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. www.dawnknox.com

Links to previous stories in the series:

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