About the Author
About the Author
An excerpt from Trish Jackson’s upcoming unpredictable, eccentric, politically incorrect romantic comedy, Backwoods Boogie, the third in the Twila Taunton, Redneck P.I. Series.
“If someone had told me just a few months ago that soon I’d be sitting in a jumbo jet heading for England, I would have laughed. I mean, me, born and bred in the South and proud to be a redneck. And now here I am. The flight is not completely full and there’s an empty place between me and the weird looking woman on the aisle seat. I stare at her for a while until she gives me a look and I suddenly get interested in finding a movie on the viewer in front of me.
They don’t serve bourbon on this airline, so I drink a couple of beers instead and pour the contents of the miniature bag of pretzels into my mouth. The flight attendant must have noticed, because she brings me another two bags, which don’t stop me from being starved when dinner is served. The aircraft food is okay, but there isn’t enough of it. The dessert is in this little miniature bowl which I finish in one mouthful.
I consider asking if we can get seconds, but I figure we probably can’t, since just about everyone has started watching movies.
I stare at a few of the other passengers, who open out those little miniature blankets and place the tiny pillows under their heads. Do they actually think they’re gonna sleep?
I’ve watched two movies before I decide I’m gonna have to pee. I’ve been hoping I would be able to last the entire flight without going, but the beers probably did it. And when you gotta go, you gotta go.
It’s not that easy to get to the bathrooms. First, if you have a window seat like me, you have to wake the woman in the aisle seat. I tap her on the shoulder. She is snoring pretty well, so the people around us must be thankful even if she isn’t. “Gotta go pee,” I tell her.
“Wha…? Oh. Oh,” she says and pulls the blanket off her legs and slides out into the aisle. I squeeze past her just as the aircraft hits a bump. I don’t understand how air can be bumpy, but I fall face-first onto the dude in the next aisle seat along. I mean, my mouth is right over his privates and he’s just lucky I don’t bite down. When I come up for air he has both his hands up above his head, as if to show people he ain’t doing anything wrong. Just getting an impromptu blow job.
The PA system crackles and the captain’s voice comes over it.
“We’re experiencing a bit of turbulence. Please take your seats and put your seat belts on.”
I hold onto the back of the dude’s chair and haul myself off him. We hit another bump and I crash into a woman on my side of the aisle. She throws me a dirty look. I’m not making much progress and wonder if I’ll ever get to the restroom. It seems to be very far away all of a sudden.
“Sorry Ma’am,” a flight attendant bars my way. “Please take your seat and fasten your seat belt.”
The airplane is really bucking now, and it reminds me of the new mechanical bull Ricci and Tina put in the Hogs Waller. “I have to pee,” I say and crash into her, knocking her off her feet. I land on top of her in the aisle. It takes a while for me to untangle myself and scramble to my feet. Another flight attendant glares at me and helps her co-worker up. I try to push past them, but now there are two of them blocking me.
“Okay,” I say. “I’ll just pee right here then, if that’s the way you want it.” I unbutton my pants. That gets them moving and I walk-crash to the restroom, waking up anyone who wasn’t already awake on my way.
When I finally get there, I heave a sigh of relief that it isn’t occupied. There isn’t a lot of space in it and it takes me a while to figure out how to lock the door. The toilet smells bad. The blue water inside it is slopping around quite a lot and I wait until a bump throws me toward the seat and I manage to land sitting on it. I find myself hoping the water isn’t gonna slop up and wet my ass.
I don’t have much time to savor that feeling of relief though. I’m beginning to get a little worried about whether we’re gonna make it out of this storm or whatever it is.
The captain wasn’t kidding when he told us it was gonna get turbulent.
I flush and make my way back to my seat, getting quite personal with a number of passengers, and reminding myself never to sit in an aisle seat. I heave a big sigh of relief when I finally manage to get back into my own seat and buckle up. Rain is pelting the outside of the window.
The turbulence sticks around for a while, but finally things get smooth again and the fasten seat belt lights go off.
Backwoods Boogie is scheduled to be released on November 14th, 2014. Apart from the comedy aspect, it also has a serious message about animal abuse and puppy mills in the US, and 20% of all the author’s proceeds will be donated to the ASPCA to help them in their fight to save dogs that live their entire lives in squalor in small cages and without veterinary attention.
Trish Jackson also writes serious and emotive romantic suspense, focusing on small towns, country folk and their animals. www.trishjax.com
Everyone knows who originally said the oft quoted, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard,” right? It was the English actor Edmund Kean, who lived from 1787 to 1833, who first said it on his death bed. Wait, no one recorded it and it wasn’t until the middle of the last century that it was attributed to him, so probably not. Well, then, it was Edmund Gwenn (Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street) who said it on his death bed to director George Seaton. The exact quote is a little different, but the gist is the same:
One day Seaton, coming into the room and looking down at his game old friend, felt a sudden surge of compassion.
“All this must be terribly difficult for you, Teddy,” he said sympathetically.
Gwenn didn’t buy that sympathy. A smile touched his lips. “Not nearly as difficult as playing comedy,” he answered cheerfully.
They were his words of exit. His head turned on the pillow. He was dead.
The only problem is that Seaton never claimed Gwenn said it. Motivational-writers Neil and Margaret Rau wrote it in their book seven years later. It has been cited, with a number of variations, as Gwenn’s by actors and writers many times and, eventually, biographer Don Widener recorded actor Jack Lemmon describing the scene thusly:
“George, I don’t like it. I don’t like it a bit. There is no feeling of peace, no feeling of anticipation. George, it’s awful. It’s frightening and I hate it.”
Not knowing what to say, Seaton murmured “Yes, old friend, I guess dying can be very hard.”
Gwenn thought about it for a moment and then looked at Seaton. “Yes,” he said, “but not as hard as playing comedy!”
Those were his last words.
Hmmm, quoting accurately must be even more difficult than comedy. But the two Edmunds are not the only contenders. Depending upon which source you prefer to buy into, it was George Bernard Shaw, Groucho Marx, Noel Coward, David Garrick, Marcel Marceau and, the last-ditch source of all wry humor, Oscar Wilde. Good ol’ Oscar has almost as many quotes attributed to him as Shakespeare. But at least Shakespeare’s were all written down on paper. The only sure source is Peter O’Toole, when playing the washed-up actor Alan Swan in the 1982 movie My Favorite Year, says “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” But he never claimed to be the first. So let’s leave the first speaker as “To Be Announced” and you fill in your own preference.
Now that the quote author is unsettled, let’s briefly consider what it says. Is comedy harder than dying? Stand-up comics refer to failing onstage as “dying,” so dying is failed comedy to them. If you’ve ever told the wrong joke (like a blond joke at a feminists’ convention) or the same one for the umpteenth time in front of your wife at parties, you’ll agree. It’s far easier to step in front of a Mack truck barreling down the highway than tell a great joke. So, as you read the following selections from The Write Room authors, be open to off-beat humor and enjoy. As the Reader’s Digest says (and I accurately quote), “Laughter is the best medicine.”
R.L. Cherry has published two books, a female-detective mystery titled Christmas Cracker and a noirish suspense titled Foul Shot, both available in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.com. For more about him and his writing, go to http://www.rlcherry.com
NOT FOR SALE by Micki Peluso
(From a friend’s actual adventure)
My daily horoscope hinted of disaster if I did not stay close to home. The throbbing pain in my recently-sprained ankle concurred. However, never being one to miss any sale, whether or not I needed anything, the warnings went unheeded.
I borrowed Nicholas, my grandchild who was both young enough to be endearing and old enough to be helpful, and drove to the discount warehouse with the temptingly advertised specials.
It was mobbed. When I glanced over at the scooters provided for the disabled, I was tempted. “How hard could it be? “ I thought, forgetting that I was technology impaired. Any gadget requiring more than two buttons, preferably off and on, was almost always a catastrophe. But fortune favors the bold, so I awkwardly climbed on one.
After zigzagging throughout the aisles, narrowly missing sideswiping young children or leveling tall, stacked shelves, I reconsidered my mode of travel. Scowls and snide remarks from other customers influenced my decision. Eight-year-old Nicholas trailed several feet behind me, pretending to belong to someone else. It was time to leave.
I drove the scooter to the nearest register a little too fast and became wedged tightly in the checkout lane. Even reverse could not budge the jammed scooter.
Amidst laughter from the observers that echoed through the warehouse, a strong, disgruntled male cashier lifted and unceremoniously dumped my 5’9” body onto the conveyor belt.
As I was scanned and slid down the length of the counter, my grandson asked, “How much did you cost, Gram? Were you on sale?”
Memoirist and humorist Micki Peluso is the author of And The Whippoorwill Sang
DEATH BY CLICHÉ by Linda Hales
It all started last Saturday night. My boyfriend treated me to comedy dinner theater. Dinner was only so-so but the comedy acts were killer and more than compensated for the mediocre fare. The star act began by cracking jokes about what sort of people you meet up with when you get to heaven. First, he warned the audience to think carefully about what they would like to be doing when the grim reaper comes knocking and especially, to think about what they do not want to be caught dead doing.
We heard about the clown who was greeted by an old movie actor who was renowned for his clown acts. This character instructed the newcomer to get into his sidecar and then proceeded to tour him around Heaven. Next up was the lady who went for a midnight swim and got caught in an undertow that forcefully whipped off her clothes leaving her stark naked. Needless to say, she spun frantically until she finally succumbed to those whirling waters. Well, darned if she wasn’t greeted in Heaven by a bevy of strippers!
Each successive routine was funnier than the last until I was laughing so hard I passed out. Or at least that’s what it must have looked like to the rest of the audience. Apparently they carried me out and no one was any the wiser.
Yeah, I actually did die laughing. When I got here, I was in for the surprise of my life or should I say afterlife? Some of the best comedians the world has ever known were here to greet me. Not wanting to be a name dropper, I can only assure you that my Heavenly buddies were literally household names so we’re talking major funny here. I’m in Heaven in more ways than one.
So now you know how I got here. I may have died in a cliché, but at least I died with my clothes on.
See Linda’s books at http://www.linnieslittlebooks.com. Available on Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/LindaHales/e/B004YKW4QU/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_nu_I4tGrb51FD314
DEATH IN THE ROSE GARDEN: Confessions of a Professional Assassin by Delinda McCann
I run a small farm and sell cut flowers. I suppose you might say I have a green thumb, in a sense I do. However one should keep in mind that I’m a professional. I plant great masses of flowers. When I assassinate flowers, they die in great masses.
As a professional, I try to keep up with all the latest in scientific and botanical discoveries. Last year, I fell victim to all the experts and decided to buy some new rose bushes on multi-flora rootstock, which is the scientifically proper and botanically correct rootstock for our damp Pacific Northwest summers. I even went so far as to purchase these beauties from a local grower a few miles from my house. I was doing the rose bush buying thing right! I even paid eighteen dollars for each of the little beauties. I bought two dozen. I leave it to you to calculate how much I spent. The total is painful. I carefully planted, fed, and watered my new scientifically and botanically correct babies. They died. Two dozen rose bushes at eighteen dollars each and I assassinated them.
I forgot to consider that while I get lots of rain, and I water my gardens regularly, my soil is sand and gravel. There is no way I can keep enough water on a multi-flora rootstock to keep the thing alive. However I am a professional grower. I will rise up and go forth to grow and assassinate more beauties. Until then, “They’re dead Jim.”
Delinda McCann is a social psychologist with many years experience working with at-risk children. She recently gave up writing learned papers for journals and has started writing novels. Her work can be seen on her website where you can also find her blog. She occasionally shares gardening tips among her other musings. http://delindalmccann.weebly.com/index.html
THE GRUNT by Anne Sweazy-Kulju
The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the farm team on that day.
The score was nothin’-nothin’, not one inning did they play,
The home plate ump implored the child–Musberger was his name,
The Red Sox catcher (minor league), said, “C’mon, let’s play the game”.
The mother glared in her reply, “she’s not a charm”, she said,
“Like unwashed socks and jock straps, or rubbing Pumpsie’s head”;
“Oh, c’mon, I’ll pay the kid. Heck, I’ll do anything”,
Is what the third base coach professed, then he began to sing.
Soon the players of both sides piped up a lullaby,
But instead of growing sleepy, the child let out a cry.
Upon the stricken bleacher-crowd grim hopelessness convoked
“This is a strange ‘delay the game’”. Musberger softly joked.
They sat down on the outfield; the infield swiped at flies;
“Well, I can’t just give a bottle every time this baby cries”.
The visitors grew restless, unversed in baby’s grunt,
Demand, they did, to start the game,
“Enough! This is a stunt!”
All eyes were on the baby, as Musberger yelled, “Play ball!”
Mom stood the baby on her lap in answer to the call.
From benches full of people, there came a growing rumble;
“They don’t pay me enough for this,” the home plate ump did grumble.
“Grunt, grunt, grunt, grunt”, came the allied roar,
It carried on the summer breeze; it beat the distant shore.
They saw the baby’s face twist up; they saw her muscles strain,
“I’ll make her MVP”, said coach, “if she’ll just do her thing.”
Suddenly a lip curled up, a scowl answered the crowd,
And to the wonderment of all, she grunted good and loud.
Her mother blushed bright scarlet, the catcher did the same.
Musberger smiled benignly, “Now we can start the game”.
If you agree with Anne Sweazy-Kulju (and Anatole France) that history books that contain no lies are extremely dull, visit her website: www.Historical-Horse-Feathers.com and read more of the author’s fun perversions of the past!
BREACH OF PROMISE by Kenneth Weene
“When I text him, we won’t even answer. He ignores me.” Tears trickled down her chubby cheeks.
The attorney noted each drop of sorrow in the margin of his long, lined, yellow pad. Money in the bank.
“He promised to love me forever, but he lied. It isn’t fair. I followed him for years, from the very beginning.” She dabbed her eyes with a hanky. “That first show he did, the one with his open arms. The poem about the secret place in his deepest heart. Wasn’t he speaking to me?”
The lawyer gave her a practiced look of sympathy.
“I did as he asked. I joined, I bought, I liked, and I followed. All for love of him. There was never another.”
The lawyer nodded.
“Even now, betrayed, I dream of him. If he asked, I’d even…” She shuddered. “I’d even go back to Manhattan with him.”
“You were promised love that would last forever, and then he disappeared.” the lawyer summarized.
“Leaving only his name written in electrons on my heart,” she replied, “never to tweet again. Without him I wish I were dead.”
“It’s breach of promise clear and unconscionable,” the lawyer growled. “We’ll sue for your distress. How dare he walk away like that!”
Quickly, the attorney drew up a formal complaint – filling boxes on a computerized boilerplate.
Through her tears, his client smiled. She blew her nose, signed her name, and paid a big, fat retainer.
The lawyer rubbed his hands with glee. They’d sue the entertainer for two mil and settle for half. Unless it went to trial, which could be even better. Miss Piggy could win the jury’s hearts no matter how sympathetic they were with Kermit for being a frog of color.
Ken Weene’s novels are available on Amazon and wherever good books are sold. Check out his writing at http://www.kennethweene.com
With April 1st just around the corner, we just had to do something. For those of you who caught it, we posted a very funny story by James Secor, one we had published before. For those who didn’t, April Fools’. And now the real fun begins…
[Excerpt from “Grog Wars”, Coming Soon!]
I’ll take the little hinny with me on patrol. But it’ll be a Pig-shearing Expedition”, he grumbled.
“I’m afraid I don’t know what that means, Queensy. But I do appreciate your taking Bleeker with you”.
Queensy smirked and asked his friend, “Have you ever tried shearing a pig?”
“Certainly not; why would anyone do such a–”
“Exactly, Mate! It’s too much squealing, and too little wool. When it comes to hunting Indians with the Pommie, I think I’d rather take my chances with the pig”.
“You there, Pommie, three of us are heading out tonight; we’ll leave in an hour, maybe two. Hard to notice you haven’t been of a scouting party, so far, and here you’ll be leaving us tomorrow when we reach the fort”. He clucked facetiously. “So you know what that means, Pommie? Tonight is your night. We need a fourth, an’ you’re it”.
Bleeker stared aghast at Queensy for several long seconds before he found his voice. By then, Queensy was already headed back to check on the horses and cattle. “I wouldn’t go to a party with the likes of you, ever–Indian or otherwise, Mr. Queensy. I don’t bear fools”, he hollered after him, tossing his nose into the air.
Queensy stopped in his tracks, turned slowly and smiled wicked at the snit they called Bleeker. “Well, I find that wonky queer, mate. Your mum certainly did”.
Bleeker could only spit and huff at Queensy–to do more would be to invite pain. He snatched up his journal and pencils and hurried off for his buckboard.
Detergent blue sky, birdcalls and nothing else; it was too early to be morning already. Queensy shook his friend’s shoulder until he woke. “Georg-without-the-e didn’t make it back last night. Don’t know if he’s off on the one-way trail, or not. The, uh, the Pommie didn’t make it, either–so they tell me. One of the others in our party, that meaty-pawed cooper, he saw Georg in a bit of a pickle, he told me. At the time, he was locked in fierce battle himself and couldn’t be of a help to Georg. He went looking for him later on, but there was nothing for it. Everyone was gone”.
Burke shook the cobwebs from his head and expelled them with a yawn. “What…well, how bad a pickle was Georg in, did the cooper say?” Burke asked, concerned.
“Well, the cooper said Georg had hollered to him that his sidearm only had two pops left in it. When the cooper looked Georg’s way, he saw an Indian on Georg’s left, and another savage to his right. An’ as I mentioned, the bookish little pommie, Bleeker, whinger about everything under the sun, including the sun, well, the cooper caught sight of him too—of course he was carrying on like a hinny, savages all around and he’s worthless as tits on a bull—I tried to tell you, Burke, pig shearing…”
Burke exhaled audibly. “We all know how you feel about him. Well, did the cooper say whether Georg had managed to shoot the Indians?”
“That’s just it, Mate. Georg didn’t shoot either one! The cooper said Georg shot that pommie twice, instead!”
If you agree with Anne Sweazy-Kulju (and Anatole France) that history books that contain no lies are extremely dull, visit her website: www.Historical-Horse-Feathers.com, and read more of the author’s fun perversions of the past!
Curtis had never been this far before. It was a big step. His father would have been pleased, but the old man was dead.
“That’s what happens when you take risks,” his mother had lectured. Her words had become the foundation stone of his life — a life lived within the safety of a metaphorical rock bunker.
“What am I doing?” Curtis questioned himself. He had to stop and hold on to a parking meter, to give himself time to think through his options. There were two – go forward or retreat.
“Tick. Tick,” the meter was counting seconds. Five minutes left.
Home beckoned: The safety of his front yard. The comfort of the living room, where the television offered glimpses into a world so seductive yet so terrifying to enter. The security of his bedroom and the soft quilt under which he could lie and dream of love.
Love — that was the force which impelled him forward. If she were not worth the risk, then there would never be a reason to leave his house, his yard, and especially not his room.
The parking meter clicked. The red flag.
She was his dream, the focal point of Curtis’s energy. For her he would brave the world.
Stumbling, he let go of the parking meter and moved forward. One more block. He could see the sign.
Another guy was going in. “What if they run out?” The thought pushed Curtis onward. “She’d never forgive me.”
Breathing heavily, Curtis burst through the door. “Do you have it? I have to buy it for her.”
“What?” the woman behind the counter asked in a removed voice not unlike his mother’s.
“The new Disney magazine. The one with Miley’s pictures. On the show, she told me; she told me to buy it.”
THE WIN-A-HOUSE SWEEPSTAKES
We all waited for Ivan Petrovsky’s luck to change. No, not change. Melt into a dark viscous residue of terribly bad luck. Okay, we were over-the-top jealous of Ivan Petrovsky who dreamed of owning and living in the only gated dacha house on Bartholomew Street.
We were less-than-neighborly neighbors, mostly renters of post-World War II dilapidated tenements that groaned under the weight of neglected years, including 114 Bartholomew Street where Petrovsky made what he called “his temporary residence.”
“Going some place?“ Scanlan the tailor asked him.
Then in an almost undetectable Russian accent he cryptically replied, “Dreams come true.“
In his childhood Ivan, his engineer parents, and his brother Sergey lived in an eye-captivating dacha in Pitsunda on the Black Sea. In fact, as Ivan told us numerous times, “Nikita Khruschev owned the next dacha.“ We would have fared better with Nikita next door than with Ivan.
He had won several lotteries. Nothing like millions, but enough to create a “Mr. Lucky” reputation. Once he said he would bet one dollar on 0-0-0-0. The following morning we checked the newspaper. 0-0-0-0. Petrovsky won five thousand big ones!
He had panache. You could see it in his swagger and that enigmatic pencil-thin smile. Though friendly enough, he felt superior because his family centuries ago sat in the czarist courts. The consensus of the neighborhood? If only we could all move to Winchester Circle, smile mysteriously, and hold up our noses like Ivan Petrovsky.
He was the picture of “imperially slim,” but unlike the poet Robinson’s “Richard Cory,” he harbored no hidden despair, no gun, and no bullet for his head. He was capital D dapper.
I’d been living on Bartholemew Street since grade school. Petrovsky in his early twenties moved in close by. Ever meet folks with a one-track mind? No matter the conversation, they unrail it and set their wheels on their favorite subject? Obsessive Ivan droned on about the eggshell-white dacha he would one day own.
One February morning, a few cities away, I came across a contest announcement in the daily free newspaper. “Win a Dream House” it read. The picture showed a huge plantation home. A possible win for the man who seemed to win everything? In several copies I filled out a few contest entries with Petrovsky’s name and address. The winner would be announced at the start of April.
No surprise. Ivan won the dream house. A rep from the sponsor, a three-man bugle band in tow, delivered it to his apartment on April 1.
“Congratulations, Mr. Petrovsky. You won an excellent replica of Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage House, fashioned by American Cast-Iron Edifices! Place it on your mantle. Use your Home-of-the-Month discount card to purchase more houses from our impressive collection.”
When the implacable Ivan Petrovsky confessed his bad luck to Donovan the bartender after several shot glasses of Stolichnaya, the revelation traveled up and down Bartholomew like a Russian MiG-31 Foxhound jet.
We all applauded Ivan’s sudden turn of events.
Sal Buttaci is the author of two flash-fiction collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press and available athttp://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Salvatore%20Buttaci
He lives in West Virginia with Sharon the love of his life.
I’m after a book, I know the shop that has it, and I know what it costs. I don’t like to waste time shopping. In fact I’m slightly obsessive about saving time.
The Internet was my godsend.
I browse online for books, but I buy them from my favorite bookshop. Why don’t I buy books online if I don’t like shopping? Life is far from ideal and not easily answered.
I work in a drab building 60’s tower block, which, like many of the older inmates, has cancer. The functional furniture was designed by engineers, engineered for space and efficiency, with no thought given to the inhabitants. The fluorescent strip lights stings my eyes, so at lunchtime, I escape for some fresh air and rush to the bookshop, followed by a Marks and Sparks sandwich and fruit juice and a sit in the park with my new book.
If it’s raining or very cold, I head over to a peaceful back alley deli for a freshly made pastrami and honey mustard sandwich on crusty farmhouse bread and a glass of squeezed juice. To warm the bones there’s also a daily soup. It’s pricey, but as an administrative manager for a bank, I can afford it occasionally. A wife, a child and a 40 mile commute take their toll on the rest of my pay packet.
About a week ago, one of my underlings royally fucked up and nearly failed his three-month probation. He had committed several clerical mistakes that resulted in some of our credit card customers being overcharged. Several complained and threatened to change banks.
As his supervisor I took most of the responsibility and was hauled across the coals. I was stressed not only because my team had screwed up but because I could have prevented the mistake by doing my job. Instead, I killed time at work browsing online for books just out of sheer boredom.
Being bollocked makes me feel inadequate, just the way I was as a 14 year old at school. “Hunter” my math’s teacher would shout “what is x if –b plus the square root of b2-4ac divided by 2a?” and I’d stand there and quiver.
“I what Hunter?”
“I don’t know, sir”
“You don’t know? Weren’t you listening?” and then, without waiting for an answer he’d turn to someone else and in a withering tone say “Johnson tell Hunter what the answer is”.
Of course my carpeting wasn’t anything like that, 30 years on. It was all a bit more civilized. But my ingrained reaction was the same, and my bowels churned.
I angrily left for lunch in a rush from the barren walls, fluorescent lighting, stale air and most of all the noise, the constant chit chat and shrill squeal of the temp agency girl flirting with the young men. Any other day I’d envy them and let it wash over me. Today, I felt they sensed my anger and were carrying on this way deliberately to bait me.
The crisp February air and sunshine were a welcome change from the murk of the office. I still felt unhinged, my head filled with a dense fog. It was like a serious head cold that causes stupid errors of judgment or retarded performance of even the simplest tasks such as getting on the right bus or checking that the road is clear.
I walked down the street, got on the tube, caught the train and went home, calling in sick from the train. It may have looked a bit suspicious, but I was more afraid of what might have happened had I stayed in the office.
Arriving at the station, I walked the 15 minutes home. Nobody would be there, my wife was at work and my daughter was at school.
Shit. It was half term. I’d forgotten all about it. I leave for work before my daughter gets up and return home after her normally. I’m a bit out of touch with her schedule.
“Hi Dad”, she said as I walked through the door
“Hi Jess…ah struth, its half term, isn’t it?”
“Er yeah? What you doing home?,
“Oh, I’m sick.”
“Bunking off more like,” she smiled
“Yeah, something like that.”
The mist had cleared a little. I liked seeing Jess. I missed her when I didn’t see her and as we grew older we were seeing less and less of each other.
“Say seeing as we’re both at home, do you want to go to a movie and grab a pizza for dinner?”
“Sorry Dad, I’m meeting Dianne and Susan in town in an hour or so”
“Ok, have fun, I’ll go to Sainsbury’s and treat myself.”
I went up stairs to change into jeans, t-shirt and jumper, pulled on some shoes, pulled the car keys off the rack and went to the car.
The drive was uneventful. But, because it was half term, the place was full of mums and their kids. It was like hell on earth and I was about to enter the seventh circle of it.
Hell is other people, according to Sartre. I’d say hell is a supermarket or shopping center during a school holiday.
The vegetable aisle thronged with human cattle. The elderly pulling along bags ready for an extra bottle of booze or a pack of biscuits; the chronically unemployed shy and feckless in their pajamas and slippers; mums of all types who needed to get something for the night’s tea as the half term upset their normal routine; and a few who fitted no category, people who should be working but weren’t. Maybe they’d finished for the day, were throwing a sickie or taking the afternoon off just as I was.
I let out a deep sigh as the mental fog descended again. I didn’t want to be around people and expected the supermarket, in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of the week, to be a quiet haven. I felt as if I were suffocating.
All I needed was a space at the deli counter for some nice pate, cheese and biscuits and then the wine aisle. Instead, I was blocked at every turn by a trolley or a small child and forced to perform little hopscotch-style jumps and shuffles to get through.
At the deli counter, I was out of breath and turning puce. Gripping the top of the counter, I deliberately took deep, slow breaths. It took a few minutes before I began to calm down.
Then some Neanderthal, halfbreed blubber babe in pink fleece pajamas and pink slippers wailed at a kid called Jedward and bumped, I should say rammed, into my back. She was walking at full speed and suddenly turned to clip Jedward around the head. I know his name because she was yelling it in his ear.
But then, to my utter incomprehension she wailed on me and spewed forth a string of expletives about how I was in her way. I took it for over a minute before I pulled out a night stick and beat her senseless – well, dead, actually. She was senseless before I laid a splinter on her. Her head cracked loudly and the blood scattered around the scene like droplets of mercury on a science lab desk. Her kid screamed in terror.
What was his problem? He was free now to change his name and escape the brutality of his life.
His fat mother, eyes popping out of her skull, jaw hanging loosely, would never speak abusively to anyone again.
I pulled off my jumper and t-shirt, wiped the blood off my face and walked calmly from the store. Time was frozen, and I walked through it. I didn’t hear anybody scream. Everyone parted as silently as the electric doors through which I left.
At least that’s what I wanted to have done as I slowly stirred from my dream of what might have happened.
The woman stopped shouting obscenities; I turned to the deli server and ordered. She poked me again.
“Are you gonna say sorry?”
“You deaf or stupid? Are… you… gonna… apologize?”
“For what? You bumped into me, I was just standing here”
“ You want a slap mister?”
I was beginning to wish I had the night stick.
“I’m sorry for bumping into you” I said without a hint of sarcasm.
She still picked up on my lack of sincerity. “You being funny mister?”
“No, I mean it I am truly sorry”,
“Well what you gonna do about it?”
The image of her dead body sprawled on the floor returned briefly.
“I’ve apologized, what more, could you want?”
“You could compensate me”,
“I don’t think so”,
“Buy me my shopping or I’ll claim sexual harassment”
I smiled at the thought of someone molesting this hag. I leaned back to breathe out of my mouth, to avoid the smell of cigarette smoke on her breath.
“What you laughing at?”
“Nothing, nothing”, I said before turning to the deli server, and asking him to pass me his meat tenderizer.
Stuart Carruthers is a sceptical deist, pseudo geek and frog herder. Having escaped British winters he now lives in Taiwan where he shares his house with his wife and two kids.
A park in Paris. What could be nicer? Or, as we French say, “Qu’a pu être plus gentil?” The weather was lovely. The smells perfect. It was heaven. Pigeons and sparrows to watch. An occasional dog to be ignored. After all, they are beneath me. I have been in shows and have a reputation. My parents had taken me to Paris as a birthday present, and I was going to show those French dogs how a real poodle prances. Others who took no notice of my presence must have never been privileged to my status.
They had taken me to see all the sites, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, L’Arc de Triomphe. We stayed at Hôtel Regina at deux Place des Pyramides with a golden statue of Jean d’Arc in the center of the square, next to Rue de Rivoli and the Louvre. Four star all the way. Dad and Mom took me for evening strolls in front of the museum. Very fitting in my estimation, especially when Dad had to pick up after me. Class all the way, no mess left behind. I do enjoy a good walk. “J’apprécie une bonne promenade avec les humains.” Besides, boring walks are for those beneath my celebrated stature.
“It’s time to leave,” Mom said as she stifled a yawn.
I don’t want to leave!
“Gigi needs to take a nap before dinner.”
No I don’t! Just because you’re tired doesn’t mean I am!
Dad checked his watch. “Yeah, it’s five-thirty. She was a royal pest last night at the café. So overtired, she wouldn’t stay still, kept going from lap to lap.”
I wasn’t overtired. I was bored. Parents can be so misinformed.
My father picked up the bags of souvenirs while Mom gathered her camera and my leash.
“Come on, Gigi,” Dad stated. “Time to get back to the hotel for your nap.”
Nap? Je n’ai pas besoin d’un petit somme; je veux jouer! No nap for me !
A fragrant leaf fell nearby. I investigated with a whole-hearted sniff. Is that hamburger with a dash of béarnaise sauce? The French sure know how to cook!
Mom pulled me towards the exit. I made my objections known.
“Tisk,” I stated. “Tisk, tisk, tisk.” Why don’t they respond? I’m dead serious about my unhappiness. “Tisk, tisk, tisk!”
“Honey,” Mom said to Dad, “isn’t Gigi so cute? She’s upset about leaving the park and is tisking.”
Renversement? Naturellement je suis bouleversé.
“She’s a sweetie,” he admitted lovingly.
I know I’m cute. I’m the Dauphine. It’s says so on my papers—Dauphine Giselle. That’s a royal French title. Since I’m the Dauphine, I shouldn’t have to leave this park. This is Le Tuiliers and was intended for royalty like me! This is MY park.
“Have you noticed all the people who want to pet her? She’s the prettiest toy poodle in Paris,” Mom spoke to Dad.
Prettiest toy poodle? I bet I’m the only toy poodle; all the others are bigger and not nearly as beautiful.
At the crosswalk, Mom picked me up. She gave me gentle kisses on the top of my head. This won’t get you off the hook. All those kisses won’t change the fact that you took me from the park. Waiting for the light to change, I kept tisking. I hoped by some miracle my pleas would cause them to turn around and go back to the park. Then I tried the pout. You know that ploy that few parents can resist. Nope. Not one reaction.
Once we crossed the street on the same block as the hotel, Mom spotted a dog. A nice old lady held a snippy little Yorkie named Luc. He was cute and sniffed at me, but definitely not my type. He was a dog after all and not a poodle. There are some standards, which must be maintained. Poodles are people, and in my estimation, all the rest are dogs. I greeted him cordially and wasn’t rude, but he clearly knew his place in the social stratosphere. Luc’s Mom patted me on the head. She was kind and I didn’t hold it against her that she didn’t recognize the superior qualities that is poodle.
In the lobby, we paused to enjoy the luxurious surroundings. Still very disheartened with my parents, I made a point of stopping at the reception desk to voice my objection, stood squarely and looked up at Jean-Paul, the concierge. “Wow, wow, wow,” in my best French accent. “Wow, wow!”
“Monsieur and Madame, Gigi is adorable,” Jean-Paul replied with a thick French accent as he looked down from the towering desk.
Adorable? Non. Je suis magnifique!
“Merci, Jean,” Mom answered. “We’re off to our room so Gigi can have a nap.”
She’s back to the nap thing again. Mom’s got a one-track mind.
Dad added, “You know how children can be when overtired.”
Mom received my famous eye roll. She didn’t get that message either. Resigned that there would be no more park for the rest of the day, I headed to the elevator.
“Look, after only one night, she knows the way to the elevator,” Jean-Paul mentioned.
Of course, I remember where the elevator is—I am a poodle after all!
When the elevator doors opened, Mom released the leash. I scampered down the hall to room 318. Dad and Mom trailed behind as I sat there giving the cutest tail wag I could muster. It seemed to me, they wanted the nap, and I was merely their excuse.
“Gigi is so smart,” Dad mentioned proudly. “Look, she knows where the room is.”
Duh, Dad. You were holding me when you checked into this hotel, and I remembered the room number. Jean-Paul must’ve mentioned it at least twice. After all, I can read, all poodles can; it’s dogs who can’t read.
Card-key in slot. Familiar buzz sounded. I ran in and around, jumped on the bed and settled between the two pillows. Don’t nap, I told myself, just rest my eyes so they think I’m sleeping.
The next thing I remembered was Mom waking me up for dinner. A nice piece of steak was my reward. I’ll never admit to taking that nap!
Note from author: Is there a real Gigi in our lives? Yes. She’s a breathing, pompous white toy retired show poodle who stole our hearts and runs the roost. The incident described is the truth, as I imagined what thoughts ran through her cute little mind.
© 2013 Cynthia B. Ainsworthe
IPPY Award Winner, Front Row Center, romance
Reader’s Favorite International Award Winner, The Speed of Dark, fiction anthology, Clayton C Bye
The Write Room Blog: http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=366
“Oi that hurt. Stop it you crazy cow.”
That one was an orange onyx ashtray and it bounced off my shoulder before leaving a hole in the grass. Any higher and I’d have been lying spark out on the garden I was standing on.
It all started a week before when I got called into my editor’s office after a few weeks of reporting on Christmas nativity scenes.
“Harry, Joe ‘Jawbreaker’ Jones, has been nicked, go and cover his trial and the impact on the community. Take Max with you for the photos when the trial ends.”
I’d only been in the job a year, and this was my first real assignment. I’d covered court cases before as a trainee when I went and watched cases about minor stuff like shop lifting and drunks being wheeled out in front of a magistrate, but Mad Joe was serious. He and his family had been terrorizing the area for the last 20 years and he’d got away with it every time. He was a nutter. The case lasted a week and it was a foregone conclusion, he was going down and when the judge returned to pass sentence he was given five years. His family, sitting next to me, shouted and booed when the pronouncement was given and when I started to ask questions I was given a thinly veiled threat from one of the younger members of the family.
“Piss off unless you want your pretty little fingers broken,” was how he phrased it. My fingers are neither pretty nor little. These gnarled things had worked hard on my late father’s farm and good genes had made them the size of dinner plates, but I took his point and left it for a day or so to go and talk to some of his victims. They were scared, the family had long arms and they were keen that their protection racket wouldn’t stop funding their middle class lifestyle just because Pa had gone away for few years. A few “off the record” conversations with no names and no pack drill hadn’t given me enough for a paragraph, never mind the four columns that my editor expected for the Friday edition. I needed to do something drastic.
“Max, I need some decent snaps so I can build a story, let’s do some detective work.”
Max, was the same age as me and just getting started. Luckily he was as keen as I was stupid and he was up for any plan I had.
“Alright ‘arry what’s the plan?”
The plan was to follow the little thug that had threatened me and find out what he was up to. He was easy enough to find, the ‘family’ drank in a shithole of a pub where they were given free drinks in exchange for not burning the place down. Walking through the stained glass wooden doors we approached the bar and the place fell into the kind of deathly silence that would have allowed a gnat’s fart to be heard. All eyes fell upon us like the spotlights on an escaping prisoner. I leaned on the bar and ordered a couple of beers from the barman, who looked at one of the family, before being given the go ahead.
“What do you want, pal? I told you to get lost unless you want your hands broken.”
“I just want a drink is that so wrong?”
“Drink it and leave, it’s on the house.”
I expected as much, and Max and I necked our pints before peeling my jacket sleeve from the sticky, beer drenched bar and heading out into the frigid February air and into our car that parked up the road.
Three hours later and we were still there, feeling like castrated metal apes.
“Jesus it’s cold,” I complained for twentieth time, as I breathed on my hands.
“Oh shut up ‘arry, it’s fuckin’ winter. You know it’s gonna last for another few months. Anyway I reckon he’ll be out soon, he must have something to do today.”
Max’s intuition was spot on and next time we looked up, this bloke and a couple of mates were leaving the pub. They climbed into a nearby Cosworth and disappeared round the corner before my Montego had even got warm.
Just as we turned the corner, in the same direction that they’d gone, and cursing myself for not keeping the engine running, we saw the same red RS had been stopped by a Panda and the boot was open with a police officer holding, in his gloved hand, a sawn-off shotgun.
“That’s one for the good guys. Max, get a picture of that will you, I think I have my story, but first let’s go and tell the poor man’s mother.”
A five minute drive and we were outside Ma’s house and I knocked on the door.
“I know you. You were outside the court when my Frankie was sent down. Barry told you to get lost.”
“Yeah, I just saw him having a conversation with the policeman holding a shotgun. It seems like you may be losing a son as well. Now do you have anything to say for the Herald?”
She slammed the door in my face and the next thing I know pots, pans and a lot of abuse are being thrown at me from an upstairs window.
The photographs were great; especially the ones of me cowering behind my car after the ashtray nearly dislocated my shoulder and her other children speeding down the road to rescue Ma and coming over with baseball bats to damage my hands and Max’s camera. We sped off for the good of our health.
Barry was locked up for a six months, and I was given a death threat, which, after the windows on my car were broken, I took seriously enough to hand in my notice and see what Hong Kong could offer to a probationary hack.
Stuart Carruthers was born in England, where he lived until 2005 when he decided to sell everything and move to Taiwan because “no one he knew had ever been there”. Several years later he married and had two children. He’s written 2 short stories about Harry in Hong Kong which can be found at: http://www.amazon.com/Stuart-Carruthers/e/B008LR5FRM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1