “I’ll have an emergency recovery truck with you in the next hour. Please return to the car but don’t sit in it and remain behind the barrier at all times.”

He suddenly felt a lot calmer and thought “It’s all going to be OK.”
   
He walked back to the car and was astounded to see two police cars parked slantwise behind the car with the police closing off the inner lane and diverting the traffic.
  “Good evening Sir,” said one of the police officers. “Can we be of help”.
“No, no its OK. I’ve organized an emergency recovery which'll be here very soon.  There’s no need to worry. I’m perfectly safe and there’s really no need for any fuss.”  He could hardly speak as his mouth was now so very, very, dry.

“Would you mind unlocking the car Sir,” said a second policeman.  “I’m sure everything is in order, we just need to see your insurance, and driving license.”
“They’re all at home I’m afraid.  I’ll drop them into the nearest police station tomorrow, if that’s OK,” he replied.
  “Could you step round to the boot Sir?” requested the first officer, as he opened the trunk. They all stared at the unconscious bound figure lying there.  “Our Assistant Chief Constable does love his new Mercedes Sir.”

About the author

Henry has retired from the NHS after many years. He now writes short stories and a monthly column for a local magazine. He is a member of the Canvey Writers Group.