Monday 15 June 2015

The Vengeance of Augustus

The Vengeance of Augustus

The Viking

Prussic Acid
A bowl of tepid milky tea to slop on the kitchen floor

 Photo taken on Canvey Island by Peter Goldsworthy
 Dog in Sea (or is it a lion?)

Used as a writing prompt by Canvey Writers

I am poking around in the waning afternoon tide of the Thames Estuary searching for a cricket ball my owner, Archie, wants me to retrieve so he can throw it back in again; and they call dogs mutts?
            I am a chocolate coloured Labrador with the pedigree classification of Augustus the Divine a tribute hugely contested by Archie’s wife Agnes every time I pee on her petunias.
            She says I smell.
            ‘That dog has the stench of a hippopotamus decomposing in an African mud wallow,’ she once said after much deliberation.
            Bloody cheek, she smells like a kitchen aerosol spray. After tying me up outside Boots the Chemists, one day, she checked out trial offers on the perfume counter by spraying the stuff on my back’ saying, ‘Oh I do like that one, Gus,’ or, ‘What do you think of this one Gus?’
            To my horror, Sam, an Alsatian acquaintance of mine was witnessing the incident and instead of wanting to fight afterwards; contented himself with derisive barks.  
            Agnes also alleges I’m flatulent and sprays the air above my basket with Pound Shop disinfectant when I’m trying to take a nap. Occasionally she switches her fumigation hunger onto golfing socks Archie stuffs in his golf bag under the stairs.
            But she has a lighter side. At times of warmth and charity, she endears herself to her husband by saying things like, ‘You always smell of something, dear; aren’t you a one? Have you ever considered donating your mortal remains to the Department of Agriculture? Just imagine how proud you would be when you look down upon bumper crops of radishes bearing your DNA.’
            ‘You’re getting to sound like my old sergeant major,’ Archie replied to her accusation he was rubbish at cleaning his walking boots. Edging closer, she angled her head this way and that like a carrion crow watching as he hacked mud from the boots with a fish slice onto the newspaper strewn kitchen floor.
            After the final sweep of his hewing arm, she imperiously said, ’Now chuck the blessed things into the backyard to let enzymes get to them and they’ll smell sweeter than a brace of steam cleaned bedpans in the morning.’
            She had been a history teacher in her prime so I’d heard, but she seems to be well up on enzymes as well, preferring to hang Archie’s underpants on the outside rotary clothes line rather than include them in the weekly wash.
            Light is fading fast now, and consulting his wristwatch, Archie said grumpily,’ You’ll never see that ball in this light; why don’t we call it a day?’
            You will have noticed at this stage I no longer command the name of Gus, and his next statement did nothing to redress the issue.
            ‘That damned ball will be bumping along the bottom of the North Sea halfway to Amsterdam by now; they must be stacking the bloody things up like Edam cheeses over there.’
            As the tide ebbed, mud found its way onto my coat perhaps because I’d rolled in it as a treat for Agnes when we got home.
            The finicky back door was having a bad day and refused to open, so as we squelched through the front door, Agnes, not prepared for this subtle alternative showed more umbrage than humour and made personal remarks as Archie led me over her daffodil yellow hall carpet on the way to the bathroom for ritual cleansing.
            I do so love these providential moments of release when I can justifiably shake my moulting coat in the bathroom listening to Archie taking the rap afterwards for the unauthorized hirsute change of décor on the walls.

About the Author:

James Sainsbury began writing seriously after completing a correspondence course after which two articles and four short stories were published. Upon retirement, he noticed both little fingers were curling into their palms and was told he had Dupuytren's Contracture; a disease brought over by the Vikings, hence his chosen pseudonym-The Viking- all five feet inches of him; not your average berserker.

Published June 15 2015

Friday 5 June 2015

Dialling 999

Dialling 999
Vicky Jacobson
Black Coffee

Generally, if things go wrong, my first reaction is to panic – okay, you might not see me running round flapping my arms like the proverbial headless chicken, but believe me, that’s what’s going on inside and that’s what was happening last night when I had to call 999.
I couldn’t find my phone, I couldn’t find my phone – my hands were shaking as I searched my bag but – no, I really couldn’t find my phone. I scrabbled frantically through dozens of old receipts and shopping lists, checked all the pockets, one after another but no sign of it. I prayed that I’d not forgotten it again and tried to calm myself but the panic was rising. I tried once more: I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, held it and concentrated on counting to ten as I slowly let it out. I opened my eyes and started looking again and there it was – in the first bloody place I’d looked. I focused all my attention on hitting the number nine three times and finally, with relief, I heard a calm voice on the other end asking me what service I required. 
 ‘Um, um, ambulance, no police – um, ambulance and police,’ I managed to blurt, ‘there’s a man, he’s unconscious… he might be dead… oh god, there’s blood everywhere.’
The operator asked me where I was and I gave her the town and tried to explain my location – I wasn’t exactly sure of an address but I told her it was off the footpath leading from Garrison Road. ‘About half-way along there’s a gap in the hedge and he’s through there, down in the field.’ I was sobbing by this time and she spoke soothingly and said somebody would be with me shortly. 
Although the path is well-known to locals, it isn’t very well lit and runs through an area bounded by fields on one side and waste ground on the other so normally, I wouldn’t use it after dark. As usual though, I was running late so the few minutes I knew it would save, swayed me. 
I remembered seeing a man coming towards me and as he neared he’d asked for a light and I shook my head and said I didn’t smoke. The next thing I knew I was sprawling on the ground down the bank and the man was coming after me. It all got very hazy after that but I recalled a struggle and felt several blows then I had hold of a rock and was swinging it with all the strength I could muster. I can still hear the crunch as the rock made contact with something hard but then it all faded away. The next thing I knew the man was lying still on the ground and I must have gotten to my feet because I was standing up and looking down at him and I knew I needed to get help.         
I could still hear the operator speaking but it appeared that she was no longer able to hear me and then the phone went dead in my hand. By that point though I could hear sirens approaching so I tried to make my way back up to the path. A few minutes later I heard the sound of vehicles screeching to a halt and car doors slamming. I saw several figures running towards me holding torches but I was a little bewildered when they totally ignored me and hurried into the field. 
I followed them to the gap in the hedge and watched as one of the policemen knelt down and checked the bloke’s vital signs. ‘It’s too late for this one,’ he said, ‘we’ll need to secure the area and get the forensics boys out here.’ He stood up and shone his torch around the field stopping at a low heap further off. ‘What’s that?’ he asked and one of the other policemen walked over to where the torch beam was directed. 
‘Sir, it’s a woman and she’s in a bad way,’ he said, bending down to look at her, then more urgently, ‘she’s still alive Guv but only just – we need to get the paramedics here pronto.’
A chill ran through me and I slipped back into the shadows beneath the bushes. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, there’d only been me and that bloke – where had this other woman come from?        
Two guys rushed through the gap and I saw them load the woman onto a stretcher with swift, practised movements. I tried to press back into the hedge to avoid being seen but as they passed me the woman’s hand slipped from under the blanket and brushed against my leg.  A glint on her wrist resolved itself into a watch that looked very familiar. 
A thought, dismissed before it was fully formed, flitted across my mind as I lifted my hand to look at the watch I was wearing.
It was…no, it had to be a coincidence, she was just wearing a watch like mine; but there was the scratch on the glass where I’d caught it on a wall while rushing to get washing in from the rain and there was the tiny splodge of white paint on the strap I’d never gotten round to cleaning off. It wasn’t just like mine; it was mine.
In disbelief, I fumbled to look at my own wrist again and, as I did, the truth finally slammed into me. I felt a huge jolt as I was pulled back into my body and then, for a brief moment, I was aware of being carried on the stretcher before everything went black.
I woke up the next day in hospital. The police were waiting to speak to me and I learned that I’d been attacked but evidence showed that I’d fought back desperately. My attacker had suffered a head injury during the tussle and had died and the doctor said that I’d probably be dead too if it hadn’t been for the mystery woman who’d used my mobile to summon help. They said that she’d disappeared before the police arrived but they obviously needed to interview her and thought an appeal in the local paper might urge her to come forward. I knew that was very unlikely but thought I should probably keep that to myself.    
I can’t explain what happened last night but I do know that I’ll be sticking to roads with street lights in future.
Yesterday I phoned 999 for the first time. I want it to be the last.

About the Author

Vicky is a retired legal secretary with two grown-up children. She has always had a desire to write but only really got started when she joined Canvey Writers earlier this year. This story was a response to a writing prompt from the group.