Wednesday, 29 December 2010

A New Home in the Sky - As Good As It Gets

A work request arrives into the Klueless Support team’s queue with an apologetic little ping. The boss reads the summary - and then re-reads it aloud for our benefit.

“User is requesting that the number 7 be removed from a report”


Does the user want us simply to open the report in MS Word and delete the offending figure?

We could do this, obviously, but that would kind of invalidate the report, wouldn’t it? Imagine if people were suddenly to start going around changing figures in reports that they just didn’t like the look of? Where would it all end? Whole wars might be started, for pity’s sake! Surely our user can’t be suggesting that we behave in such an anarchistic fashion?

It must be something else then.

Maybe the user wants us to alter the fundamental properties of the universe such that the number seven no longer exists? Technically, this is more of a challenge, obviously, and could have far-reaching effects. How many days would there be in a week? How many ages of man? How many ancient wonders of the world? How would we refer to the film we currently know as The Magnificent Seven? The Magnificent 6a just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

Turns out that all the user wants is for us to remove seven erroneous data records from the database so they don’t show up in the report. Boring, but makes a bit more sense and, more importantly, is within our power to accomplish (although I was willing to give the removal of sevenness a shot if there was some overtime in it).

Numbers are weird things, though, aren’t they? I myself was a total duffer at maths in school but always really really wanted to be good at it. Alas, the principles of mathematics slipped through my desperately grasping fingers like so many greased eels on Speed. I’ve always admired people who ‘get’ maths.

We were discussing this very topic recently in an idle moment at Throwback Towers. There had been a documentary on TV about the chap that finally solved Fermat’s Last Theorem. This fellow spent something like seven (or 6a, if you will) whole years closeted away with just a pencil and paper, working on this problem (no computers, note, which is probably why he was able to solve it – just sayin’). He shared his work with very few people and then only when he was finally getting ready to reveal it to the world. It was the crowning achievement of his life – by his own admission, he is never again likely to accomplish anything like as important as that piece of work.

You have to admire the dedication, the patience and sheer singlemindedness needed to work like that.

You have to feel sorry for a man who knows that he will never be able to equal that one shining moment in his career.

For him, that was as good as it gets.

After some discussion (and an umbrella-fight – don’t ask!), we agreed that the rivers of our lives would most likely flow on serenely, happily untroubled by having to come up with something to ‘top’ what we had already achieved.

This means one of two things:

a) We are a bunch of unprincipled slackers whose capacity to under-achieve is matched only by our dedication to the same.

b) We still have our crowning moment ahead of us somewhere.

I’d really like to think it was the latter.

Monday, 27 December 2010

The Poetry Bus looks a gift-horse in the mouth

I'm finally back at the bus stop after a several-week absence. My word-hoard has been as empty as my wallet after Christmas. Today, however, I managed to scrape together enough poor coins for the fare.

This week, Muse Swings has set us the task of writing about the worst gift we ever received.

This poem, although written in the present tense, describes a gifting of many years ago.

Click on Muse Swing's link above for the original prompt and the links to other bus passengers. Have a go yourself, there's still time.

The Gift

America, America, home of the brave and free
Land of milk and honey, and of opportunitee.
A land o'erflowing with good things, to see, to eat, to wear.
So what d'you think my mum-in-law has brought me back from there?

Has she brought me Wranglers, or Nikes at cost price?
Has she got a camera?  A Walkman would be nice!
Perhaps some Hershey's Kisses, or some other candy sweet.
Just some little trinket, just some little treat.

Now, I know she's tried her hardest and this gift is kindly meant.
There are no hidden messages - to please is her intent.
So can anybody tell me, can someone make it clear
Why she's brought me back a dishcloth, when we HAVE THEM OVER HERE!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Sum - My Take on the Afterlife

Some time ago, a book was published called Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, by David Eagleman.  This delightful, imaginative, moving, thought-provoking book is a collection of short imaginings of what the afterlife might be like.

I thought I'd have a go at writing one myself....

You will wake up in what appears to be a reasonably good quality hotel room – clean, comfortable and completely characterless. There will be the usual tea and coffee making facilities, TV, en-suite bathroom and so on. The thing that will be missing is the door to the outside. The view from the window (which does not open, by the way) will appear to be a generic cityscape – nowhere you recognise.

You will wander around for a while, as all hotel guests do on their first day in a new room, peering in the various drawers and cupboards and checking out the quality of the biscuits/soaps/shampoos/towels, etc. The cupboards and drawers will all be empty apart from the usual hotel paraphernalia of leaflets about laundry arrangements, the Room Service menu, Do Not Disturb signs and those strange detachable coat-hangers. On none of these items will the name of the hotel be found.

There will be a phone beside the bed, but it will have only one button marked ‘Room Service’.

Eventually, you will be bored enough to turn on the TV. There will be only the one channel, however, and after watching it for a short time, you will realise that it is showing your life.

After watching some more, you will realise that what is being shown is not simply a replay of your whole life, rather it is a collection of selected events - all ones where you have behaved badly, have made mistakes or been embarrassed. Not one instance of you letting yourself or others down has been omitted from this montage and it makes excruciating viewing.

You could, of course, turn off the TV at any time, but then there would be nothing else to do.

Puzzled, ashamed and intrigued by turns, you will continue to watch. From time to time, you will take a break to sleep or to order food and drink from Room Service – which will appear almost immediately out of thin air.

Days will pass, the bed will somehow be made, the room will be cleaned, and the tea and coffee, and the little soaps, shampoos and towels will all be replenished as if by magic.

Eventually, the TV will get to the end of your life and then the programme will begin again from the beginning.

At this point, it will come to you that you are probably meant to do more than just passively watch the programme, so this time around, you will try to work out why you are being shown only the bad parts of your life.

As each scene unfolds, you will study it more closely than you have previously. You will try to divine some meaning in it, but no other meaning will become apparent and the programme will repeat again when it reaches the end. This will happen several times and the lack of any apparent progress will reduce you to despair, you will imagine that this is some kind of punishment for your sins.

If only I could be granted forgiveness, you will think.

The thing is, there will be no one else here but you.

It is only when you finally realise that you are the only one who can forgive the lapses and sins being shown on the TV, that the missing door will finally appear and you will be able to leave.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Cutlery Drawer Morning Briefing Session

Location: Cutlery drawer

Chair: Tate O'Peeler

Apologies: C. Knife (detained in washing-up bowl), Canaugh Pener (unavoidably delayed on counter-top)

Good morning everyone, glad you could make it. I know how difficult it can be to make it back here from the sink or the drainer sometimes, what with transport being so unreliable these days. Please be assured that we have made this problem known to management and they have said they will look into it.

Anyway, this morning is all about good news. As you can see, management has refitted our drawer with a shiny new white plastic tray for us, which is much nicer and more hygienic than the old one we had to slum it in for so long.

I should point out that management has asked me to remind you knives not to punch holes in this one like you did with the last. Yes, I know it wasn't your fault - management kept slamming the drawer and throwing you to the back, I know. Nevertheless...just try your best, please.  Thanks.

The second bit of good news I have for you today is that our brother Spoon has returned from his 15-year secondment as Head of Tumble Dryer Portal Activity Facilitation.

Some of you older ones may just about remember when they chose Spoon - shiny young thing that he was back then - because he had exactly the qualities they were looking for. Though all the spoons back then were given the chance to prove themselves, only this spoon was found to be capable of performing the difficult job of levering open the door of the tumble dryer after its own handle broke, thereby saving the management the considerable expense of replacing it.

Now this work was well outside Spoon's normal remit. It was not what he has made for, but I'm happy to say that he performed his duties all that time faithfully and without complaint.

Management has now replaced the tumble dryer with a model that has a fully-functioning door-catch, and Spoon has at last been re-assigned to our department. He will, of course, undergo a short course of re-orientation – it's been a long time since he's been allowed to scoop or stir, after all, and we don't want any accidents, do we?

Now, I know some of you are worried that Spoon's time away from us may have affected him, and I know there have been rumours floating about the kitchen of him attempting suicide by repeatedly throwing himself down the back of the tumbler.

Let me make it clear, here and now, that those rumours are false. Spoon did once fall down the back of the tumbler to remain undiscovered for three weeks, but he has assured me that it was an accident brought about by a bit too much New Year's Eve drinking, nothing more.

When he starts back tomorrow, I want you all to make him feel welcome, OK?

Well, that's about it for today, folks. Thanks for coming and keep up the good work.

Oh, just one thing before you all go. Management is looking for volunteers to act as Brachial Extenders in their High Kitchen Window Closure Project. Spud Masher, you'd be suitable for that role, I reckon. Let me know if you're interested.....

Alright, that really is it for today.  See you tomorrow.

Monday, 6 December 2010

A New Home in the Sky - You Could Not Make This Stuff Up

Old Bessie isn't well.

Various grim-faced Men in Overalls (some with Canvas Tool Bags) have visited her down in the basement of Throwback Towers, scratched their heads and gone away again. Bessie is very old, you see, forty years old, in fact and for a boiler, that's pretty ancient.

The Scotsman, who is the caretaker and living embodiment of Throwback Towers (having himself been installed when the building was first put up, and who will, I think, simply fade away into thin air when TT is torn down to make way for yet more 'vibrant' Cafes, Shops and Bars - a baffling obsession of our City Planners) tells us sadly that she's never given a minute's trouble in all that time. The thing is, though, forty-year-old parts are not easy to come by.

So, it's extra layers of fleeces, jackets, hats and gloves up on the seventh, oh and, endless cups of really hot tea – not to drink, mind you, just to hold .

From our window, nothing is visible again today because of the fog. We could be in a kind of chilly limbo. Perhaps this is some kind of afterlife. We often joke that we must have all been killed in a plane crash or some such and have each somehow ended up here, doomed to tend Klueless, its servers and databases, for all eternity. On a day like today, when there is nothing but a blank whiteness outside the windows, you could almost believe it.

A Business analyst comes wandering in, complaining that her computer cannot seem to connect to the corporate network for some reason. She's not technical (they seldom are, bless!), so one of our number trots over to see if he can help.

A while later, he returns with a cat-that-has-not-only-got-the-cream-but-has-just-acquired-a-controlling-interest-in-Associated-Dairies look on his face.

"Fixed it!" he announces, smugly.

"Oh, yes?" we cry, "What was was it then? IP Address conflict, proxy settings not set properly?" Techies ALWAYS want to know how stuff got fixed.

"Well," he says, absently breaking the ice on his tea with a spoon, "When I unplugged the network cable, you'll never guess what I found."

"What did you find?" we chorus, playing the part alloted to us in this little drama, and expecting some blether about broken connectors, loose wires and so on.

"There was a dead ladybird wedged into the network port."

"A dead - ?"

" - Ladybird.  Yes, an actual dead ladybird."

He looks at us expectantly. 

And there it is.  It's hanging in the air like a cloud of Sarin gas, but nobody wants to go there.  Nobody wants to, but somebody is going to have to Do The Decent Thing.  Sooner or later, somebody is going to have to say....

"So, you're saying there was a bug in the network?" says the Boss.

We breathe a sigh of relief, glad to get that out of the way.

You really couldn't make this stuff up, and I promise I didn't (although I may have exaggerated about the cold - a bit).

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Exam Time with Dominic Rivron

On his blog, the erudite Dominic Rivron has challenged the blogosphere to write an essay answer to one of the exam questions from the paper that would-be students at All Soul's College are required to sit.

Not having written (or thought) anything of much substance of late, I thought I'd give it a go.

Dominic's post is here, where you can read his essay and also get to the list of questions.  My effort is below.

How would you explain the current strength of religious fundamentalism?

Almost daily, the media bombards us with news of some new and/or important scientific or technological advance, be it a step on the road to a cure for cancer or the invention of a new type of portable music player.

The internet allows us to access ideas, philosophies, knowledge and ways of thinking far different from our own at the simple click of a mouse.

Fashions, cultures and mores are changing quickly – the rate of change fuelled, no doubt, by the ease with which ideas can be spread around the globe, and by the sheer number of minds it is now possible to pollinate with any new idea along with the speed at which this can be accomplished.

So it's a changing world, an uncertain, unequal world and, for many people, a very threatening world. Religious fundamentalism offers certain advantages to the true believer, certain comforts.

If it were a product, it would be marketed like this:

You have a place in the grand scheme of things. You may be insignificant to your government, to your employer, to your neighbours even, in this age of dissolving communities, but there is always a place for you among the true believers, where you are valued and where you can find like minds. You are in the ultimate 'in' crowd.

Elimination of uncertainty. If you are confused by the fluid morals and ephemeral fashions and lifestyles of the modern world, you can replace them with a set of principles and codes of conduct which are unchanging, uncompromising and absolute. You need not puzzle out for yourself what to do in a given situation – it's all been worked out for you, and you can rest assured that this way is the right way.

Elimination of injustice. In this life or the next, you will be rewarded for your sufferings in this vale of tears. You may be dirt-poor and ignorant, but rest assured, those infidels who now live in the lap of luxury and decadence will pay for it later. Even if you are not poverty-stricken or uneducated, you can help out those who are, by struggling against the same forces of immorality and secularism that they do. This life is but a gateway to the next – which is the more important one.

Everybody needs an enemy. In medieval times, people feared devils and evil spirits. Witches were at one time the favoured bogey-man. Later on, we had communists and aliens. There has not been an age in our history where a society has not felt the need of a common enemy of some sort. The true believer will certainly have one as well, and it feels good to strive with your fellows against a common foe.

Is it any wonder that religious fundamentalism is so strong?

But surely, it might be argued, people are more educated these days and wouldn't 'fall for' all this kind of rigid thinking. As mentioned above, many people have access to thoughts and ideas – to knowledge - which should set their minds free from what most liberally-educated people might regard as the 'shackles' of dogmatism? Surely, no rational person would cleave to these outmoded and legalistic modes of belief and conduct?

If only people were rational beings.

They are not, as we can see from the continued popularity of such things as astrology and general superstition on the part of otherwise sensible people.

They are not, as evidenced by the prevalence of addiction to substances which harm the mind and body.

They are not, as shown by a tendency by many people to purchase a product simply because it bears someone's name at ten time the price of a similar quality item without.

Given the general level of irrational behaviour on this planet, opting for something which appears to offer certainty, significance, satisfaction and stability seems like a sensible choice.

No wonder religious fundamentalism is flourishing.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Not a Wordzzle

New to Harold? Catch up here

It was the smell of coffee that finally snapped everything back into focus for Harold. Prada had just brought a pot into the living room to refill the cups of India and Mr Teeth, who had been watching Harold's recovery.

"Welcome back, old shoe," murmured Teatime, "Glad you could join us at last."

Ignoring the little monkey's sarcasm, Harold looked around the well-appointed room in some surprise. "How'd I get here?" he asked, "Last thing I remember was being near Box's friend's house – with you." he pointed at India. "Then everything went very strange."

"Strange, how?" asked India, pen poised over notebook. Othello would never forgive her if she didn't get all this down. He and Mercury had taken the car and headed off to the hospital to see Box.

"One minute everything was normal, then all of a sudden, everything just went dark and I couldn't move or see or anything, and I became really slow."


"Yeah, I imagine it would be like what you humans call tiredness, but magnified – very peculiar. I couldn't gather my thoughts or focus on anything. Anyway, what happened? How did we end up back here?"

Between them, India and Teatime filled him in on what had happened.

"So, I must have just wandered into this field thing that Box was talking about." he shook his head, "No wonder they were able to capture Baron Samedi and the others – with a thing like that it would be so easy."

"They must have been expecting to find a demon at the house," said Mr Teeth, who had kept quiet up till that moment, "else why would they have switched on their field when they got there?"

"How did they even know to go to that house?" asked Prada, "We've haven't told anybody about it. In point of fact we didn't know it existed ourselves until today."

"Maybe they found you the same way I did," replied Mr Teeth, "or at least the company I hired did, at any rate. Maybe they just followed your car and watched the house for a while."

"Let's hope it was something like that," said India, "because otherwise it means our traitor is a bit closer to home than we thought."


RolexBoy's computer pinged softly, alerting him to incoming email. He glanced casually around the room to ensure that nobody was watching him. Nobody was, so he opened the message and read quickly:

No specimen found at the address. Appears that the specimen and the OGS agents were in process of clearing out of there. Only Box was still present. He is now at Mercy Hospital. Flowers is there on damage limitation.

RolexBoy deleted the message with an irritated click of his mouse.

This was not good news: if Agent Mercury and his merry band were still on the loose, there was still a chance they could find out what was really going on. Find out and interfere. RolexBoy had no doubt that they would never understand in a million years what critical and ground-breaking work was being done.  No, they'd shut down the project before it was properly finished, thereby unwittingly depriving the world of the most beneficial scientific advance in its entire history.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Clear and present danger

The Bible tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Fine. Perfectly happy with that.

Thing is, nobody in the Bible is having to try and sort out a birthday present for my mum by next week, are they? They’d be a damn sight less carefree with the old ‘blesseds’ if they did, I can tell you.

I’m really struggling to get her something and it’s only 6 days away. Yes, I know, it comes around once a year.  Yes, I know it’s not a moveable feast and does not occur randomly and I shouldn’t act all surprised about it. Hehe, imagine if birthdays were random. I bet the only cards on sale would be Sorry-I-Failed-to-Accurately-Predict-Your-Special-Day ones.

But I digress.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t want to buy her a present. I enjoy giving gifts, and not just to get extra helpings of blessedness either in case you were wondering. No, I’d happily fork out for several presents - a small Everest of presents even (can you have a ‘small’ Everest, or do they only come in one size. Never mind!  Focus!). It’s the least I can do after all she’s done for me in my life. No, I promise I have absolutely no generosity-deficit issues .

The thing is, she’s seventy-seven this year, which kind of cuts down on the choice of suitable giftage.

I cannot, for example, buy her a snowboard and, to be fair, she’s never actually showed much interest in snowboarding anyway.  Besides, a snowboard would only end up at the back of the cupboard with that scuba gear I bought last year. Talk about waste of money!

I’m joking of course - she’s a little old lady for goodness sake, what kind of daughter do you think I am?

She is still very busy and active though, and has in recent years done crazy stuff like camping in the Amazonian rain forest (3 years ago), doing a rainforest canopy walk (same holiday) or climbing to the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge (2 years ago). She’s almost never at home in the daytime. Her and her posse of pensioner pals are usually chilling at the Thursday Lunch Club or busting some moves at the old time dancing - when they’re not comparing medical horror-stories or practising extreme flower arranging, that is.

Hobbies? Yes, she likes jigsaw puzzles and crosswords.

Thing is, I’ve pretty much done them to death aver the last few years and I want something a bit different. Ditto with flowers and chocolates.

Funeral gift vouchers?  Hmmm, maybe not.

She has plenty of clothes, perfume and smellies. She’s not big on jewellery and lives in a modern, well-equipped house. She lacks for nothing. Nothing, I say!

And that’s the trouble.

I keep asking her what she’d like, to which she invariably replies “oh, nothing”. But let me even consider the merest hint of the possibility of rocking up on her special day armed with “nothing”, and let’s face it, you’d be able to stop worrying about global warming for a start. There’d be polar bears strolling about in Harrod’s before you could turn around. There’d be, as we brits say, a bit of an atmosphere.

My brother made that mistake once, turning up with the “nothing” that she’d suggested and she’s never forgotten it (he was three, for pity’s sake, Mother! Let it go!)

There’s always money, I suppose.

She does like to save it up for when she goes on holiday with my older sister and you can never have too much spending money on holiday, can you? Yeah, that’s all very well, but money’s not a proper present, is it? It just seems a bit lazy and lacking in imagination somehow. Also, there’s no mystery to it. The recipient knows exactly how much you spent on their present (read: how much they think you’re worth). Mind you, the upside is you pretty much never have to return it to the shop because it’s the wrong size.

If only she collected things like stamps or antique garden gnomes or something.  She did used to collect stuff (not garden gnomes thank goodness). Years ago, there was this range of ornaments she was fond of, featuring comically anthropomorphic pigs in various humorous situations, each called Piggin’-something-or-other. Not especially brilliantly funny, these ceramic porkers, but damned convenient for the would-be gift giver.

She gave them all away to charity a couple of years ago after seeing even the rarest of them going for about 60p on eBay.

But this is not helping!

I need ideas, people!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Wordzzle 136

Made it!  There's going to be a Thanksgiving break next week.  Raven's talking about a break until after Christmas.  If you want me to do some Harold episodes in the meantime as non-Wordzzles, let me know in the comments.

As always, the skinny on this excellent creativity exercise is to be found at Raven's Nest.

The Mini (thank, teacher, movies, unleash, lamp shade)

And I’d like to thank my primary school teacher, Mrs Cooper, who used to make me stand in the corner with a lampshade on my head as a punishment for being ‘as stupid as mud’. Well Mrs C, I hope you’re watching, because it’s down to you that I’m here tonight. You see, under that old lampshade, my little brain used to dream up all kinds of horrors that I wanted to unleash upon you for making me feel so small, and these ideas became the stories for my movies. Finally, I’d just like to say a huge thank you to the Academy for awarding Best Picture to Splatterfest III……

The 10-Worder (career, incense, prosperity, chloroform, cane, electrical outlet, preponderance, salivate, chopped liver, pillows)

New to Harold? Catch up here

Dr Flowers looked down at the patient in room 22b, his bald, brown head dark against the snowy whiteness of the pillows. He was still pretty drowsy after his surgery, which was to be expected. She flipped through his chart, running a practised eye over the scribbled notes and jotted numbers. How many times had she done that in her career, she wondered. She dropped the chart back into its holder at the foot of the bed and the noise caused the patient to open his eyes and stare at her blearily.

“Hello,” she said in her best bedside voice, “I’m Doctor – “ she panicked for a moment as she suddenly realised it would be stupid to used her real name. She cast around the room for inspiration but ‘electrical outlet’ or ‘IV stand’ were not going to be good choices. “Prosperity Cane,” the name of her old Gym teacher rushed into her head to save the day.

“Hmph?” said the patient thickly, smacking his lips and pulling an irritated face.

“Here,” Flowers pressed a glass of water to his lips, “Drink this and wash it round your mouth. We always give patients undergoing surgery drugs to dry up their secretions, so you won’t be able to salivate properly for a few hours, I’m afraid. Still,” she went on brightly, “at least it’s not like the old days when we just used to chloroform people and hope for the best.”

Box slurped the water gratefully. His mouth had felt cottony and his tongue felt about twice the proper size.

“Thanks,” he croaked, “Needed that.”

Flowers replaced the glass on the cabinet beside the bed and took Box’s hand. She turned it over to expose the back of it where the surgical team had conveniently left a canula in place in case emergency drugs needed to be administered post-operatively.

Reaching out, she picked up the syringe she had prepared earlier and inserted its needle into the canula.
“I’m just going to give you a little something for the pain,” she lied soothingly, as she pressed the plunger.


The late afternoon sun slanted through one of the open swiss-cheese windows and the mildest of breezes carried in with it a heady, incense-like mix of scents from the preponderance of exotic flora in Mr Teeth’s garden.

Harold was sitting on one of Mr Teeth’s sofas, still looking somewhat bewildered, although much more ‘with it’ than he had been. Teatime was still speaking to him in urgent Infernal. Phrases which sounded like ‘pastiche’, ‘curlew’ and ‘chopped liver’ surfaced occasionally in the rapid river of the little monkey’s words. Across the room, India listened with some interest, even though she could not understand a word of Infernal – no human could, since demons were not in the business of giving language lessons. One sound did pop up time and time again, though – Azuriel. She jotted it down in her notebook. She couldn’t be certain of course, but she was pretty sure that this was the demon’s actual name. What luck to have over heard it.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Weekly Wordzzle 135

Easily the hardest set of words EVER!   Go to Raven's Nest for rules, next lot of words and other players this week.

The Mini ( martini, galloping, stallion, ocean, musical)

Erica sat in the darkest corner of the pub, hoping that soon she could slip away unnoticed.  Around her, the Company Christmas party was galloping along at full speed.  She hated these occasions; people who were sober, sensible and quite likeable in the daytime got a few drinks inside them and were transformed into complete arseholes.  She let her mind drift lazily on the ocean of noise – the usual people shouting and laughing, a musical cacophony provided by no less than two competing juke boxes plus a table of drunken idiots from Shipping trying to sing the Twelve Days of Christmas - badly.  Her heart sank as she spotted Daniel Ingram with his new squeeze Emily Adams draped all over him.  He was weaving drunkenly towards her, a blurrily purposeful look on his face like he wanted to tell her something.  She looked around but there was no way past the two of them.  As they got closer, the smell of Daniel’s Black Stallion aftershave washed over Erica.  To think she once considered that smell quite sexy!  “Hi Erica,” Daniel  gushed, “This is Martini.”  Emily looked at him in puzzlement, she’d obviously not heard him call her that before.  “Yeah,” he went on, happily oblivious, “She’ll do it any time, any place, any where!”  and with that, he collapsed into giggles.  Suddenly furious, Emily sloshed her drink into his face before shoving him roughly out of her way and stalking off.  Daniel looked at Erica, baffled.  “What’s up w’ her?” he asked.  “Mardy cow!  Never mind," he grinned, "I’ve still got you, haven’t I?”  Scowling, Erica picked up her own drink and, waste though it was, baptised him a second time before pushing past him and making good her escape. 

The 10-Worder (chilly, free for all, fit as a fiddle and ready for love, cows, phone book, casserole, witch, wedding, courage, passionate )New to Harold? Catch up here

Despite the heat of the day, Agent India suddenly felt rather chilly. Her knowledge of demonkind was admittedly still rather limited as yet, but even so, she had never heard of anything like this happening before. Demons never simply stopped. On Harold’s shoulder, Teatime was still worriedly prodding and poking him in a vain attempt to stir up any kind of response, but it was as if some wicked witch had cast a spell and frozen Harold where he stood.

She fished in her pocket for her phone to call Mercury. Before she could dial the number, however, the phone rang and it was Mercury on the line.

“Oh, thank goodness!” exclaimed India, “I was just going to call you. Something's -“

“Just a minute,” interrupted Mercury, “Where are you?”

“At Box’s friend’s house, why?”

“We’ve just had a call from Box. He’s in the hospital. Some people came to the house and he got shot getting away from them. They were in a white truck.”

“There’s a white truck here now,” said India, suddenly feeling her courage wobble the tiniest bit. Guns. Again.

“Are they aware of you?” Mercury’s voice was sharp, urgent.

“I don’t think so,” she replied, “We’re in the little street at the back of the house – I don’t think they could see us from where they are.”

“OK, you need to get out of there. Now!”

“Erm, that’s what I was calling about. Something’s happened to the demon. It’s just frozen in place. It’s like it's become a statue or something.”

“What about the monkey?”

India glanced over to see Teatime still fussing over Harold.

“He’s not affected so far as I can see, but doesn’t seem to understand it any more than I do.”

“Hmm,” said Mercury, “Box said the people in the white truck said something about a ‘field’ preventing escapes. I guess that’s what he must have meant.”

“Oh, no, I hope that doesn’t mean they know we’re here.” Said India, feeling her heart speeding up.


The rear door to the Infinity Recycling truck swung open and Moira Ibbotson poked her head in.

“OK, we’re clearing out. Might as well shut down.”

Conrad Black, who had been running the field generator, grunted acknowledgement. He would be the first to admit that his people skills were rudimentary at best, but he didn’t care: it was electronics he was passionate about, and this hunk of complex circuitry in particular. He had designed a large part of it and built most of it himself. It had worked flawlessly every time. He was as proud of it as a parent would be of a gifted child.

He gave the case a little pat as the shutdown sequence started. He turned away from the console to tidy away his notes and, as he did so, he thought he saw a faint flicker right on the edge of the display showing the field’s area of effect. Frowning, he turned back to look properly, but by then the shutdown had completed and the screen was dark.

He drummed his fingers on the console for a few moments, undecided. Should he start the machinery back up or not? On the one hand, it would be a waste of time if there had been nothing there. On the other, ff there had been a demon there and he missed it just because he couldn’t be bothered to check…

Sighing, he began the startup sequence: detectors first, then the field generator itself.


Somehow India had expected Harold to weigh less than a real person. His vessel, after all, was not made of flesh and blood, but he weighed more or less what you’d expect a six-foot tall human male to weigh, worse luck.

“This is utterly ludicrous,” she muttered angrily. It was easy for Mercury to say that she had to try and get the demon out of the field’s area of effect, but it wasn’t him who was puffing and panting and losing all dignity trying to do it, was it?

She had initially tried to wrap her arms about Harold’s body just under his armpits, lean his inert form over at an angle and drag him along backwards, but she had lost her grip and he had toppled to the ground.

A mean little part of had her hoped it hurt.

Now she found herself digging in her heels and dragging Harold along a bit at a time using two handfuls of his jacket. If anybody were to see them…

One foot, heave, two feet… How far would she have to - ?

Suddenly, Harold thrashed and cried out, causing India to let go of him and fall backwards hard onto her backside.

In a flash, Harold was on his feet, looking around wildly, a glassy, panic-stricken look on his face. He spotted India sitting on the ground but his eyes flicked away from her without registering anything, he clearly did not know who she was. He was about to bolt, but Teatime sprang onto his shoulder and started talking urgently to him in rapid Infernal. India scrambled to her feet, grabbed Harold’s arm and started pulling him along the street towards where the car was parked.

“Come on!” she urged, “We have to go. Right now!”


Black looked at the screen. Nothing. Not a flicker. Must just have been his imagination or maybe just a random blip. Either way, there was nothing there now. He shut down the machine once more, satisfied that at least he’d checked properly. He opened a little sliding hatch, allowing him to talk to the two others in the front of the truck.

“… it was a total free for all, cows everywhere. Ruined the wedding completely.” Church was in the middle of saying.

“All shut down back here,” Black reported.

“OK, thanks,” said Ibbotson, who was in the driver’s seat. She started the engine and the radio came on with the ignition. The sound of Fit as a Fiddle and Ready for Love filled the truck’s cabin. Black slid the hatch closed firmly, shutting out the noise. He had never understood what people got out of music. For all the pleasure he got from it, he might as well be listening to somebody read out the contents of the phone book or recipes for casserole. Pointless.

He felt the truck lurch into life and start moving off. 

Thursday, 11 November 2010

A New Home in the Sky - Remembering

Today we decided, as Klueless was behaving itself tolerably well, that we would make an effort to perform a proper act of remembering at 11 o'clock and not just sit slack-jawed at our desks for two minutes.

So, with the wind blustering and the rain falling, we adjourned to the Cathedral Suite.  Spare Change Guy greeted us from his usual place in the underpass, a giant puddle creeping gradually nearer to him as the rain fell. It will be interesting to see if he will keep to the same spot as the winter weather cuts in.

Quite a few people were in the Cathedral Suite before us, although most of them seemed to be there as tourists, and there were some students at one end doing some kind of performance art thing - or so it looked to us.  They were quite noisy and we hoped they would quiet down in time for the two minutes' silence.

They did.

And then it was like this:

The eleven O’Clock bells chime
And down from the leaden sky
The silence drifts like a blanket.

We stand bareheaded under the grey.
Strangers all, come together here
Among the ruins, to remember.

We look skyward unseeing, or shoe-ward,
While the November wind and rain
Go about their business, unconcerned.

A silver ribbon of music
Unwinds from a bugle’s mouth
And goes floating on the sodden air.

In this roofless ruin
The high clear notes echo round
Touching here stone, here wood, here heart.

Then the city stretches and stirs, waking.
The silence is rolled up
And put away for another year.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Weekly Wordzzle 124

A short one this time, I'm afraid.  Really struggled this week - even with the mini.  The award for Most Contrived Scene to Get Rid of a Few Words goes to the dream sequence in Harold's thing this week.

For this week's other players and next week's words go to Raven's Nest.

The Mini (just like you, leaves, everything in the store, continuing, dramatic)

"He's continuing to be trouble, that boy, just like you were at that age," the old woman said, dustpan and brush in hand.
"Oh, don't be so over-dramatic," her daughter said, scornfully, "He's just a little boy."
"He's a mini tornado," the old woman shot back, "The minute his grandfather leaves, he's into everything in the store. This is the second jar of aniseed balls he's smashed this week!" She began sweeping up the broken glass and many hundreds of little round sweets, which were determined to go rolling about in all directions..
"OK," the younger woman sighed, "How much do I owe you this time?"

The 10-Worder (charity, clouds, empty bottles, Give me Liberty or Give me Death, medicine, shrimp, clear as a bell, credible, hole, Aunt Sally)

New to Harold? Catch up here

"Dr Holton here,"

"Hello, Sally, it's Evangeline Flowers here."

"Who? I'm sorry, the line's not very good. Can you speak up a bit?"

"It's Evangeline Flowers. Can you hear me now?"

"Yes, clear as a bell now. Shrimp? Is that really you? It's been ages!"

Dr Flowers winced. Trust Sally Holton to remember that old nickname. Still...

"Yes, I know, doesn't time just fly by when you're having fun."

"Oh, are we having fun now then?" Dr Holton laughed, "I didn't get that memo. Anyway, what can your old Aunt Sally do for you?"

Trust her to remember that nickname too, thought Dr Flowers as she quickly marshalled her thoughts. Sally was as sharp as ever, so it would need to be something credible. Ever since they had begun studying medicine together, Flowers had known Sally Holton to possess the twin drawbacks of being nobody's fool and of being extremely curious. She would have to tread carefully to get her help without too many awkward questions.

"Yeah, er, I was wondering if you could get me out of a bit of a hole, actually."


The lady detective, Charity Lambert, dressed in the tight-fitting leather jumpsuit she had sported on the cover of her latest adventure Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death was standing over his bed smiling down at him. In her hands were two empty bottles. He thought it was rather odd that she should be here given that a) he was in the hospital (at least he thought he was, he was no longer sure now), oh, and b) let's not forget the fact that she was a fictional character from the cheap trashy novels which were his secret guilty pleasure. Why on earth was she here? He gazed up at her, puzzled, as she leant down and opened her lusciously-painted lips to whisper something into his ear. Her voice was low, with a slightly husky quality. "Listen very carefully..." He strained to hear whatever it was she was about to impart to him, it was obviously important, maybe it was something to do with the bottles. "...I shall say this only once.."

Abruptly, she dissolved into pink fluffy clouds which cleared to reveal a nurse standing beside his bed.

"Mr Box," she said, "We're taking you down to surgery now."

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Summer in Dublin

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I used to live in Ireland - Shannon, Co Clare, to be precise. My husband and I moved there just after we were married as he had secured a job with a small electronics company based in Shannon.

I was 17. I knew nobody (apart from hubs) and had no skills of any measureable worth so couldn't get a job myself. So I was a 'housewife' and to ease the long days I used to listen to RTE Radios 1 and 2.

One of the songs that was playing around that time was 'Summer in Dublin' by Bagatelle.

I just found it on YouTube. I've always really loved this song and it always takes me back to those days.


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Weekly Wordzzle 123

At last!  Late again due to illness, both mine and hubby's, but here it is.

Go to Raven's Nest for rules and next week's words.  Why not join in?

The Mini (gargoyle, flounder, screech, Saturday evening, locked up)

It was that idiot, Flounder Buttress's fault, Screech thought miserably, as he tried to get comfortable on the narrow wooden bench that was the cell's only furniture.

He should have known better than to go along with the harebrained scheme of somebody from the North Transept – everybody knew they were unstable at the best of times.

"I'm bored." Flounder had said. "Let's go down below. It's been ages since I visited and I want to see what it's like nowadays."

At first, Screech had resisted the temptation. There were strict rules about that sort of thing, after all, but Flounder had wheedled and cajoled: it would be dark, nobody would see, nobody would know, and Screech had eventually given in, telling himself that he was just along to keep Flounder out of trouble.

The thing was, it had been a busy Saturday evening and there had been crowds of people strolling about enjoying themselves in the city centre. The other thing they hadn't counted on had been the abundance of electric light everywhere. Needless to say, it hadn't been long before the screaming and pointing had started.

Flounder had run off as soon as the police had arrived, leaving Screech to face the music alone.

Now, here he was, Screech Cornice, respected gargoyle of the Lady Chapel and faithful servant of St Anne's cathedral, lo, these eight hundred years, locked up for causing a breach of the peace.

The Dean was going to be furious!

The 10-Worder (defensive, volume, masterpiece, category, momentarily, advisor, public radio, charter, eleven days, ostrich)
New to Harold? Catch up here

Dr Flowers tutted irritably as the phone rang, breaking her concentration. In her considered opinion, the telephone belonged to the category of human inventions which she earnestly wished she could live without. For one thing, its impertinent ringing always sounded so damned loud in her small office and she had never figured out how to turn down the volume. She snatched up the instrument.

"Flowers," she snapped.

"Dr Flowers, this is Haynes."


"There's been a bit of a problem,"

Here we go, she thought.

"Go on."

She listened as Haynes outlined the events that had taken place at the address RolexBoy has given them. There had been no demon present when the team had arrived. One of the people on RolexBoy's list had been there, but had fled and was now in Mercy hospital, having been injured leaving the scene.

Flowers sighed, if it wasn't one thing, it was another. First it was the uprooting of their entire operation to a more secure location, based on RolexBoy's dire predictions of discovery, now he had led them all on a wild goose-chase looking for demons which weren't there, and had exposed their operation anyway. Some 'special advisor to the project' he was turning out to be. She was momentarily at a loss for what to say.

"Where is everybody now?" she asked eventually/

"Church, Ibbotson and Black are at the house still, looking for any more information. Jones and Charter are at the hospital. Charter has managed to confirm the identity of the guy they followed there, Nathaniel Box. He's scheduled for surgery, apparently, so he won't be going anywhere for a while."

Flowers thought for a moment. "Did you say Mercy Hospital?"

"Yeah, Mercy."

"OK, tell Jones and Charter to stay put and wait for further instructions."

"What about the others?"

"Tell them to clear out when they're done."

Flowers replaced the handset and thought for a few moments. Mercy Hospital, Haynes had said. Interesting. She'd spent six years, nine months and eleven days of her life walking its fluorescent-lit wards and hallways (not that she was counting or anything). All may not be lost, after all. She flipped open her File-O-Fax, located a phone number and began to dial.


India stopped the car on Ostrich Egg Drive which led onto Goose Egg, where Box's friend's house was, and switched off the engine.

There was a short, rather defensive silence, which India broke.

"I suggest we get to the end of Goose Egg and check out the lie of the land from there. If it all looks ok, we can move in a bit closer."

Harold nodded, it sounded like a plan, and they both got out of the car.

Teatime proved his worth when they got to where Goose Egg and Ostrich Egg joined. There was a high hedge bordering the end property on Goose Egg which meant that they could not see into Goose Egg Drive itself without walking around the corner and thus possibly revealing themselves to anybody who might be lurking at the house..

"Why don't I climb to the top of that hedge for a quick recce," the little monkey suggested, as Harold and India stood debating what to do.

"Go for it," said Harold, "If there is anybody hanging around there, they almost certainly won't be looking out for a monkey."

Teatime leapt lightly from Harold's shoulder, and quickly and competently scaled the hedge, disappearing from view.

"He's a smart little monkey," said Harold, keen not to let the silence deepen into awkwardness.

"I suppose," India agreed noncommittally. As a child, she had been fascinated by how clever animals were after hearing some old professor giving a series of talks about it on National Public Radio. Of course, she knew perfectly well that Teatime wasn't just an ordinary monkey, that he'd been given an upgrade, as it were. In her opinion, therefore, he didn't really deserve any credit for his cleverness, unlike the dolphins and pigeons in the old professor's talks.

"Yes," continued Harold, "he really is a masterpiece of infernal engineering."

"I'm not sure 'masterpiece' is the word I'd use," replied India, dryly. "I think what was done to him was wrong. There are some things that shouldn't be meddled with."

"Well maybe so," replied Harold, "but some human scientists were about to do some serious meddling of their own, so you can hardly blame him for wanting to get away."

"I guess," India admitted.

At that moment, Teatime's head appeared, looking down on them from the hedge-top.

"There's a big white truck parked outside the house," he informed them. "There's no sign of Reverend Box, though, that I can see."

"I wonder if he's hiding in the house, waiting for the truck to go away." said Harold.

"Perhaps we should approach from the back and see if we can see anything."

They walked back along Ostrich Egg until they came across a little side road running parallel with Goose Egg Drive. They turned down it and were delighted to discover that the backyards of the houses on Goose Egg backed directly onto it, screened off by a high wooden fence.

"We should be about there I think," India said, stopping next to a section of fence. She tried to peer through the gaps in the planks, but could see nothing but foliage. "Would Mr Teatime care to do the honours, once more?" she asked.

"I expect he'll b–" Harold started to say, and stopped.

India turned to him questioningly.

Harold was standing completely still next to the fence, and had frozen in mid-sentence, his lips parted to say his next word. He was looking straight at her – or at least at where she had been standing before she had turned back to him. One of his hands was stretched out where he had evidently been about to reach out and touch the fence.

"What's going on?" said India, "Why has it stopped?"

"I have no idea," said Teatime in a worried voice.

"Demon?" said India, peering up into Harold's still face. "Hey! Come on!" She snapped her fingers in front of his eyes but he didn't so much as blink. "If this is one of your tricks.." she muttered.

"I really don't think it's any trick," said Teatime.

India jabbed Harold firmly in the chest with a finger. No reaction.

Teatime tugged sharply on a lock of his hair. No reaction.

"Come on, old button," he urged, "Now's not the time to fall asleep on the job."

But Harold simply stood there, the breeze ruffling his hair, as still and as lifeless as a statue.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Poetry Bus - Trick or Treat, Sick or Sweet

It's Halloween, Samhain, Day of the Dead, call it what you will.  It's that creepy time of year when winter really starts to get his teeth into the ailing year.  The clocks have gone back and soon it'll be Christmas (which is more scary, if you ask me).

So, this week's prompting by liz over here, was about the spook-fest of Halloween.  Being a poet of little brain, I couldn't manage a triolet, so here's my doggerel, which may just about fit the prompt of 'Pardon Me While I Scream'.  Or not.  Anyhoo, go to Liz's link above to find some proper poems.

A Witch's Lament

There was a time, the old witch said
(Absently boiling a baby's head)
That folk would tremble at our name
But lately things just aren't the same.

There was a time, the old witch cried
(Tossing ears like pancakes, as they fried)
When we sailed the moonlight on our broom
Now it sweeps cobwebs from the room.

There was a time, the old witch boasted
(Prodding at puppies as they roasted)
When we'd blind the eye, and the mind beguile
I must admit, it's been awhile.

There was a time, the old witch muttered
(Laying out fingers, all nicely buttered)
When we'd freeze the blood, cause hearts to quail
Not star in some popular children's tale

There was a time, the old witch moaned
(Arranging kittens, all neatly boned)
When we were dark as dark could be
But now it seems, we're all P.C.

There was a time, the old witch said
(Still a-boiling that baby's head)
When to be a witch was to be a rotter.
But no more, thanks to Goody-Two-Shoes Potter!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Weekly Wordzzle 132

And finally, she makes it.  Been a bit of a struggle for a number of reasons:

A cold (aaaahh, you poor thing!)
Keeping one hand on the steering wheel of the mighty Poetry Bus  - you can still join in here.
Not being able to get rid of the word 'microphone'

As per, go to Raven's Nest to get the low-down on this amazing creativity game.

...and on with the show!

The Mini (popular, pregnant, turtle, basket, present)

Duane was flaked out on the sofa, several empty beer cans present on the table beside him. An episode from a popular nature documentary series was playing quietly on the television. This week’s show featured a heavily pregnant female turtle laboriously digging a hole in the sand in which to lay her many eggs. Duane’s little girl, Skyla, sat at her dad’s feet watching the show with round fascinated eyes. After a while, an idea blossoming in her little head, she got up and tiptoed into the kitchen. She opened the cupboard and took out the little wicker basket that was inside.   Eventually Duane woke, yawned, and stood up. Stretching, he started to make his way to the kitchen for another beer, but stopped suddenly when something went crunch underfoot. Skyla screamed. “Bad Daddy! You’re squashing my babies!” She lifted the rug to show him. “Look, I buried them to keep them safe like the mummy turtle, but you trod on them!” Duane sighed. He’d better get the eggy mess cleared up before Maria got back or she’d know he hadn’t been watching Skyla properly.

The 10-worder (cranes, bananas, red-headed woman, hunger, parachute, scratch, sanity, microphone, long distance, you've got mail)

New to Harold? Catch up here.

India was glad that it was not a particularly long distance back to Box’s friend’s house, if it had been she was not sure her sanity would have held up. It was all very well for Mercury to say ‘take the demon with you’ but he had absolutely no idea what it felt like to be in close proximity to the thing for any length of time. It was like having an itch deep inside her brain that she could not scratch and it was driving her bananas.

As she drove along, she suddenly found herself remembering that ridiculous film You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and that (red-headed?) woman whose name she could never recall – where the two main characters hated each other at the office but fell in love over the internet. Now, what on earth had made her think of that? She gave the thought an irritated shove to the back of her mind – focus, India, focus!

For his part, Harold was glad to be out and about again and actually doing something – well, sort-of, anyway. Agent India had been the one actually tasked with looking for Reverend Box and he had been sent along, he suspected, to get him out from underfoot, as it were. He didn’t mind though, it was not like he had any devastating insights to offer or any master strategies that would solve the whole mystery. So far his only real use to the team had been as a door-opener of all things – oh, and an ad hoc bomb disposal operative. Actually, that last one was pretty cool, though he did say so himself. He smiled to himself as he stared out the window.

They were passing the construction site - so a sign proclaimed - of 64 luxury apartments with underground parking. A couple of cranes towered overhead, carefully tending their concrete nest. Always building things, these humans.

“I wonder why they call them apartments?” he said, by way of conversation.

India glanced at him and then back at the road.

“No idea,” she replied. “So you can live apart from everybody else in them, I suppose.”

“Pity they don’t build togetherments instead,” Harold said.

“I would have thought you’d relish the idea of humans all living apart in lonely misery.”

I certainly would,” piped up Teatime. “It’s no more than they deserve. Beastly creatures, most of them.”

“Well I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” declared Harold.

“Really?” India hauled on the steering wheel and made a right turn. “I thought the whole point of your existence was to increase the sum of human misery by any means possible.”

“Not at all,” replied Harold. He could answer this one with textbook accuracy, having heard it repeated many times by his fellow demons. “Our purpose is to distract mortals away from the light. Misery is often a by-product, of course, and it’s sometimes a tool, but it’s not the point of the exercise as such. We don’t hate humans, you know.” Actually, Harold knew, some demons did hate humans with a vengeance, but most regarded them as merely the material of their trade, like leather to a cobbler or iron to a blacksmith. A material to be worked on.

“Well excuse me if I don’t believe you,” sneered India, “ but it seems to me that, doing what you do, you can’t exactly have our best interests at heart, can you?”

“Hey, don’t blame me! I didn’t make the rules.”

“Ooh, now where have I heard that before?”

“It’s true, though!”

“If I may interrupt for just one moment what I’m sure is going to be a most fascinating discussion,” said Teatime loudly. “We are almost back at the house and we’ve seen no sign of Reverend Box. I suggest that, as we don’t know what has happened to him, we should park along here somewhere and approach the house cautiously, just in case.”


Box was drifting in and out of cosy cotton-wool land. At one point, he was sure he’d heard one of the nurses say something about a parachute, but there was no sign of one anywhere, so that couldn’t have been it. In the ER, they had cut his bike leathers off him to get at his injury (Darn, they’d been expensive!) and had dressed him in one of those stupid gowns with no back to them. Why’d they have to do that anyway? It was so undignified.

Box tried to focus. There was something important he should be doing. What had he been doing before ending up here?

Infinity Recycling! That was it! He needed to tell the others about the white van and the ‘field’ – whatever that was. He looked around him anxiously. Where had they put his phone?

Seeing him trying to struggle to a sitting position, a nurse came bustling over.

“Take it easy, Honey,” she said, pushing him gently but firmly back down into the pillow,
“Just try to rest. Dr Morgan is just discussing your case with one of our surgeons. Looks like you’re going to need an operation on that leg. We won’t be long, I promise.”

“I need to make a call,” Box said. “Could you get me my phone, please?”

“Sure, Honey. Oh! Here’s Dr Morgan now.”

“Good afternoon, Mr Box!” Boomed the doctor with that brassy cheerfulness that medics all seem to employ around patients. He was a tall, greying man in his middle years, whose slightly protruding belly proclaimed him something of a stranger to hunger – or want, anyway. “Now let’s see about this leg of yours.” he continued, flipping the pages of Box’s chart. “ Our x-rays show that both of the bones in your lower leg have been badly damaged by the bullet – which is still in there, by the way – so we have no option but to operate and see if we can patch things up. I should warn you that there is a risk – a small one - that we might have to amputate if we can’t piece the bones back together. Dr Giordano will be performing the operation, though, and he’s a really first-rate surgeon. Nurse Hickey here will talk you through all the paperwork. Any questions?”

“How long am I likely to have to stay in hospital after the surgery?”

“At least a week, I’d think,” replied the doctor, “We have to make sure that everything settles in properly – we'd hate for you to come back in as a warrantee job, eh? Then you’ll be needing physical therapy for quite some time after that, I imagine. Now, I must get on.” With that, he turned and strode away. Box let his head fall back into the pillow.

This was terrible. He couldn’t afford to be out of the picture that long, but what choice did he have?

One thing was for sure, he needed to pass on what he’d found out as soon as possible.

“I really need to call and let my folks know what happened,” he said, “Can I have my phone now please?”


Across the street from the entrance to Mercy Hospital, two men sat in a white car.

“Yeah, Jackson winged him, but he got to the hospital before we could stop him and they’ve taken him inside.” One of the men explained. He was holding up his mobile so that its microphone could pick up both his and his companion’s voices and it was set on speakerphone so that they could both hear the woman on the other end.

“That’s not good.” said the woman, “Church didn’t get a look at him, so do we know who he is? Is he from RolexBoy’s list, even?”

“Well, he’s a little runty guy, he’s not black and he’s not a girl, so we’re going for him being Nathaniel Box.”

”OK,” said the woman, “Go in there and see if you can confirm it’s him while I find out what they want us to do about this mess. If they ask, tell the nurses you used to work with him or something.”

“OK, will do.” The man snapped the phone shut and turned to his companion. “Wait here while I go in.” he said, opening the car door and getting out.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Weekly Wordzzle 131

This is really, really late so I'll just post the text without all the blether.

The Mini (ink, cool whip, every cloud has a silver lining,static, platform)

“An’ you know what? She was givin’ me like, just sooo much static!” Vim was saying, “’Cos, you know like she wanted real cream and I got like this Cool Whip stuff in a can, you know?”

I didn’t know, of course, but that’s never stopped Vim: once he gets going in one of his stories he’s pretty much unstoppable and, as my part in the conversation was not expected to extend beyond occasional grunts and nods, I let him get on with it.

“Yeah, she was like freakin’ out, just totally freakin’ out, an’ I’m like what’s the big deal? And she’s like screaming that I’m a total loser and that I don’t care about her or the house or anything. How does she get from cool whip to me not caring about the house?”

I shrugged, the way of the female of the species was as deep a mystery to me as quantum physics.

Vim paused to change the cartridge on his gun.

“So, long story short, she’s kicked me out. It’s cool though, I’m crashing at Joe’s and we’re hittin’ that new club tonight – Platform-18, you bin there?”

I shook my head.

“It’s s’posed to be the best place in town to  pick up the lay-deez, you know what I’m sayin’? Yeah. Every cloud has a silver lining, right?

I nodded and Vim resumed his work. There were a few minutes of rare, Vim-free silence.

“Aw man!” he exclaimed, suddenly , silencing the buzz of his tattoo gun. “You said you wanted green for the eyes, right?”

“Yeah,” I replied, guardedly.

“Aw man,” he repeated sadly, “I’m really sorry, man, I loaded blue ink by mistake. Tell ya what,” he continued, brightening up. “This one’s on me!” He started up the gun again.

Every cloud….

The 10-worder  chilled to the bone, market, back to work, floating, lynx, glutted, shelter, garage sale, honey, marginal )

I hope Box gets here soon,” said Mercury, “I’m keen for us to get back to work, but I don’t want to start until everyone’s here.”

“I’ll call him,” said Othello. He dialled, listened for a while then hung up. “It’s gone to voicemail.”

“Maybe he’s on his way but can’t answer while he’s riding.” suggested India.

“Yeah, but I would have thought he’d be here by now, anyway.” said Othello.

“Maybe he got sidetracked by a garage sale on the way here or something,” joked Prada.

“Perhaps we should take the car and backtrack the route, see if we can see him.” Said India.

“Good idea,” said Mercury, “You drive, and you might as well take the demon with you, seeing as its at a loose end.”

Harold’s face lit up while Mercury’s suggestion had the exact opposite effect on India, making their two faces look like Comedy and Tragedy. Wisely, though, India didn’t say anything as Othello tossed her the car keys.


A crowded vegetable market. Everybody towering over him and no sign of Mommy in the throngs of people pushing past him without so much as a downward glance. The panic welling up and the hot, stinging tears starting. His mouth opening to begin bawling.

A taste of honey, sweet on the tongue. Abigail’s slim brown hands offering him another helping of honeycomb, fresh from the hive..

A lynx, lying in the dappled shadows, tail twitching lazily, glutted and sleepy after a kill.

The buzz of summer insects floating on the still air.

Himself, shaking and chilled to the bone, dragging himself over the frozen assault course under a lead-coloured sky which promised yet more snow, while Sgt McAllister yelled himself hoarse, letting him and everybody else in the group know in no uncertain terms that he was the single most useless maggot of a cadet it had ever been his displeasure to train.

The sudden silver flash of a fish just below the surface of the lake. His dad, showing him how to catch them, teaching him how to bait the hook and send the line far, far out over the water.

"Sir?" the mellow, husky voice broke into this dream, scattering lake, fish and dad. "Sir? Can you hear me? Can you squeeze my hand? That’s good, that’s very good. Can you open your eyes for me please?”

Box opened his eyes then quickly squeezed them shut against the harsh white light. All around him he could hear the noise of people talking, machines beeping, doors banging and general hustle and bustle.

The pain in his leg was now just a dull throb, its power to distract his attention marginal at best. His head felt like it was stuffed full of warm cotton wool and he floated in pleasant drowsiness. They must have given him something for the pain - a pretty powerful something if the vividness of the dreams was anything to go by. Box dimly remembered riding the bike into the hospital parking lot. He’d tried to stop gracefully near the entrance to the ER, but in had ended up slowing right down and pretty much just falling over sideways, unable to dismount. Still, he had reached the shelter of the hospital and they had taken him in, away from Infinity Recycling – assuming it was them who had been following in the white car.

He was safe for the moment then.