a rather small conversation

June 14, 2016 § 2 Comments

A story which I thought was incomplete as the rest of it is lost on my laptop and I can’t find it. But maybe it’s fine as it is. With thanks to Tove Jansson for being there…

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‘How would you know when you’d gone to heaven?’ asked Alice.

‘I’d just know,’ Gran replied.

‘How?’

‘I’d feel different.’

‘What kind of different?’

‘I’d feel calmer because people wouldn’t be bothering me with difficult questions all the time.’

‘What would it look like when you got there?’

Gran puffed up her cheeks and breathed out like she was a balloon and someone was letting all her air out. ‘I can’t be certain because I haven’t been there yet, and I haven’t talked to anyone who has either. I think it might look like that meadow over there.’

They went to have a proper look. The day was baking, the road was cracked and spattered with dried up cowpats, and all the wild flowers in the ditch were shrivelling up. They pushed open the gate and sat down in the long brown grass bending over from the weight of its seed heads. There were ripe buttercups to pick, and low spiky bushes of young blueberries hiding in the grass.

An earwig jumped off a seed head and crawled onto the old lady’s shoe. She picked a blade of grass and flicked it off.

‘Earwigs bite you know,’ said Alice.

‘Don’t think they do’, Gran replied. I’ve been in this world eighty eight years and I’ve not been bitten once.’

‘Well, I’ve been here eighty years less, and I have. Maybe you’ve never met a cross earwig.’

It crawled away and Alice wondered if it might come back and bite her. ‘Are there earwigs in heaven?’ she asked.

‘No,’ said the old lady firmly lying down on the grass and putting her sunhat over her face.

~

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Safely Dead:Three

November 30, 2013 § 12 Comments

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Earth was in deep trouble. Food mountains were shrinking to the size of molehills, deserts  appeared where none had been before, and everyone was suffering from S.A.D.  I tossed and turned and grew bags under my eyes. It was all my fault: if only I’d kept a closer eye on Bert.  I avoided the spy holes – I couldn’t bear to look. There was nothing to be done.

I kept busy. I enrolled on courses, studied hard, passed exams. As I climbed higher up the slippery pole of responsibility towards enlightenment, I began to hear rumours God was having trouble bringing the sun and all the clouds back to Earth.

I was attending a seminar on The Morals of Interference, and as I listened I was reminded of Bert’s mischief. ‘Excuse me,’ I said to my tutor. ‘May I unburden myself ?’

‘Please do,’ she smiled.

‘I once had a friend who interfered.’

‘And what happened?’ So I told her. ‘I wish you’d said earlier,’ she gasped. She sprang into the air, spread her wings and disappeared.

A few hours later I heard a distant crash. Holding my breath, I peered through a spy hole. Planet Earth was being soaked by a giant thunderstorm. Flashes of lightning shot through the darkness, and thousands of rain clouds were emptying their contents over the world. The seas became full, snow fell on the Himalayas, and the monsoon flooded the Bay of Bengal and turned it green. I even saw one or two smaller thunderclouds sitting over East Anglia. As the clouds cleared, a watery sun appeared over the horizon.

It was my turn on duty by the back door. Heaven was getting a lot of drowned people coming in that way, and they got confused if no one was there to meet them. I heard the familiar knock: it was the third request since I’d started my shift half an hour ago.  ‘Welcome,’ I said, holding my palms together in supplication. ‘Do come in.’

  ‘Didn’t know angels wore trousers,’ said the man with a face the colour of someone with heart disease. ‘Well, you’ll learn something new every day here,’ I said, adjusting my halo. ‘Hang on a mo…,’ said the man. ‘Don’t I know you?’

I stared a bit too long, and blinked. ‘Bert. Is it you?’

He nodded. ‘Never asked to come back. Was having a brilliant time.’

The words escaped from my lips before I could stop them. ‘Damn and blast and seven Hail Mary’s!’ I crossed myself quickly, and curled my mouth into a smile. ‘And to what do we owe the pleasure of this visit?’

            ‘Too much booze,’ said Bert. ‘Ticker gave out. Not my fault. The new wife – thirty years younger than me, she was – wore me out. And then there were those blue pills…’

            I tried not to flutter my wings in irritation, but they fluttered anyway. ‘Hmm,’ I said, remembering I was wearing a halo. ‘I suppose you’d better come in.’

*

Safely Dead: Two

November 29, 2013 § 13 Comments

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‘You don’t think she noticed, do you?’

‘Noticed what?’

‘The clouds, stupid.’

‘Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t,’ Bert replied. ‘Anyway, I don’t care. Not my problem. Don’t live there anymore.’ He scratched the shiny skin on top of his head. ‘Still, I am beginning to wonder where the sun’s gone. Maybe it’s an eclipse or something…’

Bert got down on his hands and knees and peered through one of the spy holes in heaven’s crust. ‘Looks a bit bleak down there. Still, Norfolk will have nice clear skies now. Shame about the dark.’ He struggled to his feet and stopped breathing. ‘Got it! It’s a side effect. Sun went ‘cos the clouds did.’

‘Ahh…’ I replied, not sure I was getting it at all. ‘You mean like when you take medicines and they make you even sicker?’

‘Exactly,’ said Bert.

‘That’s why you’re here, remember? The side effects of those pills you took for your little problem down below.’

‘What are you on about?’

‘They finished you off. Those Viagra things. Did you forget?’

‘I had rather.’ Bert started breathing again. ‘Oh dear. I feel quite peculiar.’

‘What kind of peculiar?’

‘Hot around the gills.’

‘You do look a bit weird,’ I said. ‘You’ve gone all rosy cheeked like you did before the ambulance came.’

‘I feel weird. Got pins and needles all over – like I’m not quite dead any more.’

The dust stirred underfoot and the trapdoor creaked open – all by itself. With a whoosh like a rather large tornado, a silvery wind coiled itself round Bert’s body and sucked him through the door. Then, it clicked silently shut.

Safely Dead: One

November 28, 2013 § 9 Comments

This is dedicated to mikesteeden who writes in the satirical genre much better than I ever could. Check out his site.

Parts Two and Three will be blogged Friday and Saturday. Any comments gratefully received…

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            ‘Dear me,’ I said, pursing my lips. ‘Now you’ve done it. How many clouds can you see then?’

            ‘Don’t get shirty,’ wheezed Bert under his breath. ‘Saw fifteen cumuli hanging over Norfolk this morning, and a few lenticulars loitering over the Himalayas. Can’t see any now though – it’s gone all dark.’

            ‘Did you mean to get rid of the clouds?’

            ‘Course. That was the whole idea. Part of my plan to improve the weather for East Anglia.’

            ‘But you didn’t reckon on the sun disappearing as well?’

            ‘What do you think?’ Bert replied. He knew he’d been rumbled. ‘If I did do it, didn’t mean to!’

            ‘Keep your hair on,’ I smiled, patting his shiny bald patch. Bert took a lazy swing at me and missed. ‘Got to watch the old blood pressure. Anyway, can’t say I didn’t warn you. You shouldn’t muck about with the weather until you’ve practiced on other things that don’t matter quite as much.’

            ‘Like what?’

            ‘Well,’ I replied, stroking my new beard. ‘You could have a go at turning zebras spotty or making rivers go uphill. That sort of thing.’

We were in trouble – at least Bert was – and as usual, I knew I’d have to pick up the pieces and do all the apologizing. But this time was different. Bert was in up to his neck, and I didn’t have a clue how he was going to wriggle out of it.

We’d only been in heaven a week or two, and we’d both read the rulebook. Bert had flicked through his in five minutes, but I’d taken the whole day and read it twice – cover to cover – so I could recite it word for word in case anyone asked. Top of the list in big red letters was the bit about playing God. Not allowed. Ever. Rule Number One said it was strictly illegal to change the course of history until you’d passed all your exams and been given a special certificate.

‘What we going to do then?’ said Bert in his best wheedling voice.

‘Not doing anything,’ I replied. ‘Had enough. You’re on your own, mate. Use your common sense.’

 Bert stamped his foot. ‘What was that?’ he exclaimed, staring at an old trapdoor hidden under a thick layer of dust. A gust of wind came out of nowhere, sparkled a bit, then settled as if nothing had happened. But it had: an angel had appeared – and was wagging a finger at us.

‘Rule number thirty two,’ she said with a sweet kind of smile that I didn’t quite like the look of. ‘Don’t bang on any of heaven’s doors! Not ever. That trapdoor hasn’t been used in years. We’re obliged to come and check to see if anyone wants to come in. We don’t like practical jokes.’

‘Sorry,’ I said, bending myself double in a respectful bow. ‘Won’t happen again.’

The angel nodded, turning her lips into a thin smile. ‘Enjoy your time here,’ she said. ‘And don’t forget that everything that happens is for your own good.’ She winked, waved prettily, and flew off.

Do Earwigs Go To Heaven?

November 1, 2013 § 10 Comments

 A fragment of a short story written a while back. The rest is hiding in my laptop and I can’t find it. Maybe the piece works on its own. What do you think? Unashamedly written in the style of Tove Jansson

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 ‘How would you know when you’d gone to heaven?’ asked Alice.

‘I’d just know,’ replied Gran.

‘How?’

‘I’d feel different.’

              ‘What kind of different?’

              ‘I’d feel calmer because people wouldn’t be bothering me with difficult questions all the time.’

            ‘What would it look like when you got there?’

            Gran puffed up her cheeks and breathed out like she was a balloon and someone was letting all her air out. ‘I can’t be certain because I haven’t been there yet, and I haven’t talked to anyone who has either. I think it might look like that meadow over there.’

They went to have a proper look. The day was baking, the road was cracked and spattered with dried up cowpats, and all the wild flowers in the ditch were shrivelling up. They pushed open the gate and sat down in the long brown grass bending over from the weight of its seed heads. There were ripe buttercups to pick, and low spiky bushes of young blueberries hiding in the grass.

An earwig jumped off a seed head and crawled onto the old lady’s shoe. She picked a blade of grass and flicked it off.

‘Earwigs bite you know,’ said Alice.

‘Don’t think they do. I’ve been in this world eighty eight years and I’ve not been bitten once.’

‘Well, I’ve been here eighty years less, and I have. Maybe you’ve never met a cross earwig.’

It crawled away and Alice wondered if it might come back later and bite her. ‘Are there earwigs in heaven?’ she asked.

‘No,’ said the old lady firmly lying down on the grass and putting her sunhat over her face.

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