Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Spontaneous Combustion

by Robert Ferguson

pepper sauce

 

He had not frightened me at first: one of those older priests, with the young face of a man who has enjoyed a placid life, not uncommon among those of his calling who had spent their lives in quiet rural parishes of the Church of England. But a firmness of faith and purpose was evident in the penetration of his glance, and in the occasional crystal hardness of his eyes. He was a tall man, imposing in the clerical collar and full-length black cassock that he always wore around the village. “What does he wear on holiday?” my classroom assistant Jane asked in a giggling whisper, when he came over to the primary school to take assembly every Friday. “Does he have a light-weight one to sleep in?”

But the children soon came to love and trust him, and he them, apparently. His assemblies were not formal. He simply took a chair from the side of the hall, placed it in the centre, and called the children to sit on the floor around him while he told them stories. Often it was a story of something Jesus had said or done, the meaning of which he explained to them with unfailing clarity, in language they could understand. Sometimes, on or near a Saint’s Day, he would tell them about the Saint, and why what he or she had done was an important example for their own lives. And they loved it. My colleague Jane, not a church-person, found his faith irritating, and would never call him Father, as he encouraged – gradually successfully – the village to call him whenever they met him in the streets and shops, and even in the pub on Thursday evenings, when he always popped in about eight o’clock, “To make sure you’re all still here and well,” as he said to the assembled company of regulars.

He was a very thoughtful man. He had thought long and hard about the issues with which people characteristically have difficulty with the Church and its teachings, and it showed in his refusal to judge or to preach outside the pulpit. But he wasn’t soft. Oh, my goodness no! In any village, there are always things going on, things the participants believe no-one else has noticed and everyone knows, but no-one mentions other than behind their hands. Ours was just the same, of course, and it soon became known that you could go to Father for guidance if you couldn’t handle life on your own. “Love your neighbour” was very much at the centre of his belief, and he demonstrated very effectively to those who needed it that the important thing about sin was how it hurt someone else. “How would you feel if they did that to you?” he’d ask the children, and presumably their parents when necessary. “Would you want them to be so deeply hurt in that way?”
He made changes in the church, of course. Every new parish priest does that. They make it “home”, which it is for them, they spend so much time there, so often on their own because, as he said, “Other people have to earn their living in their own ways.” Just as we hang a picture, or cover the sofa, in our own way to make the house our home, so he hardened the inside of our little parish church, taking out the carpets to expose the ancient stone floors, and introducing more candles beside tiny statues of his beloved exemplar saints. “Life is hard,” he’d say, when diehard ‘change is blasphemy’ people complained; “we need always to be reminded of that; and, as for the candles, remember that fire is the great cleanser, the one ultimate cleanser.” That was more difficult to understand, until the day of the Dreadful Event.

Despite there always being gossip in a village, there are some things which go on that remain secret for years and years. Ours was black magic. Our witches and warlocks had been pilfering candles from the church for ever, it seems, and Father knew about them and was watching them, but one day they went too far
and stole the Cross from the altar, and that was too much for him. The following week, he spent a lot of time and energy, not just encouraging but begging, pleading, more or less threatening, the whole village to come to Sunday’s service, which wasn’t a service so much as his denunciation of a dozen of our neighbours by name as occultists. “Do you not realise what you are doing to your souls?” he thundered out, “Do you have no fear of God’s judgement?”

But they didn’t, apparently. Within the few days it took them to get over their outing, they had begun to minimise their activities as no more than a hobby, and to gather support in the village against him. Protests were made to the Bishop, and the village turned against their vicar, or rather away from him. Few continued to speak to him. Few trusted him not to out them in their little scams and affairs. He was effectively ostracized, as the village went to Hell. So he went there for them.

The postman saw the flames first, glowing in the windows of the church, and called the fire brigade. The rest of us were woken by the sirens on the fire engines and police cars as they tore through the village to the church. The building was saved, and in fact not that much damaged. But none of the experts could explain how the fire had started in the centre of the stone floor of the Sanctuary which Father had extended, far away from any candlestick or stand. Or what had started it. No sign of accelerant, let alone matches, lighters, discarded candle-ends. Just that terribly consumed body, kneeling in the middle of the bare, bare floor, because his people would no longer kneel.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Jemima

by Carolyn Belcher

warm milk 

Jemima was sitting on the bottom step of the stairs. She had her ‘hopeful’ coat on. It was the coat she hoped her mother wouldn’t make her take off. Her mother didn’t like the coat. Jemima did. It was red. Red was Jemima’s favourite colour. Mummy had said the coat was too small. It was to be put away for the baby who was in her mother’s tummy. Sometimes Jemima wondered how the baby had got there. Mummy had said something about eggs. Jemima liked eggs, particularly a dippy egg with soldiers.
‘Please can I come with you?’
‘Do you promise to be good?’
‘Yes?’ There was a question in Jemima’s voice as though she wasn’t quite sure what good meant when you went shopping. Jemima liked shopping. The supermarket was full of exciting things to buy and interesting people to help. Jemima liked helping people.
Her mother didn’t seem to notice the question in her voice. Nor did she notice the coat. She was too busy looking for her car keys. ‘Where did I put them?’ she said in her impatient voice.
‘Daddy says--’
‘I know what Daddy says, put them on a hook in the key cupboard. But sometimes my mind doesn’t work like that, especially when I’m in a hurry.’
Jemima knew all about minds working in one way and then another. One day, Jemima’s mind told her she did like brussel sprouts and the next day it said, ‘yuk.’
‘Oh here they are.’ Her mother pulled the keys out of her coat pocket. ‘Right, we’re ready.’
‘Are you going to do a big shop or a small shop?’ asked Jemima.
‘What day is it?’
Jemima screwed up her face. ‘Now let me see,’ she said. ‘I’m going to nursery school this afternoon, so that means,’ she ticked the days off on her fingers. ‘Monday, Wednesday or Friday.’ On Tuesdays and Thursdays I go to nursery school in the morning. I think Monday was a long time ago.’ She put her finger on her lips. ‘Is it Wednesday? No. On Wednesday I went to Sarah’s house for tea. It’s Friday. And on Fridays you always do a big shop. Am I right?’
‘You are a very clever four year old, Jemima Wiggins. Get in the car, please.’
‘Which shop are we going to, Mummy?’
There were two supermarkets in the town where Jemima lived. One was near all the other shops. The other was near lots of houses with very small gardens. Jemima was glad that she, her mother and father didn’t live there. Her house had a long garden with a tyre swing hanging from a tree at the bottom. Nana said there were fairies at the bottom of the garden. Jemima hadn’t ever seen one. But sometimes she saw grasses or leaves on bushes move when there was no wind, and she thought, that must me the fairies. They’re hiding from me.
‘We’re going to the supermarket where they sell clothes, Jemima. I could do with some new leggings for pilates and you could do with some pyjamas.’
‘Can I choose them?’
‘Of course.’
‘Can I choose your leggings?’
‘Yes, as long as they’re black.’
Jemima pulled a face. I don’t like black. I like red.’
‘I need black,’ said her mother.
In the supermarket Jemima said, ‘Can we doing jamies and leggings first?’
‘I think that’s a very good idea,’ said her mother, and pushed the trolley over to the aisle where they sold trousers.
Jemima hung back. She had noticed a woman looking at some tops. The woman picked up a white top. It had lacy sleeves. It was pretty, but Jemima knew that it wouldn’t look nice on the woman. She had to help her. The woman would be sad and cross if she bought it. Jemima didn’t like feeling sad or cross. She felt sad when Sarah didn’t want to play with her. She felt cross when her father wouldn’t push her on the tyre swing. He told her she had her, worm, face on. Her worm face was the one in the rhyme.
Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me.
I’m going down the garden to eat worms.
She went up to the woman and tapped her on the arm.
The woman jumped. ‘Are you lost, dear?’ she said.
‘No,’ said Jemima. ‘My mummy’s over there.’ She pointed to the trouser aisle. ‘I like helping people to choose. That top is nice but it won’t look nice on you.’ She shook her head. ‘It will make you look--’
‘Jemima come here at once. I am so sorry,’ said Jemima’s mother. Her mother had her cross face on. She took Jemima’s hand. ‘You’re going to help me look for leggings. That lady wants to choose her own clothes without your help.’
‘That’s alright dear. I wasn’t sure about it. She’s helped me make up my mind.’
‘See Mummy?’ Jemima had her happy face on. ‘People like me to help them. That lady has a big bottom and a big tummy. Her tummy is bigger than yours. The white top will be here.’ She pointed to the middle of her mother’s belly. ‘She would show people her big tummy. I don’t think people like seeing big tummies.’
Jemima knew that her mother’s tummy was big because of the baby in it. Sometimes the baby slept in her mother’s tummy and sometimes he kicked. You couldn’t see the baby doing that, but her mother let her feel the baby moving and said, ‘there. Can you feel that kick? I think he’s going to be a footballer with a kick like that.’
The first time she had felt Tyler, that was going to be his name, kick, she had asked her mother if it hurt? Her mother had shaken her head and said, no. Jemima wondered why. When James kicked her leg it hurt. James was a boy in nursery school.
‘The lady should buy the red or blue top.’ she squirmed round. ‘Perhaps she’s got a baby in her tummy, or her bottom. Can babies be in bottoms?’
Her mother squatted down. ‘No, babies can’t be in bottoms, and you promised to be good, Jemima.’
‘I am being good. I was helping. I wanted her to buy the blue one or the red one. They are better for people with big tummies and bottoms.’
‘It isn’t good to tell people that the clothing they want to buy will make them look fat?’
‘Why?’
‘Because it’s rude. Come and choose your pyjamas,’
‘I thought we were going to choose your leggings first.’
‘We were. But I think we’ll do that after.’
I’d like red jamies.”
There weren’t any red pyjamas. But they found some pink ones with red hearts on them and pink was almost as good as red. Then they found her mummy some black leggings and made their way to the groceries’ aisles. Jemima’s mother told her to stay close to the trolley. ‘I don’t want you to get lost,’ she said. Jemima liked the word, groceries. It was a growly word. Sometimes, when she was on her own in her bedroom, she practised growly words, making them sound like a lion. Grrrroceries, grrrapes, grrrrumpy, grrrrizzle.
‘Can we buy some growly grrrrapes?’ she said.
‘What are growly grapes?’ her mother asked.
‘Green ones, red ones.’
‘But why growly?’
‘Because of the grrrrr,’ said Jemima. ‘Buy grrrreen grrrrapes.’
Her mother laughed. ‘You funny ha’p’orth? Did you hear what I said about staying close to the trolley?’
‘Yes. I won’t get lost.’ She wondered why her mother thought she might get lost. The grrrocery aisles went up and down. It was very difficult to get lost.
‘Fruit and veg first then.’ her mother said.
It took time. Jemima’s mother was a careful shopper. She checked everything she picked up before putting them in the trolley. When she was buying packets of things like biscuits, she always checked for e numbers. Jemima knew what e numbers were. They were things that were added to food or drinks in packets or tins or bottles or ready meals. Some e numbers were good and some were bad. Some made children too excited and silly.
Because Jemima’s mother took her time shopping, it was easy for Jemima to look around to see if there was anyone else who needed help. Soon, she wasn’t at all close to the trolley. She was near a lady who looked as though she was as old as Jemima’s great-granny. The old lady was looking at apples. Red apples, green apples, yellow apples and apples that were all three colours. Apples were not Jemima’s favourite fruit. She liked satsumas and grrrapes and strawberries best. Satsumas didn’t growl, but strrrrawberries did.
Jemima decided that the old lady would find it difficult to eat an apple. Satsumas would be better. Satsumas were easy to peel and felt soft and juicy in your mouth. Jemima’s great granny liked satsumas. She popped a bag of satsumas into the old lady’s trolly when she wasn’t looking and then skipped back to her mother feeling very pleased that she had helped another shopper.
In the next aisle Jemima helped a man to a packet of sausages. He had eggs and bacon in his trolley. Eggs, bacon and sausages were yummy together, especially when Jemima was allowed to help herself to tomato ketchup. If the man had children, they would be happy that Jemima had helped him to sausages. Perhaps she ought to go to the sauce aisle and find the ketchup? But she saw that her mother wasn’t in the meat isle any longer. Hunt the mummy, she told herself and skipped to the end of the aisle. ‘No, she wasn’t in the next aisle, nor the next, then she saw her in the aisle where there were lots of disposables. That is what her mother called nappies and things like that.
‘What are you looking for, Mummy?’ she asked.
‘Pads.’ said her mother.
The only pads that Jemima knew were pads to draw on. Nothing on the shelves in this aisle looked like a pad you could draw on.
‘Pads are near crayons,’ she said.
‘Not drawing pads. Pads for older people.’
Were drawing pads for older people in plastic packets that looked like packets of nappies, only smaller? ‘Pads for older people,’ said Jemima in a thinking voice.
Her mother looked at her. ‘Your great granny needs pads like this,’ she held up a packet. ‘They’re to keep her dry. Sometimes when you’re old you wet yourself a bit if you cough or laugh.’
‘I don’t wet myself when I cough or laugh. I sometimes wet myself if I forget to go to the toilet because I’m happy playing.’
‘Yes you do,’ her mother said. ‘And that reminds me, do you need to do a wee now?’
Jemima shook her head. She decided to look for an old person who might need pads. She glanced round. An old man was pottering down the aisle towards them. Did old men need pads? She decided to help him, just in case. She chose a packet, one that she could reach and when he was looking at toilet rolls she popped it in his trolley.
Her mother studied her list. ‘Right Jemima, we’ve finished. Let’s pay and go home. I’m ready for a cuppa.’
‘Can I ride on the trolley now?’
‘Ok.’ Jemima’s mother lifted her into the trolley and pushed it to a till that had just one person ahead of them. My old man, Jemima thought.
He began to put the items from his trolley onto the belt. ‘What are these? I didn’t want to buy these?’ The old man was peering at the packet of pads that Jemima had popped into his trolley.
‘They’re sanitary towels, Mr Rose. You certainly don’t want those. If you have a problem--
‘I don’t.’ said Mr Rose. ‘And I don’t need… whatever it is you think I might want to buy. These… whatever you called them must have fallen off the shelf into my basket.’
Jemima’s mother looked at her. ‘Did they fall off the shelf, Jemima?’ she whispered.
Jemima pulled her lips inside her mouth to stop words that might get her into trouble, escaping.
Her mother gave her a, we’ll talk about this later, look.
When they got home, Jemima carried the toilet rolls and kitchen rolls into the house while her mother dealt with the bags.
‘Milk and a biscuit?’ her mother asked.
‘Could I have an ice lolly, please?’
‘When do you get ice lollies, Jemima?’
‘When I’ve been good. I have been good.’
‘Have you? What about the lady and her white top? What about the packet of sanitary towels in Mr Rose’s trolley?’
Jemima knew it was wrong to lie. Jemima wanted a home made orange lolly. She looked at her mother. ‘I put the pads in the man’s trolley because I wanted to help him,’ she said.
‘What have I told you about helping people?’
‘But sometimes you tell me I’m good when I help. I helped you with the toilet rolls and the kitchen rolls. That was good, wasn’t it?’
‘That’s one being good and two being naughty.’
‘What if I put the toilet rolls in the bathroom cupboard? That’s two being goods.’
‘Okay minx. But next time--
‘No helping people in the supermarket?’
‘When you go shopping with me, no helping people in the supermarket.’
In her mind, Jemima skipped up the stairs to the bathroom. Really, skipping would have been impossible with the packets of toilet and kitchen rolls.
Mummy said, ‘shopping with me.’ That meant, if she went shopping with Daddy or Nana she could help lots of people. Perfect. Perfect was a new word. It was a growly word.







Saturday, 17 February 2018

Watered Down


By Kathy Sharp

mineral water  

He had fled to the top of the lighthouse shouting, “I’ll be ready for the flood! I shan’t be caught unawares!”

The lighthouse keeper was furious, seeing as Mr Fazakerly was obstructing the light, and thus posing a danger to shipping. As to persuading him to come down, every approach seemed to have failed, and there he stayed, obstinately clinging to the rail.

Mrs Fazakerly was furious, too. “It’s all the fault of that fortune teller – came to town with that travelling fair – told him water would be the death of him. It’s outrageous, frightening people like that. Ought to be illegal. Convinced himself he’s to be drowned in a flood – and now look at him!” She gazed hopelessly up at the distant figure of her husband at the top of the tower.

The lighthouse keeper tended to agree. How was he supposed to make a proper job of tending to the building – much less keep the light in good order – with a crazed man hurling himself about the place, screeching about impending floods and generally getting in the way? Should he consult his superiors? Demand that Mr Fazakerly be formally removed, as an impediment to lawful lighthouse-keeping? It was the best plan, and a note of complaint was duly written and sent. In the meantime, though, life, and light, must go on, Fazakerly or no Fazakerly.

And so the sober and proper upkeep of the building continued. The lighthouse keeper, a fastidious man by nature, discovered a trail of muddy footprints all the way up the spiral staircase. “Didn’t even stop to wipe his feet, that Fazakerly. Scandalous.” 

It was not to be borne, and though it was late in the day, a mop and bucket were carried to the top, and the laborious cleansing of the many steps begun. But it was growing dark, and the lighthouse keeper stopped to tend the light. Normal service must be maintained, he thought, as far as possible under the circumstances.

But Mr Fazakerly, blinded equally by terror and the startling light, barged past him yelling, “The flood! The flood is coming!”

As the lighthouse keeper said at the inquest: “Pushed past me, your honour – very rude – tripped over my bucket, and went bump, bump, bump, crash, bump all the way down the stairs. Broke his neck somewhere on the way down. Buckled my bucket, too.” 

Mrs Fazakerly, in deep mourning, told her neighbours about the prophetic warning of the fortune teller. “Water would be the death of him, she said, and she was right. But it wasn’t a flood, like he thought, oh dear, no. It was just a bucketful did for Fazakerly.”

About the author 


For full details of all Kathy's books, follow her on her Amazon page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kathy-Sharp/e/B00E5BJ0BK/

Whales and Strange Stars. Lovely historical novel set in the marshlands of 18th century Kent. 
The sense of place is perfectly captured, and the writing just dances off the page. Highly recommended.’ myBook.to/WhalesAndStrangeStars


Friday, 16 February 2018

The Big Issue

by   James McEwan

carrot and coriander soup 


The rain came lashing down, Mary rushed into the doorway where she stopped and turned to shake the water from her umbrella.
‘Excuse me!’ she said to the man blocking the door into the café.
He was a Big Issue seller sheltering from the wet wind, and he grinned at her as he stood in her way. Mary thought he seemed nice enough so she bought a copy from him, and only then he moved aside to let her squeeze past into Harvey’s Café.
Since her husband, Bill, was no longer around this visit was one of her regular treats to have some hot broth before she went on to the Co-op for her shopping.
She found it hard to accepted that Bill had passed away, and occasionally she would imagine him in the kitchen making tea or washing up. She would slowly creep in and, as always, it was only the rain and wind prattling against the window. Often, she would stand by the sink staring out into the garden. Her thoughts would linger about Bill, and envision him out there pulling up the weeds from amongst the kale and turnips.
In the Café, she lifted her soup plate off the tray on to the table then realized she’d forgotten the bread roll, a napkin and a spoon.
‘Oh dear,’ she sighed. She took off her glasses and placed them on the table, then pushed back her grey hair that had come loose. She pinned it back with a Kirby grip.
When Bill was around he would prompt her not to forget this and that, and he would also know where she had left things. ‘Aye’, she chuckled. She often forgot where she put her glasses. Same place as always, he would tell her, on the table in the garden where she had been reading, and it was also Bill who remembered where she had hidden the spare cash for Christmas presents.
‘Poor Bill,’ she whispered on the way to the counter where she fetched a bread roll and a spoon.
Back at the table the Big Issue Seller had sat down. What! The cheek of the man, he was supping at the soup, and seemingly not so nice now. She hadn’t noticed him sneak in behind her, and although he may be hungry had she not already given him some money to help out? Clearly that wasn’t enough, oh no, here he was eating her soup. She dragged a chair out from the table and sat down. She stared at him. He looked back at her, there was not a word of apology, and he just grinned. She didn’t want to make a fuss, but still he was taking advantage. Was he typical of the type she had read about in the newspapers? He was probably one of those asylum seekers or an immigrant after a free hand out.
She tore her bread in half and dipped it, soaking up some soup. So there, she stared at him, two can play this game. The man reacted by giving the plate a slight push towards her and carried on supping. So, he wants to share, now that is very kind of him offering up her soup. She grabbed her spoon and started eating but at the same time kept her eyes on him. He looked back at her not saying a word. Probably because he doesn’t speak any English and he’s embarrassed, as he should be, imagine taking advantage of an old lady.
The carrot soup was hot with spicy coriander, and she began to enjoy this communal spoon for spoon race to finish the dish. She took the last of her bread roll and in one defiant swipe mopped the plate clean. She gave him a smug glare. He smiled, then went to the counter and brought her a coffee. He also shared half of his sugary doughnut with her.
Still he had not spoken and it seemed in their silence that she felt an affinity with his predicament. He had a clean face and appeared pleasant. Perhaps he was trying to get on his feet by selling the Big Issue, and maybe back in his country he has a family who miss him.
He got up from the table, put on his coat and gestured to her with a farewell nod as he walked out.
Mary finished her coffee. Although they had not spoken, she enjoyed the silent company of the Big Issue seller who seemed rather kind. What would Bill have thought about her drinking coffee with a stranger? Of course, it would never have happened if he were here.
She looked around. Where were her glasses? She was sure she had put them on the table and her handbag on the other seat. They were missing along with her umbrella.
‘Oh dear,’ she gasped. How could she be such a simpleton in trusting a stranger and a foreigner at that? The newspapers were right about these people, who come and take advantage of our country’s welfare. He’s probably thrown her empty purse onto the railway track and at this very minute heading to her house with her keys before she can do anything. If only Bill was still around. Her eyes began to water and she held a napkin to her face.
She clenched her fists, tensed her whole body and the soup in her stomach seemed to curdle. She stood up causing her chair to fall over backwards, but it was no use trying to run down the street screaming stop thief. Instead she would get the girl behind the counter to call the police.
She glanced around the café as tears flowed down her face and she stamped her foot.
‘Oh dear,’ she cried then burst out laughing. ‘How could I be so silly?’
Across the café at another table she saw her umbrella leaning against a chair with her handbag, and her glasses were lying next to a plate of Scotch broth, which by now had gone cold.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

The Warning

by Susan A Eames

whisky sour 


I waited around the corner, just shy of the zebra crossing. I knew his habits well. 
He left the Off-Licence with a bag. Wine? Or perhaps she preferred champagne? I started the car.
He strode towards the crossing. I eased onto the main road, smooth as cream. I knew he wouldn’t notice me. That was the problem. He never noticed me. 
The fact was, despite my efforts, he never saw the real me - never noticed the smart, sassy woman who lived inside this plain-Jane skin: a woman smart enough to know when something was wrong and have the guts to investigate. And despite being side-swiped by his betrayal, a woman still smart and brave enough to make a difficult decision.
He stepped onto the crossing. I accelerated. For a split second our eyes locked - his widened in alarm and realisation. Too late, mate.
Bodies don’t bounce. They thud and crunch and roll away kinda slow. It surprised me. I smelt whisky, not wine – that was a surprise too.

Janice hit the Print button, satisfied with the opening of her new thriller. She placed the draft strategically on her desk, knowing her husband would read it.

About the author:

Susan A. Eames left England over twenty five years ago to explore the world and dive its oceans. She has had travel articles and short fiction published on three continents. After several fascinating years living in Fiji she has relocated to West Cork in Ireland. Susan blogs at: susan-a-eamestravelfictionandphotos.blogspot.ie


Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Crackers

Roger Noons

Champagne

 
‘You’re crackers,’ she said.
    ‘And you’re nuts,’ he told her.
    ‘Trying to persuade me you’re from Brazil. Hah! I bet you don’t even know where it is?’
    ‘I do, it’s …’
    ‘See, told you!’
    ‘It’s in South America and the language is Portuguese.’
    ‘What’s the name of the capital city?’
    ‘Brasilia.’
    ‘Really, I thought it was Rio de Janeiro?’
 
Hazel and Diogo reprise this conversation each year on their wedding anniversary before they toast each other. So far they have got through thirty seven bottles of champagne.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The Unidentified Pancake

By Liz Cox

a saucer of milk

 
Fred and Sandra were taking a stroll along the stone edged path which led around the garden. The sun was shining which was a change, as it had been a really soaking wet February. They were fed up with being inside. It wasn’t natural. They sniffed the air twitching their noses to take in the new scents which had appeared, since they were last outside. Sandra tapped the snowdrops to make them dance. Fred heard a rustling in the grass.
‘It’s that grey mouse which lives under the redcurrant bush. It’ll get him this time.’ He slunk to the ground and waited, claws flexing in and out of his striped ginger paw in eager anticipation. Sandra sat preening nonchalantly pretending not to notice.
            ‘You’ll never get him,’ she grinned with glee, washing behind her sooty ear, ‘he’s far too clever for you.’
            ‘If you’d stop purring, maybe I’d get a chance,’ Fred said crossly creeping nearer to the rustling. He pounced, and a flash of grey sped past his nose. Sandra purred louder.
‘Told you.’
Fred narrowed his yellow eyes and pretended not to care. Turning swiftly on his heel, his tail swishing, he sauntered in the direction of the bird table. It was always good for a fun time. He stopped in his tracks.
‘Hey Sandra, what’s that on the floor?’ All animosity forgotten, he turned to his companion who was following behind him pretending to search for voles amongst the rockery stones but in fact was just enjoying the warmth of the winter sunshine. Sandra turned her slanted green eyes towards him and chirruped.
‘Oh Fred, what rubbish have you found now?  - Can you eat it?’
‘Dunno,’ said Fred, poking a pale disc with the tips of his claws. The disc moved as he touched it. ‘Eeew, it’s all soft and squidgy.’ He pawed it again, and it rippled into folds. He sniffed it and backed away in disgust. ‘Doesn’t smell very good.’
Sandra, by now, was intrigued to see what he had found, but feigned indifference. She padded over in his direction. Sniffing the thing, she drew back.
‘Yes! you’re right, doesn’t smell very meaty.’ She stuck her little black nose in the air and ruffled her fur. ‘Must have been left there by the awful small ones.’ The small ones were the bane of her life.
Fred wasn’t finished. He pawed the thing again. It squelched beneath his foot and skidded across the path. He followed it. This had the makings of a good game. Sandra, watching her friend spread-eagled on the dirt, bent down to touch it herself with her elegant claws. She recoiled in horror.
‘Fred, it’s warm.  Do you think it’s alive?’ She purred gleefully. She was thinking that this could be fun. She stroked her silky whiskers with her soft black paw.
Fred gave the thing a little push with his nose. It didn’t move.
 ‘Don’t think so San. Do you think it’s a jelly fish like those on the beach?’
Sandra shuddered. They had only once ventured onto the nearby sands, where they had been attacked by moving water. Their people had become hysterical when they found them; so much fuss. It was not a memory she cared to dwell on. Fred was becoming braver and stamped his foot right in the middle of the disc. It didn’t move.
‘I think I’ve killed it San,’ he mewed with disappointment. As he tried to withdraw his paw, he discovered that his claws were caught in the thing. He couldn’t dislodge it. He flicked his leg; the thing came with it. He tried to walk, the thing came with him.
‘Here San, stand on the other edge.’
‘Not if you call me San, I won’t. I’ve told you about that before.’ Sandra tip-toed towards the thing. She didn’t like getting her paws dirty, unless it was in the innards of a delicious rodent. Up on the bird table above them, there was a cacophony of chirping and shrieking.
‘What’s wrong with them?’ she said, gazing longingly at the flutter of wings above, ‘anyone would think we were going to attack them.’
Fred also gazed upward licking his lips. This damn thing on his foot was distracting him. He tried to shake it loose, but it swung around in the air draping itself over his foot. It began to tear and fell to the ground with a splat, where it was pounced on by Sandra. She picked it up in her mouth and spat it out.
‘That is so awful!,’ she cried trying to dislodge the last piece from her sharp little canines. ‘Perhaps you’re not supposed to eat it.’
‘What else could you do with it?’ Fred ventured, ‘perhaps it’s a nice cushion?’
With that Fred tried to lie on it, moving his back from side to side in ecstasy. He found it was too slippery and fell off. The birds had now raised their voices and were swooping down on the supine cat, as he rolled on the thing. He raised his paws to fend them off catching a brave little sparrow with his claw. The bird let out a terrified shriek, as it disentangled itself and flew off.  Sandra by now was bored and tapped her white tipped tail on the ground.  In the hope of securing one of the diving birds, she swiped the air.
‘This is much more fun Fred.’ She said, ‘leave that thing alone, it’s so boring.’
‘Fred! Sandra! You wicked cats, I put that pancake on the bird table to feed the birds not you two. Get back in the house, you horrors!’
Startled the cats stopped what they were doing, turning in the direction of the Large Person’s voice.
‘Uh huh, it’s Large Person, we better scram,’ said Fred getting up from his grubby pancake blanket which was now covered in thick ginger fur. ‘I don’t think the birds will want to eat it now.’ He grinned. ‘Come on San, let’s go,’ he growled as he slunk off into the privet hedge, followed by Sandra.
‘Don’t call me San.’
 

About the author

Liz is a member of the Bangor Cellar Writing Group and spends her time working at the 'day job' whilst trying to complete her first novel. In the meantime, she writes short stories and poetry while gazing at the view of Snowdonia from her window.