Cindy oh Cindy

He had woken up with a fierce headache, breath that breached the Chemical Weapons Convention, and a nasty sense of foreboding. His brain hurt. He knew something was wrong. He knew he would have spent the better part of the previous evening trying to impress the new girl on the till at the local drugstore, and that he would have, probably, likely, definitely, have said something stupid, claimed a non-existing ability, promised something he was now committed to and would never in a month of Sundays be able to deliver. This wasn’t the first time. It wouldn’t be the last.

The phone rang. It was her. “A great evening. Thanks for that. Hope you got home okay. And so you’re going to do that for me? Run the marathon? Raise money for the cancer fund? That’s really sweet of you. I’ll pop the entry forms through your letter box this evening.”

Thirty eight years old and not in his prime. Not that he had ever had  a prime or foresaw himself as having one. “Show me a minicab driver who has a prime, who can flex a muscle, who can even bloody locate a muscle,” he thought to himself. Too much time behind the wheel. Too many kebabs or hamburgers or parcels of fish and chips – snatched meals taken whenever there was a lull in the job. Not exactly healthy. Not exactly regular. Run a marathon? Could never happen.

But she was sweet. Cindy. That’s her name. Newly divorced, new in town, new at the job, new at the till. And she had treated him sweetly. Happy to go out with him, happy to sit and chat in an ordinary bar. Didn’t need to be taken to a swish club so she could spend all his money on overpriced champagne substitutes. Insisted on paying for a couple of the rounds of drinks. She knows what life is really like. She’s got a few miles under the bonnet herself and it’s made her generous, unselfish. He likes her. It seems he likes her a lot. He wants her to like him. He wants her to admire him. And so, a drink or two down the road and his head spinning with what might be, he says yes, yes to supporting the charity, yes to running the marathon, yes to doing it for her. How could he refuse her? Sweet Cindy.

He knew how many miles there are in a marathon. More than his normal minicab trips, more than he could run in a million years. But Cindy, oh Cindy, he wasn’t going to let her down, he wasn’t going to say no. The forms arrived, the forms went off, and he worked on his training strategy, his tactics, his battle plan. He would get the medal, get the respect and get the girl.

He pored over the route of the race, he studied the town map, he marked up all the rat runs, hidden alleyways, and illegal short cuts that he had learnt when he was doing the Knowledge and he reckoned that if he turned up at the start, he could cross the finish line in about four and a half hours with having run only five miles. He knew he could do it. The downside was the five miles, but for Cindy he could do it. And so for the next few weeks before his shift, he walked, then jogged, then cantered, then galloped until he knew that the five miles (and hopefully Cindy) were in the bag.

It all went smoothly. He crossed the line with hundreds of others with a time of just under four and a half hours.

“My best time ever,” he said to the official handing out the medals.

“Respect,” said one of the policemen helping with crowd control.

“Oh, thank you,” said Cindy, kissing him full on the mouth. “Let’s meet up later.”

By the time he had fought the crowds back to his home, washed and shaved and put on his second best casual gear (he would save the best for another time) the list of runners who hadn’t passed through all the check points and were consequently automatically disqualified, had been published and tweeted and retweeted and his name was third on the list.

No medal, no respect, and no girl.

Early morning. The phone rings. It’s her. “You owe me five miles of sponsorship and I like the way you kiss. Can we meet up again tonight?”

How can he refuse her? Sweet Cindy.

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Image © Na’ama Yehuda תודה חברה שלי

There were never enough prison guards, there never would be, so they spent most of their time banged up in their cell, just the two of them, roommates by chance, friends by choice.

They read a lot (Zane Grey, Elmore Leonard) and from time to time spoke a lot.

They discussed many things including sealing wax and cabbages and kings, but mainly about snow, Walrus because he loved skiing (he had been a contender for the Olympics), and Carpenter because he once killed a man and it was the blood in the snow that gave him up.

Different strokes for different folks.

Written in response to Typewriter Wisoff-Fields’ 100 word challenge found here!

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Safe as houses

Today I’m wearing my alt-right face. For obvious reasons.

It was a few months ago that I thought it was going to be a close call and that my usual caring, leftie visage could put me in danger if the vote went the other way, so I went on line, sought out alt-right sites, browsed their Alt ID shop pages, and after considerable soul searching selected three QAnon t-shirts, a selection of temporary tattoos (swastika, MAGA logo, othala rune) and this clip-on ID filter facemask, clicked on Buy Now.

The mask is really comfortable, light, gossamer thin, easy to fit and remove, and hardly noticeable. I ordered the Version 1.12.01, only a few bucks more, as it gives additional filters such as apologetic wife beater, humble road rager, and climate change scoffer, over and above the standard alt-right and white lives matter convertors. Switching ID simply takes a couple of taps on the smart phone; it’s Bluetooth, no wifi needed – big advantage.

So today I’m wearing my alt-right face. For obvious reasons. The atmosphere is febrile, dangerous. Have you seen the mobs?

But I’m okay, take a look at me, I’m as safe as houses.

And when I get home, the mask comes off and I settle back into my ineffective, keyboard warrior, pinko mode.

Outside, buildings burn.

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By the time we get out of bed at just before midday, the morning wind and rain has eased.

“More apples in the yard,” I say.

She just nods, too busy looking for the gin bottle; she needs help with her hangover.

We normally throw them back over the fence. It’s the neighbour’s tree and so it’s their mess. I once tried speaking to them about it but things got out of hand and now there’s a court order saying I’m not to approach them.

Later on when we’ve got ourselves dressed and medicated, I say, “Go throw them back over before they stain the concrete.”

“Do it yourself, knucklehead,” she says.

She’s been calling me knucklehead since last New Year’s Eve when she hit me with a claw hammer leaving a knuckle-shaped indentation on my forehead.

I rub the mark, feel depressed.

“I’ll warm up some soup,” I say, looking around for the can opener.

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You’d think that being abducted by aliens would involve a trip in a spaceship and being strapped onto an operating table to be x-rayed and probed by some tiny green two-headed creatures who are looking to colonise earth and strip us of our resources in order to replenish their war ravished home planet.

That certainly wasn’t my experience, not at all, not at all. My captors simply wanted to learn how to play poker, so they took me off to this pub, the Kings Head, just behind the bus terminus, sat me at a table, fetched me a pint, and told me to shuffle the cards and start teaching. They were a pretty smart bunch (well, two brains apiece) and we soon graduated from playing with matches to hard cash. And they started winning. I thought they were dealing from the bottom of the deck or slipping aces up their sleeves (so many sleeves on so many arms) but I couldn’t catch them at it. At one point I said I was skint and had to withdraw but they suggested a cash-point and the opportunity to win it all back.

So I emptied both mine and Mary’s accounts. Fool thing to do. Lost it all.

They said, Thanks for teaching us. Dropped me off at the corner.

Mary didn’t believe the story. Threw me out. Forever. I’d had my last chance, she said.

I read about Abductees Anonymous, went to a meeting. We sat in a circle on hard straight-backed chairs, no obligation to say anything. Afterwards in the pub I said hello to Starlene.

It’s worked out for us. Happiness ever after. Who’d have thought it?

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Oh my my

He hadn’t experienced so much positive media exposure since appearing as a key prosecution witness in the Cock Robin murder case. And that was some while ago.

To be honest, despite what he put out on Flitter and the fluff his new agent is saying on the morning chat shows, landing on Pence’s head while the cameras were rolling hadn’t been planned, wasn’t a clever ploy to revive a flagging career, nor was it anything to do with the book just about to come out in time for the Christmas market. It was all really serendipity. Having heard there was some shit going down, he had flown into the venue from the local piggery not two blocks away, buzzed around awhile, and then feeling somewhat overheated by all the camera lights, he felt in need of a rest; Pence’s pate was the nearest landing point, and the rest is histoire, as they say.

His agent is currently doing the rounds, playing off the Donald against Sleepy Joe, see if either of them would like some help with the numbers.

Negotiations continue.

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Downs and ups of lockdown

“Nah, we’re fine, making do. We go for walks, do a bit of Facetime, spend time on the phone, keep in touch with kith and kin, read a book or two. Watching a lot more telly, Netflix and the like; learning a bit of basic Hungarian online – Duolingo, you know. Well-being wise? Total A plus 100 percent, no probs. Not like him next door.

“Him? Maybe headed for a mega breakdown, he can’t cope, need to keep him away from the knife drawer, know what I mean. Lockdown’s okay for most people like office johnnies working from home, or yoga teachers giving zoom classes, or people on furlough. But for him. Well, he’s a paid assassin, works for the government and a few large corporations. But what with social distancing, face masks, and people moving in support bubbles, he either can’t find and identify his targets or he can’t get close enough, and so he can’t accept any commissions. He tried a bit of telephone contact tracing to stave off boredom but there hasn’t been enough work to keep him motivated so he jacked that in.

“He’s also worried that he’s getting rusty, losing his skills, needs to keep practicing. Ordered a dozen or so live chickens which he released one by one in the garden so he could improve his tracking and garrotting. But Amazon said no more as they make a mess of the vans and some drivers are alektorophobic, and so that was the end of that. Anyhow, he says that he needs the real thing, chickens are no substitute.

“Actually he’s been okay for the last few days, a lot more relaxed, less pacing and growling. Haven’t seen his missus recently which is surprising; she’s normally around, cheerful and friendly. Maybe gone to visit her mum.”

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Can it be that time already?

The gentle beeps from the monitor surprised her. As did the almost imperceptible vibrations in the tube leading into her digestive system. Using the controls built into the armrest of her pod she raised herself to a seated position, looked at the clock on the screen opposite. Feeding time! She hadn’t noticed she was hungry, but then again, that’s what the algorithm was there for – to pre-empt its client’s needs – to know when to switch on the food pump, when to extract waste, when to activate the LadyBliss-ClimaxIvator.

Next week is her 300th birthday.

Maybe a text from the Kween?

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They came from outer space

They weren’t what we had expected, we nor anybody else and that includes the Ruskies, the Chinese, and all those weirdo anti-vax conspiracy theory weirdos that seem to have overtaken the social media cosmos. After all, the deep space communications we had been having with them over the decades had suggested a mega-tech, extra-terrestrial race presenting itself with mega-tech style and panache, all reflective gold and platinum, slick, sleek, and aerodynamic, and instead we get what looks like a 1950s kitchen sink with missing plug and no hot water tap. There wasn’t even any radiation, dammit!

Of course we tried to suppress our giggles for as long as we could – it’s rude to laugh at your guests, even those from beyond the leaky borders of our universe – but after a day or so, the guffaws became deafening.

The visitors didn’t mind at all. Why would they? They were just about to slam dunk Earth and weren’t going to let the jeers of a few billion low tech bipeds distract them.

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You Gotta Have Faith

He checked the street sign, glanced down at his map, checked the street sign again. He crossed the road, entered the park. Using his compass he measured out fifty paces in a northerly direction.

A gaggle of school kids waved at him, calling out hellos.

A cyclist called out, “Fancy dress party?”

Our man grunted to himself, “Landlubbers,” and paced out fifty paces eastwards.

He paused, studied the map, threw off his backpack, thrust his spade into the soft turf, hit something hard, metallic.

He smiled.

The parrot on his shoulder ruffled its feathers, called out, “Pieces of Eight.”

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June 2020

It’s been a strange old month. One of the strangest I’ve seen, and I’ve been here since the mid-thirties; nineteenth century, that is.

It started off as May ended – quiet, the square mostly deserted, people keeping clear of each other, some wearing face masks. Another plague, pandemic, whatever it’s called. Stoney-eyed, stoney-eared I may be, but I can still read the newspaper placards, hear the chatter; not a lot of people know that.

It’s probably the same down south. Nelson on his column wouldn’t know, of course – he’s too high up and staring into the distance; me, on the other hand, my eyes are cast affectionately at my people, the good hard-working flat voweled denizens who have benefitted no end from my labours, my enterprises, my risk taking, and whose ancestors honoured me by casting me in my image and positioning me on this noble plinth with its honest and respectful inscription thanking me for the contribution I made to the prosperity of the city. I mean, just check out the east wing of the town hall, the library’s reading room, the hospital for lung disease; who do you reckon funded those? And what about all those people who got jobs in my mills especially when our new factory system shut down all the inefficient cottage industries. Remote working? Really? Pullease!

Yep, I did my bit. I was a good family man, a regular church-goer and a conscientious businessman careful to set my prices according to the market and to keep my costs low.

As now, as then, labour costs were the biggy. Shipping the cotton from the estates was cheap – the stuff just blew in on the wind. The workforce, on the other hand, was a different kettle of fish; supply was always up and down, depending on the diligence of the  agents in Africa, the seaworthiness of the ships, and the prices at the auctions. On top of all that, the cost of housing and feeding the workers was punitive.

And then London, bloody London, pulled the rug from under our feet, said workers had to be free, to be paid. Well, we kicked up a stink, managed to delay things, managed to get compensation, so much a head; government had to borrow heavily for that – only finished paying it off a few years ago. I got my fair share.

Ah, June. Got side-tracked. So quiet at first but then suddenly all changed. While the local citizenry usually all but ignore me, apart from during Freshers’ Week when I am expected to wear a traffic cone on my head, I’m suddenly the centre of attention. People are chucking paint at me, waving their fists, blandishing placards, making speeches. The police did nothing; all they seemed interested in was getting people to wear masks (ironic, I thought) and not stand too close to each other. I would have had something to say about it all, but in the light of all the hostility I thought it better to keep mum.

It’s quietened down a little, but I still get small groups of people visiting, speaking quietly to themselves; I don’t always, catch what they are saying, but it seems serious.

Last night some workers in hi-vis vests cordoned off the square with some crowd control barriers. Now, apart from me it’s empty.

Except for a crane and a digger; I wonder what they’re for.



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