Monday, 1 June 2020

Mikey's Vision

by S. Nadja Zajdman 

            lemonade

                               
When my brother’s children were small, we would accompany them to the Christmas pantomimes in downtown Toronto.  During a performance one winter, a contact lens slipped out of my brother’s eye.  When we left the theatre he handed the car keys to his wife and informed her, “You’ll have to drive us back.  I can barely see.”   I looked up at my brother and smiled.  Michael towers over us.  He’s a gentle giant whom patients call “Dr. Mikey.”  Those who are able to speak, that is.  Wee ones recently arrived from the womb into the world communicate by peeing on him.

My brother caught my smile, but didn’t understand what provoked it.  “What?” Michael was blank.  My weak, heavy-lidded eyes twinkled behind spectacles.

  “Now you know what a Cyclop feels like!  You don’t have twenty twenty DIVISION anymore!”  My nieces were puzzled.  For my brother, a light switched on.  He smirked.  “You remember stuff like that?”

 “Buddy,” I was rubbing it in, “I can see it as if it happened yesterday…”



My brother and I were at a summer camp located in southern Ontario.  On a Sunday afternoon in midsummer we were taken by bus on a field trip to Ottawa to visit our parliament buildings.  We were at the top of the Peace Tower when my little brother erupted, “Shashi!  Look!  Daddy’s car!  Down there!  I see Daddy’s car!  They’re here.”  The future doctor diagnosed the situation.  “Mummy and Daddy are here!”  Our little lumberjack couldn’t pronounce the sound of the letter R and knew he couldn’t, so he stopped trying to call me “Sharon” and called me “Shashi” instead.  The nickname stuck.

          I looked down from the platform of the Tower, onto the streets far below.  It was a cloudless summer day.  The cars parked along the downtown boulevards shimmered in the heat like brightly painted dinky toys.  Though I wasn’t yet wearing glasses, it appeared impossible to single out a particular car.  Nonetheless my brother pointed and implored, “Shashi!  Please.  I can see the gween Chevvolay!  And you shoes is on the miwwa!”  Our father had tied my first cloth baby booties to the rear view mirror.  He considered it a good luck charm.  We were taught to identify the family car by looking out for the tiny booties dangling from the mirror.  “You can’t see that from up here!”

“But I do. Oh why won’t you believe me?!”  Exasperated, Mikey turned away and tugged on the sleeves of our campmates, insisting, “My mummy and my daddy are here!”  Our campmates dismissed him as a pest.  I was held responsible.

 “Tell your little brother to shut up!”  Mikey was hurt.

“Listen Mikey.”  I put my arms around him.  “I can understand that you miss Mummy and Daddy very much, but you know they’re at home in Montreal.”

 “No they’re not!”  Mikey pouted.  “They’re here. They’re somewhere here!  Maybe downstairs!”  Mikey’s Thinking Cap was firmly set.  “Please Shashi, let’s go downstairs and find them!”  I knew we couldn’t separate from the group and go hunting through the House of Commons in search of a set of phantom parents.  I tried to comfort my little brother, but he was inconsolable.

          Our field trip over, Mikey sat silent and sullen, next to me, on the bus.  As we rolled down a hill through the camp gates a green Chevrolet, parked in the field next to the flagpole, loomed on the horizon. it seemed to be mocking us. Still, I wasn’t sure.  If I could just see my baby booties, then I’d be sure.

          Mikey didn’t need confirmation.  Instantly, he went berserk.  “The car!  The car!”  He bounced frenetically in his seat.  “I toll you!  I toll you!”  He accused our fellow passengers.  Before the driver came to a full stop and before I could stop him, Mikey dashed down the aisle, scampered down the steps and pounded upon the locked door.  He turned his sturdy, stocky torso towards the driver and demanded, “My mummy and my daddy are here!  Lemme out!”  The startled driver obeyed his command.

          Indeed, it appeared our parents were on the site—but where?  Frantically Mikey scoured the camp grounds screaming, “Mummy!  Daddy!  Where are you?!”  His cries were answered by the figure of a woman rising out of a lawn chair set by the lake.

“Here we are, sweetheart!”  Mum waved.  “Abram!  Look!  It’s the kids!”  Our dad raised himself from an adjacent chair.  For me, the beam on my father’s face was like a guiding light.

          Our mother flung open her arms, and Mikey raced into them.  I could see the top of his platinum-coloured crew cut as he nestled into her enveloping embrace.  As I got closer to the shoreline I could also see two strangers with my parents.  Unknown to my brother and me, our parents were entertaining houseguests from overseas.  They had given them a tour of Ottawa, and since the camp was located a few miles outside Perth, on the spur of the moment they decided to drop in and surprise us.  It was our parents who got the surprise when they entered a summer camp at the height of summer, emptied of its children.  The kitchen staff assured them that all was well; we’d been taken on a trip to visit the Parliament buildings, and were due back in half an hour.

          What tourist or student group doesn’t visit Parliament when taken on a tour of Ottawa?  Our parents were showing their guests the Gothic buildings that house our government half an hour after we got there.

          The campers and counsellors were dumbfounded.  The grown-ups were impressed.  So was I.  As for little Mikey, he was vindicated.  I turned to our campmates and suggested, “I think you should apologize to my brother.”  Sheepishly, they did.  Our parents stared at their tot in admiration.

 “But Mikey, how could you see from so far away that it was our car?”

          “Hmmmph!”  Mikey raised his chin, stuck out his chest, and lifted himself up to his full height—which wasn’t yet very high.  Proudly, he announced, “I have twenty-twenty DIVISION!”



S. Nadja Zajdman is a Canadian author.  Her short story collection, Bent Branches, was published in 2012.  Her non-fiction as well as her fiction has been featured in newspapers, magazines, literary journals and anthologies across North America, in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.  Zajdman has completed a second work of fiction as well as a memoir of her mother, the pioneering Holocaust educator and activist Renata Skotnicka-Zajdman, who passed away near the end of 2013.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Thump

by Yash Seyedbagheri

cold tea

My life is the thump of footsteps.
Thump, the graceful clickety-clack of Mother’s heels.
Thump, the definitive thump of Dad’s feet.
Thump, the sound of demands.
You’re always unhappy, Penelope. What about your boy?
Thump, Mother’s heels striking a wall.
 He’s yours too. Don’t make this about him.
Thump, Dad speaking. Duties, obligations.
Thump, lilting tears.
Thump, soft, surreptitious thump, a series. The sound of someone leaving. Dad plays “Misty,” Mother’s favorite.
Thump, the sound of a father and son converging.
Thump.
 Your mother loved lavender.
Thump.
Where did she go?
Thump, the sound of feet, diverging.
Thump, questions settling in.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

By and By - A Foundation Myth (after Byland and Jervaulx)

 by Robert Ward

Pepsi Cola

'Bogus architect. Bogus archaeologist. Bogus medium, now, is it? I don't know why in heaven we take notice of him.' The American academic swept the hair back from her face and secured it with a hairband. Yet there he was, in front of the abbey, the wizard of the west and darling of the media, staking out the territory in front of the main west door with pegs and with string, instructing the impressionable youths where to start digging, telling the T.V. crew where to point their cameras. The production team lapped it up and the youngsters set to with gusto.
 
'The voices are quite specific,' he was telling them. 'There is treasure to be unearthed here... and there....and somewhere over there, under the forecourt in front of the Great West Door. What kind of treasure? Well that depends, of course... we might consider worthless what to the men of the Middle Ages seemed quite beyond price. Tread carefully, they tell me, you know: we may be treading on their dreams.'

Dr. Hubermaier snorted. 'Hardly likely,' she said, out of the corner of her mouth. 'That's a twentieth-century quote, for starters. Just how all-knowing were these monks? Omniscient, like their God?'

'Here... and here,' he'd marked out a dozen paces from the west doorway, and then a dozen further on. 'And there from north to south, and there from north to south, two trenches. You can see them in the aerial photography, and at night, if you look, by the floodlights. Two water courses, this side of the roadway running past the abbey, north to south. Drainage channels saving the church and the lay brothers' quarters from this water underfoot, and more than that, concentric spiritual defences, protecting the holy from the profane, the unclean from the clean: guarding both the Holy of Holies right up there.'  He waved an arm towards the east end of the church. 'From the people down there. ' The other arm flailed to the passing road and beyond.  'And protecting the people out there. ' The flailing arm again - 'Against an over-energetic outburst of the holy from in here.'

'Where does he get it from, all this?' the doctor cried, in exasperation, and a little too loudly, as it happened. 

The Mad Professor clearly overheard, because 'Madam,' he said, drawing himself up to his full height,  'it's all to be found in the scriptures. The Book of Leviticus. The Holiness Code, if you care to look. And in 2 Chronicles, where the servant of David reaches out a hand to steady the Ark and is struck down by the power of the Holy. It's all there.' He looked quite injured, all the more so as the American woman scoffed at him and turned on her heel. 

The trouble was that on the following day, about noon, a student methodically following the lines marked out by the Professor struck metal with a trowel. Metal on metal, unmistakeably. And what they uncovered was lead. Not just a piece of broken pipe, but swathes of soft, dark lead, a few feet below the surface, where it had been stowed away four hundred and fifty, four hundred and seventy years before.

1537. Could it really be?


The noise of demolition, the tumbling rafters: the crackle and spit of the flames in the nave consuming the woodwork, the stalls, the panelling... and the lead from the roofs, reduced to molten metal, laid out, pressed and cooled.

'What's to be done?' asked the foreman of the works of spoliation. 'King's orders is to get all this to London, but the winter's coming on. Ah, I can feel it in the air. There'll be snow by midnight, likely.'

'Bury it!' barked Horner, steward of the abbey lands for twenty years. 'Out there, beyond the Galilee, in the drainage channel. Cover it over. Block the ends with stone...'

Truth was, all was done in haste. Everything had been delayed, set back, by the rising in the summer. The local populace had marched on the abbey, forcing the monks and the abbot to renege on their earlier agreement to surrender the monastery easily to the King. The locals were aggrieved at so craven a deal and insisted that the abbot head their march to the capital and that the community should retrench, dig in and bar the doors to the King's commissioners.

All in vain. All they had won was a staying of the axe, only for it to fall at the last more savagely, the abbot taken to the Tower, the leading monks treated shamefully, the rest of the community dispersed: but by then three months had passed and the time for easy travel on the roads was long gone. Hence the hurry, hence the dishevelment, hence the opportunities for the unscrupulous to seek to profit in the midst of other men's woes. The floods came up: the winter freezes came down. Before the thaws and the spring had come all had changed again. The King's men departed and in the spring they had fallen, too: suspected of profiteering, keeping back some of the proceeds of the sale. Who then was to know what had been secreted where, and by whom? And so the treasures lay, until the coming of quite another community, and the dawning of quite another spring.


After dark and under the floodlights, the site took on a different aspect. The ridges and the trenches, the outlines of the walls, stood out like the bare bones of a skeleton. Behind them the interplay of the flood lights' glare upon the stone and the inky wells of blackness in between, where the windows gaped, deceived the eye, as though lightning quivered behind or a Son et Lumiere played out, somewhere beyond. The Bogus Professor grew excited and gathered such students as would listen in front of the ruins to witness the spectacle- not the northern lights, said he, but the emanations from a far from spent source, a thousand years in the making. And it was true, as they looked up as directed. The quality of the darkness did appear to shift and to switch as they looked from window to window: behind it all, looking to the sanctuary, the sunrise and the east, some illusion of a power source, partially glimpsed, imperfectly realised, elusive, inconclusive, but alluring and compelling nonetheless. A forge; a smithy; such as the monks or their servants kept alight in many a community, and why not this one? Beating out white-hot raw material, just as on the anvils of their altars they hammered out the world that was to come: this, to quote a scholar bishop not of the medieval centuries but of the twentieth, 'the hot-spot of the new creation.'

Bogus architect. Bogus archaeologist. Bogus medium, perhaps. Yet on this perception, this experience, his new community would at length be founded, to re-enchant the world.

About the author

Robert Ward is a new writer, drawn to themes historical, archaeological, mystical and spiritual- often inspired by travels within the UK, in Europe and - occasionally - more widely. Holding a degree in history from Cambridge University and a degree in theology from Southampton, he taught for a short while in state secondary schools and has since been a Church of England minister for more than thirty years. 


Friday, 29 May 2020

Holly and the Jinn

by Mason Bushell

Earl grey tea




Evening service was due to start within the Workhouse Restaurant. Holly Ward took a breath, tightened her glossy black ponytail and focused on the space around her. A few students from the college were dining at the teak tables by the brown-framed windows. Holly smiled at a group of boys who were chatting about her, among other things. That was nothing new for her, she always just smiled or laughed off the attention. Pausing at the hostess stand she printed a dinner check. With it on a Workhouse diamond saucer baring mints, she took it to a couple of girls in the bar corner.
“Here we are. That’s twenty-one-pounds-thirty, please.”
“Thanks, those Workhouse Burgers are so good,” said one of the ladies looking to her blonde friend. “Harmony, are you sure you’re okay paying for everything?”  
“I told you, it was my treat, Amy. Had you not helped me get rid of that slime ball Terry at Halloween, I’d still be miserable and we wouldn’t be friends.” Harmony handed Holly some money. “Thanks, that was a delicious meal.”
“I’m glad, you enjoyed everything. Let me fetch you some change.” Holly beamed and swiftly went to the till to cash out the order. Coming back, she found the girls stood and ready to leave. “Here’s your change. Thank you for coming, and we hope to see you again soon.”
“Thanks, we’ll definitely be back soon.” Amy smiled. “Right, Harmony lets go and see the film next, shall we?”
Holly set about cleaning the table, “Have a good evening, ladies.” she called while polishing the diamond embossed surface. Straightening, her eye caught the light glinting off an object. A large silver coin lay on the seat Amy had been occupying. Holly took it into her fingers and looked for the girls. They were already gone. “Better, put this in the lost property then, I guess,” she said to herself. It was then piano music emanated from the stage. Holly gave pianist Tom Bowman a cheery wave and headed for the bar.
“Hello Holly. I’m really sorry, I’m late. I got held up in my damned lecture.” Waitress Tierney Williams had come out from the back looking immaculate in her chocolate brown Workhouse apron over black blouse and trousers. She looked a little flustered and strained from being late.
“Hello, Tee. Its no problem. Thanks for calling to let me know, though. Everyone’s fed and happy in here, so don’t worry, okay?” Holly gave her shoulder a squeeze.
“Thanks, Holly. I’ll get us ready for service.”
“Great, I’m going to fill out a lost property form, then I’m coming back to steal that cute dove hairclip you’re wearing.” Holly really did think the white bird clip looked stunning in her friend’s chestnut ponytailed hair.
“Then I’ll be keeping my eye on you.” Tierney narrowed her eyes. Both girls were giggling as they parted.

Holly shot into the office for the form and decided to have some tea whilst filling it in. She entered the staff lounge and made herself a cup of Earl Grey. The Ward family ladies, rarely drank anything else as was tradition. Sitting at the little round table, she flicked the coin on to the surface with the form. As it settled, she noticed it was etched with a horned demon surrounded with flames.
“So, what are you?” Holly picked out the inscription around the demon. “Evocatus illuc auxilium. Excitandum ditans guttura. Largítor votum meum et vocavi te.”
“Pardon?” said a deep, rich voice.
Holly looked up and smiled at the restaurants Congolese bartender stood in the doorway. “Hello, Masego. That’s Latin. If I remember my granddad’s teachings, it means: Summoned to help. Evoked to empower. Wish granter, I summon thee… So, this must be a talisman.”
“Be careful then. You might summon a demon.” Masego winked and left with a chuckle.

Holly started filling in the form, never realising the kitchenette counter was glowing orange behind her. The splintering crash of a mug slamming into the floor, followed by a volley of swearing caused her to flinch in fright.
“That’s it, go on obliterate everything, Jinni! You’re supposed to help people when they summon you, not cost them a fortune.” Came a low female voice.
“Ahh, shut up, Doris,” answered a deeper male voice.
Holly jumped off her chair and found her feet surrounded by the remains of a broken mug. She focused on the coffee machine and felt her mouth drop open. There stood a five-inch tall man. He was wearing smart black shorts and sunglasses shaped like a bowtie. The rest of his bare body was fiery red and granite-like with muscles.
“Sorry about the mug. Anyway, you summoned me?”
“I—”
“Of course, she did. Nobody else could have.”
The waitress looked for the owner of the shrill voice and discovered an overweight fairy with grey hair. She stood no taller than the red-skinned man. She was wearing a daisy patterned dress and a displeased scowl.
“Doris, darling. I told you, that talisman summons me all over the place. That means, I have to check that I found my summoner to prevent me from granting wishes to the wrong people and getting trapped on Earth.” The Jinn sighed and looked up at Holly who was now stood shaking in shock while absently smoothing her ponytail. “Sorry about this. Doris was holding my hand when you summoned me.”
“Its- It’s okay. I…” Holly thought she was an intelligent girl. Seeing these two little fantastical beings in the staff lounge, had her feeling otherwise. Logic told her that either they were real, or she was going insane. “Erm, so the talisman summoned you, right?”
“Yeah, that’s it, girl. You summoned my Jinni using that talisman. Now you have to tell him what you want, so we can go home,” Doris answered.
“Thank you, Doris. I’m quite capable of doing my job.” The Jinn rolled his eyes as he began causing the mug remnants to levitate and glue themselves back together.  
“Well. do it then!” The fairy folded her arms and nodded up at the waitress. “I don’t know about human men but Jinn’s are lazy boars, you know that?”
Holly giggled at the grumpy fairy. “Aw, I bet Jinni does a lot more than you realise.”
“Huh, you’re supposed to be on my side as a fellow female.”
“Sorry, I—”
“It’s alright, dear. Jinni makes me mad, that’s all. For example, I have to ask him a thousand times to do the laundry.”
“But I have six pairs of shorts in the basket to your fifty-two dresses. It’s hardly fair.” The Jinn set the repaired mug on the counter, then slapped his hips with his hands in frustration.
“Don’t you start with the fairness bit, Jinni. I—”
“Hey, that’s enough! Both of you hush.” Holly gave them both a stern look. “Let’s not argue and be friends, please.”
“Thank you.” The Jinn gave Doris a cheeky smile. “So, have you decided what I can do for you?”
“Yes, you must have wanted something when you summoned him. Or he wouldn’t have come,” Doris added.
Holly looked at the strange couple on the counter and shook her head. “I don’t want anything, thank you.”  
“There must be something you want.” The Jinn glanced up at Holly while scratching his chin. “You’re a waitress. How’s about help getting a better job?”
“No, I love working here for my mum, and with my team of friends. We’re like a happy successful family, here.”
“Well, that’s lovely. How about a hunky boyfriend? Jinni, might be able to help with that.” Doris gave a hopeful flutter of her eyebrows.
“Nope, I’m very happy with my darling footballer, Sam. thank you.” Holly couldn’t help a smile as she thought about him.
“Did I hear my name?” answered a voice edged with huskiness.
Holly felt arms come around and hug her from behind. “Hey, Sam. You did. Are you okay?” she asked as she turned her head to share a kiss with him.
“Hmm. My training went well, thank you, my precious. Who were you talking taah!” Samuel yelped having seen the Jinn and fairy on the counter. “Are they… What are… What's going on?” 
“Ooh, he is rather cute and handsome in a sporty way, isn’t he?” Doris made kissy lips toward the footballer.
Holly narrowed her eyes at the fairy but never got to retort.
“And I’m not, I suppose.” The Jinn struck a muscular pose.
Doris rolled her eyes at him. “You’re so muscly, it’s like jumping into bed with a wall.”
“I can’t believe you just said that. I—”
“Jinn, Doris, stop arguing, please!” Holly groaned. Although the feeling of Samuel smoothing her silky ponytail left her relaxed and content. “I think were safe, Sam. I apparently summoned these two by reading that talisman on the table.”
“Really? They don’t get on well, do they?” Samuel remarked. 
“Like two hurricanes fighting over ownership of the Florida Keys.” Holly giggled and nestled close to her footballer. “I’m glad we don’t have that problem.”
“Me too, I love how we can talk about things.” Samuel looked to the Jinn. “You should adopt that philosophy, both of you.”
“We’ve been trying, believe me.” The Jinn grinned and snapped his fingers. “She doesn’t wish for anything. Do you want something?”
Samuel made a musing noise. “I know- the flower shop was shut. Can you magic Holly some flowers, for me?”
“Sure, which kind? Marigolds…” the Jinn made an orange bloom appear before him.
“Yeah, there's a pair of those under the sink. You can do the dishes with them, when we get home,” Doris ordered.
“Whatever, darling.” The Jinn pulled a face and sighed. “Where were we… ah, maybe you liked some, chrysanthemums, peonies or sunflowers.” The Jinn made each appear as he named it. “Perhaps some anemones, daisies or caedes flowers —ow!”
Doris had slapped him for conjuring the vicious toothy-looking black flower. “Idiot! He wants to profess his love to Holly, not have her eaten by a carnivorous plant!”
Holly saw the fearsome plant lick its petals before the Jinn vanished it.
“Sorry! I was having a little fun with that one,” he said. “What about these?” The Jinn waved his hands and made some stunning Asiatic lilies.
Holly sneezed violently. Less than a second later she sneezed again.
“Jinn, get them gone quick!” Samuel demanded having grabbed some kitchen roll for her.
“Whoops, allergies. My apologies.” The Jinn vanished the lilies with a guilty look at Holly, who looked most uncomfortable just then.
“It’s okay, you didn’t know about my silly nose.” Holly said nasally as she took the tissue and blew her nose.
“I’m still sorry. Right, Sam. Try these.” The Jinn conjured a bouquet of beautiful red and pink roses.
“Those are perfect.” Samuel took them out of the air. “A magical bouquet for the enchanted lady who holds my heart.”
“Aw, thank you, sweetheart.” Holly accepted them and brushed her nose against his as they shared a kiss.
“Ahh, so romantic.” Doris knitted her fingers before her. Looking to the Jinn her enamoured look vanished. “Why don’t I get roses like that, huh?”
The Jinn created a matching smaller bouquet. “There you go darling.”
“Aw, thank you, Jinni.” The fairy dived on and assaulted him with kisses.
“Bloody hell, woman. I knew there was a reason why I didn’t get you flowers.” The Jinn shook free and smiled at her. “You are welcome though.”
“That’s much better you two.” Holly smiled at them.
“Thanks. The Jinn looked at himself. He wasn’t glowing. “You have to wish for something or I can’t go home.”  
   “I can’t.” Holly moved to put her roses in a vase. “I don’t want anything. What do you wish for Jinn?”
The Jinn sucked in a breath and blinked at her. “Who me? Nobody, ever asked me that before. Hmm…” The Jinn glanced at Doris who was looking expectant, then at Holly who nodded; urging him to say something. “I’d like a week with no summonses, that I can spend in Fairy Wonderland with my darling Doris.”
“Aww, that’s sweet.” Holly beamed.
“Would you really do that?” Doris gave the Jinn an interrogating look.
“If I could, yes,” The Jinn put an arm around her. “Seriously, Holly. I need a wish from you.”
“Okay, I wish for an apple custard Danish pastry for Sam. Some millionaire’s shortbread, for me….” Holly put her roses on the table and hugged Samuel again. “And a free week in Fairy Wonderland for you.”
“Fantastic! Consider it done.” The Jinn took Doris by the hand and snapped his fingers. “Thanks for the freedom, goodbye my friends,” he said as he and Doris glowed red and vanished in a cloud of glitter. A pair of thuds on the table caught Holly’s attention. There waiting for her were two huge plates; one loaded with Danish pastries, the other stacked with millionaire’s shortbread.
“Hmm, snack time,” she said.
“I think my football trainer is about to get annoyed with me.” Samuel gave Holly’s ribs a tickle making her squeal, then danced away from her. He picked up a Danish and bit into it. “Hmm, thanks for wishing for these.”
“My pleasure, sweetheart.” Holly tried a shortbread. “Wow, these are delicious.”

That evening Holly was driving her and Samuel home in her sky-blue and black trimmed Mini Cooper. She pulled over by the park.
“Why are we stopping?” Samuel asked.
“I have to pass this talisman on. I realise that the girl didn’t lose it. Magic coins like this, never stay with one owner.” Holly climbed from the car and entered the dark park beneath the velvety starscape, holding her footballer’s hand.
“Shouldn’t you try to keep it. I mean to be able to summon a Jinn and make wishes is a great tool, isn’t it?” Samuel looked at Holly in her Workhouse uniform. He’d fallen in love with her wearing that in this very park a couple of years ago.
“It sure is.” Holly lead him to the wishing fountain in the centre of the park. She glanced at all the pennies reflected in the lights beneath the shimmery water and smiled. “Yes, this is where is needs to go.”
“You sure? What if you need more millionaire’s shortbread and Danish though? What if you need the Jinn for something else?”
“I don't need the Jinn, Sam. I have my family, my friends, a lovely restaurant and most of all, you, sweetheart.” Holly turned her back, closed her eyes and flipped the coin over her shoulder. It splashed into the water behind her. “I dont wish for or need anything else to be happy.” she added while watching the coin sink through the rippling water of the fountain.
“Hmm, so long as I have you, I’ll always be happy too.” Samuel wrapped her in his arms. “You did wish for something before throwing the coin though, didn’t you?”
“I did. I wished for the coin to find its way to somebody who really deserves and needs it.” Holly felt truly content as she returned to her car and drove them home that evening. As for the talisman. We’ll soon see where it ends up next. You will join the Jinn to find out, wont you?





Thursday, 28 May 2020

Heading Home

by Dawn Knox

tea made with real tea leaves


Brian was heartily fed up with Christmas. Ma Bear had seen to it that he’d had everything he could possibly wish for before she and her family left to visit her sister over the festive season - but Brian had been lonely and homesick, wondering what Eddie, Gideon and Colin were doing. And now that Christmas was over, he was faced with the prospect of having to leave the Bear family’s house. He knew the chances of being discovered in the spare room by Pa Bear, would increase when the family returned. Joey had been rather subdued for a few days after her fur had been shaved and she’d kept to her bedroom, so she’d not been a threat. Pa bear had done his best to cut off the minimum amount of fur needed to free her from the floor but she’d looked so moth-eaten, Ma Bear had taken the clippers to her and shorn her all over. However, Joey had shown signs of boredom during the few days before the family left and, on several occasions, Ma Bear had stopped her from entering the spare room.

“It’s not that I don’t like having you here,” she’d told Brian, “you’re the perfect house guest but I’ve told Pa that I sent you back to Honkin & Sniffet because you were broken. If he finds out you’ve been here all the time…”

Feeling guilty at leaving him alone, she’d ensured Brian had an enormous pile of magazines to browse and plenty of food throughout the holiday. It had been an education reading about all the problems females faced and how to deal with them, and he now knew so much about weight-loss diets, he considered himself an expert. Lucky really, because with all the chocolate he’d eaten, he was going to need to lose a few pounds in the New Year. But exactly what the New Year would bring, was another matter. 

He’d thought about the journey home to Hummus-on-Sea and his reunion with Eddie. His hands bunched into fists as he tried to imagine Eddie’s expression and his first words. Would he apologise or would he bluster? But the thought had occurred to Brian that rather than going home, it might be a good time to travel. He’d always wanted to make a trip round the coastline of the Isle of Macaroon and now might be a good time to go. Ma Bear had found him some suitable clothes, so he was no longer wearing the tutu and ballet shoes. He could simply pack his things and leave. 

Yes, tomorrow, he’d decide on a destination. The Bear family would be home in three days’ time, so he’d make up his mind where he was going, then tidy the house and go.


At the same time as Brian was packing his things up ready to leave, miles away on the other side of the island, Colin was holding his empty teacup out to Cook.

“Hmm,” she said, peering into it and winking, “it looks like you’re going on a long journey… tomorrow, I’d say.” She was about to put the cup down when she faltered, as if something had caught her eye. She frowned and re-examined the cup, turning it slowly. Silently, she placed it back on the saucer, her face an impassive mask. 

“What?” asked Colin in alarm. 

“Nothing…”

“Please!”

Cook looked in the cup again, “Well, if you insist…” She sighed deeply, “Hmmm, I see anger and conflict.” She rotated the cup and screwing her eyes up, she examined its depths. 

“What? What?” asked Colin gripping the edge of the table.

“And there’ll be children, lots of children ̶ “

“Children! I’m not ready for children! I don’t like the thought of anger and conflict but I especially don’t want children!”  

“The tea leaves aren’t giving you a wish list, they’re telling you your future.” 

“Please can I have another cup of tea and try again?”

“It won’t do any good, Aleema,” said Cook, “the tea leaves have spoken.” 


The following day, Colin lay on the back seat of the car next to Lady Lovelace.

“ALEEMA! ARE… YOU… STILL… BROKEN…?” Lady Lovelace shouted, “ONLY… IF… YOU’RE… NOT… I… SHALL… GIVE… YOU… ANOTHER… CHANCE…”

“I have malfunctioned,” said Colin in a robotic voice, “and I am beyond repair. It is terminal. I need to be returned to the manufacturer,” he added in case she changed her mind about taking him back to the shop and instead, gave him to Newton to fix. The butler had a large set of screwdrivers and the previous day, it had taken some fast talking from Colin, to persuade him not to use it.
 
“You have been such a disappointment,” said Lady Lovelace with a sniff.

Seeing Colin close his eyes and turn his head away, she tutted and added “And I won’t miss having to use your wake word every time I speak to you either. I said, ALEEMA…YOU… HAVE… BEEN… SUCH… A ̶

“I heard!” snapped Colin. 

It was quite likely Lady Lovelace would take him directly to Sir Hugh Honkin, who was an old friend, and undoubtedly, she’d complain about shoddy goods being sold in his store. And he would investigate… Colin spent the rest of the journey planning his escape. As soon as Darwin helped Lady Lovelace out of the car, Colin intended to open the other door and run. There’d be lots of people shopping in the sales in Hummus-on-Sea and it would be easy to hide until he decided what he was going to do. The obvious choice was to return to the Soup John Bee and… well, he wasn’t sure what might happen then. It probably depended on how contrite Eddie was, as to whether he forgave him or not. But Cook’s reading of the tea leaves had shaken him. He didn’t want anger and conflict in his life, and he particularly didn’t want children – well, not yet anyway. Cook, however, had been unable to tell him whether the future she’d seen was inevitable or whether it could be changed, although it seemed to Colin that if he didn’t go back to the boat, he wouldn’t get angry because he wouldn’t see Eddie. And if he went off on his own, backpacking, then there couldn’t possibly be any children. The more he thought about it, the more certain he became that he should take control of his destiny and go off on a trip. 


“So what next?” asked Sat Nav, “No one’s responded to the posters we put up and we’ve driven down every street in Hummus-on-Sea. We’ve got to face facts; Colin and Brian may have been taken out of town. They could be anywhere on the island or even have been taken off the island…” her voice began to rise in panic.

“Calm down,” said Eddie.

Calm down! Calm down! I wouldn’t need to calm down if it wasn’t for you and your greed!” 

“I say,” said Gideon, “that sort of talk isn’t helping us find them. But you’re right, old girl, we need a plan. And I think I have one. Being involved in the world of espionage, I got to know a few private investigators. They can usually find anyone.”

“But we won’t be able to pay much,” said Eddie.  “We’ve only got enough to keep us until our first charter in February.”

“Don’t you worry about that, old chap” said Gideon, tapping the side of his snout with his trotter, “I have favours to call in and I intend to do just that.” 

An hour later, Gideon admitted defeat. Of all the private investigators that he knew, some had retired, some immediately hung up, some denied they’d ever met him and the rest had died. 

“Well, they’re not the only private eyes on the Isle of Macaroon,” said Eddie, “I’ll find someone.”

“But I thought you said we didn’t have any money,” said Sat Nav. 

“We do now,” said Eddie, “I’ve sold the van. I wish I’d done it before. It would have saved all this trouble.”

“You’ve done what?” said Sat Nav, “Well don’t for one minute think you’ve sold me too! A Sat Nav isn’t just for Christmas, you know!”


“Hello,” said Eddie into his phone, “I wonder if you can help me, please. I’m looking for a private investigator.” 

“Then you’ve come to the right place. This is BDI - Beady Investigations. We keep our BDI’s on your business. How can we be of assistance?”

“BDI’s?” asked Eddie.

“BDI’s – Beady Eyes – We keep our beady eyes on your business… I said it was a bit subtle for most people but my partner insisted. Well, how can I help?”

“I’ve lost two friends and I need to find them.”

Two friends?” 

“Yes, and if you’re about to tell me losing two friends is very careless. Please don’t. I’ve heard it all before.”

“No, of course not. Well, if you’ll give me some details, I’ll brief my partner and we’ll get to work.”


The money tucked inside the bodice of Colin’s tutu was irritating him but he dared not move and attract Lady Lovelace’s attention. The five Ducat note that Cook had given him might be aggravating him now, but when he reached Hummus-on-Sea, he would need it to buy some new clothes before he resumed his old life or indeed, started a new one. He wanted something simple – a onesy perhaps? In a neutral colour – beige? Or grey? Grey, he decided. 

At ten past eleven in the morning, Darwin eased Lady Lovelace’s car into Sir Hugh Honkin’s parking space in the Honkin & Sniffet car park. He held her door open and while she climbed out, Colin leapt out of his door and sprinted through the car park, accompanied by Lady Lovelace’s enraged shrieks. Running as fast as it was possible in ballet shoes, Colin hurtled into the packed High Street where he lost himself amongst the crowds. He dodged between the legs of shoppers who were strolling unhurriedly, inspecting the sales items in the shop windows. No one was in a hurry except Colin and in order to make some progress, he stepped into the road to get past a particularly slow group of chattering squirrels who’d obviously spent their Christmas money in Honkin & Sniffet, judging by the number of carrier bags they were clutching. As he stepped off the kerb, the bus from Eggsenham which was just approaching the Market Square bus stop, swerved and narrowly avoided him. 
Had Brian been looking out of the window of the Eggsenham bus which was about to arrive at the Market Square bus stop, he’d have seen a lemur in a ballet tutu leap back out of the gutter into the throng of squirrels and he might have even have seen two young rabbits stopping passers-by in the market, handing out leaflets. But he’d been too preoccupied with his thoughts and hadn’t noticed anything. In fact, he’d been so distracted, he only realised he’d arrived at his stop as the conductor was about to ring the bell. Brian had leaped out of his seat and jumped from the platform onto the road just as the bus pulled away, earning him some choice words and a rude gesture from the conductor. 


Shoppers clutching carrier bags and children’s paws, eddied and flowed around the two rabbits who were handing out leaflets. Many passers-by peered at the photos of the lemur and the monkey on the flyers and then shook their heads before losing themselves once again in the crowd. Others took a leaflet, promising to look at it later, then stuffing it in a carrier bag and forgetting it was there.

“My feet are killing me. Fancy a cup of coffee?” asked one of the rabbits. The other nodded, “Cake would be good too. I’m starving.” 

They sat down inside Le Bunnoir coffee shop, not far from the table where Colin was sitting with his back to them, thoughtfully sipping a hot chocolate. A few yards away, in the opposite corner sat Brian, who with an air of martyrdom and a glance at his bulging waistline, had resisted calorie-laden hot chocolate and had ordered chamomile tea.

“We’re getting nowhere, Babs,” Deirdre said, putting her bag of leaflets down on the table, “No one’s seen Colin or Brian.”

“We’ve just got to keep trying. Good Private Eyes keep their ears and beady eyes open.”

Police Sergeant McNabb entered Le Bunnoir and pushed his way to the front of the queue at the counter. He cleared his throat loudly.

“It has come to our attention that a crime has been committed. An item has been stolen or has escaped from Honkin & Sniffet—”

“Wot you tellin’ me for?” Ronnie, the owner of Le Bunnoir asked.

“Because your establishment is a very popular place and I want you to keep an eye out for the aforesaid item—”

“What sort of item?” 

The sergeant cleared his throat again and flipped through pages in his notebook.

“It is a Voice Recognition Speaker,” he read loudly.

“Wossat then?” Ronnie asked.

“I do not currently have that information—"

“Well what you tellin’ us for then? You don’t know if it’s escaped or been stolen and you don’t know what it looks like. What d’you expect us to do about it?”

Sergeant McNabb scowled at Ronnie, “We know the item looks something like a fairy and it answers to the name Aleema.”

“Now, it’s funny you should say that because there was a lemur in here a short while ago. Bought a hot chocolate, if I remember rightly. But ‘e didn’t look like a fairy. Not unless it was an off-duty fairy dressed in a onesy. Dunno what ‘is name was though.”

“I do,” said Ronnie’s wife, “I wrote it on his cup. It was Colin.”

Deirdre and Babs’ ears pricked up. 

“Colin?” said the sergeant, “Obviously not the item I want then, is it, madam?”

“Well, we ‘ad a monkey in ‘ere earlier too. Bought some o’ that disgustin’ ‘erb tea. They look a bit like lemurs, don’t they?” Ronnie said.

“His name was Brian,” said Ronnie’s wife, “I wrote it on his cup and he didn’t look like a fairy.” 

Deirdre and Babs looked at each other, their eyes wide open in surprise.

The sergeant sighed, “Well, just keep your eyes peeled… A large flat, white with extra cream an’ toffee syrup an’ a sprinkling of chili pepper, please.” 

“How d’you spell sergeant?” asked Ronnie’s wife who was poised with cup and pen. 

While Sergeant McNabb was spelling out his name, a small figure dressed in an inconspicuous, grey onesy glanced warily at the policemen and quietly slipped out of Le Bunnoir into the street. He was followed seconds later by a figure in black, with his hood pulled over his face. 

“Did you see those two leave, Babs?” Deirdre asked, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

 The two rabbits rushed to the door and looked up and down the busy High Street. 


Brian, dressed in black, arrived at the harbour seconds after Colin in a grey onesy.

“Brian! Am I pleased to see you!”

“Colin?”

They hugged and quickly exchanged stories.

“So, Eddie sold you as well!” Brian said.

Colin nodded, “There was a stampede for monkey fairy dolls after you left and I got snapped up too.”

“And, you haven’t seen Eddie since you left Santa’s Grotto?” asked Brian.

“No, I wasn’t sure I wanted to come back but I thought I’d have one last look at the Soup John Bee and then decide.”

“Me too!”

“So, have you made up your mind?”

“No.”

“Me neither.”

“Perhaps we ought to go aboard and let Eddie explain – and apologise.”

“Yeah, I think we should.”


Deirdre and Babs arrived at the harbour five minutes later. 

“Honestly, what’s happened to you? If you lost a bit of weight, you wouldn’t keep tripping over your own feet!” said Babs.

“Don’t get cross with me just because we lost them. It wasn’t my fault. And don’t forget it was me who spotted them in the coffee shop.”

“All right, all right! It doesn’t matter whose fault it was. They’re gone. We need to face it; we’re just not cut out to be private investigators. There’s only one thing for it. We’ll hand the money back and go home.”

“Yeah, I s’pose.  

They walked up the gangplank.

“Excuse me, ladies,” said Gideon who was mopping the deck, “may I be of assistance?”

“We’re looking for Eddie.” 

“And you are?”

“Babs and Deirdre from BD Investigations ̶ “

“Come aboard, ladies! Such a pleasure to meet you! And very well done for finding Colin and Brian, by the way.” 

Babs looked at Deirdre.

Deirdre looked at Babs. 

“#Confused,” said Babs.

“#Relieved!” said Deirdre, as they followed Gideon on to the Soup John Bee.


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

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, 27 May 2020

Fifty-fifty

by Jenny Palmer

a bottle of fizzy pop 


When he first came across the tadpoles in a puddle up on the moor, it was a total surprise. That was the last place he’d expected to find them. The spawn must have been laid during the rainy weather when the moor was wet and boggy. But it hadn’t rained in over a month and the earth was bone-dry.  What sort of creature had left its spawn in that congested, murky puddle up by the cattle grid in the middle of nowhere? The nearest reservoir was at least a kilometre away down the hill.
Normally, when he went on expeditions of this nature, it was in the company of his grandad. At this time of year, they would go off in search of tadpoles down by the old mill lodge. That was where the toads returned every year. You knew when it was the right season because people put up rude signs on the roadside, saying ‘Randy toads crossing.’ It was to try and slow down the traffic and stop the cars squashing the poor creatures as they crawled across the road to the lodge. 
‘Fat chance of that happening,’ his grandad had said. ‘Try driving in between a load of crawling toads. It’s not easy.’
He wished his grandad were here now. He knew everything there was to know about tadpoles. But his grandpa was laid up in hospital so he couldn’t ask him. He hadn’t let it stop him going out on his excursions though.     
‘You can’t go out on your own,’ his mother said, when he first suggested it.  ‘You’re only ten’.
It was the Easter holidays so there was no school. His mother worked part-time in the local supermarket as an essential worker and left him to his own devices at home.
‘But there’s no one around,’ he argued. ‘The roads are empty. And it will count as my daily exercise.’
He’ went on and on about it so long that she finally relented. 
‘Don’t be staying out longer than an hour, mind,’ she shouted as he shot out of the house. ’Otherwise it’ll me who will gets into trouble.’
 The road onto the moor was uphill all the way. It would be quicker by bike.  When he walked with his grandad, he had to slow down. His grandpa struggled with the hills. He walked at snail pace. 
‘It’s what happens when you get older,’ he said. ‘Especially if you’ve been a smoker. Your lungs pack up. Don’t do what I did, lad. Don’t ever smoke.’
He planned to visit one of their favourites haunts every day. He would take some photos and put them on Instagram to send to his grandad who, hopefully, would have taken his phone with him into hospital. This would be their way of keeping in touch since he wasn’t allowed to visit.
He’d no doubt face an inquisition from his mother when he got home. He wasn’t going to tell her where he’d been. It was between him and his grandad. She didn’t tell him everything anyway. It had taken him ages to get it out of her what was going on. Did she think he didn’t know? You didn’t go into intensive care unless you were seriously ill.
All tadpoles looked the same. They had a big head and a little, wriggling body.  When he’d first come across them, he’d rushed home to consult his wildlife encyclopaedia.  Frogs were mottled in shades of green, yellow, or brown with smooth, moist skin and needed to live near water. Toads, on the other hand, had dry, warty skin. They tended to crawl rather than hop and could survive on land in dryer places. So perhaps these were toads.  But then frogs laid their spawn in clumps in the water, whereas toads tended to wrap it around the nearby vegetation. All things considered; his tadpoles were probably going to turn out to be frogs.
They weren’t going to turn into anything if it didn’t rain soon. When he visited them the next time, the puddle had shrunk even further.  It was just a wriggling mass of bodies. Soon the water would have completely dried up. He went up close and peered into the murky water. The tadpoles were still in their early stages. Their legs hadn’t even begun to develop. It would be a while before their gills turned into lungs and they could start breathing air or their tails disappeared into their bodies. And it would be even longer before their intestines grew and they turned into carnivores, becoming the gardener’s best friend, and eating all the slugs and snails or ants in the case of toads. It could take as long as fourteen weeks before the transition was complete. At times like this, he wished that nature would just hurry up. 
When he got home his mother was in an agitated state.
‘They’ve just rung from the hospital to say that your grandad’s condition has got worse,’ she said. ‘They are going to put him on a ventilator. There’s nothing we can do but wait and pray.’
He couldn’t just stand by and do nothing. He went into the kitchen and took out a couple of jam jars, filled them with water and loaded them into his panniers and set off uphill again. He could save some of the tadpoles, give them a fifty-fifty chance at least. It was hard going. Every breath counted. But it was something he just had to do.

About the author

In June 2019, Jenny Palmer published her first collection of poetry called Pendle Poems. She has published two memoirs, called Nowhere Better than Home and  Pastures New  and a family history book called Whipps, Watsons and Bulcocks. They are available from the Pendle Heritage Centre, Barrowford and from No 10 Literature and Lifestyle, Clitheroe.  Her collection of short stories Keepsake and other Stories was published by Bridge House in 2018 and is available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle . Many of her stories are on the CafeLit website. A 59, Fatal Flaws and The Visitors are in Best of Café Lit 3, 5 and 7. The Visitors is also in ‘Citizens of Nowhere’ and Magnetism.