Saturday, 23 October 2021

Blueberry Scones for Later

 

by Marcelo Medone

lemon scented tea

 

 ‘The marmalade lacks sugar, my dear. Besides, you put too much cinnamon in it,’ my mother said, swallowing the last bit of toast with my homemade orange marmalade.

I gave her my best resigned smile.

‘How is your spine? What did the doctor say?’ I asked. Not that I was too interested in a detailed medical status report on her osteoporosis, but at least she wasn't going to comment on my blueberry scones.

My mother took the time to spread another toast with butter and the marmalade she had criticized. She bit the toast eagerly, took a few sips of her lemon scented tea and looked at me indifferently.

‘How long have you not seen your husband? Does he send you any money? Look, a daughter generates expenses. Leila is growing up. And it is not fair that only you take care of her,’ she counterattacked.

I wanted to talk about her osteoporosis, her arthritis that no longer allowed her to knit wool quilts, her cataract operation that had been delayed for a year, her persistent insomnia and her eternal quarrels with her neighbours.

I took a bite of one of my scones. It melted amiably in my mouth and flooded me with fragrances of my childhood.

‘Would you like a blueberry scone, Mom? They won't be as good as the ones you make, but I tried to do my best.’

She ignored me like I was a disembodied ghost.

‘Do you want more tea?’ I insisted.

I tried to fill her cup again, but she waved me not to.

‘I always thought Martin was a bad candidate. Don't say I didn't warn you. But you insisted that he was the man of your life. Besides, you wanted to leave home. Do you see how you ended up? Now I come to visit you, my poor girl. It was about time, right?’

I made an effort not to say something rude to her, but I told myself that she was actually right. Besides, twenty years have passed. Twenty years that became an eternity, especially the last ten.

My mother opened her mouth as if to say something else, but I held her back with my gaze. We were both silent for a moment. I looked out the window and saw that the rain had stopped and the sun had risen.

I drank some tea, taking small sips, avoiding looking my mother in the eye. Suddenly she rose from her chair and leaned over the tray of scones.

‘I'll take some for later. They sure are better than the marmalade,’ she told me, as she tossed all of them in her bag.

‘Don't you want some napkins?’ I asked her in an undisguised ironic tone.

‘I already have some, thanks. Now, I'm going to visit your father. Today is ten years since he passed away. You remembered, right?’


About the author

Marcelo Medone (1961, Buenos Aires, Argentina) is a fiction writer, poet and screenwriter. His works have received numerous awards and have been published in magazines and books, both in digital and paper format, individually or in anthologies, in multiple languages in more than 40 countries, including the UK.

 

Facebook: Marcelo Medone / Instagram: @marcelomedone

 

Friday, 22 October 2021

Jess Cast as Sylvia and Patrick Cast as Tim

 

by Janet Howson

tea no sugar and a dash of milk

Jess and Patrick left ‘The Murder Mystery’ casting, the same way they had entered, holding hands.  No one had made any comment on this. Everyone knew how close they were and some of them knew how unhappy Jess was in her marriage.

“Oh well, we got away with that then, no one blinked an eyelid. I thought at least Sean might have something to say about us holding hands and my arm around you the whole of the meeting.”

“I was really glad. I was dreading anyone questioning me. I’m not ready yet to talk about what Michael has done and my pregnancy? Perhaps I’ll talk to Jason at work, then go from there.” Jess squeezed Patrick’s hand; he was the only one who knew everything. Michael telling her he was leaving her for a girl who hardly looked eighteen and the debts he had run into with his gambling. She hadn’t even told him she was carrying his baby. She knew she had to though, but not yet. She had to get her life sorted out first. There was so much to think about. The house would have to be sold. Where would she live? The custody of the child..”

“Patrick. I’ve just had a thought. What if I told Michael the baby wasn’t his? I mean it is perfectly plausible. He is never in so he doesn’t know if I have been seeing someone else. He wouldn’t want the responsibilities of a child anyway. He is still a child himself.”

Patrick turned his head round sharply to look at her. “Are you serious? Wouldn’t he know?”

“He tends to forget most things. He’s drunk most of the time.”

“Yes, I know but it is his child, Jess. Look, let’s get back to my place and we can talk about it there with a cup of tea. No more alcohol for you my girl”

Or pain killers, Jess thought to herself. Things were going to change. I will keep healthy for the baby. Patrick started his car and they drove back to his bed sit.

“Tea no sugar, a dash of milk,” Patrick placed the steaming hot mug on the kitchen table in front of Jess. “Now we need to do some serious thinking. Can you carry on living with Michael until the house is sold? He might move his girlfriend in at any time. Either he goes or you do.”

“I hadn’t even thought of that. I’d been thinking how awkward it was going to be. He hasn’t come back home since he turned up out of the blue with her. I was kind of hoping he had moved in with her.”

“I doubt she’s legally allowed to move away from her parents. I bet she still lives at home. No, my guess he’s dossing down on a friend’s floor somewhere. He’s too lazy to have sorted out a solicitor and he can’t afford one. It will be up to you to start the ball rolling.”

“I know, I had thought the same. The problem at the moment is that I’m terrified of him turning up drunk and abusive. I’m scared he will hurt me and the baby.” Jess put her head in her hands and sobbed.

Patrick moved his chair so that he was sitting beside her and put his arm round her, rocking her for a few minutes until the tears dried up and she could look up and listen again.

“Right, that’s decided it. You are moving in with me. I know I haven’t got a lot of room but we’ll manage. We are at work five days of the week so we will only be tripping over each at the weekend. Besides, it might just give me a kick up the backside to find a little terrace house. I have been saving up for a deposit, so now would be a good time.” He waited for Jess’s reply. It was a long time before she spoke.

“I just can’t believe how kind you’ve been to me, Patrick. You don’t deserve to have all my troubles thrown at you, and to jump from work colleagues and best friends to living together is a big, big step.” She looked into his eyes and saw nothing but devotion. Jess just knew he would be a faithful partner but a father too? “Remember I am pregnant with another man’s baby. Could you really take all that on? There would be three of us in the relationship in eight months from now. That is a big ask of anybody.” She took Patrick’s hand in hers, “I will take you up on the offer of staying here for a few days but I want you to really think about how we get on living together. Then we can sit down again and ask ourselves the same questions.”

Patrick took all this in. His offer of a refuge for Jess was spontaneous, he had thought no further than that. He had told the truth about wanting a house and he couldn’t think of anyone better than Jess to share with.

“Hey, you, I am not likely to change my mind. I have known you forever and I just know we will be fine living together. I love babies. Remember I’m an uncle to my three brother’s children and I have babysat, entertained them and taken them out regularly. I would love a chance to be a surrogate father and one day perhaps to be a father to my own kids.” He looked sideways at Jess, wondering what her reaction to this would be.

Jess looked preoccupied and was frowning slightly. She got up suddenly, “hadn’t I better go back to my house and get some clothes, toothbrush and whatever else I will need? I don’t want to go back there in case Michael is there, but I have got to do it.” She paused running her hands nervously through her hair. “I’ve got to tell him at some time that I am moving out.” She paused, “and I suppose you are right. I have to tell him I am carrying his child. He’ll probably move his ‘childfriend’ in, so I’m doing him a favour.” She breathed in forcing back tears, trying to focus on Patrick’s presence rather than think of all the abuse she had suffered from a man who called himself her husband and what his reaction would be to the pregnancy.

“Right, let’s go. I’ll pick up some groceries on the way back from the twenty four hour Tesco. You know what we bachelors are like? We live on a wing and a prayer. Not now though. I have a wonderful lady who needs feeding properly and looking after.”

Jess felt warmth spreading over her. For years now all she had heard from Michael was criticism, accusations and complaints. The baby inside her was going to be cared for by two people with so much love to give. She would not be on her own.

It didn’t take them long to whip round Tesco and Jess supervised what food to buy. Patrick was going to fill up the trolley with ready meals, Nachos and pizzas, but she steered him towards the fresh fish, salad and vegetable isles. They laughed a lot together as Patrick protested with tongue in cheek at the future changes to his diet.

When they got back to Jess’s house, all was in darkness. “Great it looks as if Michael hasn’t returned. I really didn’t feel up to another confrontation.” She opened a cupboard under the stairs and pulled out a rather battered looking suitcase. “I won’t take long. I’ll just put in enough clothing and toiletries for a few days.” She’d started to climb the stairs,

“Wait, I’ll do that,” Patrick took the case from Jess and followed her up the stairs.

He noticed the wallpaper stripped from the stairway walls, not finished and left unpainted. The paint pots and tools littered the landing. The jobs that had been left and abandoned. The bedroom was not much better. It had become a dump room for anything that wouldn’t fit in a cupboard. Stacks of Horse Racing magazines, computer games, DVDs and newspapers littered the floor. Patrick wondered how long Jess had been living like this. He watched her pulling out drawers and extracting clothes, to throw them into the suitcase. He watched her throwing a wedding photograph into the bin that was already cluttered with tissues and old magazines. She then pressed her knee on the case to enable her to zip it up. Patrick was surprised it didn’t tear.

             “Right, that’s it.”

               Patrick was brought back to the situation in hand. “Let’s go then, I’ll carry the suitcase down stairs and get it in the boot.” He stopped and turned to Jess. “Do you want to write Michael a note? You will have to communicate at some point.”

      “No, I’ll text him later. I’ll say I’ve gone to my parents. He won’t dare arrive there. He knows they don’t like or approve of him.” She shook her head, “I haven’t told my parents yet about the baby. I need to talk to them tonight and tell them where I am.” She sighed, “So much to organise, too much to think about.”

There was a crash and a moan. “What was that?” Jess and Patrick stopped in their tracks. “It sounds like it's coming from the other bedroom.”

“Stay there, Jess, I will look,” Patrick dropped the case and crossed the landing to the spare bedroom. “Is there anyone in there?” he waited but there was no reply. He pushed the door open gently and peered inside. A body was lying on the floor, fully clothed and wearing shoes. Patrick went further into the room. It was Michael, out like a light and snoring loudly. The smell of drink filled the room and an empty bottle of whisky lay on its side on the floor.

Patrick retreated from the room. He had no intention of waking him and being subjected to all the bad language and accusations he would receive. He had been there before and learnt his lesson.

“What is it, Patrick?” Jess shouted from her bedroom.

“It’s Michael. Keep your voice down, we don’t need to wake him. He is out cold and inebriated. You wouldn’t get any sense out of him at the moment. It’s best we let him sleep it off.”

“I wonder why he’s he in the spare bedroom?”

“My guess his ‘childfriend’ was with him and she didn’t want to sleep in the marital bed. She’s probably gone home now and if she’s got any sense she will, stay there.”

Patrick took the case and headed for the stairs, Jess lingered but then took a deep breath and followed. “Can you put the case in the car and I will gather a few bits from the kitchen and lounge? I need my Murder Mystery script, we will have to start learning the lines pronto.” Something else they had in common. There wouldn’t be the long evenings on her own, or even when Michael was in, the silences or the noise of his computer games. They never talked. With Patrick it was different. They could talk for hours and still have more to say. He would never be violent or verbally abusive, he would never fall through the front door so drunk he couldn’t stand up. At first she would help Michael to bed, making excuses for him, then she stopped trying and the marriage died. “R.I.P.” she said out loud, “I wish farewell to the unhappiest years of my life.”  She grabbed the script from the table and without any further hesitation, she ran to Patrick’s car and got in beside him.

“All done?” he asked.

“Oh yes. Done, finished, terminated and on to the next chapter of my life.”

Patrick leant over, looked Jess in the eyes for a minute and smiled. It was exactly the right thing to do, but Patrick always knew what the right thing was to do with Jess.


 About the author

Janet Howson was born in Rochdale but moved to the South of England when she was seventeen. She loved writing and reading from an early age and wrote poetry and plays. She joined an amateur drama group when she was eighteen and her love of the theatre began. She trained to be a teacher and her two subjects were English and Drama. She then went on to teach for thirty-five years in Comprehensive schools in Redbridge, Havering and Essex. During this time, she wrote and directed plays for the pupils, ran drama clubs, worked with pupils from special schools, involving them in productions, worked with Chicken Shed after school and continued to be involved in amateur drama both as a performer and a director. Now she is retired, Janet has joined two writing groups and with the help and advice she has received from the other members, has started to write short stories and her first novel, Charitable Thoughts has now been published. She intends to continue writing both novels and stories, adapting some of them into theatre scripts and radio plays.

 

Published Work:

Dramatic Episodes   The prequel to this series 

The Best of CafeLit 8 an anthology published by Chapletown Books 2019

Stories included: Marking Time & Induction Day.

Nativity an anthology published by Bridge House 2019

Story included: Solution.

Charitable Thoughts a novella published by Austin Macauley

Can be found on Amazon Books

It happened in Essex tall tales from the Basildon Writers’ Group

Can be found on Amazon books

 


 

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Big Bessie and Harriet

 

by Debra White

lemonade

 

“Hey stop that,” Big Bessie the cat said as she ran from the stone throwing teen. The plump pussy cat scooted through the alley littered with stinky garbage, bald tires, and broken bottles. A piece of broken glass nicked her paw but Big Bessie didn’t have time to lick the blood. The bad boy was on her trail.

Big Bessie climbed over a fence and hurried across the empty courtyard. “I wish he’d leave me alone. I didn’t do anything but pick through their garbage can for food. I’m hungry. And cold too.”

The fluffy white cat hid behind a dumpster for what felt like hours, glad she didn’t meet up with any dogs. Canines were usually friendly, but one brute tried to chew off her ears. Life on the streets was so unpredictable.

Darkness finally fell on the city so Big Bessie squeezed herself out of her hiding place. Stretching first, she then sniffed for food scraps lying around. Nothing, not even a measly piece of bread. Since the bad boy might still be around, Big Bessie figured she’d better move on.

Big Bessie scampered down the pitch-black streets, careful to avoid cars. Chilly weather kept most neighbors inside. Years as a stray taught the cat important skills about traffic. She’d seen a lot of friends run down by speeding cars or trucks turning the curves too tightly. A drunk staggered down the block so Big Bessie hid under a beat-up car to avoid trouble. Shocked, she bumped into another cat.

“What’re you doing here?” Big Bessie asked.

“I could ask you the same thing,” the skinny gray cat said. “I’m the great Harriet and you’re crowding my space so get out.”

“How come it’s your space? I’m trying to avoid trouble, just like you. Looks like it might rain too.”

“I found the car first. Find your own space,” Harriet said.

“Be that way. I’d rather face the lousy weather than hang around with a cranky cat like you.”

Big Bessie made it a few steps away when Harriet said, “Wait, don’t go.”

“Why should I stay? I get enough abuse on the streets. Who needs abuse from a moody cat like you?”

“I’m hurt, that’s why. The great Harriet once ruled an alley so asking for help from a strange cat isn’t easy.”

Bessie flopped down next to Harriet. “What’s wrong?”

“A car hit me and my leg hurts. My gang deserted me.”

“I’m sorry, Harriet,” Big Bessie said. “What can I do?”

“Hang out by the big buildings and wait for someone who looks friendly. Then try and lure them to the car.” Harriet hissed. “When I get better, I’ll teach those cats a lesson for leaving me.”

“I’ve been looking for my own friendly face for a long time,” Big Bessie said. “Stray cats don’t win many friends but I’ll try. Hey, don’t be vengeful. It’s not becoming of us cats.”

“Find me a mouse or something,” Harriet said. “I’m so hungry.”

            “Around this dumpy place finding a mouse will be easy.”

            After buckets of rain stopped drenching the city, Big Bessie wandered the neighborhood hoping to help Harriet. Neighbors emptied out of a tattered apartment building fanning out in different directions but no one noticed Big Bessie as she pawed for attention. By sundown, she moped back to the banged-up car.

            “Here,” she said as she dropped a dead mouse next to Harriet’s face. “That’s the only help I could find today.”

            “Where’s my savior?”

            “Harriet, I said I tried. No one noticed.”

            “I’ve been under this car for a long time. Get me out of here,” Harriet said.

            “Don’t blame me. I didn’t cause your problems,” Big Bessie said.

            “Cool your cat litter. I’m upset from being here so long.”

            “Do you mind if I snuggle next to you?” Big Bessie asked. “I’m cold.”

            “I’m not that kind of cat,” Harriet said. “I suppose if you want to just this once, it’ll be OK. Don’t tell any of the other street cats. I have a reputation to uphold.”

 

            The next morning Big Bessie hustled through the neighborhood. She parked herself in front of another multi-story apartment building, waiting for someone to notice her antics. No one did. Later, she wandered through another empty lot filled with junk looking for something to eat. Harriet will be so upset with me, she thought, when I come back alone. What would Big Bessie do now? She could go on her own but that would be like stabbing Harriet in the heart. She opted to keep trying. There had to be someone out there who wanted to help a pair of homeless cats.

            On her way back, a mouse crossed her path and Big Bessie pounced on it. She presented her find to Harriet.

            “No one paid attention to me today either.”

            “So, I see. What exactly are you doing? Maybe you should spruce up your act?”

            “It’s not easy. People look at me like I have rabies or something.”

            “Try harder, my leg is really sore. I’d have found help for you by now. That’s why they call me the Great Harriet. Look at you, a big ball of blubber.”

            “That hurts, say you’re sorry.”

            “Why? It’s true.”

            “The heck with you. I’m out of here.” Big Bessie hissed, spun around and trotted away.

           

            Big Bessie sniffed her way down an alley, saw an empty cardboard box and jumped in. She curled up and tried to stay warm. Sleep came quickly, but the distant sound of dog yapping woke her. Hunger rocked her belly so she thought of looking for something to eat. As she nosed through discarded food wrappers, images of Harriet and her bad leg haunted her. The cat had an ego the size of a lion but she was in trouble. Big Bessie decided to try one more time, even if Harriet called her names.

            The cat changed strategies. Maybe tenants coming out of the big apartment towers were in too much of a hurry to notice a cat pleading for help. So Big Bessie found a smaller building and waited. A man wearing a blue suit tried to shoo her away. Someone else said the neighborhood was overflowing with street cats.

After the morning rush, Big Bessie sat down on the front steps, feeling dejected. What else could she do for Harriet? Was Harriet even still under the car? Footsteps caught Big Bessie’s attention. She turned to see a young woman with pretty brown eyes and a smile that made her feel like a playful kitten again.

            “Aren’t you a nice cat?” the woman said. “I haven’t seen you before. I wonder who you belong to?”

            Big Bessie wanted to soak up the affection but now wasn’t the time. She made a quick move towards the corner.

            “Don’t be afraid. My name is Mary and I won’t hurt you.” Mary stood in front of her tidy little building.

            Darn, Big Bessie said to herself. She doesn’t understand as she rambled back to Mary’s extended arms.

            “That’s better,” Mary said, stroking Big Bessie’s unkempt fur.

            Big Bessie meowed so loud she coughed then she headed towards the corner.

            “For a cat, you’re strange. I get the impression I should follow you. You look too old for kittens. But what the heck.”

            Big Bessie sniffed her way down the block, trying to capture the scent back to Harriet. She wasn’t quite sure where the abandoned car was but this was now or never time. She had to find Harriet. Her nose couldn’t fail.

            Mary trailed Big Bessie through the neighborhood. At the traffic light, she tried to pick up the cat but the big ball of fluffy white fur squirmed until Mary put her down. “You’re determined to lead me somewhere, aren’t you?”

            About fifteen minutes slipped by when Big Bessie found the old car. She poked her head underneath and found Harriet snuggled inside one of the back tires. “What took you so long?” Harriet said.

            “How’d you know I’d be back?”

            “Feline intuition.”

            Mary bent down and saw the battered cat. “So, this was your plan? Your friend is hurt.”

            Mary stretched to pick up Harriet. Tenderly, she held the injured cat. Then Mary reached into her back pocket and pulled out her cell phone. Within minutes her husband drove up in his big brown Buick. Mary placed both cats in the back seat.

            “Let’s get them to a vet,” Mary said. “One of them is injured.”

            “What’ll we do with them?” her husband asked.

            “What else can we do? Bring them home with us and let them blend in with our other cats.”

Abut the author 

A car accident ended Debra’s career due to a traumatic brain injury. She re-invented herself through volunteer work and writing. Debra wrote for Animal Wellness, Arizona Republic, Social Work, Airports of the World, Psychology Today, and others. She reviewed books, contributed book chapters and wrote a book for TFH Publications.

           

            

           

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Cheese

by Clive Gresswell

espresso - dark like this story

Jean Paul Sartre was furious with Albert Camus because he had eaten all his cheese. He’d only asked him round for a quick argument but Camus had outstayed his welcome, guzzled the wine, and helped himself to the cheese. Not just some of the cheese Sartre had bought at the shop that very afternoon but ALL of it.  Most of the absurdists thought Sartre was upset because Camus was nasty about Lenin but no, it was the cheese, take it from me, I asked him.

Sartre also told me that this was not untypical of Camus who liked to eat and drink everything in sight when he was at friends. Sartre said he certainly didn’t behave in such a boorish manner when he was at Camus’ – so no wonder he felt like an outsider. He suffered from bad dreams too. No surprises there if he made a habit of gobbling up the cheese. Also, apparently, he made no apologies either for his discourtesy to Lenin or for eating all that cheese.

Sartre had tried hard to forgive Camus but forgiveness wasn’t one of Sartre’s strong points. He was more your brooding deeply melancholic sort of an existentialist whereas Camus had no objection to a kick around on the football pitch every now and then.

Sartre had been complaining to Camus that people took the piss out of him all the time.

“Well, you should lighten up, you’re always going on about suicide and all that sort of heavy stuff. Can’t you get a girlfriend, be happy?”

Well of course that was a bit rich coming from Camus whose own pen was becoming more and more acquainted with the crowning beauty of Nihilism. In later life both he and his lover would adopt explaining why as part of their wedding vows. Both Camus and Sartre just got completely drunk at the event, decided life was too short etc, forgave each other, and kissed and made up to a round of riotous applause.

Camus however did not give up his guzzling ways and Sartre just didn’t know how to broach it with him.

“if he does it again ,I swear I will kill myself, “ said Sartre whom I’m afraid still held a grudge. Well, a little bit. What he didn’t know was that Sartre had always been jealous of him, thinking he was closer to the people.

There was a knock at the door and when Camus opened the door it was Blimey! Sartre who had bought with him an absolute mountain of various cheeses by way of apology.

As Camus went to thank him he put his fingers up to his lips and made a hissing sound.

“Don’t talk, eat,” he said.

“We need to stuff as much of it in as we can before the glorious revolution,” he said.

“Then we will be shot like all the other pigs. But at least we know what we are.”

 

About the author 

Clive Gresswell, 102, is an innovative short story writer and poet who has appeared in BlazeVox and many poetry magazines. He has two poetry collections out with Knives, Forks and Spoons Press. Another is with erbacce press.