The Houdini of Hounslow #shortstory #lifeinagrainofsand

Hounslow Boys’ Home 1931

‘You ready?’

‘I ain’t sure, Jim.’

‘You comin’ or ain’t you?’

‘I suppose. I just never done nuffin’ like this.’

‘S’easy. Just grab the top of the wall.’

‘Oi! What are you boys doing?’

‘Oh cripes, it’s Wacko. Jim? Jim?’

He’d escaped. Like so many times. Over the wall, onto the path, dodging any obstacle. He laughed, the moon catching his smile. He’d pay. Of course, he’d pay, but the price was worth it for the feeling of being free.

47 Gracefield Terrace 1940

‘I’m not sure, Jim. Really. If my dad—’

‘Gie’s a kiss then.’

‘What if you don’t get back?’

‘I’m comin’ back, girl. Don’t you think otherwise.’

‘But if you didn’t and we hadn’t—’

‘Up to you. I don’t mind.’

‘We’ll be quick. Marje says you can’t get up the duff if you’re quick.’

‘Alright. Hold still.’

‘Ethel? What’s going on? Why are you talking?’

‘My dad. Oh God. Go!’

‘Hey! Is that Jim Patterson? Wait till I get my hands on the little bleeder.’

‘No chance, grandpa. See you, Ethel. Be careful.’

Jim fiddled with his fly as he ran. The old boy’s face’s a picture. Hope she doesn’t get too much a larruping for that. I’ll see her right when I get back.

Stalag XII 1944

‘You ready?’

‘Sure. It’s a twenty-seven second sweep. Two guards at eleven o’clock. Trees four hundred yards. No moon. Good luck everyone.’

‘Privates Patterson and Gilbert?’

‘Sir?’

‘Sir?’

‘Stick with me. I can speak some German. Easier that way.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘In ten, nine… GO!’

Jim ran in a semi-crouch, half an eye on the spotlight and half on the lieutenant. The lieutenant wasn’t helped by his gammy leg and began to fall behind when a shot rang out. The lieutenant crumpled with a groan.

Jim turned back.

‘Leave him, Jim. He’d want you to go on.’

Jim shook his head. ‘You go, Steve. Don’t worry, I’ll escape next time.’

‘How are you doing, sir?’

‘Patterson, what are you doing, you bloody fool. Get away.’

‘Let’s look at you, sir, before Jerry get here. Now try not to move.’

‘No good, Patterson.’

‘You’ll be as right a rain in a day, sir. Now let’s try and stop the bleedin’.’

Cries in German filled the air followed by a burst of machine gun fire and several shouts and cries. Then silence. He closed his eyes and squeezed the lieutenant’s hand.

Hounslow High Street 1946

‘Jim? Jim Patterson? Blimey. I heard you’d copped it.’

‘Ethel? Bloody hell, what happened to you?’

‘Ha! Always was the cheeky one. Four kids that’s what happened. Twins last year.’

‘Four! I didn’t know you wanted ‘em so much.’

Ethel squeezed his arm. ‘If Dad hadn’t interrupted us, I might’ve got lucky with you, eh? You might be their dad.’

Jim nodded slowly. ‘So, who’s the lucky fella?’

‘Archie Peasmore. He’s a teacher. Reserved occupation and short sighted. He wanted to fight, you know.’

‘Yeah, course. Is he about?  I want to congratulate him on a fine catch.’

‘ARCHIE PEASMORE, put that fag out and come over ‘ere.’

Jim watched the skinny bespectacled man shuffle across, his head bowed almost as if he expected to be slapped.

‘This ‘ere is Jim wot I told you about. He—’

‘That.’

‘Yer wot?’

‘That I told you about, not wot I told.’

Jim watched as Ethel’s face coloured. ‘Are you trying to embarrass me, Archie Peasmore? Because if you are—?’

‘No, dear, not at all. I’m just trying to point out—’

‘Why don’t you go and find Mam, so we can have a nice cuppa while you take the brats to the park? Do you want a cuppa, Jim?’

But Jim had gone, smiling his gleaming smile.

A22 Blindley Heath 1954

‘What happened? It looks a right mess.’

‘No idea. One minute I’m waiting to pull out, the next this motorbike comes out of nowhere, no lights and just misses me but swerves in front of him. JESUS. It’s gone up in flames. Quick, I hope to God no one is still in that car.’

Jim lay still, vaguely aware of the flames engulfing his Morris Oxford, his pride and joy. He wondered about the motorbike rider who he’d narrowly missed and asked himself if he had been going too fast. His neck hurt, and he wasn’t sure if he could feel his right leg. He tried a smile that turned into a grimace. Typical if he survived Jerry and died in sodding Surrey.

‘He’s here. Don’t move, mister. Someone’s gone for help. If you hadn’t been thrown clear you’d have roasted.’

‘The motorcyclist? How’s he?’

‘Not good. When he was thrown he hit a tree. Poor sod.’

Jim closed his eyes. One day his luck would run out.

Redhill Hospital 1958

‘Mr Patterson? Your wife asked me to have a word with you. About her morning sickness.’

‘It’s awful, ain’t it, doctor?’ Jim flexed his leg, the ache telling him it would rain soon.

‘Yes, Mr Patterson, it is. It’s very extreme and we do worry about the baby in these cases. However, there is a new treatment that is garnering a lot of good reports that might help.’

‘I’m not sure, doc.  Me old mum didn’t agree with fancy new potions. I sort of feel the same.’

‘Oh, Mr Patterson, this is the second half of the twentieth century. I think we’ve moved beyond old wives’ superstitions, haven’t we?’

Jim lowered his head. He really didn’t want to punch a doctor. It wouldn’t do his application to join the police force much good. But the arrogant know-all, calling his mum an old wife – who’d struggled to bring him and his two brothers up after his dad left – that wasn’t right. Even if she did have to stick them in that home from time to time.

‘So, what’s this treatment?’

‘It’s called Thalidomide*. A miracle really…’

The doctor looked up from his desk and his gaze met Jim’s. Jim held it, not sure what to do. Then the doctor looked away.

‘We’ll manage, doc.  The old way.’

Basement flat, 54 Corporation Street, Hounslow 1970

‘I’ve had it, Jim. Your drinking is too much.’

‘I’m not drunk, Sheila. Honest.  Jober as a sudge, s’me.’

‘Yes, you are. Lost your job, and you’re losing us.’

‘Is temporary, Sheila. Juss—’

‘You need to grow up. We’re going back to Mother.’

Jim Patterson put the whiskey bottle to his lips, a final defiant gesture. His hand fell back as he heard the front door slam; he let the tears flow. He wasn’t drunk, not by his standards, but he knew he would be later and the chances were he’d hit Sheila or the kid and then hate himself. He hated how he was, how he couldn’t hold down a job, and because he couldn’t walk properly, he could barely collect his benefit. It was easy to say why: his mum dying, losing his job with the Force, but he was a better man than that. Was being the operative word, he thought. He was just a burden and they were well off without him.

The same notion as he’d had on and off for a year came back to him in a rush. He pulled himself to his feet and stumbled, stupidly incoherent in his movements, to the kitchen. Hurrying so as not to lose motivation, he pulled the wire shelves and metal trays from the oven and cleared the floor. He remembered someone saying it took only a few minutes to become unconscious and then there was no coming back. He reached for the gas-tap and stopped. He needed to block the gaps in the door. Having finished that he crawled back to the oven, turned it on and lay down with his head inside.

‘Jim? Jim? Wake up? What are you thinking?’

Jim looked at his wife’s frightened face. ‘Are we both dead?’

‘No, you goon. You can’t gas yourself these days with natural gas; not now they’ve changed from town gas. A year ago, and you’d have been a goner. Here, come to me.’

As Sheila cradled his head, Jim wept, ‘I will change. I’ll start at AA tomorrow. You see if I don’t.’

‘I know.’

Sunshine nursing home, Hounslow 1999

‘And if you come this way, Mr Johnson, I’ll introduce you to Jim Patterson and his bride-to-be.’

‘Do inmates wed, Mr Thomas?’

‘We prefer the term ‘guests’. Inmates sounds a trifle custodial. Yes, they do indeed though I’m not entirely sure this is a match made in heaven.’

‘How so?’

‘Well, apparently before the war Jim and Ethel Peasmore were sweethearts and would have wed but for Mr Patterson spending three and a bit years as a POW. He was quite the character, escaping a dozen or so times but never quite making it back home. Meanwhile Ethel married a teacher, thinking he was dead. They’d not seen each other for years until Ethel joined our little community in March after her husband passed. They’re inseparable.’

‘That’s so lovely. They can catch up on all those missing years.’

‘Well, yes, in a way but, see, Jim can’t walk anymore and, well, come and see.’

The two men stood by the part-opened door. Ethel maintained a constant stream of chatter, barely taking a breath.

‘He doesn’t say much, does he?’

‘Could you? She’s uninterruptable that one. We all feel a bit sorry for Jim, but he confirmed he is happy with the wedding plans and the doctors are sure he knows his own mind.’

‘So, when’s the big day?’

‘Tomorrow. We have a licence for civil ceremonies. Shall we say hello?’

Pushing through the door they approached Ethel and Jim. It only took a few moments to realise Jim was not asleep but dead. As they waited for the ambulance and a female staff member comforted Ethel, Mr Johnson said, ‘Perhaps he had a lucky escape after all?’

*Thalidomide is an infamous drug that was prescribed to help pregnant women who had debilitating morning sickness. It soon became associated with appalling birth defects in the new born.

This short story first appeared on this blog in 2016 as part of Nanowrimo. If you enjoyed it, it and its 29 fellows can be found in the anthology Life In A Grain Of Sand that is current on offer as a giveaway if you click the title. The offer stays open until Sunday

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Lip- Snacking Good #flashfiction #carrotranch

The boys are taking a break on their hunt for the mythic Carrot Ranch and reminisce…

‘Morgan, stop.’

‘I’m only eating crisps.’

‘It’s,like being in an aural hailstorm. Close your mouth.’

‘Oh, soz. I thought you wanted to ban snacking. That would be tough and a nasty reminder of

school.’

‘School?’

‘I was about fifteen, the head sent this memo about banning snacking. I was a bit of a lippy lout and wanted to protest, determined to stop it.’

‘It does seem harsh.’

‘Yes, well my class had to hold me back. I misread the memo. They were banning smacking.’

‘You weren’t popular.

‘Nope, they gave me a right old snacking for my pains.’

This week’s #carrotranch prompt is

September 24, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about snacking. It can feature crunchy snacks or creamy one. Who is snacking on what and why? How can you make this a story? Go where the prompt leads!

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Fruit Conspiracy

The Bramley…

I’m a man of routine, these Rona Virus days. Up, pee, make tea for the Textiliste, feed Dog, put porridge on to soak, make Vicky’s breakfast, feed cats and take Vicky her plate of chopped tortoise stuff…

grapes, with a side of dandelions please

Our apple tree – a delightful Bramley – is next to Vicky’s summer house. I’ve been admiring the growing fruit since the early summer.

July 2020

At this time of year, while the crop ripens, I collect any windfalls.

June 2020

If they’re too bruised or wasp chomped, I toss them next to the trunk to be stomped back into the soil but otherwise carry my collecting back to the kitchen.

If they’re a little bruised I make a crumble or dice and freeze. Unbruised are treated as per the next paragraph

At the end of September I pick the crop and, if they are unbruised store, as per my Dad’s instructions, wrapped in old newspaper on frames in the garage. Last year I stored some 1000 apples which lasted until April. The year before it was about 600. It’s always three figures. Happily we love apples.

Saturday I didn’t see any windfalls; it’s been warm and still. Sunday, ditto, apart from a couple of beyond hope.

Monday, still none. By now curious, I peered into the canopy. And peered. And squinted, And stared. And gawped.

There was one.

One sodding apple. The unbruised windfalls, ready wrapped amounted to about forty (until I opened them to check on them)…

after which there were about twenty…

Logic says it’s a year off, the heat of earlier and in the spring when the flowers were setting in April and May was what did for the fruit. It just didn’t have the legs.

But, no, in this case I’m a conspiracy theorist. There’s an apple thief about. Probably those pesky parakeets, not satisfied with decimating my sunflowers. Come over here, eating my fruit…

Dog is now vigilant in defence of our crops…

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COLLEEN’S 2020 #BOOK #REVIEWS – “The Sincerest Form of Poetry,” BY AUTHOR, Geoff Le Pard, @geofflepard

Colleen Cheeseboro has started the ball rolling for my first poetry book with the most fabulous review on her blog today. Please do visit and then stay a while!!

Word Craft ~ Prose & Poetry

Featuring Your Next Weekend Read!

About this Book

An anthology of poems, inspired by the top 100 British poems and a love of sonnets.

Amazon.com

All of life in one easy couplet

“To write poetry, I need inspiration. Often that comes from my appreciation of the craftsmanship of other, better poets, whose skills I aspire to emulate. For this anthology, I have chosen two such sources: in part one, the search for Britain’s favourite poem led to the publication of the top 100, and I have used a number of these to craft my own take on those beautiful and inspirational works; in part two, my love of the sonnet form, fostered by reading Shakespeare’s gems, has provided a selection covering many topics and themes. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them.”

~ Geoff Le Pard

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

MY RECOMMENDATION

Geoff Le…

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The Garden – Autumn Works, Part 2 #garden

Part of the garden plans involve changing two beds.

The first has, this year, been supplying us with veg as well as full of sunflowers. In an effort to lower the maintenance we decided a while ago to make this into a wild flower section, probably with some fruit trees but the area needs contouring first to ensure there are no hollows that will fill with water when that part of the garden floods (as it does).

To achieve this as well as part of the lawn autumn management, I order six tonnes of topsoil. Three of those tonnes were due to go on this bed and the triangle bed that will be a mass of colour for the wedding – again some contouring was needed.

This weekend, therefore, and in advance of the lawn works I moved three of those tonnes into heaps on the beds. We don’t want to rip out the final tomatoes or the still flowering sunflowers, but having the material in the right place will save time.

That was Saturday.

I was on a bit of a roll, so we turned our attention to the upper bed that will mostly be a new terracing, with arched frames for climbers and narrow beds for some summer colour.

We’ve been gradually clearing it, preparatory to digging and saving the well nourished soil. In a trench the pipes for the water capture will go, as will the power for the pump and the builders are due to start in the next two weeks, now the brickies have finished making the gate posts.

Hence the ‘on a roll’. having emptied three tonne sacks and having a couple of spares I thought I’d start the soil capture.

Five sacks later and we’ve a nice trench, or at least the start. It’s like an archaeological dig, really because as I dug down I hit a level of brick and paving about nine inches under the soil. We can’t be sure but we think there was once a large Victoria house here that was cleared when our house and that next door were built in the mid 1930s. This level of hardstanding is probably a residue of that building which the builders will need to break up. Hopefully it’s not a mass grave…

That still leaves two thirds of the earth to remove. Currently we’re debating where to put it. Some of it will be used around the garden but there will be surplus and I’m loath to lose it having fed it and cherished it for the last thirty years. I suppose it keeps me fit…

And then there’s dog… of course.

and a bonus Dog from a while ago…

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Blind To Tragedy #flashfiction #prompt

They all saw the dog. Black, shaggy, watchful.

The suit said he couldn’t have known, not his fault. I think he blames the student for bumping into the guy. She’d have been watching the dog, too. At least the dude’s on it, holding the dog. Everyone’s worried about the dog.

I called a handler, just in case he bites. Standard procedure, when paramedics come. Now that’s sorted they all want away. No one’s asked about the guy, have they?

No one sees a stiff, not when there’s a dog to keep them distracted.

Flash!friday prompt. 93 words , include an animal, use the picture

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The University Years – This Sporting Life, Part One #bristoluniversity #1975

We were introduced to rugby early, though the Archaeologist, here, never took to it

It is 1975 and I’ve left my sleepy New Forest home for the bright lights and persistent rain that was Bristol University to study law and life. I had a lot to learn.

Arriving at University, it was a chance to reinvent myself. I had this notion that I could pretend to be a decent rugby player and blag my way into one of the University teams. At this point – 1975 – Bristol University had a pretty decent reputation as a rugby university, outside of the prima donnas at Oxbridge. Loughborough were consistently the best but Bristol was in the top group.

Maybe seconds then…?

At the Faffy Squash – freshers to most people, but in Bristol speak ‘find a friend first year’ – all the clubs and societies presented their wares. Bristol University Rugby Club was no exception and I signed up. I have a recollection their coach was there, asking about experience and didn’t seem to rate mine much – he was too shrewd frankly, seeming through my charade. But still, I had the first date for some pre-season training at the university gym and trotted along with my plimsoles and PE kit.

Never have I had my delusions so rapidly and comprehensively unwrapped and paraded for the world to see. The session lasted somewhere between an hour and a decade and a lot of it required me to carry so bemuscled boulder in shuttle ‘runs’ – more staggers, than sprints – and while doing squats that were meant to build my thighs but merely expelled my patellas from their previous placements, like an over-vigorous use of toothpaste. The final section involved is breaking into two groups and jogging in opposite directions around the sports hall. When you met at the far corner you turned and sprinted the diagonal before jogging to the next sprint. Back then I was a decent back – small and flighty – so I had a fair bit of natural pace. Even though by then I was running on fumes, I managed a couple of credible sprints against a couple of rock-humans.

The coach – Bob Reeves – wasn’t impressed and began bellowing. And then picking on people to do small egregious tasks. ‘Drop for twenty’ being one such. By this time the ‘drop’ component was a doddle but the ‘twenty’?

As we sat around the gym walls, even the fittest looked like they had auditioned for the Night Of The Living Dead. Bob and some weasily minion called people out and took some details. I was one of maybe a dozen not called. We’d not touched a ball yet he’d pretty much concluded who’d be in his squad.

I did turn up for the trial games, which took place at the sports ground, and I did okay, albeit I was asked to play out of the positions I was familiar with. And I did attend more training and I did get fitter. But something of the spirit had gone from me. That year I played rugby for my hall, a ‘turn up and giggle’ sort of fixture, which was fine. And when I went home for a weekend and at Christmas I turned out for my old club, far fitter than I’d ever been. I sort of gave up on University Rugby…

Then, when I started my third year, a different more confident Geoff by then, I turned up for training. I’d already decided that there were teams I could play for locally, if not the University and this would be an excellent way to stay in shape. I trained during the summer so wasn’t as unprepared and I knew what Bob’s approach was and could laugh at its absurdities. If only the 18 year old me had realised standing up to it, not letting it matter was the best approach, I wouldn’t have waited three years to enjoy a season playing some of the best rugby I was to have. Mostly I formed part of a solid group in the University third XV but as the season progressed and people were injured, dropped out or weren’t as good as thought, I guested for the seconds. I trained sometimes with the firsts and it was abundantly plain that their standard was neither a small step nor a giant leap away for me, but something more akin to galaxy hopping. I understand and accepted my limitations.

The Textiliste, with whom I was an item in that third year watched one game.

Weren’t we the coolest? Mum made the trousers…

Our fly half broke his leg in three places that day, easily the worst injury I ever saw live on any sports field. She never came after that and though I played until I was a year shy of forty, never watched me again. Her take that day was pretty understandable: ‘If that could happen to you, I’d rather visit you in hospital when it’s been set, that see it from start to finish’. I couldn’t blame her.

It didn’t put me off though…

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Garden Works – Update

The works I foreshadowed the other day began in earnest on Friday.

First up we cleaned out 90% of the long bed that will became the new terracing for the wedding. The builders will start on it soon – they have to lay the pipework and cabling for the water capture as well and we are having the paving re-laid and re-grouted to make sure it is not a trip hazard – all those bloody heels again! They’ll be building two new gates that will make access to the back easier too.

So out came three roses to be replanted around the garden and two potentillas, all of which are in large pots for now.

After that we recovered an old butler’s sink with a mix of sand cement and compost that makes it a fabulous sink garden for succulents. This was originally done thirty years ago and had begun to fall off. Now it’s refreshed.

Having hacked off the old rendering, we covered the surface in PVA glue and sand to make a binding surface.

Then mixed one part cenent with one part sand and one part compost.

While the Textilsite made the gloopy pastry mix,

yours truly did the packing.

Came out okay, I’d say.

Dog helped, of course

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Looking Back For Answers #shortstory #lifeinagrainofsand

James runs. Two things are clear. One: he can’t trust anyone; and two: he will revenge his father’s death. Now he understands, and she will pay.

***

The blonde slumped to the floor, a hole in her forehead. James tensed for the inevitable bullet. Nothing. He turned. A flash of red, more titian he thought, disappearing into the bushes. His saviour. She wanted him alive, which meant there was only one person who could have set him up. One person who knew him well enough. He felt for a pulse. His assassin was very dead. He picked up her gun, small, feminine.  This time he’d keep it. 

***

‘Stand still.  I’ll shoot if you twitch.’ The blonde’s gaze didn’t falter.

James swallowed hard. He shouldn’t have come; he should have smelt the trap. 

‘You knew we’d find you, surely?’

‘We? The Jantas, you mean.’

‘What do you think, James? Or rather Mark Stenson. Little very dead Mark. Your first friend. Touching you used his name.’

He tried to focus on the gun. It was small, almost dainty. He’d seen it before. ‘How’d you know about the name?’

The blonde smiled. ‘Think who you told, James. Go on, think?’

That wasn’t right. ‘I only told Annise. How could she—?’

‘How could she betray you? Oh well, who knows anyone else, eh? At least you’ll know who wants you dead before I kill you.’

Something jarred. How would Annise know about Mark beyond his name? To play for time he asked her name.

She looked vaguely incredulous. ‘Most people ask who sent me.’

‘You said. The Jantas.’

‘Oh well, if you say so.’

‘I don’t believe it’s Annise.’

‘You wouldn’t, of course. It destroys your notion of family. First your father. Anyway, we haven’t all day.’

‘You’re not going to kill me.’

‘After what you did? Surely even you knew it would end like this?’

‘Not here, though. It’s too public.’

‘Really. Where is everyone? Who are you expecting?’

He tried a different approach. ‘We’re in a churchyard. We’ve just buried him.’

‘Apposite then. Or ironic since you killed him.’

James shuffled his feet. He wanted to piss. ‘That was an accident.’ He took a breath, deep and slow. ‘So, what now?’

‘You walk to the grave. I shoot you. You fall in.’ She held up her free hand and mimicked pulling the trigger.

In moments he was at the grave where he’d seen Annise and his mother, probably for the last time, as they paid their respects.

‘Ok. Turn nice and slow.’

She smiled and raised her gun. ‘You want to know what’s funny?’

***

James watched his mother drop a handful of earth into his father’s grave. The urge to go over almost overwhelmed him. Her grey-white hair, freshly permed, contrasted with her neat black ensemble. Always immaculate, unlike Annise’s scruffy green and red outfit, with her tousled hair blowing free. She didn’t care, he knew that now. He knew she would be scanning the cemetery looking for him, wondering if he dared come and risk it. Had she told their mother? Would she burden her? After he’d killed their father it was the least he could do. She’d know that. So, what was her plan? He should trust her, but after all that had happened why would he? No, he’d leave her, go away, think. He needed to do some thinking because something was very wrong. She never showed emotion – that wasn’t in her nature, like their father. Then again, she hadn’t killed their father.

Her note had told him he’d be safe here. Really?  He was sure neither of them expected him to come but he had. Thinking could wait.

He took a deep breath. Time to show himself.

***

James paced the square; he didn’t like being out in the open. Where was Annise? She’d promised to explain. Something caught his attention.

A youngster on a bike.  ‘Are you Mark?’

Why did that feel wrong? Using his fake name? ‘Yeah.’

‘Message from Annise.’ The kid dropped something and pedalled away.

James read her note. He’s dead. Funeral at two. St Mary’s. Mum’ll be there. You’ll be safe. We need to talk. James walked away quickly. He didn’t trust her, but he had to go.

***

James’ hands shook. The blood poured from the wound in his father’s head. How could Dad have betrayed him?

He jumped. Someone else was there. He was torn between checking to see if his father was dead and protecting himself. He’d learnt to be wary. He griped the metal rod and waited.

It wasn’t long. Whoever it was didn’t take enough care and he was on them – her, he realized – in seconds.

‘Fuck sake, Jimmy. It’s me.’ Annise.

‘What’s going on?’ He held her down, unsure if it was her.  In the thin light he saw the gun, a small thing by her left hand; just the sort of lady gun she’d have. He batted it away. ‘Conrad give you that, did he?’

‘Fuck off.’

‘So, you were the one? Who got me here?’

‘What do you mean?’

James spoke slowly, like he was talking to a moron. ‘I got this note. I thought Dad sent it, but it can’t have been him, can it? So, it had to be you, right?’

‘Wrong. I didn’t send you any note.’

‘It had to be you. Here.’

She read it, shaking her head. She said, ‘I realised Dad was coming to see you and followed him. He’s in deep with the Jantas again. I thought they were using him to get to you.’

‘You’d know. You’re the one shagging Conrad.’

She pushed him off. ‘Stop this. Let me check him first. Shit, there’s a lot of blood. He needs help.’ She sat back.  ‘I don’t understand except you need to get away. The Janta boys will be here soon enough.’

‘What’s he doing working for them again?’

‘They need his skills as an explosives man. They told him they’d kill Mum. That’s why I’ve been with Conrad. To give Dad time to sort things out. Conrad’s a jerk, but he’s always seen me as some sort of trophy. Prick. If you hadn’t killed Antonio—’

‘I didn’t, not that anyone listens.’

‘I’ll believe you but that note. I need to think what it means. Who’d send that?’

‘I need answers.’

‘We all do. I’ll send word.’

‘Will he be ok?’

‘You need to go. Have you got rid of the phone?’

‘Yeah.’

‘You’ll need a new identity. Someone plausible.’

‘Dad said. Mark Stenson.’

‘Is that meant to mean something?’

‘You won’t know him. Dad was going to sort out papers.’

‘I’ll do that. Look, let’s get past this mess, get him to hospital and work out what’s happening. Now go and take the gun.’

‘I thought you wanted to shoot me.’

‘Someone does.’

‘Yeah.’ He still wasn’t convinced that someone wasn’t his sister and her crook of a boyfriend.

James walked away, leaving the gun on the floor. If she wanted him dead she could shoot him in the back.

***

‘I know you’re there. This has to stop.’

James tried to place the voice. It was familiar. Were they alone?

‘Antonio’s death has changed everything, but we can sort something out.’

James stepped forward. ‘Dad, is that you?’ The note had said the killer would be here.

Something hit James on the head sending him reeling. Had his father attacked him?

Somewhere nearby he heard his father’s growl; it presaged an attack. If his father was out for him he’d not stop.

James’ fingers touched something – the metal bar he’d brought. He sensed his father approach and swung, cracking him at the knees. He felt his father reach – in the half-light he was sure it was a gun. He hit with full power, once, twice. His father lay sprawled at his feet. He’d killed him.

***

James opened the note.

They’ve put a mark on you. You need to stop them. He’ll be at Osrimin’s place at 10, picking up his weapon. It’ll be your best chance. Monkeys Rule.

James smiled grimly. Only his dad would know ‘Monkeys Rule’ was their old catch phrase. James shook. He wasn’t used to killing, but somehow, he didn’t seem to have a choice.

***

‘Dad?’

‘Yeah. Look, James, this has to be quick. Someone’s set you up, someone close. I need to do some digging. We’re going to have to come out fighting.’

‘I can’t, Dad. I didn’t kill him—’

‘I could kill you, you prick. You’ve put us all at risk. You need to be ready to stop whoever they send; I’ll look after Annise and your mum. Shit, who would do this to us?’

‘Annise is shagging Conrad. You can’t trust her—’

‘No, listen. I’ll explain. It’s more complex. I’ll get you word—’

‘Dad.’

‘Get rid of that mobile. Get a new name, one only I’ll know. Tell me when we next speak, and we can sort out papers, get you away.’

***

James looked at Antonio Janta’s corpse and the gun. How could he be dead? And how come he held the gun with, no doubt, only his prints on it? Of all people. A sound distracted him. Someone was leaving. Who would set him up? Who would want him out of the way? He dropped the gun and ran from the house certain he was a dead man and wondering why.

***

James’ mother folded her hands. ‘James is not my son. I agreed to bring him up as if he were. John made me.’ She smiled grimly. ‘But now, I’m fed up pretending. I want out. If I deliver John, will you deliver James?’

Carlo Janta, head of his family’s business operations, smiled.

‘John terrifies me with his moods. He abused Annise from the start. Me too.’ She stopped. ‘If you kill John, James won’t stop until he finds out who and why, so he must go too.’

Carlo nodded. ‘It may compromise Annise?’

‘Agreed.’

‘Antonio is a problem. He has habits. I think we can clean up both families, yes? Now, champagne?’

This story is my homage to the fabulous Christopher Nolan film, Memento.

This short story first appeared on this blog in 2016 as part of Nanowrimo. If you enjoyed it, it and its 29 fellows can be found in the anthology Life In A Grain Of Sand that is current on offer as a giveaway if you click the title. The offer stays open until Sunday

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The Garden – Mid September 2020

We’ve had rain and some hot days, and now it’s set fair to be a balmy few days. Mid 20s and the odd shower. I’m glad because this autumn is programme to be some hard work.

Looking ahead, I have the following on my agenda:

  • a thorough programme to set the lawns on course for this time next year when the second family wedding is planned to take place here, assuming Rona Virus and her hordes have on;
  • a new shed and a complete reorganisation of the ‘behind the shed’ arrangements. Every garden has a ‘behind the shed’ area even if it doesn’t have a shed and mine is no exception;
  • a complete strip of the vegetable and sunflower beds: the former will be meadow grassed having first been sculpted and the latter made ready to be an explosion of late summer colour (fingers and toes firmly crossed);
  • a second complete strip and replanting of roses, clematis and other small shrubs, preparatory to the laying of pipes and power for my long term water capture project and short term paving creation that will enhance the wedding areas and make ready for some further frames for a sheltered section covered in climbers;
  • and, of course there is the autumn clear out of the summer borders etc, ready for next year.

Meanwhile there is still a fair bit of colour about and the lawn has benefitted from the rains even if I remain determined, post wedding to see the back of my bete noir, the top lawn.

Here’s a gallery from the last couple of weeks…

Oh and Dog? Oh alright…

Posted in dogs, gardening, miscellany | Tagged , , | 42 Comments