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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True Romance

“I don’t believe it,” said Melanie Mills, staring at her friend. “Are you sure it’s the same guy? The guy from last night, he of unparalleled parallel parking skills, he of astonishingly good looks.”

Beth gulped down another mouthful of red. “It was him, and yes it was he of bloody awful manners, he who refused my invitation to share a glass with us, he who gave me the brush off.”

It was only that morning that he had walked into her surgery saying, “Thanks for seeing me. It’s not easy to find a GP willing to take on new patients at such short notice.”

“So what did you do?” asked Melanie.

“Well, I actually froze for a moment, gobsmacked, and then fumbled with the papers on the desk, and must have said something about sitting down, because that’s what he did.

“I mean, can you imagine, I was still spitting angry with him and he was definitely not the person I wanted in my surgery especially as my hangover hadn’t quite cleared yet.”

“Take pills. You’ve got the keys,” muttered Melanie.

“But he didn’t recognize me, had no idea who I was, no idea at all.

“And I said to him that we’ve met before – last night in fact. I reminded him he helped me park my cark. Outside Parker’s Wine Bar, I said. And, hooray, he says he recalls helping someone, was that me! Well, I didn’t say anything about the way he snubbed me in the wine bar; decided to bring up that topic later.”

“Yeah, that was quite funny. Especially as men don’t normally refuse you. You should’ve seen the look on your face. Whew, hell hath no fury like a … Good for your soul, I guess; nothing like a put-down to bring you down to the level of us mere mortals.”

“Piss off, Mel,” said Beth. “I only asked him because he looked lonely, sitting there all on his lonesome. And because he had helped me. It would have taken me another five minutes to get into that space and I would have dinged both the cars front and back. I’ll never get that right.

“Anyhow, there he was, no recollection. Made me feel quite queer, what with me being so upset last night and him being totally oblivious of me.

“Well, he was booked in for a thorough check-up what with him being new to the practice, so I reminded myself of the Hippocratic Oath, polished my stethoscope, and got on with it.

“Started by confirming the info on the notes I had – name, date of birth and so on.”


“What do you mean, ‘And’?”

“And, what’s his name, how old is he, is he married, does he have interesting birthmarks, scars, bullet wounds? In other words, is he fit, is he a suitable candidate for your attention? Or mine, come to think of it?”

“C’mon, Mel, patient confidentiality and all that. Can’t be saying, get struck off, you know. Anyway, hands off until I say so, if ever. My patient, me gets first dibs.”

“I’ll pay for the next bottle. C’mon, tell me.”

“And some crisps. But no detail, just topline stuff.”

“You’re on,” said Melanie punching the air.

“So, name is Brett, age around thirty-five…”

“Strong name, good age, Bethy, so far tres good.”

“Not married, no kiddies. Strong jaw, clear eyes, excellent head of hair, teeth in good order, not overweight, not underweight, obviously gets enough exercise, strong hands by the look of them. Hunky, I would say. No scars so far. A dolphin tattoo on each arm, upper arm. Discreet, classy.  He’s fit, Mel, bloody fit. And I reckon really intelligent. He’s got a great accent, Welsh, I think, could listen to that voice for hours on end, like velvet…”

“Beth! Whoah! Topline only, you said. He seems to have floated your boat totally.”

Beth frowned, “Hardly. He’s just a patient. Hardly my type. Anyhow, he’s going through a difficult time. His fiancée dumped him. Last night, Mel, she dumped him last night, the cow, by text, can you believe it and he’s really hurting which is probably why he behaved as he did – he’s now probably got a thing about women, all women, probably doesn’t trust us. Oh, Mel, I really do feel for him.”

“Hmmm, you always have had a thing for wounded animals, especially big strong ones you can mould into how you like them. I suspect this is another such case.”


“Rubbish, yeah. So what happens next then?”

“Well, I suggested he goes away for a while, take a break. Go to Scotland, walk the hills, bag a Monro or two. There’s a rather classy boutique hotel in Scotland I told him about – remote, no telly, no wifi, no phone signal; a get-away-from-it-all sort of place.  They’ll look after him.

“Then back here for his test results.”

“That gets him out of the way, I guess. Good thinking, Doctor Boon, great piece of prescribing. And you can get back to normal.”

“Too true.

“Anyhow I feel like a rest myself so tomorrow evening I’m off to Scotland for the weekend. Walking with a friend. Staying at a classy little boutique hotel I know.”

Melanie woke up to her bedside alarm just before the midday news. She cherished these lie-ins, her lazy self-indulgent Sunday routines, the slow pace after the fast-moving Saturday nights. She switched on the kettle, switched on the radio, stepped into the shower cubicle, turned on the taps. Listening with half and ear she heard, “Broadmoor high security psychiatric hospital…absconded…do not approach…Welsh accent…Dolphin tattoos on upper arms…notify police…”

“Somewhere in Scotland,” she spoke into her phone, “No she didn’t say, wouldn’t say. Remote, no wifi, no mobile signal. Oh god, oh god. Scotland, that’s all I know, that’s all I know.”


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Jam Tomorrow


Image copyright: JS Brand

The quayside hotel had operated as a landing point in the heroin trade for years. Boats of all sizes and shapes came and went, while landside convoys of four wheel drives ferried the stuff to the airstrip just outside town.

By chance, widows Edith and Lavender Seymour had booked a weekend break on the second floor with sea view, a mistake acknowledged by both the travel agent and Caitriona Santiago, an intern working on the hotel’s reception desk.

The widows showed the staff how to make marmalade and soon they dumped the drugs and set up a preserves business.



Written in response to Rocky Wisoff-Fields’ weekly photo prompt found here:

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The Russians are Coming

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

We’re a pretty close community. Most of us have lived in Acacia Crescent for decades, met each other at the school gates, the Woman’s Institute, our neighbourhood watch scheme, the Bosun’s Whistle. I guess we really bonded when the local council tried to shut down the library – our action group gave them a real run for their money. And we won, largely thanks to Daphne Smithers from number twenty-three who pulled everybody together and drove the whole campaign. What a woman! Hubby Mitch was always there for her, of course, but he didn’t have the same charisma; it was all Daphne’s doing. She should have got a gong for that.

Instead she got ill and got it bad. She had only a few months from diagnosis. We all did as much as possible to help her and Mitch but there’s only so much one can do. We made meals, yeah, helped with laundry, yeah, prayed, yeah; there was a rota to manage the visits, the meals, being there for Mitch. Prayer was private – no timetable stipulated.

The service was held in the cemetery chapel – packed to the gunnels it was. All of us locals were there, as you would imagine. Also some people from the hospital. And the hospice. Surprisingly both a vicar and a rabbi turned up – I think they had been on the library picket line at some point. Mitch was a bit of a mess, lots of tears, tried to be brave but didn’t quite manage. Not only Mitch, though; not many dry eyes visible. I guess we loved that woman.

Afterwards we all went back to the Bosun’s for the wake – pints and pies. Mitch footed the bill. There were speeches of course. Lots of praise for someone who not only did good in the world but someone who was fun to be with. Mitch did his best, declaring he could never look at another woman, that Daphne was his one and only. Until the end.

Six months later he was using at least two online dating sites, swiping left, swiping right, not wanting anything long term, just hook-ups. And surprisingly he was getting what he was looking for. We live in the house opposite him and he is sometimes slack about closing the curtains in the evening, so we know. As do most of the gang – at first they didn’t believe us so we held a few Mitch-watch soirees (bring your binocs, we said) – and it wasn’t long before we were all discussing the parade of usually younger women not often seen in Acacia Crescent. Most didn’t stay for more than one night – no commitment was the name of the game, I imagine.

At first we were all shocked, felt for Daphne. But sometimes we felt for Mitch as well although not too much. We tried not to judge, but he was behaving like a sleaze ball and we would rather he didn’t – after all, this is Acacia Crescent. Nonetheless it’s his life, we would say, each to their own, who will cast the first stone, who of us is without sin. Indeed, I’m not sure there were many of us who didn’t find the whole business a wee bit titillating; I mean, witness the number of cameras with long lenses that came to our little dos.

And then a Russian woman appeared on the scene. You could tell she was Russian – those high cheekbones, the legs, the highest of high heels. Furs. Exotic. Erotic, said some of us. And she wasn’t just a one-night stand. She was around a lot, sometimes leaving the house as late as midday, huge sunglasses in place and not seeming to care who saw her and who didn’t. Tart.

It seemed as though she was there to stay. One afternoon I just happened to glance in the direction of Mitch’s place when I saw Ana or Nina, or whatever her name was, draw up in a taxi laden with suitcases. I snatched a quick shot on my smartphone and WhatsApped it to the Mitch-watch group as Ana (or Nina) disembarked Hollywood style and watched as the taxi driver proceeded to haul the bags to the door of number twenty-three. That’s not for an overnight stay, I thought; this woman has taken the place of our Daphne.

I was just busy taking a few more pics for the group when blow me down if yet another taxi doesn’t arrive and outsteps someone who could only be the twin sister of our Ana (or Nona) – same high cheekbones, legs and cheeks. And furs. My camera went into overdrive and soon I thought that WhatsApp was going to explode there was so much activity on it. Blimey. Svetlana had landed.

There was only one thing to do and that was to call an extraordinary special meeting of the Mitch-watchers for later that evening to be held in the upstairs meeting room at the Bosun’s. I phoned the pub, booked the room and ordered three large platters of sandwiches (corned beef with mustard, cheese, marmite, and medium roast beef slices with a smear of horseradish sauce) and said put on an extra person behind the bar – the pints are going to flow.

And they certainly did and they certainly were at eight fifteen just as I had finished the introductions (nearly of all of Acacia Crescent were there except for poor nonagenarian Mrs Bentley at number eleven and, no surprise, bibliphobe Mr Jenkins at number forty-two) and was about to start on my speech calling for the tarring and feathering of the weasely widower when Mitch himself stepped through the door of the upstairs room at the Bosun, looked around, and said, “What’s up? A meeting? Can we come in?” The “we” obviously referring to himself and Ana (or Nona) and Svetlana who were hovering just behind him.

Luckily I hadn’t distributed an agenda and luckily I can think fast on my feet (I had attended a Toastmasters course in my mid-fifties and had learnt a few tricks) and so it was without difficulty, but much to the puzzlement of most of my fellow Crescenters, that I was able to introduce the subject of the street planters which, I’m sure we all would have agreed, were in a parlous state and had not been maintained by the council despite a number of emails sent by myself on behalf of our group.

Half an hour later we took a break and as Chair I bought Mitch and his  companions a drink (it’s only good manners), as did several others, and before too long we were all having a jolly good time.

“S’very good fun, no?” said Ogla (not Ana or Nona).

“Svinging, yes?” said Viktoria (not Svetlana).

“Oh, Vladivostok,” murmured Geoff from number thirty-nine, ogling Olga’s attributes.

“Ra ra Rasputin.” sang Andy from sixty-six.

“Madness eh?” said Mitch, “Daph’s distant relatives. Er, students. Learning English. Looking for conversation classes.” He hardly blushed.

Over the next few months I learnt a fair amount of Russian, nothing I’d care to put in writing. A bit naughty, some of it.

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A modern fable


Image copyright: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

He had done well – PPE from Oxford, MBA from Yale, snapped up by a leading international consultancy before setting up his own hedge fund which segued into one of capitalism’s most aggressive asset stripping businesses.

He made billions.

At the age of fifty-five he sold up, and with his third and much younger wife in tow, he moved to an historic country estate for a life of rural luxury.

Within a year he had sold off the woods and invited in the frackers to extract the oil from the far end of his garden.

The leopard always loves its spots.


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ weekly 100 (and please no more!) word photo challenge found here:

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Image copyright: Sandra Crook

Once upon a time a great big spaceship landed and out popped a big green multi-mouthed alien monster. The local community made some sort of flag waving welcoming approach to it, but being a self-sufficient creature it was having none of it; it even refused a bowl of homemade chocolate cookies from the church’s ladies club.

Edvin the woodcutter and his wife Elsa, being outsiders themselves, tried hard, showing it how to sharpen an axe and how to kill a wolf, but all it did was take huge bites out of the front of their cottage.

Fortunately nobody was hurt.


Written in response to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ weekly photo prompt found here:

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Image copyright: J Hardy Carroll

There ain’t no quick fix. We just aren’t hardwired to do that. Humans – badly designed. Age two, they’re still pissing their pants. Unlike the good old lion cub which by that age is busy tearing throats out of passing zebras.

Stick and carrot, eh? You reckon? Not sure that that’ll work in this case. He’s sixteen going on three, knows the score. We’ve tried offering sweeties; we’ve beaten the shit out of him. It don’t work. He just carries on as normal.

Normal? Hours on his games, room stinks of marijuana, dirty socks.

The girl? Fine. Swings and roundabouts, eh?



Written in response to Rochelle’s weekly photo prompt found here:

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How the other half live

Image copyright: Victor and Sarah Potter

I knock on the door of #33. The postman has left a parcel for her. Widowed Mrs Murray.

She says, Come in. I look around. She says, Cuppa? I says, Yes please.

She in kitchen; I run forefinger along top of doorframe, over bookcase. Dust free! I peer under sofa. Polished! Pristine!

May I use the…? says I. Feel free, says she. Porcelain stain free, no cobwebs, no water marks! Fresh towel!

My head is around the kitchen door. Tea stained cups, none! Wine stained glasses, none! Surfaces uncluttered! Spotless!

All very weird, huh?

How the other half live!


Written in response to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ weekly photo prompt found here:

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He was, as usual, reassured by the spotlessly clean scrubs. At first he had been anxious, but the ongoing professionalism of the operating room staff has meant that he never really worries when he is wheeled in to lie under those bright lights. And what he really likes during those procedures which don’t require him to go under are the documentaries and TV repeats showing on the overhead screen (but why Benny Hill, he sometimes wondered).

So far, he reckoned, they had sampled his DNA, taken 3d images of most of his organs, taken some of the skin from his left buttock which they immediately transplanted onto a pig resting on an adjacent trolley, transplanted some pig skin on to him.

He didn’t care for some of the food (lots of green slimy stuff) and for most of the experiments and he wished he had more freedom to leave the ward and go walk-about.

But all in all he was still alive and the view of all the planets and stars from his bedside porthole was pretty spectacular.

He already had the book in his head but he felt his working title, “Alien Abductions – the Truth,” sounded a bit too tabloid. He needed to work on that a bit more.

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He was the perfect pub dog. Friendly with the punters, he spread his wet nose favours without prejudice to one and all, even the lager drinkers. He allowed children to pet and pat him at will happily tolerating their sometimes roughhouse behaviour, never growling, never nipping; parents adored him. He was a credit to his landlord.

After closing, when the last customers had made their reluctant goodbyes, Bovril would patrol the empty bar area with its overflowing tills and ten thousand hangovers worth of alcohol with such ferocity that even the most desperate of thieves stayed well away.

As a pup he had seen the damage the excess consumption of alcohol caused, how it destroyed relationships, how it ruined the health of so many, and so when he reached his fifteenth month mark he determined to abstain, and by the beard of Francis of Assisi, his resolve never wavered.

He did, however, love the smoky atmosphere of the crowded pub, loved the sting of nicotine in his nostrils, loved the flick snap of Zippos in action. When the ban came in he despaired and ran away to the countryside to work with sheep.

Sadly, he never did return to the city.

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A Modern Tale

A Modern Tale

Things weren’t going well at Acme Ball Bearings. Management blamed the workers. As you would expect. The workers blamed management. Ditto. The Board couldn’t decide so they called in consultants, a firm with a four letter name, the initials of the founder partners long since expelled by the current incumbents.

The consultants interviewed the management team, made notes. They interviewed the workers. Ditto. They measured the distance between the factory floor and the toilets, between the MD’s office and the photocopy room. They checked the tea and coffee served to the executives as well as to the workers.

Over a period of two weeks they peeked and poked, poked and peeked, audited, rated, and quantified all that moved and all that didn’t move. Clipboards were everywhere.

A report was written, submitted.

“We are vindicated,” said management.

“Ditto,” said the workers.

The consultants raised an invoice.

Acme Ball Bearings went bust.

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