November 30, 2013 § 12 Comments
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.’
November 29, 2013 § 13 Comments
‘You don’t think she noticed, do you?’
‘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.
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…
‘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.’
‘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.
November 4, 2013 § 10 Comments
Just a bit of fun. But also an exercise in character development through dialogue…
‘I’m going to be an astronaut when I grow up,’ said Ben, scratching ice off the bedroom window with a fingernail.
India pressed her nose against the glass. ‘Why?’
‘I’ll be able to go places you can’t. Like outer space.’
India’s bottom lip wobbled. ‘I’ve got a passport so I can come too.’
‘Won’t let you. I’m going to the moon like Neil Armstrong. Then I’ll get really famous and never speak to you again.’
His little sister stuck out her tongue.
‘Lick that ice,’ said Ben, ‘and Jack Frost’ll make sure your tongue sticks there forever. It’ll hurt like hell and you’ll starve to death.’
India opened her eyes wide and stared. ‘Is Neil Armstrong still up there, then. On the moon, I mean?’
‘Are you blind? I can see him with one eye shut. And the American flag he stuck in the green cheese.’
‘Pants on fire,’ she replied, poking him gently.
‘Look,’ he pointed. ‘Eyes. Nose. Mouth.’
India turned her head to one side and squinted at the moon. ‘Hmm. Maybe I can see him after all. Oh my God!’ she cried. ‘He’s got a big scary mouth and looks really mean!’
‘Blaspheme again and I’ll tell on you.’
‘Mind your own business. And in any case the man on the moon isn’t mean – he’s grumpy because he’s hungry. There’s nothing to eat but green cheese, and he’s allergic to dairy products.’
‘How do you know?’
‘What else did he say?’
‘That Mum’s going nuts tonight because it’s a full moon.’
‘Once a month something weird happens to her brain.’
‘Lights out,’ said their mother.
‘Where’s Daisy The Bobble?’ wailed India. ‘I can’t go to sleep without her. He’s hidden her again.’
‘Have.’ She pointed to the pink bobble hat with pointy ears and whiskers under Ben’s bed.
‘You put her there on purpose,’ said Ben.
‘Stop it,’ sighed Mum. ‘I’ve had enough.’
‘Is it true?’ India whispered as they exchanged kisses. ‘Are you going to go nuts tonight?’
‘I will if you don’t go to sleep now,’ she replied, stroking India’s cheek.
But India couldn’t because Neil Armstrong wouldn’t stop glaring at her through the chink in the curtains. He got closer and closer, and was turning into a monster.
‘He’s coming to get me,’ she whined. ‘I’m going to die.’
‘Shut up, cry baby,’ shouted Ben, sticking his fingers in his ears.
‘What’s going on here then?’ asked Dad.
‘Neil Armstrong’s coming,’ replied India, putting Daisy on her head and pointing at Ben. She opened her mouth and roared. ‘Then you’ll be sorry.’
‘There,’ said Dad, rearranging the curtains. ‘And anyway, you’ll be safe because there’s going to be an eclipse and the moon will be hiding.’
‘What’s an eclipse, and is Mum going to go mad tonight?’ India breathed from under the covers.
But Dad took no notice. ‘Night night,’ he whispered, closing the door with a loud click.
Ben flicked bits of toast over the breakfast table, and India was making a mess with a soft-boiled egg. ‘Mum?’ she asked. ‘Ben says the moon makes you crazy.’
‘Did he now? That’s nothing but an old wives tale.’
‘What’s one of those?’
‘They’re stories Gran used to believe in the old days. Like it’s bad luck to point at the moon or look at it through a pane of glass. Chickens are supposed to lay more eggs on a full moon too. We’ll go and look in a minute.’
‘Codswallop,’ said Ben. ‘You’ll believe anything.’
‘Thirteen eggs,’ said Mum. ‘Double the usual. I know who did that.’
Ben went a bit pale, and locked himself in the bathroom with the encyclopedia.
That night he was scraping ice off the windows again. India pressed her nose against the glass, her bobble hat pulled over her eyes so she couldn’t look at the moon.
‘Cripes!’ shrieked Ben. ‘ Can’t find it anywhere! Or the stars.’
India pulled Daisy off her head and calmly got into bed. ‘All your fault. You’ve frightened off the moon and broken the stars. Now you’re for it.’
PS. Had a think. Chickens don’t lay eggs when it’s cold. Doh!!
October 10, 2013 § 11 Comments
A short piece of whimsical flash. Not a word of truth in it. But then…
Let me know what you make of it!
He was used to hanging around in this job. Good at the waiting game. He found things to do, planned the catch, preened the old tail feathers. Turning up late for work was bad news: his clients could be a handful – get a bit wild – give him the run around; and sometimes they got away. That meant trouble.
The wind was splitting the clouds into untidy clumps and ruffling his feathers. Nothing new then – Gareth was often needed when the weather turned nasty. That’s why seagulls were so popular in his line of work: they could handle gales. His mind hopped back to the night that ferry had gone down in the Channel. Force 9 it was – splashed all over the papers. There had been hundreds of punters needing help; but the boss called in reinforcements, and they got the job done just in time. Great team work too. That plane that went down in the thunderstorm last week had been a bit messy – got a bit out of control. Souls milling around aimlessly wondering what the devil was going on. Didn’t know they were dead. Still, accidents happened – that’s what Gareth was there for.
The organist was halfway through Gluck’s Dance Of The Blessed Spirits. Five minutes to go. It wouldn’t be soon enough for the two ravens that were eyeing Gareth from the belfry. They knew what he was up to and they wanted him off their patch. He hopped around the yew trees pretending to be interested in some rotting confetti, then he took a spider by surprise and swallowed it. The ravens cackled and started to dive bomb – Gareth sidled under the hedge and pretended he wasn’t there.
Like his cousin the albatross, Gareth was a soul catcher. When death took people by surprise their souls didn’t have a clue where to go; they’d flit about in a panic and end up causing havoc. If Gareth and his colleagues didn’t move fast they’d all end up in what was known in the trade as the twilight world – that in between place that wasn’t heaven and wasn’t here either. Being stuck there was when the real trouble started: the restless ones would slip back again and hang about haunting people.
Doris had been planning this day for months. She should have married Harold, and needed to sort things out with Alf so she could. She’d been slipping arsenic into Alf’s tea for a week or two, and it had finally done the trick.
Alf came out of the church in his box and Doris dabbed at her face with Harold’s hanky. The boss had been right to send Gareth – Alf had probably had such a shock when he died, his soul was probably still inside his body and getting a bit confused. This was Gareth’s only chance to sort things out, and probably Alf’s too.
As the coffin bearers lowered Alf into his last resting place, Doris kicked up rough. ‘Get rid of that seagull,’ she whined. ‘Horrible dirty things.’
Harold aimed a kick at Gareth, but he was ready for him. He dodged, fluttered a bit unsteadily, shook himself and peered down the hole. This was the bit where Alf’s soul was supposed to leave his earthly body. Nothing happened. Gareth hopped from one leg to the other flapping his wings crossly. Then he let out a squawk loud enough to wake the dead – Alf had been a bit on the deaf side after all.
Then he saw it: a silvery bubble rose from the coffin pulsating like a jellyfish. It reached the feet of the mourners and dithered. Gareth flapped his wings again and the bubble floated sedately towards him. It wobbled uncertainly then hovered two inches from his head. Gareth opened his beak wide and swallowed. Job done…