In a Tower (3 of 3)

‘Archimedes,’ said Ralph as reality settled in his mind. ‘Archimedes!’ He screamed and before he knew what he was doing, he cast a lightning spell on the falcon. It was not a strong lightning spell, Ralph was not a strong wizard, but it was enough to give the falcon a shock. As the miniature lightning bolt hit home, the falcon dropped its prey and zoomed towards the nearest gnarled bush on the mountainside.

Then Archimedes was falling.

Falling much too fast.

Ralph stumbled through the words of the telekinesis spell and Archimedes’ fall slowed. Slowed but did not stop. Archimedes was not heavy, but he was heavier than the pebble, and it was proving a problem. Sweat sprang from Ralphs brow, as he said the words again concentrating with all his might. Archimedes stopped falling. Then he began to rise. He rose all the way to the windowsill where Ralph put him down gently.

‘Archimedes?’ said Ralph slightly out of breath. There was blood on Archimedes’ feathers and his neck lay at a strange angle. ‘Archimedes.’ Tears welled into Ralph’s eyes. Archimedes was supposed to be alive. Why was Archimedes not alive?

Then Ralph thought of the life book. It did not have to end here. But to heal wounds and bring a creature like Archimedes back to life that was a much harder spell that the basic life spell, which he had failed so miserably so many times. Ralph bit his lip. Then he straightened out his back. He would do it anyway. If it worked he would have Archimedes back and if it did not, well… It just had to work.

He grabbed the book and flicked to the right page. Then placed his hands on Archimedes’ small body and took a deep breath. As he said the words, he pictured how Archimedes looked when he was alive and healthy. He pictured how Archimedes neck would straighten out, how his wounds would close, how his feathers would grow back, and his hands began to tremble, but he did not stop. He kept saying the words, kept picturing how the spell would work, and somewhere deep inside of him a small voice said:

‘Live, Archimedes, you have to live.’

He could not keep it up for long.

Exhausted, he slumped onto the floor breathing hard. Then he looked up at the windowsill and a small beaked head looked back. It cooed at him.

‘Archimedes,’ Ralph smiled wider than he had ever done since he came to the wizard’s tower.

The door flew open, Archimedes fluttered down and hid behind Ralph and Ralph’s master marched into the room.

‘What in all the bloody hells was that?’ Spit flew from his master’s mouth. His face was a rich shade of dark red.

‘Master?’ Said Ralph his smile gone, too shocked to even try to stand up.

‘Are you trying to kill me?’ Screamed his master.

‘No, master I’m sorry,’ said Ralph, then he registered the kill part. ‘What?’

‘Throwing lightning after me.’ His master kept shouting. ‘Not only was it a pathetic, weakling spell, it also made me drop my lunch! And don’t you say “what”, it’s called “excuse me”!’

‘Sorry, master,’ said Ralph. ‘So that falcon was-’

‘Yes, it was bloody well me!’ The volume dropped a bit, but that might just be because his master was running out of breath. ‘How do you think I travel? By foot?’

‘No, I know you fly. I just thought-’

‘Thought? Ha! That’s a good one.’ His master marched to the chair and dropped into it. ‘Now tell me,’ he said. ‘Have you even learnt that life spell, or have I just wasted a whole year on you?’

‘I,’ Ralph began, but then he did not know how he wanted to continue his sentence. He saw in his mind’s eye hours and hours trapped in this tower with his nose in a book and no company. His master would never let him keep Archimedes, and he would have no influence whatsoever on anything he had to learn. He pictured his master yelling at him.

‘I’m sorry, master,’ said Ralph, a small smile creeping onto his lips. ‘I just didn’t get it.’

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In a Tower (2 of 3)

Had he really scared it off already? Maybe it just stopped for a short rest on its way somewhere. He felt disappointment creeping in. But he was a wizard, was he not? Or at least a wizard’s apprentice. A lure spell should not be too difficult, especially not when it was just on a pigeon. He scanned the bookcases, found the appropriate book and said the spell.

A flutter of wings announced the return of the pigeon and Ralph smiled a victorious smile. However, after a few pecks at the breadcrumbs the pigeon saw him and flew away again.

‘Ah, yes, I still look dangerous of course,’ said Ralph although he had promised not to talk to himself. ‘Let’s see what a little charm spell can do.’

After another small search, he found the spell and did the lure spell again. When the pigeon landed on the windowsill, he locked his eyes on it and did the charm spell. The effect was immediate. The pigeon lifted its head and went straight for him.

‘Ow,’ said Ralph as the pigeon scratched him in its attempt at finding a foothold on his face, ‘counter spell, counter spell,’ Ralph flicked through the pages of the book while attempting to dodge the smitten pigeon.

‘Ah, counter spell.’ Ralph did it and at once the pigeon fled onto the top of the bookcase leaving several droppings on its way.

‘Oh dear,’ said Ralph when he noticed one of them had hit the still-open life-spell book. ‘He won’t just throw me out now, he’ll kill me.’ Ralph saw his masters face in his mind’s eye red and contorted in anger, and suddenly he did not care that he had begun talking to himself.

A somewhat weaker charm spell and an attempt at cleaning later, Ralph sat by the window feeding the pigeon breadcrumbs from his hand. What would he do now? He had cleaned the worst off the book, but it still had a very visible smudge. His master would never forgive him.

Or would he? If Ralph made something bigger than a pebble alive or created something living out of nothing, his master might be so impressed that he would let Ralph stay. But he had not even mastered the most basic life spell, how would he even begin on the bigger ones? His eyes fell on his new pigeon friend. Perhaps he could ‘magic’ the pigeon into existence for his master, just until he learnt it properly. He smiled, it was better than nothing.

The next couple of days he read a bit and played a lot with his new pet. First, he taught it not to poop inside the tower. Then he taught it tricks like flying through a hoop that he made. He even taught himself a bit of telekinesis which allowed him to make his pebbles float out of the window, so that the pigeon could bring them back.

One day however, his conscience clobbered his brain over his lack of studying.

‘I’m sorry Archimedes.’ Ralph had named the pigeon Archimedes as soon as it stopped pooping inside the tower. ‘I can’t play with you today. I have to learn this life spell.’ It really was a good thing that Archimedes turned up; Ralph had stopped talking to himself completely. ‘Actually, yes, maybe you can help me.’ Ralph fetched a pebble. ‘Try to imagine that this is a seed of some kind.’

Archimedes pecked at the pebble.

‘No,’ said Ralph. ‘Don’t try to eat it. Just imagine.’

Archimedes pecked again.

‘Oh, you’re hopeless,’ said Ralph. ‘Just get out and let me study.’

Archimedes tipped his head to one side.

‘Go on. Get out!’ Ralph shooed at Archimedes. ‘I said get out!’ He pushed the pigeon out of the window and turned his back on it.

He stared at the pebble for a while. Was it really alright to push Archimedes out of the window? Had he been too hard on him? He turned back to say he was sorry, but what he saw made the words stick in his throat.

It happened so quickly that Ralph found it difficult to make sense of it at first. A peregrine falcon swooped down at Archimedes while Archimedes flapped his wings at a panicky speed. The falcon stretched out its talons and plucked Archimedes right out of the air. Ralph stared with open mouth as the falcon flew on with a limp Archimedes in its claws.

In a Tower (1 of 3)

I first wrote this story in English. Then I changed it a bit and translated it into Danish. Then I changed it a bit more and changed it back to English. Ralph, the protagonist, when from in his twenties to seventeen and then to twelve. This is how it ended up 🙂


jaromir-kavan-181552

Reschensee (copyright: Jaromír Kavan on Unsplash)

‘I expect you to be diligent,’ said Ralph in his deepest voice while he wriggled the vial about on the windowsill. It wore a pointy hat made from his clothes.
‘Of course, master,’ Ralph answered with another hat-less vial.
‘And you will have to concentrate twenty-four seven,’ said the deep voice and hat.
‘Yes, master, I will,’ said no-hat vial Ralph.
‘I will be back eventually.’ The hat-vial turned to look out the window. ‘And when I return I expect you to be able to do a basic life spell or your days as my apprentice are over.’
‘Don’t you worry master,’ said Ralph. ‘I’ll be making growing things before you can say Jack Frost.’
‘Yes, of course,’ said the vial version of his master. ‘I was only kidding. I have complete faith in you. And you will get your own hat as soon as I find one. Oh dear, now I ruined the surprise. I’m only leaving to find you a hat.’
‘That’s alright master,’ said vial-Ralph. ‘I’ll act really surprised when you return and give it to me.’

Ralph put the vials aside with a sigh. If only that had been how it happened, but his master had not been kidding, and the amount of faith he had in Ralph could fit in a thimble.

Ralph knew he should continue his studies. Although he could make pebbles out of nothing, the life spell kept eluding him. He had tried so many times over the last two weeks, but every time he tried the spell, nothing happened, and there was no help to be found. There was no one to talk to, and the book described it in a really strange way.

In fact, he really wished that he had someone to talk to, even if it was not about the spell. Just anyone who was not his master. Sometimes, he felt so trapped. If he could just go outside for a while, the fresh air might help his brain. But if his master came home and found him outside, there would be hell to pay. His master might even throw him out, and then he would have to go home to his parents and tell them that they had been right. That he would never be a wizard, and that there was never any future in wizarding anyway. He rubbed his face.

Also, his parents would probably still be angry with him for running away, even though it had been almost a year. He traced his finger around the windowsill in a curly pattern leaving a glowing trail. Party tricks, his father had called them. He would show them.

His face set, he stood up and marched to his desk. The desk only had four things on it. One was an enormous book simply called ‘Life’. The other things were three small pebbles in a pile beside the book. Ralph sat down and began for the umpteenth time on the part called: ‘Simple Life – an Introductory Chapter’.

‘The need for life must be present in the wizard’s heart,’ mumbled Ralph. ‘The need for life? What does that mean, the need for life? And you promised to stop talking to yourself, what happened to that promise?’ He messed up his hair. Perhaps it meant that he had to let the universe know that he really needed to do this life spell.

‘Alright.’ He picked up a pebble from the desk. ‘Please universe, I need this pebble to become a seed, a living, growing seed.’ Ralph did the signs and said the words of the spell.

And nothing happened.

‘Stupid book,’ he mumbled. And that was alright because he said it to the book, not himself.

Then something landed on the windowsill and Ralph jumped to his feet. Was that his master back already? But the pigeon who had landed took off when he moved, so it was probably not his master. He sighed and slumped back in his chair. It was strange to think that that pigeon had been the first living thing he had seen since his master left. But then he supposed that that was the point with building a tall tower in a barren mountain range.

‘No contact, no distractions,’ as his master used to say. Still it would be nice with a bit of company. Ralph took some dry bread from the day before and broke it into crumbs over the windowsill. Then he stepped back and waited.

And waited.

The Estate Agent (part 2 of 2)

 

Dakota, a grey wolf at the UK Wolf Conservatio...

A grey wolf.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Corey turned around and saw a pair of bright yellow eyes. A pair of bright yellow eyes that bored into him and caught him like a deer in headlights.

‘Why are you here?’ the man asked. Corey gasped.

‘That’s just the estate agent,’ said a voice Corey recognized. The man with the yellow eyes turned his head away and Corey breathed more freely. With the eyes off him, Corey noticed that the man looked no more than thirty, except his thick hair was steel grey.

‘But why he’s here, I don’t know,’ continued Harald.

‘Just get rid of him,’ snarled the man and strode off. Corey wiped a bead of sweat from his freckled temple.

‘Herr Wolffram likes his privacy,’ said Harald.

‘I’m sorry,’ said Corey, ‘I … I’m sorry.’ He looked from Mr Wolffram’s retreating back to Harald.

‘He’s getting married tomorrow,’ said Harald, ‘a very private service, I suggest you don’t attend. Also, I suggest you never turn up here again, understand?’ Harald raised his eyebrows.

Corey nodded.

However, on his way home he could not forget how much that cellar had looked like a prison cell.

 

It became dark at six o’clock. Corey parked his car about half a mile up the road from the gate and climbed over the fence, losing only a small piece of his sleeve on the way. A full moon made the tree shadows crisp and black. He stayed in the shadows on his way up to the house where the lights were only on in one room on the ground floor. There were no extra cars parked outside. If this was a wedding it was indeed a very private one. He sneaked up to the cellar windows. A dim light shone from them as well. Behind the bars on the naked mattress, he saw a young woman. Her long brown curls draped over her shaking shoulders. Whether the shaking was from cold or sobs he could not tell, but he suddenly felt a hard angry knot tighten in his stomach. Should he try to contact her? Let her know that help was on the way? No, he could not risk alerting Mr Wolffram or Harald. With warning they might get away with it.

Corey dug his mobile phone out of his pocket and a hand reached out and took his wrist in a fierce grip.

‘Ah!’ said Corey at the sudden pain.

‘Drop the phone,’ said Harald.

‘You’ll pay for this,’ said Corey.

‘Pay for what?’ said Harald, ‘I assure you, neither Herr Wolffram nor I have done anything wrong. Now drop the phone.’

‘No,’ said Corey, ‘I’ll help that poor girl no matter what.’

‘Nothing you can do can help her now,’ said Harald.

‘You’re sick!’

‘Oh, am I?’ Harald twisted Corey’s arm behind his back, forced him to his knees and took his mobile phone, ‘Watch.’

Behind the bars the young woman was shaking violently.

‘Is she having some sort of attack?’ asked Corey.

‘She is turning for the first time,’ said Harald.

The woman was gripped by a series of convulsions. She clawed at her skin leaving long bloody lines. Corey saw something protruding from between her teeth. After a while he recognized it as a wolf snout. There was an audible crunch and rip as her face split apart and then a brown wolf shook bits of flesh and bone from its fur. The wolf snapped. It fell on the mattress tearing it to shreds so that the stuffing flew left and right, sticking to the blood on the floor and what was still left in the wolf’s fur. Then the wolf ran around the room, snapped at its own tail, barked and at last slumped onto the floor amongst the sorry remains of the mattress. For a short while the wolf just lay there on the floor panting. Then a grey wolf entered the room. It took a few steps towards the brown wolf, paused, took a few steps more. When it came close to the brown wolf, the grey one gave the other’s muzzle a careful lick. The brown wolf raised its head slightly and the grey one licked some more of the blood from its mate’s fur.

 

‘I’ll keep your phone,’ said Harald, ‘I promise you, it will be properly disposed of. By the time you can reach another phone from here, I’ll have tidied up the room and the newlyweds will be off into the forest. I suggest you hurry back to your car in case they attack you when they get out. Good night to you.’ Harald let go and walked up to the front door.

 

When Corey was back in his car gripping the wheel with trembling hands, he heard a long spine chilling howl. He never returned to the mansion.

The Estate Agent (part 1 of 2)

The Governor's Mansion in Virginia, 1905

The Governor’s Mansion in Virginia, 1905 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 ‘Mr Wolffram, I presume?’ said Corey reaching out his hand to the man with the neat moustache and circular spectacles.

‘No,’ the man shook his hand with a very firm grip, ‘Herr Wolffram is my client,’ continued the man, ‘I am Harald,’ his accent was almost imperceptible ‘Harald Heisenberg. No relation to the physicist.’

‘Oh.’ Corey blinked, he did not know any physicists. ‘Just let me unlock the gate and we can be off.’ He unlocked the tall iron gate. ‘Shall I drive you?’

‘I’ll go in my own car, thank you.’

 

‘This is it,’ said Corey as Harald stepped out of his car. With one hand Corey indicated the mansion. The facade was white, where the paint had not peeled off and left it grey, and it had a pair of pillars on each side of the front door. There were large French windows, also mostly white, with a row of short bushes underneath with small white flowers.

‘It needs a bit of paint of course,’ said Corey, ‘but even now I feel it still has some of its grandeur.’

‘Is this a belladonna bush?’ asked Harald. He was studying a bush by the side of the driveway with lots of small black berries.

‘Yes,’ said Corey, ‘I think so. They have beautiful flowers in summer.’

‘Hm.’ Said Harald wrinkling his nose slightly at the plant. He straightened up, took a small, red notebook out of an inside pocket and scribbled a note. ‘Let’s have a look inside.’ Harald strode towards the door.  

 

‘How thick are these walls?’ asked Harald, knocking on the walls of the cellar.

‘Pretty thick,’ said Corey, ‘why?’

‘And these bars in the windows,’ Harald grabbed one of the bars and pulled at it a bit. ‘When were they fitted?’

‘Oh, a long time ago,’ said Corey, ‘but you could get them removed fairly easily, I think.’

‘Hm.’ He said and scribbled in his red note book. ‘Need new ones,’ he muttered. ‘How far are the nearest neighbours?’

‘About two miles down the road from the gate,’ said Corey.

‘Good.’ Harald made a last note and snapped the note book shut. ‘We’ll take it.’

 

The next Saturday, Corey drove up to the mansion, just to see how things were. About halfway up the driveway, he passed the van of the local handyman, but when he reached the mansion he could not see any change at first. Then he noticed that there was some white dust under the bushes and around the corner of the house. He followed it and saw that some new rather thick bars had been installed in the cellar windows. The room inside was empty except for a double mattress. The bars made it look like a prison cell.

‘Why are you here?’ said a gruff voice and a shadow came between Corey and the sun. 

A Train Trip part 3 of 3

‘Oh, I’m so sorry!’ she said as the tea drenched through her drawings and neared the other end of the table.

‘Hm?’ he turned to her, looked down at the spreading pool of tea. ‘No worries,’ he smiled a dazzling smile that reminded her of her increased heart rate, although it did not quite seem to reach his eyes. He took out a package of Kleenex and used one to soak up most of the tea.

‘It’s more of a shame for you, if these were yours,’ he indicated the now ruined drawings, ‘it looks as if they were rather good.’

‘You think so?’

‘Yes,’ he smiled again, ‘have you made any more?’

‘Not as good as those, but,’ she took out some more drawings.

‘You’re really talented,’ he said, ‘aren’t you?’

She blushed appropriately.

They spent some more time looking at drawings. Then he asked her where she was going and she told him.

‘We stopped there about twenty minutes ago,’ he said, ‘I hope you weren’t meeting someone important.’

‘No,’ she said, ‘no one important, I’ll just take the next stop.’

‘Hmm…’ his eyes seemed to glow and for a short moment she saw Dave waiting at the station looking for her.

‘What do you want from life?’ the pale man asked.

‘Oh,’ she shrugged, ‘what does anyone want? A place to call my own, someone to love, you know…’

‘No,’ he said, ‘I don’t know. Tell me.’

‘I want to never grow old,’ she said, ‘I want servants like they had in the old days. And I want everyone to love and adore me.’ She blinked. That was not what she had meant to say. It had not sounded at all pleasant either. ‘I don’t want to seem like an egoist,’ she said.

‘I’m getting off at the next stop,’ he said, ‘come with me.’

‘Isn’t that a bit much,’ she twirled her hair around a finger, ‘I mean, we’ve only just met, and-’

‘This is it,’ he said as the train slowed and rose to his feet.

‘Well, I have to get off anyway,’ she took her bag and followed him to the train door.

‘Come,’ he held out his hand as they stood in front of the door. She swallowed then took it, heart aflutter.

‘You have lied to me,’ he said.

‘I,’ her eyes widened.

‘No worries,’ he showed his gleaming white teeth in another smile, ‘I will forgive you.’ The train door opened to a green wood with a thick carpet of snowdrop anemones and birdsong in the branches. ‘In time.’

And they stepped through.

 

A Train Trip part 2 of 3

She stared at a small speck in the glass of the window. A tiny impurity. She would have to get his attention. And quickly, if she wanted to talk to him for any length of time. It was a while before her stop came, but not long enough to really get to know someone.

The conductor came by, and she showed him her ticked. The man opposite must have shown his ticket too because the conductor nodded and went on, but she did not remember him actually showing a ticket. However, that was not enough to begin a conversation.

Perhaps he liked drawings? She scooted out from her seat and stretched to reach her bag on the baggage shelf. She stretched a bit more, pretending she had difficulty reaching her bag, but he was still looking out of the window. So in the end, she just took her bag, found her paper and pencils and put the bag back on the shelf with no more feigned difficulty. As she sat down, she looked through her drawings and was pleased to find that she had some of the really good ones of Icelandic horses with her. She put a couple on the plastic table in front of her of horses in mid-tölt, then took a new piece of paper and pretended to sketch something.

Excersize or play?

(Photo credit: Haukur H.)

After a while, she could see that it was not working. What was so interesting about the landscape anyway? Everything was withered or withering at this time of year. Autumn was like decay made visible. She dropped her pencil on the floor.

‘Oops,’ she said and bent down to find it. It had fallen right beside her own foot, damn. She pretended looking for it a while longer, but that did not help. When she sat up, he was still looking out the window.

Then the food cart came by and she got an idea.

‘Anything off the cart?’ said the bony woman pushing the cart.

‘Yes, please,’ she said, ‘do you have any tea with cinnamon?’

‘Nope,’ said the woman, ‘just plain old tea.’

‘Oh, a cup of tea then, please.’

The woman poured lukewarm tea into a cardboard cup, received her money and continued through the carriage.

Plain old tea was not what she had had in mind, she frowned. And the man did not even seem to have heard her asking for cinnamon. She considered throwing the tea into his lap. That should get his attention. Then again, he might just be angry with her the rest of the trip. Perhaps she could do something a little less drastic. It would be a shame about those nice horse drawings, but it was all for a good cause. She put her tea on the table, pretended to reach for a pencil and knocked over the cup.

A Train Trip part 1 of 3

Yellow trees and brown fields rushed past. She sat with her forehead leaning against the cold window, the motion of the train rocking her, making her sleepy, but not quite enough for her to actually fall asleep. And boredom had set up camp in her mind.

Just as she thought it could not get any worse, a baby began crying a few seats behind her. She closed her eyes. Of course it was nice to see Dave. Every time, it really was, but these train trips were killing her. She sighed. Maybe they should move in together?

Of course that was a rather big step, and perhaps moving in together was not something one should do to avoid long train trips. Then again, they were really boring. Apart from that, living in the same flat would have some advantages. He could do the cooking and most of the cleaning and he could see her pretty face every day. They could wake up together and have a cosy brunch each Saturday. And he could make those cinnamon buns, so tasty she could almost smell them. She sniffed. She could smell them. Or at least, she could smell cinnamon.

She looked up from the window and saw a pale man with a slender figure coming down the aisle. His walk looked completely balanced, like he was walking down the pavement and not through a train which was driving at full speed. As he came nearer in what felt like slow-motion, his hair seemed to wave in a breeze that was not there, and her eyes were drawn to his lips. Red and full they were and they looked ever so soft. Was he the one smelling of cinnamon?

He sat down opposite her, crossed his legs and looked out of the window without deigning her a glance. She pretended that she was looking out the window, but kept studying him out of the corner of her eye. Why did she study him? She was not sure. Usually she found even vaguely feminine men uninteresting, perhaps because she wrote them off as gay. However, this man felt different. With his delicate hands and full lips, he certainly looked more than vaguely feminine, but still there was something luring about him.

Was this one of those ‘love at first sight’ moments that films and books kept talking about? She had never understood those, maybe she was about to. How did they describe it? Attraction for no obvious reason, she had that one. Heart rate increasing every time the protagonist, that would have to be her, looked at the love-interest, and that was him. She concentrated on her heart as she looked at him, yes, her heart did beat faster. Forgetting all else, but the love-interest. It was only then that she remembered the baby; it had never stopped crying.

It was certain then. She was in love.

What now?

19 Black Out, part 2

‘What’re you playing at?’ I say. He turns to me, still clutching the bird. I notice her sleeve is torn, and a bruise might be forming under one eye.

‘Fuck off,’ he says, ‘it’s got nothing to do with you.’

He might be younger, but I’m wider, and it’s not all fat. Not yet.

‘Let go of her,’ I say.

‘What you gonna do?’ he says.

I punch him in the face. He lets go of her and crumples. I think I broke his nose. He’s bleeding all over the place and whimpering. She leans herself against a wall, still crying.

‘Want me to call the police?’ I ask.

She shakes her head.

‘Want me to call an ambulance?’

She shakes her head.

‘Want me to take you home?’

She nods, slowly. I offer her my arm and she leans against it. She doesn’t seem too steady on her feet, so I put my arm around her as we walk out of the ally.

 

Now the pub is just between the grocery store and my home. And of course, just as we come out onto the main street, I see my wife hurrying along, a bag of groceries in each hand. And I’m thinking… shit. I just know she’s going to misunderstand everything. But what do I do? Let go of the girl and let her fall to the ground? That would make just as bad as the other bloke. But by now it’s too late. She’s seen me. And she’s making a bee-line for me. But when she’s about five meters from me, she freezes. She stares at the girl. She probably noticed the bruises. Then she avoids us and continues her way home in a half trot. Seems we’ll take it when I get home.

 

As the bird guides me the rest of the way to her nest, my mind is racing. How will I make my wife believe me? I say goodbye to the bird at the door.

‘Thanks,’ she whispers before going in.

‘You’re welcome,’ I say.

 

Then I go home. Slowly. I pause in front of my door. I know that she’s in there, fuming. Perhaps if I didn’t come home until tomorrow, she would forget about it? No, I know that would only make her madder. So I go inside.

 

As I take off my boots, I can hear her washing up in the kitchen. I take a deep breath and walk into the kitchen. She is washing up the frying pan. The smell of bacon fat still lingers in the air. I clear my throat. She spins around.

‘There you are!’ her cheeks are flushed. ‘What the hell do you think you were doing with that girl?’ her voice is shrill.

‘It’s all a misunderstanding,’ I begin.

‘Did you rape her?’

Her comment slaps me in the face and I take a step back.

‘What?’

‘Don’t you think I saw her?’

‘I didn’t do anything to her,’ I say, ‘it was the young bloke.’

‘What bloke?’

‘The bloke she was with,’ I say, ‘he was being rough to her, so I hit him and helped the girl out of the ally.’

‘And why didn’t you call an ambulance?’

‘The girl said she didn’t want me to.’

‘So now you’re talking to the dead!’ she screams, ‘how stupid do you think I am?’

I blink a couple of times.

‘You’re talking nonsense,’ I say, ‘I’m going to bed.’ I turn my back to her and move towards the door.

‘Murderer!’ she comes up behind me and smashes the frying pan right into the back of my head.

And that’s where I black out.

And when I come to, I can’t find my wife.

19 Black Out, part 1

Have you ever blacked out?

I mean completely blacked out?

Because of booze?

Because of some weird illness?

Because your wife hit you on the head with a frying pan?

I have.

The last one.

It hurt like hell.

And I didn’t even deserve it.

 

It begins down at the pub. I am having a few drinks with my mates when in comes this nice little bird. She must have been in her twenties. She goes up to the bar, buys a bottle of sparkly water and sits down in an empty corner.

We stare of course. Women are scarce enough at the pub. And I don’t think I ever saw someone younger than forty. Except her.

So the shock dies down. We continue our drinks. And the bird sits in the corner, not even touching her water.

After about twenty minutes, I glance around the pub and notice that she’s still alone. So I tell the mates that I’ll just go see if she’s all right. And of course they misunderstand me and chuckle into their drinks. Come on, I think, I’m no fool. She’s in her twenties, I’ll be in my fifties in a couple of years. I have a daughter about her age. It’s not as if I thought she wanted to come home with me or anything. And anyway, I could never take her home; I have a wife, remember?

 

Well, I go over in her corner and I ask her:

‘What’s a pretty bird like you doing in a place like this?’

She must have misunderstood me because she gave me this icy look.

‘I’m waiting for someone,’ she said and turned her head away from me.

‘But you’ve been waiting rather long, haven’t you?’ I say.

She shrugs her shoulders.

‘Is it a boyfriend?’ I ask.

‘Will you leave me alone?’ she snaps.

‘All right all right,’ I say, ‘no need to get angry. A nice evening to you.’ I go back to my mates. She stares into the wall.

 

After about another ten to fifteen minutes a bloke comes in. I don’t know him, but I don’t like him. It’s something about his face. His eyes perhaps.

He sits down with the bird, and for a while I get this picture in my head of a bird and a cat sitting on each their side of the table. And him licking his lips. I almost go over there again, but I’m thinking the bird will misunderstand me again.

They sit in the corner for about half an hour, speaking in low voices. Then they leave.

 

I finish my beer and look at the watch. It’s still rather early, but I’m thinking it’s probably time to get home to the missus. She said something about a nice dinner this morning. So I say goodbye to my mates and get going. It’s chilly outside so I put my hands in my pockets and hunch my shoulders. Then I walk down the road.

When I get close to the next side street, I hear voices. Loud voices. I look down the side street and it’s the bird and the cat. And he’s clutching her arm. And she seems to be crying. And trying to get away. Now that makes me angry. Him getting violent towards the bird like that. So I stride down the street.

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