Monday 30 September 2019

The Jinn and the Dog

 by  Mason Bushell,

mint cordial

A perfect summer's afternoon for a barbecue, at least Andrew’s family thought so. A typical scenario, everybody wanted something, but nobody actually wanted to help make it happen. Nevertheless, it was nice standing in the sun while setting coals in the tray of the barbecue. With that done Andrew, put a quick-light charcoal bag on the coals, and took out his gas lighter. It was then, Fred the black Labrador, climbed from the sun lounger and hid underneath it. The garden was filled with clicking noises then, swearing as the lighter refused to ignite the bag. 

“Bloody things never works. Come on spark, you useless, mechanical, piece of crap,” Andrew complained while still pressing and clicking away at the device. Within five minutes, frustration overtook him, the lighter went flying over the sun lounger and disappeared into the hedge. 

“Woof,” barked Fred running after it. He came back and sat before his master with the light in his mouth. Andrew had taken a coin from his pocket. He’d found it in the park with a hair clip baring the name Talia. It depicted a horned creature surrounded by fire and the words of an ancient incantation. He’d found the coin in the park this morning.

“Good boy, Fred. I need this flaming guy to get the bloody barbecue lit, I think.” Taking the lighter from Fred, he handed him a biscuit and smoothed his head for a moment. Fred retreated to the sun lounger to enjoy his biscuit. Andrew held the coin, and read the incantation. “You won't help demon, I better go and find some matches.” Chuckling to himself he added, “Stupid thing.” on his way indoors. Never did he realise that the coin was a talisman. He didn’t even notice the air growing warmer, and the darkness beneath the sunbed turn orange.  

“Yes, you summoned me.” The Jinn walked to the edge of the sun lounger and peered out with a sigh. 
“What do you want?” he asked. The Jinn stood only five-inches tall and had muscles that looked carved from granite. Thanks to Talia, he was no longer dripping in flames. Sure, he could still conjure them, but she’d freed him of their curse. Now he stood wearing Bermuda shorts and sunglasses. Something he could never do before. Hearing some thumping about above him, he looked for the cause. He found the largest, blackest pair of nostrils he’d ever seen, hovering a centimetre from his head. They sniffed so vigorously that they sucked his flame ginger hair right inside the enormous nose. The Jinn pressed his hands against the wet, rubbery snout and pulled himself free. 

“Marvellous, I get summoned by nobody, and then rewarded by a doggy snot shampoo, just bloody marvellous,” he grumbled.  

“Sorry about that, old chap,” said the dog. Had Andrew been outside, he’d have heard the dog whine instead of hearing the words. 

“Don’t mention ­— " a loud sucking sound cut the Jinn off. All he saw was a massive pink tongue shoot out of the dog’s mouth, it slapped him off his feet as it licked him from head to foot. “The Jinn picked himself up, dripping wet with saliva. “If you kiss me again, I’m going to turn your tongue into bacon and use your teeth as piano keys got that?” 

“I’m a dog, I like licking things. What do you expect?” Fred climbed from the sun lounger and sat on the grass, his nose a centimetre above the Jinn. “What are you?” he asked.

“I’m a Jinn.” The little man conjured some heat to dry himself off. “Here eat this.” Summoning a white lozenge-shaped thing, he held it aloft.

“Why?” asked the dog.

“It’s a mint sweet. Your breath smells like a horse’s backside.” 

“Okay sorry.” The dog reached down with its jaws open and closed them on the mint. The Jinn yelped. 

“Bloody hell, dog. Watch what you bite, will you.” The Jinn rubbed his squashed fingers. Above him, the dog crunched the mint and swallowed it.

“You’re mighty stroppy for a little man, aren’t you?” he said. 

“So, would you be. I mean, you didn’t summon me, then you near sucked me into your nasal passages before half-drowning me with one hell of a French-kiss. I’m having a bad day.” The Jinn leant against the sun lounger with a sigh.

“French kiss, hey.” The dog paused to scratch himself, showering the Jinn with loose hairs. “You should see what my pack leader’s — ”

“Hell no! I do not want to know about the bedroom exploits of your humans, thank you very - bloody – much.” the Jinn brushed himself down. “And watch where you’re flinging your fur too. You’re damned lucky you’re not a fleabag.”

“Hey, who you calling a fleabag? I’ll have you know that I bathe regularly.” The dog laid down, setting his paws either side of the Jinn. 

“Good. I don’t suppose you know why I was summoned do you?” 

“I think my master was trying to make flames come out of that metal thing. When he does sausages usually fall out of it for me to eat.” The dog licked his lips. “I like sausages.”

“No doubt. I wouldn’t stay in this garden if I were you.”

“Why’s that, Jinn?”

“When humans can’t set fire to something, they’re so dumb that they resort to dangerous methods, and boom!” the Jinn raised his eyebrows.

“Right. When he comes out, I’m going indoors.” the dog looked toward the house. The sound of utensils bashing about could be heard inside. “So, you grant wishes, do you?”

“Something like that. You want something?”    

“A nice big bone would be great.” The dog looked hopeful. 

“Consider it done.” The Jinn winked. 

Andrew had finally found some matches. Walking out into the garden he was hit by something so big and heavy that it knocked him flat. 

“Where in Madam Wiffen’s bloomers did that come from.” Andrew sat up holding his head. Across his stomach was a tyrannosaurus leg bone. “I must be going mad.” Kicking the bone off him, he watched a pleased looking Fred clamp his jaws on and drag the bone across the lawn. “Even you can’t manage a bone that big, old fellow.” Andrew looked about him on the way to the barbecue. There were no planes in the blue sky and no rational explanations for the bone. Dismissing it, he struck a match and held it to the quick-light bag. It didn’t ignite, the match went out.  

“Darling, hurry up with the barbecue. We’re hungry,” said his wife by the patio doors. 

“Bloody barbecue.” Andrew failed to light it with four more matches. “Alright, dear,” he said before marching around the house. 

The Jinn stood leaning on the leg of the sun lounger again. His eyes grew wide when the human man returned. He was holding a big red can with the word ‘petrol’ in white letters upon it. Even as he took flight, the Jinn saw him shaking some of the fuel into the bottom of the barbecue. 

“You summoned me, and I must tell you not to do that,” he said. His voice booming around the garden. Andrew looked about him, seeing nothing and nobody. Shaking his head, he opened the matchbox again. 

“Okay, barbecue, time to cook me some burgers, and fast.” 

“If you light that match, you’re going to cook the whole bloody garden in a microsecond,” warned the Jinn landing on the table beside the man. Andrew looked right at him blinked a few times and refocused on the task at hand.

“Little man in Bermuda shorts, the heat must be making me mad,” he mumbled. Striking the match, he heard a whoomph and then his world went – BANG! 

The barbecue blew apart in like an incendiary grenade. The lawn and hedges burst into flames as the quick-light bag flew over the neighbours like a stray comet.The sun lounger flipped over and Fred the dog streaked indoors. His last view was of the Jinn sailing threw the hedge with his boxer shorts on fire. 

In the midst of his burning garden, Andrew climbed, choking and coughing to his feet. His clothes and hair smoking, and he looked brassed off. 

“Tammy, dear, I’ve come to a decision,” he said.

“Yeah, what’s that?” she replied without coming outside.

“Bugger the barbecue, let’s go to MacDonald’s.” 

“Good idea, you bloody idiot,” the Jinn landed in a pile of leaf litter amid the bushes. At once he slapped the flames out of his Bermuda shorts. “It’s supposed to be me setting peoples pants on fire, not you.” Standing he looked straight into the eyes of a toad. 

“Croak … Bad day, friend? … Croak,” it said.  The Jinn looked daggers at it. 

“You hush and hop it.” 

The Jinn looked back to the fiery garden. “Well Fred, I told you so, ” he said before disappearing back from whence he came.

Sunday 29 September 2019

The Stone

by NT Franklin

cool beer

Mike woke up from his regularly scheduled 10 a.m. nap and sauntered out to the deck. He stretched, looked to the left, and did a double take.

Without taking his eyes off the offending stone, he yelled, “Lily, there’s a big rock on the edge of the water feature. Who put it there?”

“I’m cooking,” came the reply from the kitchen.

“I’m gonna move it.”

On her way out to the deck, Lily muttered “Oh, Lord.”

“Right there,” said Mike, pointing.

Lily arrived next to Mike on the deck. “Where?”

“Right there! Next to the other rock,” said Mike, pointing emphatically.

“It’s a water feature. It’s ringed with big rocks. Bobby built it for you last year. Don’t you remember?”

“The one that is twice as big as the others.”

Lily wiped her hands on the dish towel before she spoke. “Been there the whole time. Don’t you have a golf tee time or something?”

Mike paced back and forth as Lily headed back to the kitchen. “I’m gonna move it.”

“Bobby and the grandkids will be over for supper tonight,” she called over her shoulder. “Why not ask him to help?”

“I’m gonna move it.”

She shook her head. With forty-five years of marriage comes experience. “Don’t do it alone. Call a professional.”

Mike smiled. “Okay, I’ll call Chad, he’s up for anything.”

“He’s a retired dentist. You know what I mean by a professional,” came the voice from the kitchen.

“Yeah, yeah.”

“I heard that!”

The call to Chad was brief. “I’m on my way," was all Chad said.

The two stood in the yard and studied the water feature.

Chad rubbed his bald head. “Ya know, you said the rock was big, but this is really big. Think we can move it?”

“I dunno. I wouldn’t be able to alone. Let’s give it a try.”

They both pushed on one side. “Oof. Going nowhere,” Mike said.

Chad straightened up. “Ya know, Jimmy was a landscaper. Let’s get him.”

He was trimming the hedge when the two arrived. After listening to them, he put the shears down. “Let’s do this. I’ll bring a crowbar.”

“Good,” Mike said. “Shouldn’t you tell Jean you’re leaving?”

Jimmy glanced back at the house. “Probably not.”

“Yeah, just as well,” Mike said.

Chad nodded in agreement.

Jimmy surveyed the water feature. “Looks okay to me.”

Mike put his foot on the largest rock. “This one’s gotta be moved.”

Jimmy adjusted his hat. “Well then, moved it will be.”

Jimmy manned the crowbar while the other two pushed. Slowly the stone was moved out of the way. Jimmy sat on it. “There. Done.”

Mike shook his head. “Nope, not far enough.” He pointed four feet away.

“You got beer, right?” Jimmy asked.

“Yup. Once the stone is moved farther.”

The three of them pushed and pried grunted until the stone reached the appointed location.

“Now?” Asked Jimmy.

Mike nodded. “Yup. Done.”

“Good job all,” Chad chimed in.

“To the Fisherman’s Diner, lunch is on me,” Mike proclaimed.

At the outdoor seating area, Mike leaned back in his chair and took in the ocean breeze. “Lily said I needed to call a professional. I called two.”

The men nodded in agreement. The banter quieted down when the fish and chips plates arrived along with Jimmy’s beer.

After a coffee and solving the world’s problems, Mike looked at the other two.

“Been an eventful day, professionals, I’m gonna shove off and catch some golf on television and then rest. Bobby and the grandkids are coming over tonight. Keeping up with the young ones is tiring.”

Lily jostled Mike. “Go take a nap. Golf is over. You’ve been ‘watching’ an infomercial for the past ten minutes.”

“Probably right. Let me know when the kids are here.”

The grandkids mobbed Lily when they arrived. They were always content helping Granma in the kitchen.

“Where’s Dad?” Bobby asked.

“Napping. He had a busy day and was all tired out. Don’t wake him just yet.”

As usual, Bobby strolled out to the deck to take in the view, then returned to the kitchen.

“Mom, can you mind them for just a bit?”

“Yes, though I’m not sure who is minding who here.”

Bobby returned about ten minutes later, just in time to wash up for supper. “I see sleeping beauty has arisen.” He took a deep breath, seeing the spread on the table. “Ham, sweet potatoes, cabbage, my favorites.”

“Sit down everyone,” Lily said.

Dishes were passed around.  “Might as well leave the sweet potato dish right in front of me,” Bobby said.

He spooned a giant portion onto his plate. “Oh, Dad, I noticed one of the water feature stones was moved. I moved it back where it belongs. No need to thank me, I’ll take my payment in sweet potatoes.”

Saturday 28 September 2019

Why did the chicken cross the road?

 by Lloyd Jenkinson

a cup of chicken broth

You know what it’s like at this time of year. New Year’s resolutions that just never get done. Well I’d been chatting to the turkeys just before Christmas and they told me “Just take the risk, life could be even better. Just cross that road.” They seem to have gone away now and so have the geese. Perhaps they’ve crossed the road. Anyway, I had just been too busy laying eggs and just never got round to thinking about it. “Today’s the day” I thought you’ve just got to do it. Before I knew it the rains came down and the road was a duck pond. Never took those swimming lessons even though the ducks offered. My feet just didn’t seem right. I didn’t have any flippers like they did and I was never that keen on getting wet either. So, it would just have to be another day. Those duck ponds just kept coming and going. One day we even had a lake, so that put paid to my plans. I just sat in the hutch pushing out the eggs thinking one day I might have a lovely chick or two. The egg fairy seemed to get them before I could and she never left anything either. Skinflint. I did think it was pointless laying all those eggs but I just couldn’t stop.

I got an inkling that today might be the day. The night sky had been red, green and yellow and it was doing really strange things. Whore-ori Boar-ee- arselick or something like that. My spelling was never that good and I am a bloody chicken after all. The humans got so excited about it. Seemed like a message from the Gods. Didn’t want to tell them it was just due to solar flares – anyway I am a chicken, so what would I know. As the sun rose the clouds became deep crimson framed by the pallid blue sky. I had also become a poet so, yes, it seemed to be the right day. I ran out of the coop, stretched my wings and scratched the earth. I gave the cock a dirty look just as he was about to open his beak. I didn’t want my moment ruining by his caterwauling.  For once he closed it. The morning air was fresh and moist and made my feathers look great – just like I had put conditioner on them. I ran at the fence flapping my wings wildly, they must work or what’s the point –not much meat on them anyway. I was about ten feet away from freedom and felt my claws lift off the ground. I sank back again but more flapping and I was off. Floating skywards like a sack of potatoes and I landed like one on the other side of the fence. I was free. I staggered to my claws, preened my feathers and comb, and raised my beak proudly. I would cross the road today.

I ran across the farm yard, squeezed underneath the gate and stood there. A vast expanse of smooth black stuff stretched before me. The road. I turned to my left and the black river ran down the valley. I looked right and it ran up the hill. This, indeed, was a special place and so big.  This is what I had been waiting to cross all those months. I stretched out a claw timidly. The road was hard and cold. Not like the soft grass and mud of home. Is this what I really want? I pulled back and strutted around not knowing what to do, my head bobbing up down as it does. I am a chic..… you get it now. I scratched around a bit and clucked, wanting someone to just give me a push. I looked across the road and could see Mr Fox in the field. He stood staring at me and I swear he was licking his lips as he did. Only ever seen him before through the fence and he always looked pissed off to me. Don’t know why. He crawled under the hedge and stood on the other side of the road just looking at me, saliva dribbling from his mouth like a waterfall.

I shouted “What’s its like over there?” but he took no notice and said nothing. Perhaps he doesn’t understand chicken. I tried again clucking slowly and loudly but it made no difference, he just dribbled more. I tried bobbing up and down, and even doing a strutting dance, but it just seemed to get him more excited. He crouched down ready to spring and I thought “Well that’s what you have to do” and did the same. I didn’t look lady like at all and I just couldn’t get my claws right. He must have done this loads of times as he visited us almost every night so I knew he must be an expert. I would do just what he did. I could hear a low whining noise coming up the hill but didn’t see anything. Mr Fox wasn’t bothered so I wasn’t either. Suddenly he stood up and jumped towards me. I wasn’t as quick him so was still struggling to get to my claws. Before I knew it that noise had got louder and this bright red thing with black round feet thundered past us. I had never seen anything move so fast and stayed glued to the spot. I remember Mr Fox was gliding majestically through the air towards me, then there was a thud, and he was gone. The red box screamed loudly and stopped. Before I knew it humans came out and started walking towards me. “Quick,” I thought, “do some clucking and bob up and down. They might not notice you.”  A little further up the road from where Mr Fox took off was a patch of orange and white fur covered in a strange red sauce. Attached to it was something that looked like Mr Fox’s tail. “Bloody foxes” the humans said, then climbed back into the red box and disappeared, the roaring noise going with them. I looked around and Mr Fox had gone. It’s a shame, he really could have told me what it was like to cross the road.

Friday 27 September 2019

Dodging the Puddle

by Susan E Willis

a glass of ale

Queen Elizabeth. These walk-a-bouts were tiresome but according to her peers, a necessity. It was the only way of meeting her people, so she plastered a bright smile onto her face for the walk around Whitehall.
Her lady-in-waiting stood behind smoothing the wrinkles from her gown. She whispered, ‘At least it’s stopped raining today?’
Elizabeth nodded. It had rained for two days but at last the sun had appeared this morning. She wrinkled her nose at the foul smell from offal and dead animals that the butchers threw out into the streets.
The high lace ruffle around her neck seemed to dig into her skin but she took a deep breath and slowly set off to walk. Her guards were all around them which always made her feel safe and she was amazed at the crowds of people who had arrived. They parted like the Sea of Galilee and she walked amongst them nodding and waving.
Along the route her people cheered, and men donned their tall felt hats which lightened her mood and she began to relax and smile more. She was their queen and they loved her. It did her soul good to look at them and feel their adoration because she wanted to support them all.
Her father, Henry V111, had often told her, being the monarch was a lonely job, and lately she’d begun to realise how right he was. She’d appointed a loyal staff to help her govern but she didn’t have anyone close to her. Throughout her reign her main aim was to provide her people with stability and consistency, which from what she could see today, was working well.
Ahead of her lay a big pool of mud and she stood still.  How was she going to dodge this puddle? The dirty, rank-smelling mud seemed to stretch across the whole pathway.
She glanced at her lady-in-waiting as though she would have the answer, but she bit her lip and shrugged her shoulders.
Elizabeth gathered up her vast golden gown into her hands and looked down at her cream embroidered boots. These were going to be ruined, she sighed, and they were her favourites.  
Suddenly, two of her guards were pushed aside as a huge man strode towards her. He was very tall with big shoulders in a brown studded tunic.
One of the guards shouted and tried to bar him from stepping any further but Elizabeth wasn’t scared, she could tell he was a gentleman. She nodded her consent to the guard who stood down but glared at the stranger all the while.
With a quick flourish the gentleman whipped the blue and silver cape from his left shoulder and threw it over the puddle. ‘Your, Majesty, allow me.’ 
Elizabeth stared at his brown bushy eyebrows, his dark brown moustache and goatee beard. His chocolate-brown eyes twinkled at her until she felt her cheeks blush. Her heart began to pound, and she wanted to giggle for some reason. He’d made her come over all shy and girl-like. She shook herself and pulled back her shoulders. Get a grip, she remonstrated, you’re the Queen of England.  
Gingerly, she stepped onto the cape. It was a good quality thick material with beautiful embroidery detail. She hoped the bottom of her boots weren’t too muddy. Alighting safely across the puddle onto drier ground she smiled at him.
With a demure sideways glance, she enquired, ‘Your name, Sir?’
He stood in front of her and bowed low from his waist. Elizabeth saw the sun glisten on his curly brown hair, and knew he was the handsomest man she’d had the pleasure to look upon for a long while.
He grinned. ‘Sir Walter Rayleigh,’ he said. ‘Forever in your service.’ 

Thursday 26 September 2019

Greta Scacchi Eyes

by Matthew Roy Davey

a can of Quatro

It was a typical Saturday lunch, sausage, beans and mash, Dad telling us if Concorde had sold internationally we’d have been living somewhere glamorous, eating by a pool in California perhaps.  In the seventies he’d worked for BAC but the high hopes they’d had never materialised.  I paid little attention, shovelling beans down and glancing at my watch.  In half an hour Kate was picking me up for our first date.  I couldn’t drive.
Kate worked in the local record shop and after weeks of building up courage I’d asked her out.  Astonished that she said yes, I floated out of the shop with a new seven inch.  Later, as we arranged where to go, I could see her wondering if she’d made the right decision, her expression faltering.  I told her it was a feminist date, the woman in the driving seat.  She pulled a face.
When her beige Peugeot pulled up I hurried out, hoping my parents wouldn’t look out of the window.  Kate smiled from behind the wheel.
“Hi!  What’s that on your back seat?”
She looked over her shoulder.  I’d thought it was from a joke shop.  A cigarette with a tail of grey ash.
“Oh shit.”
She’d flicked it out of the window as she was driving but it had blown back in.  I opened the back door.
“No, let me do it.” 
She picked up the filter and brushed hopelessly at the scorch mark.  It was burnt to the foam.
“Dad’s gonna kill me.”
There wasn’t much to say.  I couldn’t tell how close her laughter was to tears.  A grimace and a smile are the same but for the eyes.
As we drove away I stared at the dashboard.  If we were in America, I thought, there’d be a steering wheel in front of me.  I imagined reaching until my fingertips touched the black vinyl surface.  I didn’t do it, just sat motionless, staring.  A Pearl Jam tape hissed on the stereo.  She stared straight ahead, knuckles white on the wheel.
I hated Pearl Jam.  

About the author 

Matthew was winner of The Observer short story competition and winner of the Dark Tales competition.  He has been long-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction award, Reflex Flash Fiction competition and Retreat West Competition.  His  story Waving at Trains was translated into Mandarin and Slovenian and was published in anthologies by Vintage and Cambridge University Press.  Recently he has been published by Everyday Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Odd Magazine and Flash: The International Short-Story Magazine.  he has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Wednesday 25 September 2019

Palvine Part 5

By Mitzi Danielson-Kaslik

Parisian red wine


As we began to kiss, I found myself wishing I knew more about him. He seemed so young yet so old somehow; he seemed so good and yet maybe he was so evil; he seemed so in love with me but also so out of love with at the same time. I so wished I could see inside his mind; what was he thinking? Did he love me? I had spent the last months dreaming of being his, did he dream about being mine? 
“My dear?” he whispered, brushing aside my curtain of dark hair “Did I tell you out of all my adventures in Paris and all my new found happiness all I wanted was you?” his words almost sent a shiver down my spine. 
Did he mean it? Truly mean it? I wanted to believe him so terribly. I look back into his sapphire eyes and found a fleck in the corner of his left eye; a little tiny grey fleck, smaller than a pin prick and yet so perfectly pronounced in the otherwise waterish depths of his eyes. I wondered what it was. I whispered back to him, mimicking the same hair brushing and soft permissive tone he had used and murmured “My love, did you know that all I’ve wished for and dream of was you? I only found the note because I came back to your house. I needed to see you again. And now I have you.” I finished with a subtle English pink blush creeping in over my cheeks. It was my ‘virgin’s blush’ as he had called it. So I asked “Sylvester, do I still have a virgin’s blush?” I giggled.
“Of course you do my love, you will always have a virgin’s blush. You know, I once heard that the Whore of Babylon had a virgin’s blush.” He laughed. I wondered what he meant by saying this.

The weather changed as we arrived in Paris. It was no longer murky and cold but the November morning in Paris was rather warmer with a slight crispness to the air. The train drew to a clanging stop and we happily hopped off onto a packed platform filled with well-dressed gentlemen in fine tailored coats and ladies draped across their arm dressed in well-fitting dresses with jackets and fur stoles and high heeled shoes and they bore delicately stitched handbags. They all seemed to bustle about their business and hurry in a manner of such decorum that it almost seemed impossible to find a thing out of place.

The platform itself was cold.

He took my hand with an almost wicked smile and led me to the huge ornate exit. The archway towered over us so high it almost kissed the heavens. I couldn’t take my eyes off Sylvester. We began to walk down the main street south towards The Artists’ District and he broke his silence once more “I – We- live on Rue De La Liberte.” He smiled excitedly. We ducked off the main street and down a small alleyway.  I followed him, slightly disconcerted. We continued down it for a while until I began to wonder of Sylvester’s capabilities as a navigator having only lived in the city the better part of nine months. But eventually the path opened out of the alley network and onto a much wider street bustling with all manner of people. Ballerinas. Painters. Musicians. This street held everything. I followed him as he turned to a small narrow street with high stone walls with a small sign marked Rue De La Liberte.

Monday 23 September 2019

Three Wishes

by Allison Symes

raspberry lemonade

Jenny Williams rushed indoors with her washing.  It was bad enough getting soaked and having to put the washing through the tumble dryer when the forecast  predicted sunshine, but to have a smirking Janine Stanshaw looking down from her neighbouring bedroom window was the last straw.
Face it, Jennifer, you've never liked the woman. With her looks and glowing skin, she looks like a walking advert for the benefits of eating yogurt.  You're small, must watch your weight and your skin is nowhere near as good. You should find out what care range she uses instead of just indulging in jealousy.

Jenny scowled on recognising the crisp, clear voice invading her mind.  To discover she was a fairy godmother's daughter was one thing. To discover she shared her mother's telepathic ability was worse.  And to have her mother being able to plant thoughts in her head was enough to make Jenny want to scream, only she didn't want to give her mother the satisfaction.

Okay, Mother, since you will insist on invading my thoughts.  I loathe Janine Stanshaw.  She has an eye for the men.  I object to her eyeing up my Paul.  You wouldn't like her doing that to Dad.  I've seen her, Mother, when out shopping, eye up men from the age of 18 to 108.  Trust me, I'm doing well resisting the urge to curse her.  I doubt if you would. Given what you've told me of your past, you never did resist cursing anyone who'd crossed you.  I'm not being bitchy.

Yes you are...

Okay so I am but it's true all the same. Janine was peering at me through that gap in the privet yesterday.  I was only putting my bedding plants out.  What was so fascinating about that?
Nothing though you put your pansies in upside down. 

I did not...

Jenny froze as she heard her mother laugh in the recesses of her mind.   It wasn't a comfortable sensation.

Mother, you can stop laughing.  You have been getting me to practice my magic outdoors for safety reasons.  What if she sees anything?

She won't.

How can you know?

She would have told you in no uncertain terms if she'd spotted anything odd.  Besides you know I've put a force field around your place to prevent that.

Can force fields fail?

Yes but it is rare. I'm not aware of any non-magical species being able to make one fail.

I still say...

Shut up, Jennifer, there's a good girl.  Mother does know best here.

Jenny gritted her teeth. Her mother was irritation personified.  So was the sprite her mother insisted continued to live in the girl's loft.  Jenny was told to see Stan as a kind of guardian angel.  Jenny saw him as a pest as he got in the way, told rude jokes (okay some were funny) and it was a complete loss to the girl as to how husband Paul could not see they had one extra for dinner with food going down an invisible throat at mealtimes.  Paul hadn't noticed a thing.  Jenny sighed.  That was men for you.

'Stan, I don't care if it is pouring down.  It's the perfect time to practice magic.  The neighbours won't be about.  Mother's visiting her friends so is unlikely to bother us.  Before you say anything, I asked her not to bother us. I said I might "perform" better if I didn't always feel under scrutiny and in any case there was nothing to stop her watching via crystal ball.  Yes, she did accept that, stop looking cynical.  I do have some sway with my mother.  Paul's due back in an hour.  Since it seems I am half magical I may as well make the most of the powers I'm supposed to have.'

The sprite, who was considered tall at 3'6, glowered at Jenny.  She hadn't liked finding him in her loft.  His argument he'd not wanted to be sent to Earth in the first place, so stop resenting him, only made Jenny stare at him so hard he had several uncomfortable seconds wondering if he was about to be turned into a statue or a frog.  These were Eileen's specialities when tackling offenders and he was frightened at what a hybrid like Jenny could achieve.  Did the hybrid nature weaken or strengthen inherent magic?  Nobody back home, even the Fairy Queen, was sure.  Stan didn't want to find out the hard way so decided if he did what he could to please Jenny, he would live.  The good thing, the one thing that reassured Jenny and himself, was Eileen's confirmation Paul, and any other human, wouldn't see Stan. Jenny would just have to be careful not to appear as if she was talking to herself when talking with Stan.

'I was trying to stop you getting another soaking, Jenny.'

'Really?  You don’t want to get wet. On the count of three, I'll make you invisible, and then on the second count, I'll restore you.  It’d help if you stand still, please.'

Stan sighed.  At least Jenny said "please" and "thank you".  It'd never occur to Eileen to do likewise for a sprite.  That also went for everybody in the Fairy Kingdom who wasn't a sprite. 

'All right then.  Three, two, one...' Jenny recited the spell. 

The sprite vanished.  Jenny smiled.  Her mother should be pleased with that if she was watching. 
If! Of course Mother's bloody watching.  Don't bother moaning about my swearing, Mother. I've heard you many a time.  At least Stan vanished better.  It was only the two stages.  Last time one foot went, then the other, then his arms and so on.  Today it was his top half followed by his bottom half.

'Okay, Stan, about to bring you back.  Three, two, one...'
Jenny recited the restoration spell.  Stan reappeared but instead of being where he vanished from, he was three feet to the left and upside down in a rose bush.  Jenny pulled him out by his boots.

'You moved, Stan!'

'Only a little... and I could've got myself out of the rose bush.'

'It took you an hour last time.  I thought I'd speed things up.  Stop being ungrateful.  Come on, that will do.  I'm hungry.  Fancy a chicken and bacon baguette?'

Stan nodded. His host was good with the provisions.  Though she needed to put in more work on her vanishing spell.  The sensation of being split in half wasn't pleasant.

Janine Stanshaw blinked.  She looked back into Jenny Williams's garden. There was a funny looking man, about 3' tall, walking out from the house with Jenny.  Janine smirked.  So her neighbour liked small men did she...  I'm willing to bet her dishy Paul knows nothing about this. 

Janine frowned as she came away from the window and resumed sorting out her wardrobe.  She was clearing out old clothes, ready to go to charity, in time for Janine's promised-to-herself clothes shop in a week's time when her favourite store would have its new line available.  The charity would benefit, Janine looked after her clothes well, and Janine would indulge in retail therapy.  It wasn't as if she had anyone else to buy things for her. 

Janine scowled, spotting her expression in the mirror that formed part of her wardrobe door.  She hadn't liked seeing Paul give Jenny a gold necklace in the garden the other night and Jenny being delighted with it.  It was unlike Janine not to be able to get anywhere with a bloke she'd set her sights on but Paul was unfailingly polite and as warmly appreciative of her overtures as an iceberg.  Janine wondered if Paul was already seeing someone else, hence the gift to his wife, but observations over months gave no indication.  He was always home promptly after work. When he went out, Jenny went with him.  Perhaps the pair were happily married.  Janine sighed.  Why did the squat Jenny Williams manage to find someone nice like that?  Face it, the girl was dumpy and not much taller than the strange companion.

Janine frowned.  Who was that?  She'd not seen him before. Janine dropped the skirts she'd been holding. She grabbed her phone and began taking pictures. Jenny Williams made the small man disappear.  Janine heard the count of three through her open window.  Then there was another count of three and the small man turned up in the rose bushes upside down.  How did that happen?
Janine smiled.  There could be fun here.  If it wasn't to be adulterous sex with the husband, the wife was open to blackmail.  Janine was willing to bet there was something here Jenny would never want darling Paul to know.  That could be exploited.  Exploitation was useful many times in building up Janine’s savings.  Time for another deposit then...

Ten minutes after Jenny and Stan finished lunch, Jenny made herself smile as she opened the front door to find Janine Stanshaw standing there wearing her supercilious grin. 

The grin she uses to persuade people she's friendly, Jenny thought.  Women who eye up other women's men are not likely to want to befriend the wife.  Fool the wife, yes.  You're not fooling me, Stanshaw.

'Hello, Janine, I wasn't expecting you.'  And isn't that the truth.  You're not the type to visit the neighbours unless the wife's out.

'I wasn't expecting to visit,' Janine said.  'But something unexpected happened and I'd be glad of your advice.  May I come in?'

'I’m busy now...'

'I don't think this can wait.  Word might get out.'

'About what?'

'That's what I need to discuss with you but it's not a conversation for the front door.  I'll be quick.  I too must be getting along.'

Yes but not with women in general, Jenny thought.  You save friendship, and more, for men. 

'Come in then.'  Jenny stepped aside and ushered her unwelcome guest inside, noting Janine's eager look around the hall.

No doubt judging me on the state of my housework or decorations, Jenny thought.  Fortunately it was a look Jenny knew well as her mother always used it when she visited.

'We'll go into the office,' Jenny said, ushering Janine into a small room off the lounge.  Only welcome guests went there.  Stan was lounging on the sofa.  He wasn't exactly welcome but he was a far better companion than Janine.

Jenny was pleased to spot the scowl that told her Janine hoped to go into the lounge. That puts you in your place, Madam.

'So, Janine, what can I do for you?'  If you think I'm offering tea or coffee, think again.

'It's a case of what I can do for you,' Janine said wandering over to the high-backed wooden chair near the desk and sitting down.  She glanced around the desk but there was nothing to see. 
Jenny had long been in the habit of not leaving papers out.  If her mother was going to snoop, Eileen could at least make some effort. 'Really?'

'Yes.  I spotted something odd earlier this afternoon.  Well in the last half hour actually.'


'In your garden.'

Jenny felt cold.  Janine couldn't have seen...  There was the force field...  Mother was never knowingly wrong. She's not the type to muck something up.


'Who is the small man who was with you?'

Jenny smiled.  'Janine, what are you on about?'

Janine returned the smile.  It was as equally insincere.  'I know what I saw, Jenny.  You made a small man vanish and reappear in your garden.  That small man is  here in the house.  You're not keeping an illegal immigrant, are you?'

Jenny blinked.  Stan had been called many things by her, and even more by her mother, but illegal immigrant wasn’t amongst them.

'Janine, I don't know what you've been drinking but I'd come off it. You do realise what you've just said?'

'Of course.  I have pictures to prove it.'  With that, Janine retrieved from the deep pocket of her mauve velvet jacket three pictures and handed them to Jenny.  The pictures showed Stan as he was vanishing and was in that awkward half-way stage, and Stan re-emerging, again in the awkward half-way stage in the rose bush.

Jenny stared at the pictures.  Her mother reassured her nobody could see.  How could a human camera photograph something magical?  Was there more to Janine Stanshaw than met the eye?  Goodness knew Jenny had called her neighbour an old witch many a time.  Had Jenny been right?

'I'll give you your due, Janine.  You're a whizz with Photoshop.'

Janine smirked. 'Very good, Jenny, but you know these pictures are accurate.  You've gone pale. You should never give yourself away like that.  But the problem remains as to what to do with these pictures?  I've been thinking what could lead to these images.  There must be magic here.  Oh yes, I accept things like that exist.  I think you must too.  So I'll tell you what we'll do.  I'll destroy the pictures once you grant me three wishes or arranged for whatever or whoever is magical here to do that.  Deal?'

Jenny leant back against the office door.  Her mind raced and she was aware she'd effectively conceded to Janine the latter was on to something.  Jenny could not issue an outright denial.  Her mother was happy to lie her head off when the occasion demanded it but it was not something Jenny was comfortable with as, for one thing, Eileen was so much better at it.

'You are thinking hard, Jenny.  I'm right then.'

Jenny glared, feeling her loathing for Janine strengthen, as if it was a physical force.  And then it came to Jenny the old proverb was right.  Honesty was the best policy.  Janine would have no answer to it.

'I'm not going into details as to what is happening here, Janine.  You don't need to know.  Indeed it's safer if you don't know, but I could give you three wishes.  However I am not going to. Why?  I don't need to give you anything.  By all means make this incident public.  Show your pictures.  Who will believe you?  People will take the same attitude I have - you've used Photoshop.  They'll also question your sanity.  Most people know how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, that wonderful writer, was taken in by two girls claiming fairies existed.  People will think your story is the modern equivalent.'

'Plenty think he was right.'

'He was proven wrong. It was a well carried out set-up.  Besides have another look at your images.'

Jenny smiled as Janine looked at the images in her hand. 

'What the hell have you done?  The small man is no longer on the pictures. He was there.  You know he was.  I saw you go pale.  You've done something.'

'Of course, Janine.  The first line of magical defence is always undermine your opponent.'

Janine scrolled through her phone’s images menu.  Again the only image now showing was a shot of

Jenny in her garden.

'I will go ahead and...'

'You will sound mad, Janine.'

'I could still get people around to investigate.  I could stir things up.'

'Who? How? I know our local Council does not have its own version of The X-Files, agents just waiting to investigate the paranormal.  Bless them, the Council quite properly focus on ensuring the bins get emptied on time.'

A flash of light made Jenny and Janine blink.  Eileen stood between the women.  Eileen smiled at her daughter but Jenny scowled.  Her mother's intervention was seldom welcome given Eileen found something to criticise in everything from Jenny's marriage to Jenny's clothes to the way the girl cleaned her teeth.  Jenny sometimes wondered if Eileen would ever let her be her own person - and then realised she already knew the answer.

'Your arguments are good, Jennifer, but for the sake of good neighbourly relations, may I suggest you grant Janine her three wishes.'

'Mother, have you gone round the bend?  From what I gather, Janine gets her own way all too often as it is and does not need magic to extend that!'

'Janine must be certain of her wishes.'

Eileen's coolness made Jenny stare again at her mother.

Mother has something in mind.  Is she assuming Janine will overreach herself and bring some curse down on her head?  Whilst that would not be undeserved, it would be kinder to just say no.

'Mother, if Janine asks for something stupid, there will be repercussions.  There always are.  Word would get out.  Janine should be made aware magic can go wrong.'

'I think you've just done that, dear.  I think she'd also appreciate being talked to, rather than about, dear.  You are being patronising.'

'Oh yes?  Given you are the expert there, I'd say that was rich coming from you.'

'Grant Janine her three wishes and get this over with or she'll just keep returning.  Won't you, dear?'

Eileen gave Janine her best supercilious smile.  It was far superior to Janine's version.

Jenny couldn't resist a smirk.  That smile had made wizards blanch.  Jenny had seen those pictures. It now did the same for a man eating neighbour.

Janine turned to Jenny.  'Who is the old biddy?'

Jenny laughed.  Eileen swore.

'The old biddy is my mother, Janine.  I wouldn't get the wrong side of her.  I'm the only one she won't zap.  I suspect Mother wants you to make the three wishes because she wants you to do something stupid.  If I were you, I'd leave now and pretend this didn't happen.'

'No.  I'll have the three wishes.  I'll prove the old biddy wrong.'

'Keep calling her that and you won't get the chance.  She's turned people into amphibians for less.  I've watched her do it,' Jenny said, grinning at her annoyed mother.  'Very well, Janine, what is your first wish?  Oh I should warn you the moment you speak out the wish, that is it.  There will be no going back, even if the wish cannot be granted in part or in full.'

'I want my first wish to be for eternal life as I am now - young, beautiful and...'

'With a monstrous ego that if it inflated your head literally to house it properly would mean you would never walk through any doorway again.  Forget it, Janine.  Only God grants eternal life.

Besides do you really want to live on unchanging as your friends, family and contemporaries age and die.  Mother and I have magic in our blood but even we will age and die.  We'll just do so much more slowly. Even if you weren't worried about that, how would you explain to people?  I don't think they'll buy the "I  use a really good moisturiser" line.  What's your second wish?'

'Everlasting riches.  I get tired of having to watch my income all the time.'

'Diddums.  Get on with life, Janine.  We all have to budget.  Stop  looking like that.  I've not increased my wealth because of my "gifts".  That sort of thing shows up and has to be explained and it isn't worth the grief.  Have you not heard the Midas story?  You know the guy who wanted everything he touched to turn to gold and changed his mind on realising he couldn’t eat and drink.   Besides your request is greedy and I'm not granting that.  From what I gather of Mother's past, she never granted greedy wishes either.'

Jenny looked towards her mother who gave a curt nod.  Jenny sighed.  Outright approval was too much to hope for then.

'Count yourself lucky, Janine, I am not a witch.  If I was, I'd grant you that wish and make it rebound.'  Jenny looked at her unwelcome neighbour.
Janine returned the look but it was clear the girl was not comfortable.  Janine started scanning the room.

Good, Jenny thought, she's finally using her brain to work out what to ask for this time.  This could be interesting.

Eileen coughed. Jenny gave her an irritated look but Eileen ignored it as it was her daughter's standard expression.  Janine just looked at Eileen.

'Ms. Stanshaw, yes I know who you are, Jennifer did not need to tell me, I was wondering if you needed some inspiration for your final wish.'

Janine shook her head and faced Jenny again.  'My last wish is for a happy love life.  I've never had one.'

Jenny blinked.  'Really?  You do realise granting your request means you must be faithful.  Can you manage that?'

'And I thought I was the bitch,' Eileen said slowly.

'Mother, you know I have a point.'  Jenny looked back at Janine.  The girl was looking dazed.  Jenny didn't understand this.  Surely the girl had met irate wives and girlfriends before.  Janine must have heard at least the odd catty comment.  'Janine, I...'

'You’re lucky with your Paul, Jenny,' Janine blurted out.  'From what I've seen, he's decent.  All the blokes I've ever been out with...  well I'm a good time girl.  Whenever I hoped anything would develop further, they've run a mile and I'm tired of it.'

There was silence for a moment.  Janine looked at Jenny.  Jenny was surprised. The great man-eater had tears in her eyes.

'Your wish is granted,' Jenny said softly.  'I know I am fortunate with Paul but, and it is a big but, you must be aware of what you are looking for in a guy and if it's not there, dump him.  You must work out what you want before the wish can be fulfilled. Perhaps your real trouble has been in putting up with less than what you would like?'

Much to Jenny's surprise, Janine crossed the room and hugged her.  'Thank you.  I'll be off now.  I'm due out tonight.  Wish me luck.  Oh you probably can't, can you?  I've had my three.'

'From my daughter, yes,' Eileen said, 'but not from me.  I will grant you good luck.  The good luck to have good judgement.  Have a nice evening.  And a nice life.'

Jenny poured tea ten minutes after Janine left.  There was a plate of home made chocolate chip muffins in the middle of the kitchen table. Eileen was on her third.  One thing her daughter did better than she did was home cooking but Eileen would never tell Jenny so.  Eileen wasn't sure why Jenny was better here.  There was a theory in her old magical world magic could seep into cooking and ruin it but it was good to know her daughter had a talent.  It was also good to annoy her daughter.  From the look on her face, Jenny had been reading her mind again.

'You did well, Jennifer.  You won't have further trouble from Janine.'

'That was the idea, wasn't it, Mother?  You've set things up.  Janine should never have been able to take pictures showing anything magical.'

'I fixed her phone, so what?  You've fixed it back again.  No harm done.  And she will try to find her own man now.  Much as I loathe Paul, he is your choice, dear, and you are happy with him.  The same way I am happy with your father and my old world doesn't approve of him.  We have more in common than you think here.  It's no good wincing.  You know I'm right.  And I agree with Janine your Paul seems decent but don't tell him I said so and I will know if you do.  It never pays to inflate a man's ego.'

'Stick to scoffing the muffins, Mother.  You’re not cut out to be an agony aunt.'
Eileen smiled.  It had been a good day.  If ever there was a Rile Your Daughter Week, Eileen would be in her element.  Perhaps she would arrange it.

'Forget it, Mother. I am reading your mind. You rile me every week.'

Eileen's smile became a grin.  'Isn't it good to have life back to normal?'  She paused.  ‘Or at least as near to normal as we can get.’

About the author

Allison Symes, who loves writing and reading fairytales with bite, is published by Chapeltown Books, Cafelit, and Bridge House Publishing.  She is a member of the Society of Authors and Association of Christian Writers.  A round-up of her writing is at and she blogs for Chandler’s Ford Today -