Saturday 30 June 2018

An Unwelcome Visitor

by Ruth Ogilive-Brown

cold tea

I awake to a crash. I must have dozed off on the sofa. The room is in darkness, apart from orange embers in the log burner, and a band of white light across the coffee table from the lamppost outside; it illuminates Clarence and three jagged bits of blue crockery. ‘I suppose you want some tasty morsel now, even though you’ve just broken my favourite mug?’  Clarence purrs his agreement, licks his lips.
I drag myself from the sofa, stretching and yawning. A car’s headlights sweep around the walls, bathing the framed pictures in light for a second before fading. There’s a low hum and the turn and crunch of wheels before the engine shudders to a stop. I go to the window. Outside my house, there’s a man in a car. He’s parked on the opposite side underneath the street lamp. A chill tingles through me. It can’t be him. I try to study the shape of his head, the angle of his nose, but it’s just too dark.
My mobile jumps to life on the coffee table – ringing and vibrating, my sister’s name flashing. Clarence arches his back and I grab the phone just before he pounces on it.
‘Did you see the news?’ she asks, her voice breathy.
‘No – what news? What do you mean?’
‘He’s out Cathy. He escaped from prison last night.’
My stomach lurches. I open my mouth to say something, but nothing comes.
‘Are you still there?’ she says, her voice more high pitched than usual. ‘Listen - get out Cathy. Get out of that house. Get out now. Come round here. Just in case.’
I race upstairs to my bedroom and pull on my trainers, fumbling with the laces, my fingers numb. A car door slams. I creep to the side of the window. He’s out of the car, moving towards the garden gate.
The shrill ‘brrring brrring’ of the telephone in the downstairs hallway pierces through the hush like an alarm bell. I get halfway down the stairs and stop.  My breath is coming in quick gasps. I can see the front door from here. I hear his boots on the gravel, and then he’s there, his body making dark shapes against the mottled glass oblong in the top half of the door.  He raps hard. It’s an assertive, angry kind of knock. He shouts my name and I try to decide if it’s his voice.  I’m not sure. But when he rattles the door handle, I know. It has to be him.
I sneak down the stairs, my legs heavy. I’ll escape out the back door. The phone stops ringing as I pass it, but the letter box creaks open. ‘Cathy, Cathy,’ he shouts, his mouth framed in the brass rectangle, a hint of aftershave and cigarettes wafting into the hallway.
I run past the front door, along the hallway and into the kitchen. My hands tremble as I grope for the key in the kitchen drawer. Come on. Come on. Where are you? I find it, slot it in the lock and open the door.
He’s there already, standing in the doorway, shrouded by the blackness of the night like a giant bird of prey. ‘Cathy,’ he starts. Adrenaline courses through me. There’s a buzzing in my ears like a thousand wasps and my whole body shakes. I pick up the iron pot from the work top, and as he moves towards me into the dark kitchen I lunge at him, whacking the side of his head, making him stumble. He knocks his head on the edge of the counter and falls to the floor with a sickening thud. I stand there in shock for a few seconds, then I let the pot slip from my clammy hands, let it clatter to the floor.
  I stagger to the nearest kitchen chair, sink into it before my legs give way. Something else starts to buzz – my mobile.  I pull it from my jeans pocket.  ‘Cathy, it’s D.I. Thomson here. We’ve been trying to call you. We’ve sent a detective round,’ he says. ‘Just to make sure you’re ok.’
‘A detective?’ My voice is a tiny squeak.
‘Yes – if you’re not in, he’ll check your doors and windows to make sure the house is safe.’
I jump up and flick the light switch.  The long florescent strip hums and flickers then floods the kitchen with brilliant light. I rub my eyes, stare at the man on the floor. He stares back at me, unseeing. It isn’t him. It isn’t my stalker.
‘Hello Cathy,’ says a dark shape in the doorway.
About me:
My name is Ruth Ogilvie Brown. I live in Dundee and work as a university administrator. When I’m not being a wage slave, I love walking in the countryside, reading and writing. I’ve recently taken part in a six week online creative writing course with Curtis Brown. This is the first time I’ve submitted my work anywhere.

Friday 29 June 2018

The Rabbit

by James Bates 

Camomile Tea

"I'm going to the compost bin. I'll be right back," Blake Jorgenson said to his wife.
            "Okay. I'm almost done with the tea. We can have a cup on the back patio if you want. It's a beautiful morning."
            He grinned, "Sounds good."
            Blake stepped out the back door with his pail of breakfast scraps: eggs shells, coffee grounds and a banana peel. He stopped and took a moment to breathe in the scent of a nearby climbing yellow rose bush. Ah, roses so sweet! he thought poetically to himself. Wasn't life grand?
             He was feeling wonderful. A warbler chattering away in a nearby clump of honeysuckle seemed to echo his jaunty mood. Morning dew sparkled on the lawn and the sky was glorious robin's egg blue. It was the last week in June and the sun was shining, the temperature a pleasant sixty-five degrees. It was going to be a perfect day.
            Blake was an avid gardener; it was not only his hobby but his passion. He planned to spend the morning working in the front yard, weeding and hoeing the many gardens he'd planted there over the years. It was the sunniest spot on his property and that's where all the sun-loving flowers were planted: delphinium, garden phlox, coneflower, sunflowers, daises and black-eyed Susan's to name but a few. When he was finished in the front, he'd move to the backyard, where he was now, to the shady gardens and do the same with the hostas, ferns, wild ginger, Solomon's seal and foxglove. He prided himself on the gardens he and Alicia maintained. They'd won a disappointing second place in the Long Lake garden contest last year and he was ready to do battle.
            "Not this year," he'd told his wife a few months earlier at the beginning of the season, "No siree. This year we're going to kick some ass. We're going to win!"
            He hadn't noticed when Alicia had turned away, rolling her eyes at him. Sure, she liked to putter around with the flowers, but that was all. She could have cared less about the garden contest and didn't care one whit about winning. And she certainly wasn't like her competitive husband, who had waited and dreamed and plotted all winter long for the chance to wipe last year's second place debacle from the books.
            Blake happily sauntered from the back door to the far side of the garage where the compost bin was located. Suddenly a movement to his right caught his attention. Thinking it might be a robin searching for a worm he glanced out into the yard. It took a moment to locate the movement and when he did his blood pressure suddenly sky-rocketed, his good mood vanishing in an instant. "Shit!" He dropped his pail and ran back to the house yelling, "God damn it, anyway!"
            Alicia hurried to meet him as he burst through the backdoor, "What's the matter? Is it your heart? What's wrong?"
            "I'm fine, but I'm not okay. I've got to call Toby."
            "That damn rabbit is back. I can't friggin' believe it."
            "Why call Toby?" Toby McCourt was Blake's best friend.
            "He's got a trap. I'm going to catch the blasted thing and when I do, that'll be all she wrote for mister bunny rabbit. Mark my words. That thing is toast."
            Alicia sighed a heavy sigh, thinking, "Good grief, here we go again."
            Toby's trap was called a "Havaheart." It was a rectangular wire mesh box-like contraption that an animal was enticed into with food. Once inside, a trip-lever shut the door so the animal couldn't get out. The idea was that the trapper could then take the animal far away and let it go to run wild and free in some woods or fields somewhere; anywhere but where they could do damage and destruction to humans. Toby used his to trap squirrels. He was a gentle and compassionate man who drove twenty miles away to the other side of the Minnesota River down near Jordan where he set the unharmed animal free. Blake wasn't sure he'd be that kind and considerate with the rabbit.
            "I might just drop the whole thing in the middle of Long Lake and be done with it," he told Alicia when he returned home from Toby's, hauling the bulky Havaheart, "I've had it with the damn thing."
            The "Damn Thing," the rabbit, had been the scourge of Blake's for a couple of years right up until last year when it had mysteriously disappeared. "Yea!" Blake had said earlier that spring as he prepared his prized gardens for the garden show judging (only to awarded the gut wrenching second plate silver metal. It still grated on his nerves.) "Maybe a fox got it or something. Hopefully, the stupid thing is dead. Good bye and good riddance is what I say."
            But, now, a year later, apparently it was not dead. Now it was back, hopping around in his yard, and it had Blake's blood pressure up in the danger zone.
            "Blake, sweetheart, you've got to calm down," Alicia told him, as he stalked his property searching for the perfect place to set the trap, "You'll give yourself a heart attack."
            Blake was a recently retired product development specialist for Heartland Incorporated, an electronics control manufacturing company. He'd worked there for nearly forty years, as long as he and Alicia had been married. He'd been a dedicated employee and was a devoted husband. He was also fiercely competitive, and he wasn't going to let a measly cottontail rabbit ruin his changes at winning first place at garden show this year. In his words, "No friggin' way." He'd already picked out a nice spot on the fireplace mantel to be home for the shining golden trophy, much to Alicia's chagrin.
            After an hour's contemplation, and trying various locations, he finally decided to place the trap in the front yard, in the middle of his favorite flower bed. He baited it with fresh romaine lettuce, sliced radishes and succulent baby carrots. The mixture looked so delectable that Blake fought back an urge to eat some. "Nope, save it for the rabbit," he muttered to himself, "I can't wait to get the damned thing."
            With the trap and bait in place, he impatiently waited. One day went by. A second day passed. A third. Nothing. At the end of the fourth day, with still no rabbit, Blake was starting to calm down somewhat and to think, "Maybe the blasted thing has moved on to another neighborhood to terrorize another gardener." Or, now that he was thinking about it, "Maybe something even better has happened. Maybe it got hit by a car and is dead." To that end Blake got in his brand new Ford Focus and took a drive around the neighborhood looking up and down the streets to see if he could find evidence of the smashed remains of rabbit's demise. He found nothing.
            But that was fine with Blake. At least the rabbit wasn't in his yard or his flower beds, or anywhere nearby. Apparently. He allowed himself some cautious optimism. His bachelor buttons had just popped up in his front yard garden and were growing with enthusiasm. They'd be the final colors of blue and pink and white to fill in amongst the deep violet delphinium, the terra cotta coneflowers, the yellow sunflowers and the deep fuchsia and reds of his phlox. The judging was next week. He and, more importantly, his garden, were ready. "First place, here we come," he told Alicia, "No doubt in my mind." To which his poor wife sighed and, again, rolled her eyes.
            The next morning he took the breakfast scraps to the compost bin. On a whim, he decided to take a little stroll to the front yard to check on the trap. He walked on yesterday's  freshly cut grass along the side of his house, reveling in the beauty of natural world and the fact that, with the rabbit seemingly nowhere to be found, all was right with it. He turned the corner to the front yard and let his eye run over the riot of color, the beautiful combination of flowers of all types and varieties. He'd definitely win first place this year. Easily. Then he happened to glance at the Havaheart, tucked carefully among the bachelor buttons. At first he didn't believe what he saw. He had to blink twice to make sure it was real. Unfortunately, it was. There, sitting calmly and unafraid on top of the trap was the rabbit. His nemesis. Blake stared, his blood racing to his brain, his heart pounding. He put his hand to his chest to ease the pain. It subsided, fortunately, but he was frozen in place, a combination of anger and numbness stopping him in his tracks.
            The rabbit, a doe, a big female, sat staring back at him. She calmly munched on the new growth of the bachelor buttons growing right up beside her. She was taking her time, all the while watching the man clutch his chest, speechless and consumed by rage. Munching, munching, munching, she was, enjoying every bite, in no hurry at all.
            When she was finished, she lightly jumped to the ground and leisurely hopped away, turning every now and then, keeping an eye of the crazy man standing nearby with his eyes bugging out, silently moving his mouth, speechless. Then she spied a delectable delphinium. She stopped next to it, daintily bit it off at the stem and started eating, savoring every bite, watching as the female who lived with the man ran out to help him. She put her arm around his shoulder and slowly they made their toward their home.
            When they had gone inside, she hopped past more of the man's succulent gardens, so full of good food. For now, though, she ignored them. She was heading for the yard next door. At the back of the garage she'd dug a borrow for her nine babies. They'd only been born last week. She was still feeding them her rich mother's milk. Soon they'd be old enough to go out on their own. Then she would teach them the ways of the world and how to survive: where the safe places to hide were and where to find food, like this particular garden, this lovely banquet of healthy food, so abundant and tasty.
            But that was still a few weeks away. Until then she'd be busy, feeding mostly, both herself and her babies. She was glad there were so many flowers nearby. The man's garden held the best food in the area; in fact, the best food she'd ever eaten. She was sure her babies would grow strong and healthy from it. Her milk was good. The garden was big. The food source was almost unending. There was no doubt about it, she would definitely be back, if not this afternoon, then tonight. After all, she had a growing family to care for. She had a lot more eating to do.

About the author 

I have been writing for a number of years: haiku, poetry, short and long fiction. In addition to CafeLit, my stories can be found posted on my website:

Thursday 28 June 2018


By Andrea Williams 

a glass of porter

Howie’ we all call him now.  His real name is Dillon, itself a misspelling of Dylan.  He once told us that Dylan was the name his mother had wanted, being a big fan of Bob, but the vicar had written everything as Dillon. A sort of celestial mix-up between magic roundabout and magic mushrooms that was never clear.  
Why was he renamed ‘Howie’ you ask?  It wasn’t immediate.  We regular customers of the Circlet Inn are men, women too nowadays, who are considerate, mindful of people’s feelings, slow to judge.  We also generally don’t care what your name is, and he would have been Dillon, or Dylan  or anything else, had it not been for Andy, our genial host, who receives all the stories told on our side of the bar, and has the delightful habit of retelling them, with or without attribution, whenever his cause of selling more ale needs the support of some extended lingering.  
It was after I overheard him talking about ‘Howie, one of his regulars‘ receiving a bullet wound to the jaw after yomping across the Falklands that I asked him who he was talking about.  Surely there couldn’t be two blokes who used the Circlet Inn with such a singular scar on their jaw.  
“Howie.” he said, “The tall lad who comes in.  You can’t miss him - got a scar on his jaw.”
“You mean Dillon.” I answered him, “He told me one day how he got that scar.  Nothing to do with the Falklands.  He was a lad, playing rugby, on the school team.  They were up against a team from South Shields, a right tough school.  They were four points behind, and it was a needle match, with a few minutes to go when someone raked him with their boot when they went down in a scrum.  Studs used to be nailed on in those days, and this lads' were worn, with the nails sticking out.  Made Dillon mad as all hell, so when he was upright again and the ball came to him he kicked it high, ran under, collected it at full pelt, and ran for the line, skidding round the full back with a feint to the left, scoring the winning try with blood still pouring down his shirt.  He was known as Redshirt until he left school.”   Andy looked up at me, and leaned back,
“Redshirt eh? nice touch.  That must be it then.”  Someone called him away, and I thought for a moment.  What did Andy mean by ‘nice touch’?  it wasn’t a comment on the rugby.  
A day or two later  Archie was in the bar, so I asked him,
“Do you know how Dillon got his scar?”
“Oh yes, he told me about it, ages ago.  It was a girlfriend’s husband.”
“Dillon was a good looking lad in his twenties. At least, he said he was good looking enough to have an affair with a married woman.  She was tall and blonde, and not blonde from a bottle.  He knew that because he knew the inside of her bathroom and bathroom cabinet, having been in there plenty of times.  They had a wonderful thing going.   The old story of the husband being away, so the toy boy moves in.  Eventually the husband came home unexpectedly, caught them in flagrante, and in the ensuing fisticuffs landed a tremendous punch.  He wore a ring that tore open Dillon’s face.  Needed stitches, he said.”  and Archie took a meditative sip of his pint.  “I asked him if she was worth it, and he said he’s reminded of her every time he uses the mirror, so ‘yes’ it was worth it.”  
After that, I checked with some of the other regulars,  Clive had heard the real story too, 
“Kicked by a runaway horse when he worked in the stables at Fallodon Hall, back in the fourth Lady Howden’s day.  The horse was a bit wild, and Lady H’s daughter was about to be trampled, so he ran in front of it.  The horse reared as it stopped, and caught him with its left foreleg hoof.  The family was so grateful they gave him two hundred pounds, back when that was a lot of money, as a thank you - and to keep quiet.”  When I asked Phil I got the real story again, 
“He was in a mountaineering party aiming to climb the north wall of the Eiger, and the party on the face let a stray piton fall, that caught him as he stood below.  He’s always been grateful it missed his head, else he’d have been nailed up there for good.”   Then I went to Matty, and he corroborated nothing that had gone before,
 “Used to work for the Forestry Commission, up in Keilder forest, and it happened when they started felling in a sub-compartment.  There were some wind blown casualties to bring down, and in one of them they had a couple of wedges holding open a relieving cut.  The tree twisted without warning, crashing down, and  spat out one of the wedges into his face when it did.  The wedge sliced into his face guard, taking a slice out of him too.  If he hadn’t been wearing his forestry helmet he reckoned he would have lost his entire jaw.  Lots of energy spreads around when four tons of timber gets on the move.”  
Finally I asked Dave, our car dealer, and it seemed he had the truth of it,
“Dillon’s scar?  Oh yes, we were yarning about motor racing, and he told me that was what gave him his scar.  He was in a pit crew at Silverstone for a saloon car race, and his driver floored it whilst his wheel brace was still on a nut.  The thing spun off of course, and he was in the way.  Broke his jaw bone in two places.  He still has metal in there that rings bells at airports.  Didn’t he tell you about it?”  
This was all getting out of hand I decided, so I reported my findings to Andy.  
“Andy, I’ve been asking around about Dillon.  Everyone I talk to has a different version of how he got his scar.  Did you know?”  
He was careful not to incriminate himself when he answered. “Weeell, I have heard one or two versions,” he confessed, a bit hesitantly.  “But he’s good for business.  People often feel the need for another drink after talking to him.  He’s just a good storyteller.  He just tells them something they can relate to, whenever people ask how he got his scar.”  The way he spoke gave me a sudden enlightenment. 
“So you call him ‘Howie’ - because everyone asks ‘How ‘e got his scar.”  
Andy just nodded.  
“How ‘e - makes sense doesn’t it?  How about a pint of something?” 

About the author

I write under the name of Andrea Williams - when not writing I make furniture, repair dry stone walls, and enjoy Northumbria.  


Wednesday 27 June 2018

No Longer Me

By Jo Dearden

iced tea

The TV flickers in the corner of the room.   They leave it droning on all day.  I can no longer see it very well or understand what the people are saying.
 I am sitting in a hard, high-backed pink chair with a plastic covering. We are not allowed nice soft comfy ones in case we spoil them. I gaze at my fellow inmates.  Most of them look half-dead in their wheel chairs with their heads slumped forward. Every now and then one of them cries out but no-one seems to take any notice. I can no longer speak or make myself understood, so I try to smile and accept my fate.
 It is stiflingly hot.
I think they want to make us feel sleepy, so we don’t make a fuss or complain.
I can hear the faint tinkling sounds of a piano being played.  I was once a very good pianist, but my second husband wasn’t interested, so I stopped. I don’t know why I let him bully me, but anyway, my arthritic fingers wouldn’t be able to press the keys now. I can still hear the music in my head, which gives me a little grain of comfort.
A young lady in a blue apron comes into the room pushing a tea trolley. She hands me a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive. I have forgotten how to lift the cup.  I crumble the biscuit in my hands and gingerly put a piece in my mouth. The sticky chocolate starts to melt on my lips and fingers and begins to drip down my blouse. At least they still try to make me look nice. That was always important to me, wearing nice clothes with a pretty scarf or necklace.
‘You all right Joan?’, the tea lady asks cheerily. I smile showing my chocolaty teeth. Anita, the Hungarian care worker is always kind to me, not like some of the others who swear and call me a filthy old lady when I wet my bed or do something worse.
No, I am not all right, I am no longer me, but no-one here knows who I was before or even cares.
We are just sitting here waiting for something to happen. We are like lost travellers, all confused and have no idea what to do.
 I hardly ever see my two daughters, yet they always tell me that they came yesterday or the day before. They never liked their step-father much. He found it hard to treat them in the same way as his own child, who could do no wrong in his eyes. Sometimes I close my eyes and try to see myself as I once was.  It is all so hazy now. I can remember the accident though, as if it happened yesterday.
It was beginning to get dark when I was driving home from the hairdressers. It had started to rain. I was not used to driving at night, but it was the only appointment I could get and if the stylist hadn’t kept me waiting, I might have just got home in the light.  Everything looked different in the shadowy gloom. I began to panic as I wasn’t sure I had taken the right turning. I saw a driveway up ahead and decided to try and turn around there. I didn’t see the little girl with her mother walking back from school. I heard a bang and then a lot of shouting. I tried to get out of the car, but I had forgotten how to open the door. The little girl was crying but thankfully seemed to be unhurt.
You stupid cow, you could’ve killed us,’ yelled the mother.
She strode towards the car as I sat frozen inside, unable to move. The woman wrenched my car door open. I tried to say I was sorry that I had lost my way, but somehow the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. It appeared that I had driven into the gatepost at the bottom of their driveway.
‘Just stay there. I’m calling the police’, she screamed into my face.
I was taken to the local police station for questioning. I tried very hard, but I couldn’t remember my name or where I lived. After what seemed a long time, my elder daughter, Isobel arrived. I heard her say that I would pay for the damage and yes, my mother won’t be driving anymore. Oh God, one tiny mistake and I get my freedom taken away. I smiled weakly and let Isobel take me home.
Anita lifts the cup of luke-warm tea to my mouth. I start to cough and splutter. I let go of the crumbled biscuit. The gloopy gunge lands in my lap and a dark splodge appears between my legs.
‘Oh dear Joan. We’d better change you’, says Anita as she offers me both her hands to help me out of the chair. I stumble down the corridor towards my spartan little room with its too narrow single bed, clutching Anita’s hand.
I lie down on my bed and hug my teddy bear. I bury my head in his snowy white fur. Anita tries to pull off my stained trousers, but I resist her. ‘Ok Joan? Would you like to have a nap?’, she asks. I nod and turn my head away from her. I hear her quietly close my bedroom door. Tears begin to roll down my old crinkled cheeks. My arms and legs are covered in large dark bruises that look as though I have spattered myself in blue and purple paint. I can’t stop falling now and my limbs are like fragile twigs. They have tried giving me a walking frame but every time I see it I can’t remember what to do.
I clutch my teddy even tighter to my thin bony chest. I can’t remember his name but perhaps he never had one.

About the author

Jo Dearden trained as a journalist with the Oxford Mail and Times.  She did a degree in English Literature with creative writing as a mature student. She co-edited her local village newsletter for about ten years. She also worked for a number of years for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. She is currently attending a creative writing class, which is stimulating her writing again. Jo lives in Suffolk.

Tuesday 26 June 2018

So App-ealing

By Dawn Knox

a tot of rum

“Rex Parker, you’re moving that glass with your finger!” said Edie Bentwhistle, jabbing him with her elbow. The tumbler on the Ouija board jerked to a standstill as he lost contact with it.

“You horrible little man,” said Myrtle, “it’s not moving at all now you’ve taken your finger off it! I might have known the spirits wouldn’t be sending us messages about doughnuts. Why don’t you go and jostle a few brooms with Dora? The pair of you seem to be spending more and more time in that broom cupboard together.”

“That’s not true,” said Dora.

“Well, the cleaner’s gone off work with stress after finding you two in there. Poor girl! She’s only eighteen and she was quite traumatised.

“Honestly,” said Rex, “the youth of today. They’ve got no backbone, no stamina.”

“Whereas backbone and stamina seem to be something you have plenty of…” said Myrtle.

“Well, if you want to know the truth,” said Dora, “he’s not as—”

Before she could enlighten everyone, the door opened to reveal Matron. She snapped the light on. “What’s going on here?” 

“Just a friendly game of, umm… Scrabble?”

“In the dark?” asked Matron.

“It’s not completely dark. It’s only darkish.”

“It’s dark,” said Matron in her don’t contradict me tone of voice.

“We’re saving electricity, Matron.”

“I’m not a fool, Len Malone! I know an Ouija board when I see one. I thought I’d made myself very clear the other day after the disgraceful incident with that clairvoyant. The Willows Retirement Home does not permit activities connected to the occult.” 

“It’s just a bit of fun, Matron,” said Len.

“Not as far as I’m concerned, Len Malone! Now, I insist you abide by my rules or go elsewhere.”

“It’s like being at school,” whispered Len. 

“It’s worse,” replied Dora.

“I suggest you all find a new pastime because I am confiscating this.” Matron scooped up the Ouija board, tucked it under her arm and strode out of the room. 

“We’ve still got the glass,” said Myrtle. 

“What good’s that? The only spirit that glass has been acquainted with is the miniature bottle of Pernod Rex smuggled in and drank neat before Matron discovered it.”

“Not an experience I shall be repeating,” said Rex, “It stripped off the inside of my mouth and stomach and I think it dissolved one of my teeth.”

“Find a hobby, indeed!” said Dora, “Every time we discover something interesting, Matron puts the blocks on it!”

“Not every time,” said Len.

“What d’you mean?” 

“She only stops the things she knows about but she don’t know everything,” Len said with a smirk.

“What d’you know that Matron doesn’t?”

“I’ve got a new hobby.”

Eventually, after much tapping of the side of his nose, Len couldn’t resist telling. “I’m learning to sail.”

“Well unless it’s a model boat in the bath, I don’t see how. You haven’t been further than Basilwade town centre since Christmas,” said Edie.

“My nephew’s got a boat moored down at Slee-on-Sea and he’s lent me some books. He said as soon as I’m good enough, he’ll let me take it out.”

“You can’t learn to sail from books! You need to practise on the water.”

“Well, that’s where you’re wrong,” said Len, “these days you can learn anything using technology. I’ve got an app on my phone.”

“App? What’s an app?” asked Myrtle.

“It’s what he takes every afternoon, after lunch,” said Dora.

“Very funny,” said Len, “Anyway, I don’t nap after lunch. I have dry eyes and my blinks are just longer than other people’s.” 

“So, what is an app then, Len?” asked Myrtle.

“He doesn’t know,” said Edie, “he’s just showing off.”

“I do! I’ve got an app called ‘Hello Sailor’ and it’s taught me all sorts of things.”

“I’m sure it has although I bet it hasn’t taught you how to sail,” said Dora.

“I’ll prove it has,” said Len, “let’s go sailing on Monday.”

“You let them go where?” Matron asked her senior nurse, Hettie. 

“Slee-on-Sea. You were busy with the inspectors but Len and Dora assured me you wouldn’t mind.” Hettie backed away. She recognised Matron’s scowl and the steely tone. 

“Of course they said I wouldn’t mind! That’s their modus operandi.”

“Their mo… what?”

“Oh, never mind!” snapped Matron.

“Well, I’m sure they’ll be all right.”

“All right? Of course, they won’t be all right!”

“But Slee-on-Sea is a really sleepy little place – a few quaint fisherman’s cottages, a pub, a church, a fish and chip shop and that’s about it.”

“A church?” asked Matron, “Did you say church?” her eyes were now narrow slits.

“Yes. A lovely little Norman church if I remember correctly. They can’t get into trouble in church, surely?”

“Does it have a graveyard?”

“Yes, why?”

Matron jerked her desk drawer open and fished about for her car keys.

“You’re in charge while I’m out, Hettie, and for heaven’s sake, don’t let anyone else leave the home before I get back.”

“But Matron, where are you going?”

“Down to the graveyard before they dig someone up or summon all the spirits from Valhalla.”

“Matron, they’re just a group of elderly people! Are you sure you’re not getting things a bit out of proportion?”

“So, I was getting things out of proportion, was I, Hettie?” Matron asked later that evening.

“Well, they weren’t exactly robbing graves.”

“It would only have been a matter of time,” muttered Matron. 

“But they weren’t anywhere near the church.”

“I know,” said Matron, I worked that out for myself when the sister at Basilwade Hospital informed me the coastguards had taken them to A&E.”

“I hope you’re satisfied, Len! You nearly drowned us!”

“Oh, don’t exaggerate, Dora! You’re such a drama queen!” said Len.

“Drama queen? How dare you?”

“Yes, steady on, old chap!” said Rex, “You only have to look at the list of injuries we’ve sustained to see what an ordeal we’ve been through. The coastguard said he’d seen people knocked overboard by a swinging boom but never every single person on board.”

“Well, I told you to space yourselves out and not all sit on the same side of the boat. But did you listen? No! It was mutiny from the instant we set sail.”

“Set sail?” said Dora with a sniff, “We went aground immediately. Still, the coastguard said it was just as well we hit that sandbank because with high tide in the evening and the strong currents, we’d probably have drifted out into the North Sea.”

“Well, I think you’re all very ungrateful,” said Len, “when was the last time you had so much excitement?”

There was silence for a few moments. 

Rex winked at Dora, “Last Monday, in the broom cu—”

“I really can’t remember,” said Dora tossing her head and avoiding eye contact with Rex, “Oh and by the way, you owe me fifty quid, Len.”

“What for?”

“I bought a new pair of deck shoes and they’re covered in mud.”

“I’m sure we can clean them up,” said Len, “We’ll let them dry and then brush them. They were brown anyway.”

“They were beige, not brown and we can’t clean them up. They’re still in that sandbank. I stepped right out of them.”

“Before anyone puts in a claim for new clothes,” said Len, “remember I could charge each of you for chartering my ship.”

More silence. 

“So,” said Myrtle, “how much will it cost you for boat repairs to your ship?” 

“Ah, well, under the circumstances, my nephew has been very understanding. He says the insurance company will pay to put the damage right but he’s banned me from sailing it ever again.”

“Thank goodness for that!” said Edie, “Well, I hope that’s taught you a lesson, Len.”

“It’s certainly taught me not to waste my expertise on ungrateful people like you lot!”

“No, I meant I hope it’s taught you to forget the idea you can learn something complicated like sailing from an app on your phone.”

“The trouble with you old folk is you’ve been left behind in the Technological Revolution. You’re all dinosaurs! But some of us have vision. Some of us are tech savvy!”

“So, you’re going to carry on sailing with your app, are you?”

“No, as it happens,” said Len, “I’m not sure sailing’s really my thing. I realised that when I went under for the third time. It suddenly came to me. I’ve got a new hobby. And I’ve got a new app.”

“Tiddly-winks?” asked Edie.

“I think it’s the CR app,” said Rex.

“Oh, very funny!” said Len.

“Actually, Rex, that was quite funny,” said Dora. 

Rex beamed and shuffled closer to her.

“It’s app-solutely fapp-ulous!” said Rex.

“What an app-alling joke!” said Dora.

“But you have to app-reciate it!” said Rex.

“Oh, ignore them,” said Myrtle, “what is your new app?”

“It’s called ‘Going Deeper’,” said Len.

“What’s it for?”

“It’s going to train me to be a deep-sea diver…”

About the author:

Dawn’s third book ‘Extraordinary’ was published by Chapeltown in October 2017. She has had three other books published as well as stories in various anthologies, including horror and speculative fiction, as well as romances in women's magazines. Dawn has written a play to commemorate World War One, which has been performed in England, Germany and France.

Links to previous stories in the series: