Thursday 30 April 2020


by Henri Colt

energy drink 

I’m alone in the patient compartment of our rig, separated from my driver, who’s also a paramedic. He can only hear me through the thick glass window.  The ventilator fan is set on high, just like we were told to do after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic with fatal repercussions. We’ve been out since six this morning. I just chucked the last disposable gown in our emergency kit, and I’ve been wearing the same N95 respirator mask for three days now. Three 12-hour shifts, three days in a row, but I consider myself lucky. Friends of mine just have surgical masks, which we know provide no protection. Funny how some bosses suckered us into thinking they did some good, and besides, they said, what else are we to do?
            The 60-year-old diabetic woman we just picked up is pasty-looking and wheezing. Her daughter claimed it was a bad asthma attack and she was out of inhalers, but when we called it in and said the gal’s got fever too, they told us it’s probably the virus.
            I double-check her oxygen mask. Her breathing is getting worse, and she can’t talk. I take another blood pressure reading—it’s low.
            I can’t feel a pulse.
            “What did the dispatcher say?” I shout to my driver.
            “It’s a forty-five-minute wait at the ER, and we’re still ten miles away!” he yells back to me over his shoulder.
            “We’re screwed,” I mutter under my breath, knowing he can’t hear me anyway with the sudden yelp of our siren and the screech of our tires on the road.
            “I’m giving her a breathing treatment,” I holler. He needs to know what I’m doing.
            “That’s against regulations, remember? No nebulizers in infected patients. It might spread the virus.”
            “Well, those were guidelines—we never got a written order. Besides, I don’t know if she’s infected, and she sure as hell doesn’t have COVID-19 positive tattooed across her forehead.”
            “You’re gonna get us fired.”
            “Just drive,” I say.
            I break open the nebulizer bag and prop the woman up on the gurney. For a moment, I think she’s looking at me, but then her pupils roll up under her eyelids, and her eyes go white. “Damn, she’s coding.” I jam my fingers over her carotid and can’t feel a beat. A lead from the electrocardiogram monitor falls off. I start chest compressions. The rig lurches forward. I can almost feel my driver leaning on the accelerator.
            “Let her go,” he shouts.
           “I’m not giving up no matter what the boss might say.” I tear off my fogged-up goggles. “Maybe it’s not the virus, maybe. . .”
            She perks up. She opens her eyes. I reconnect the EKG lead and see a waveform.
            She’s alive.
        We pull up to a special entrance of the emergency department. The doors swing open. A doctor and two nurses wearing hazmat suits start dragging the gurney out of the rig.
            “What happened?” the doc says, not taking her eyes off my patient.
            “Just an asthma attack,” I say. “Nothing more.”
            “You sure?” she says. I can tell she sees the nebulizer. I can tell she knows. I swallow hard.
            “I’m sure.” We’ve got another call. I’ll file the paperwork when we get back.
            “Stay safe,” the doctor says, pointing at my goggles before swinging the vehicle door shut, “and...” but the rest of her words drown in the wail of our siren as we take off.

About the author

Henri Colt is a physician-writer and wandering scholar. His stories have appeared in Rock and Ice Magazine, Fiction on the Web, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Active Muse, and others.


Wednesday 29 April 2020

Episode 7 Jess

by Janet Howson 

strong tea

Jess was sitting in utter chaos. She looked round the kitchen-diner, tapping her fingers nervously on the table where a cold cup of overly strong tea was getting cold. There were patches of wall where the plaster had been removed, assorted tins of paint and brushes in jars stacked in corners, rolls of wallpaper waiting to be hung, bare roses hanging from the ceiling waiting for shades. It was miserable and she was so fed up with it.

She was very young when she met Michael at her drama group. He was helping to construct scenery and she was in her first play. It was “The Owl and the Pussycat”. She remembered it as if it was yesterday. They were both very young, she was eighteen, Michael was twenty one. They rushed into an early marriage against the advice of her concerned parents. They never liked him. It was great at first, they bought the flat but it was very run down but he promised to do it up, “Make it into a mansion fit for a queen.” She believed him. The truth however was that he seemed incapable of finishing a job. When he wasn’t out drinking he was pouring over his lap top or mobile phone, placing bets. On top of everything he was now out of a job. She worked with Patrick and Jason from the drama group. It was mainly answering the phone, taking orders and sending off invoices. Not terribly interesting but at least it brought money in and it got her out of this depressing atmosphere. They were relying on Jess’s savings. She had come into a small inheritance when her gran died. Most of it had been used for the deposit on the flat but there was still some left.

She sighed. She couldn’t even start any of the decorating. She had fallen off a ladder about three months ago which resulted in her needing an operation to freeze a couple of vertebrae. She had been told not to go up any ladders at the moment.

Perhaps she could go through her lines for the next play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. She had two small parts. She was in hospital during the casting so the director had given her the ‘left overs’, Snug and a fairy. She was quite happy with that, as long as she was involved.

The phone rang, shaking her out of her thoughts. She got up and answered it. It was unusual to receive a land line call. “Yes, Jess here.”
“Could I speak to Michael Prentice please?”

“He’s out at the moment, Could I help you?”
“Just tell him Corals, the bookies phoned. He needs to get back to us urgently. He  ain't answering his mobile.”

“Oh… okay.” The phone was put down at the other end.

Jess could imagine what that was all about. Another reason they never had any money. Michael bet regularly and had an account with Corals. She tried to ring him. He wasn’t picking up.

She suddenly felt very panicky. Where would they end up if they got evicted from the flat for not being able to pay the mortgage? She felt sick at the thought. Her parents would not have Michael and his parents were no longer alive and he had no other family as far as she knew. He was an only child. I will ring Patrick, I need to talk to someone. First of all though I must take some pain killers for my back.

She opened a drawer and took out a cardboard packet. Pushing two tablets out of the foil she got a glass of water and swallowed them. Only two, that would be okay. The words of the consultant rang in her head. “The good news is the operation was a success but the bad news is I feel you are hopelessly addicted to painkillers”.

He had given her a limited supply of the drug and specific instructions as to how many to take a day and when.

She found her mobile phone and rang Patrick, he picked up straight away, “Hi, what can I do for my favourite girl?”

“Patrick I really need to talk to you. Any chance you can come round? Michael is out so we will be on our own. Don’t worry if you are busy.”

“I am never too busy for you. I was just going over my lines. I didn’t realise how much there was to learn for Lysander. I think I’ve knocked it on the head though. Be with you in fifteen.”

Thank goodness for that . Patrick always made her feel better. He was a joker, the class clown. Everybody loved Patrick. She looked at herself in the cracked mirror in the hallway. She looked tired and tearful. She would splash some water on her face, in the hope that it would wake her up a bit. She looked at the calendar pinned beside the mirror. Perhaps her period was due and that was why she felt so tired. She counted up the weeks since her last period. Oh no, this couldn’t be happening. She had been so taken up with everything happening in her life she hadn’t realised she had missed one altogether. It had been eight weeks. She was never late. How would they possibly cope with a baby when they had no money and the flat was in such a mess. What would Michael say? She sat down and put her head in her hands. She had always wanted children but his was the wrong time. It could be a false alarm. She'd better get a pregnancy testing kit.

As soon as she thought it she got up, found her coat and purse and changed into her shoes. There was a chemist just round the corner. She would have enough time before Patrick arrived. She could talk to him about it. He would know what to do.

It didn’t take her long. The pharmacist had changed recently so she was glad he didn’t know her. She didn’t want all the neighbours gossiping.

As she approached the flat she could see Patrick’s red car pulling into the car park. She always felt so much better when she had talked her problems out with Patrick. They had gone to the same school together, joined the same drama group together and now worked together. He was her best friend. He saw her and waited until she reached the door to the flats.

“Here she is, the love of my life, the beautiful and talented Miss Jess Prentice.” He pretended to blow a trumpet.

“Oh, shut up, Patrick. You are such and embarrassment.” She gave him a hug. “It’s lovely to see you. Come on, let’s put the kettle on.”

They climbed the stairs to the second floor and Jess let them both in. She wanted to do the test. She had to find out one way or the other.

“Patrick, I just need to use the toilet. Can you do the honours with the tea? You know where everything is.”

“I am always your obedient servant. Got any biscuits?”

“They're in the cupboard next to the cooker. I won’t be long.”

 She left him crashing about in the kitchen while she disappeared into the tiny toilet. In her heart of hearts she knew what the answer was going to be. She opened the packaging and performed the task, then waited the required length of time. The blue line indicated it was positive. She froze feeling sick. She was going to have a baby. Part of her felt thrilled but the sensible part of her knew that it was bad timing, with the state of their finances, the flat, Michael out of a job, the fragility of their marriage.

No, she couldn’t have it. It wouldn’t be right to bring a child into the world she was in at the moment. She felt tears welling and quickly got a piece of toilet paper to blot her eyes.

“You all right in there, Jess?” It was Patrick, she had forgotten about him.

“I’m fine, I’ll be out in a minute.” She blew her nose, put the test back in the paper bag it came in and opened the door. Patrick was standing at the door of the kitchen looking worried.

“I was about to send a search party out for you,” he joked. “Tea is poured, strong, one sugar.”

“Thank you Patrick, you are a star, I don’t know what I’d do without you.” She took the tea and sat at the table, Patrick sat next to her.

“Okay, so what’s wrong? I’ve known you long enough to know when something’s up. Spill the beans to Uncle Patrick.”

That was all it needed a few kind words and she burst into tears. Patrick left his seat and knelt in front of her taking her into his arms he rocked her back and forth until she was able to speak.

“I’m pregnant and I know we can’t afford a baby and Michael is in debt with Corals. He'll go berserk and it was probably my fault and he is out of a job and I don’t know what to do and…”

“Okay, okay nothing is as bad as it first seems. You have still got your job and you could bring the baby to work with you and anyway Michael might be thrilled he’s having a baby. I will help you in any way you want and I am sure your family will be there for you.”

“Michael won’t be thrilled, I know him,” she paused to wipe her face with a tissue, “and we haven’t been getting along very well recently. He' s never here and his betting and drinking have got worse. I've been taking too many pain killers for my back and feel like a zombie most of the time. Everything is such a mess, Patrick. My mum and dad have never liked Michael, I know they want me to leave him but how can I if I am having his baby?”

Patrick took her hands in his. “Now listen to me. You are a strong lady, you will get through this. The first thing to do is tell Michael and then we will go from there. Now drink your tea, try to calm down and then ring him.”

Jess looked into his kind eyes and felt comforted. He would never let her down like Michael did all the time. She didn’t even know what he was doing today. He would just set off every morning without a word to her and appear again later expecting his dinner, hardly talking to her. She didn’t like to ask where he had been or who he was with as she feared the answer. She had suspected he was seeing another woman for a long time. She needed another pain killer. They blotted out painful thoughts and made her feel drowsy.

“I’ll get my phone. I think it’s in the bathroom.” She got up and made her way to the bathroom where the tablets were in a cupboard. She took two out of the box and swallowed them down with the tap water and as she did so she was suddenly gripped with guilt. What about the baby? Could the tablets be harming it? Did that thought mean she wanted the baby? She knew in her heart of hearts she did.
She returned to Patrick with her phone. “I don’t expect he will pick up my call,” she punched in his number and let it ring, “It’s gone straight on to message, I’ll wait until he comes home tonight.

 “Okay, how are you feeling now?”

“I think I have realised I do want the baby, even if it means being a single parent. Will you stay with me until Michael comes home? I' m a bit frightened of how he will react. He likes you and anyway he wouldn’t hit me in front of you, would he?” She felt tearful again as she thought of the times their arguments had ended with Michael slapping her, then being mortified and her forgiving him yet again.

"Of course I will, as long as you promise to test me on my lines for tonight’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” dress rehearsal? It will keep your mind off things as well. I’ve got my script with me." He bent down and pulled out the well-worn script from his back pack. “Let’s start where Lysander enters with Egeus, Hermia and Demitrius. If you take all the other parts and I will say mine.”

They sat together, until they finished the play. Jess then went through her lines but there were so few, that didn’t take long and she was word perfect. It had got dark and they had got through a lot of tea and biscuits. Michael had still not appeared.

“Oh no, Look at the time! The dress rehearsal will have started. You go, Patrick. Tell Shirley I’m not going to make it. I am in no state to act and I don’t know when Michael will come home.”

“I’m not leaving you to face him alone. I’ll text, Shirley. It can’t be helped. I am sure she's been directing long enough to have experienced two of the cast unable to attend a dress rehearsal. Shall I call out for a take-away? I’m starting to get peckish.”

“I’ll do it, I’ve got the numbers on my contacts list. Do you want Indian, Chinese or fish and chips?”

“Fish and chips every time, you know me. We won’t have to order them. I’ll put my coat on and nip out for them. Your usual?” Patrick pulled his coat on.

“I’m not very hungry, Patrick. I’ll just have some of your chips.”

“Okay. See you in a tick.”

Jess listened to Patrick’s steps going down the stairs. She would try Michael’s phone once more. As she was doing this there was the sound of a key in the door. She knew it was him. Patrick didn’t have a key to her flat. He came into the kitchen, slightly wobbly on his feet as he often was if he had been drinking all day. Jess stood up, her stomach clenched. He had his arm round a young girl. She could only have been about eighteen.

“Meet, Natalie,” he slurred, “Natalie this is my wife, Jess. Nat and I have been seeing each other for a long time and the thing is we want to be together. We love each other.” He hugged the girl closer to him. She appeared embarrassed and completely out of her depth.

Jess was speechless. How dare he do this to her after everything she had put up with. Whilst she had been working, coping with her injury and keeping the flat going and cooking his meals, he had been with this child. She was suddenly really angry. “Get out, both of you and don’t come back.”

“You can’t chuck me out of my own home,” Michael started to approach, Jess but was too drunk to grab her. Natalie pulled him back.

“Come on, Michael, let’s go. I don’t want to stay here anyway. We’ll go back to my place.” She managed to get Michael out of the door. Natalie waited for their retreating footsteps. Shocked she sat down to catch her breath. She felt drained .

When Patrick arrived back with his fish and chips he found Jess calmly sitting at the kitchen table staring at the wall.

“Are you all right girl? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost?

“I have in a way. I’ve seen the ghost of the past and it’s time for a fresh start. I know what I want now. I’m going to have the baby. I know it’s going to be hard but with the help of my family and good friends, I will manage it.” She looked at the clock. “I am so sorry, Patrick, you’ve missed the rehearsal.”

No problem,” Patrick pulled off his coat and sat down to start his chips. “You are worth it.” He placed his hand over Jess’s and smiled at her. Suddenly she knew everything was going to be all right.

Links to previous episodes:

About the Author
Janet taught Drama and English for 35 years in several Comprehensive schools, directing a lot of plays, some of which she wrote herself. She was spurred to start writing again when she found a folder of forgotten poetry she had written years ago. She is now enjoying writing short stories and is honoured to have been chosen to be published in The Best of CafeLit and also Nativity  a Bridge House publication. Her first published book Charitable Thoughts is now out at last and available on Amazon Books.

Tuesday 28 April 2020


by PritiJ

sparkling water

"Go to an Art-Gallery," they said. "Be less of a philistine," they said:

So, armed with ample of time and a bit of trepidation, I went, to educate myself, avoiding the major galleries, 'Start at the bottom,' well thought.

Among the various oddities on display there, I saw, was this installation - Power drills hanging upon a nylon clothesline, captioned - 'Machine Wash'.... It was so bad, it was good; and while I do hope the artist has a day job, I fervently hope he does not get ideas for 'Hand Wash'...

Hannibal Lecter would be pleased, on second thoughts.

A hasty retreat was in order, and I agree I returned the richer for experience: Must visit better galleries...

About the author

PritiJ has lived a life across cultures. She is an outspoken representative of her gender; still unsure whether she represents liberation, or equity, and finds humour, and inspiration for her poetry, in odd places. 


Monday 27 April 2020

The Year’s Most Popular Christmas Toy

by Dawn Knox

mulled wine

 Previously, Eddie, Colin, Brian and Gideon’s new business venture is experiencing cash flow problems. Eddie thinks Father Christmas can help...

 “What d’you mean the Soup John Bee might be repossessed? That can’t be right!” Brian swung round, spilling cocoa over the ship’s galley floor.

“Yes, Eddie,” said Colin, “how can that be? You told us the business was going well.”

“It is, but we’ve got a slight cash flow problem. The weather’s freezing, the soup’s choppy most days and it’s nearly Christmas and no one’s interested in fishing expeditions at the moment. We’ve got more bookings than we can handle next year but they don’t start until February. So, it’s just a temporary problem.  If we can keep our heads above the soup over Christmas and during January, we’ll be fine.”

“Is there anything we can do, old thing?” asked Gideon, squirting a mound of cream on top of the hot chocolate in his mug.

“Well, I’ve made an executive decision and got us all Christmas jobs,” said Eddie, “Nothing too taxing and if we all work from now until Christmas Eve, we’ll be able to keep going financially until our first fishing trip next February.”

“So, you’ve got us jobs?” asked Brian mopping up the spilled cocoa.


There was silence for a few moments. 

“And you didn’t think to consult us?” asked Colin,

“Needs must, I’m afraid,” Eddie said vaguely.

“Well, are you going to give us details?” 

“Umm, yes…”

More silence.

“Oh no!” said Brian, “Please tell me you don’t expect us to go back to Leonora da Finchy’s studio as life models! My hair’s only just grown back after that waxing! And I’m sure it’s not as thick as it was.”
“No, nothing
 like that,” said Eddie. “If you must know, I’ve got us jobs in Honkin & Sniffet.”

“That fancy department store in town?” asked Gideon.


“Well why didn’t you say?” asked Colin, “I think we’ll all be happy to work in a shop until Christmas, won’t we fellas?”

Gideon and Brian nodded. 

“When do we start, old boy?”

“Tomorrow, bright and early,” said Eddie, “so we’d better finish our drinks and get a good night’s sleep. I’ll give you your co… err that is I’ll give you your uniforms, tomorrow morning. Night night.”

“Uniforms?” asked Brian, “The shop assistants wear suits…”

“Perhaps that’s what he means,” said Colin.

But Eddie had left the galley. 

“Why didn’t you give us our uniforms to change into, back on the boat, Eddie?” asked Colin.  “Wouldn’t it have been easier if we’d arrived dressed properly rather than have to change in the store?”

“Oh, you know…” said Eddie absently.

“No, we don’t,” said Brian “and your vagueness is beginning to worry me. Where is everyone? The shop doesn’t open for another hour. Why did we have to get here so early?” 

“Well, we need training,” said Eddie, “Mrs. Malone, the store manager, wants us to be in position when the doors open. Here, put these on,” He handed them each a bag. 

“I’ve never noticed the sales assistants wearing anything like this, old chap,” said Gideon peering into his bag.

“Ah, but we’re not sales assistants, we’re Father Christmas and his helpers,” said Eddie pulling his white beard into position beneath his beak. 

“Is this some kind of joke?” asked Brian, pulling a pink, ballet tutu out of his bag, “I’m not wearing that!”

“You have to,” said Eddie, putting on a large white-trimmed red coat, “and don’t crush your wings. They’re delicate.”

“C’mon fellas!” said Colin, “Don’t look so glum. It’s not long until Christmas and it might be fun.”

“Fun? Fun?” screeched Brian, “Where’s the fun in dressing up like a fairy?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Colin, “I think we’re going to look stunning, although I’m not so sure about…” he looked doubtfully at Gideon.

“Oh, don’t worry about me, old chap, I’m not a fairy, I’ve got an elf costume.”

“That’s not fair!” said Brian, “I don’t want to be a fairy, why can’t I be an elf?”

“Me, me, me! Honestly, it’s not always about you, Brian!” said Eddie stepping into long, black boots, “Anyway, they didn’t do elf costumes small enough for you and Colin.” 

“Size! It always comes down to size!” Brian grumbled. 

“Stop moaning and get dressed.”

“Is there a mirror?” asked Brian pulling on his pink tights.

“Brian! Stop messing about!” said Eddie.

“What? What? It’s not my fault! I can’t see if these things are on straight without a mirror.” 

“They don’t go on your head,” said Colin, “they go on your legs. Look, you roll each leg up like this and then put your foot in the hole.”

“Oh, I see. I thought they were a bit long, for ears,” said Brian, “anyway, how d’you know so much about tights?”

“Never you mind,” said Colin. 

“Can one of you chaps give me a hand doing this up, please? I think I could have done with a bigger outfit. I can hardly breathe and the jacket’s not buttoned up yet,” said Gideon. 

“That’s the biggest size they had,” said Eddie. 

“These tights are a bit… well, tight and rather lumpy,” said Brian.

“It’s all the hair on your legs,” said Colin, “Pity you didn’t get them waxed.”

“Never, never again!” said Brian “And what the heck’s this?” He held up a tiny bra. 

“I’ll give you a clue,” said Colin, holding it up to his chest, “and it’s got nothing to do with your ears.”

Mrs. Malone, a stern and forbidding ladybird, led Santa, one portly elf and two fairies – one of whom minced daintily while the other stomped with legs apart – to the back of the store. 

“The first rule in Santa’s Grotto is that the customer is always right. Do whatever is necessary to keep them satisfied. Do you understand?” she asked, looking doubtfully at Brian who was rearranging his knickers. 

“You, Fairy One, don’t do that. I expect you and the other fairy to stand still. Do not speak. Do not move. Do not play with your knickers. Is that clear?”

“Err, yes, Mrs. Malone,” said Colin, “we’ll do whatever you tell us.”

“Good, perhaps I should promote you to the position of Fairy One. You seem to know what you’re doing. Nice shade of lipstick, by the way.” She checked her watch.  “Two minutes to opening time.”

“What am I supposed to do?” asked Gideon.

“You pass a present to Santa to give to the child. The pile of parcels on the left are for boys and the other pile for girls. Now, positions everyone. Are you all ready?”

“Yes, Mrs. Malone,” they chorused as she bustled out.

Fairy One, indeed!” said Brian once she’d gone. 

“Oh, stop moaning, Brian. The lady just recognises quality when she sees it.”

“Buggy Malone wouldn’t recognise quality if it ̶ “

“Don’t call her that, she’ll hear you and we’ll all be in trouble.”

“Shhh!” said Eddie as the first family entered the grotto.

“Ooh, look, Ma!” said a tiny bear cub, “This is where Santa lives.” 

“Ho, ho, ho,” said Eddie “come and sit on my lap and tell me what you’d like for Christmas, ho, ho, ho!”

“Your lap’s very bony, Santa. Your legs are like sticks,” said the bear cub.

“Is it a boy or a girl? All bears look the same to me,” whispered Gideon. 

Eddie shrugged, “I’ll find out,” he said out of the corner of his beak.

“Ho, ho, ho, well what’s your name?” he asked, ruffling the cub’s hair.

“Don’t do that,” said the cub, “I don’t like it. My name’s Jo.”

“Ah! Jo, what a lovely name.”

Gideon looked at him blankly and shrugged.

“And what is Jo short for?”

The cub frowned, “It’s short for Joey. Hey, aren’t you going to ask me if I’ve been good this year?”

Gideon cleared his throat, Which pile? he mouthed.

“Ho, ho, ho, so Jo, have you been a good little… err… cub?”

“Yes. Now can I have my present? Sitting on your lap’s like sitting on a pile of twigs.”

Eddie looked at Gideon, “And what present do we have for Jo, my good elf?” he asked.

“I’m still making up my mind, Santa old chap,” said Gideon through gritted teeth, “but it would be helpful to have a bit more information before I decide.” 

“Ho, ho, ho, I nearly forgot to ask what you’d like for Christmas,” said Eddie. “We’ll work it out from the kid’s list of toys,” Eddie said out of the corner of his beak.

“Well, I’d like a Fuzwell Fommett, a Crafty Snubbler, Drimwatch and any of the characters from Lornsquit. I’m not fussy which though.” 

Eddie looked at Gideon. 

Gideon looked at Eddie.

“Oh, for goodness sake,” said Brian stepping forward, “d’you want a girl’s toy or a boy’s toy, Kid?” 

Jo gasped, “Oh, Pa, that’s what I want! It’s a talking monkey fairy doll! Please can I have it? Oh, please say yes!”

“Oh, ho, ho, ho, no!” said Eddie, “that’s one of Santa’s fairy helpers, he’s… err… she’s not for sale. Santa can’t manage without all his helpers.”

Pa Bear took his wallet out of his pocket and started peeling off ducat bills. 

“No, really,” said Eddie, his voice rising in panic, “the fairy’s not for sale.”

Jo began to snivel and Pa Bear pulled more notes out of his wallet.

“It’ll do everyone a favour if you just take the money and give me the fairy. Trust me. Jo can reach decibels you’ve never dreamed of.”

He tucked the large pile of notes in Eddie’s pocket. 

Jo began to wail.

“Err,” said Eddie. 

Pa Bear continued to peel notes off his wad.

Jo’s wail reached scream proportions.

“Okay!” said Eddie.

“What?” screeched Brian, as Pa Bear reached down and grabbed him round the middle. 

“Now, where do the batteries go?” he asked, holding Brian upside down, “In its bottom?” 

“Eddie!” screamed Brian, holding on to his knickers.

“Err,” said Eddie flapping his wings in panic.

Gideon stepped forward, “No need for batteries, my good man, the talking monkey fairy doll is solar-powered.”

Brian sagged with relief.

“Is it broken already?” asked Pa Bear, turning Brian up the right way and giving him a shake, “It’s gone all limp.”

“No, it’s just relieved you know it won’t need new batteries. It’ll be fine in a minute. Artificial Intelligence has come on leaps and bounds recently,” said Eddie.

“Isn’t it clever,” said Ma Bear peering at Brian, “and so cute!”

“Cute?” screeched Brian.

“Is there a volume control button?” asked Ma Bear, “Or an off switch?”

“Eddieeeeee!” screamed Brian as the Bear family left Santa’s Grotto.

“Ho, ho, ho and a Merry Christmas,” said Eddie, “Next!”

“That didn’t go according to plan, did it, old thing?” 

Gideon and Eddie walked up the Soup John Bee’s gangplank.

Eddie shook his head sadly “That Malone woman has a temper, doesn’t she? I mean, it wasn’t our fault the ghastly bear cub took a fancy to Brian and started a craze for talking monkey fairy dolls. Mind you, I did get more for Colin than I did for Brian. Let’s not tell Brian that when he gets back, though.”

There was silence for a few moments.

“You’re sure they’ll be able to get back to us, old thing?”

“Of course! And when they see the money we made they’ll agree it was worth it.” 

“D’you think?”

“Oh yes! And it’s not like you and I got off unscathed. We got the sack. Although it wasn’t our fault people started mobbing the grotto and the toy department, looking for talking monkey fairy dolls. But at least, we’ve got more than enough money to keep us until February.”

“What if Brian and Colin don’t make it back?”

“Oh, but they will,” said Eddie, “I bet they’ll be back before we’ve finished cooking dinner.” 

“It’s been ages since we err… lost Brian and Colin, old chap. It’s Christmas Eve. What can have happened to them? If they don’t get back by tomorrow, they’ll miss the big day. I’m going to hang their Christmas stockings up tonight anyway but…”

Eddie shook his head sadly, “I thought they’d be home by now. If they aren’t back by tomorrow, I think we ought to mount a search.”

“Perhaps they don’t want to be found, old chap. They might be happy where they are.”

“Well we won’t know until we ask them. So, if they’re not back in the morning, we’ll go out and find them.”

Silently, Eddie continued wrapping his gifts: a set of chocolate pens for Gideon, some platform boots for Brian and fuchsia pink tights and matching lipstick for Colin.

Links to previous stories in The Macaroon Chronicles series:
  1. The Macaroon Chronicles Prologue and the Three Wise Monkeys -
  2. #ChickenInCustard -
  3. The Fine Print -
  4. French for Cheese -
  5. Porkies and Espiggy-onage (Lies and Spies) –
  6.  Nearly Death by Chocolate -
  7. Waxing Lyrical -
  8. Seduced by Zeros -
  9. Soup-Legs -

About the author

Dawn’s latest book is ’The Basilwade Chronicles’ published by Chapeltown Books. She enjoys writing in different genres and has had romances, speculative fiction, sci-fi, humorous and women’s fiction published in magazines, anthologies and books. Dawn has also had two plays about World War One performed internationally. You can follow her here on, Facebook here DawnKnoxWriter or on Twitter here

Sunday 26 April 2020

The Lone Bale of Hay and Other Things

by Roshna Rusiniya

cream soda

In my mind, I am envisioning everything- wet grass tickling my toes, air smelling vaguely of honeysuckle, hundreds of daisies dancing in the breeze. I gradually opened my eyes, giving myself enough time to adjust to the darkness. I just wanted to sit on the bench and gaze at the sunset. When did it turn so dark? Apart  from the wet grass beneath my feet, nothing matched the vision I had in my mind. All I see is the open grass field in front of me, a few wooden benches here and there. There was a pungent odour in the air too, like someone was burning rubber. Strange...

“She  is waking up.’’ A voice spoke, not too far from me.

“I want to touch the clown, ” a kid shouted.

The moonlight spilling into the bench where I am sitting now, is enough for me to see the small crowd gathered around, but not enough to see their faces clearly. 

I tried to sit straighter on the bench, but my dress is pulling at me. It kind of feels heavy and itchy and I suddenly have this urge to strip out of it. But considering the fact that I have a small audience, I completely give up that idea. I glanced down and my eyes widened in horror at the sight of the bright and striped look I am spotting now. Why on earth am I dressed like a clown?

“Are you ok?” another voice asked.

I am trying to figure out the same too. I waited for the fog to clear up and the snippets of the recent events to float back into my brain. 

The bicycle...the road..the fall…

“I fell.” I said, more like a  whispering to myself.

“Are you hurt?” asked a lady in a concerned voice.

“No.” I shook my head.

“How did you fall?” Another question, still the same lady.

“A lone bale of hay in the middle of the road.”

“What?” the crowd exclaimed in unison.

I repeated what I said and this time I could see their faces clearly, as the moonlight directly shone on them. They were quiet, with facial expressions ranging from sarcasm to disbelief. 

I oddly felt uncomfortable, as if sensing the air of hostility around me. I even heard someone muttering ‘insane.’

I glanced around, frantically searching for something to prove to them that I am not insane.

There it is- my bicycle, parked across the road. I stood up  and walked towards the bicycle ignoring the murmurs growing behind me.

Then I saw them- the hay strands stuck on the wheels! 

I turned around, with a triumphant smile to announce my discovery…

Just to find myself  all alone on the grassy knoll…


“Mommy. Wake up. I am hungry.”

My three year old daughter stared down at me. Wait? I am in the bedroom? What was all that then?

Such a weird dream...

“Mommy? Why do you have white paint on your face? Are you wearing a clown costume?"

Saturday 25 April 2020

Getting to know you - Getting to know all about you

by Robin Wrigley

a large glass of red wine

‘Did you wash your hands John?’
     ‘For Christ sake Marjorie, how many bloody times are you going to ask me that? Of course, I did knowing that the Uber Fuhrer from the Stasi is watching my every move.’
     ‘You’ve no need to be quite so rude. You’ve said yourself that you often forget.’
     ‘There are times my dear woman I forget a lot of things. I only wish I was able to forget I was stuck in this house with you. Besides which no sooner I wash them you think of something else for me to do which then requires me to wash them again. So, I duly do and the moment I get the tap running hot enough I have an urge to have a pee and must start all over yet again! This is ten times worse than being back at boarding school.’
     ‘Darling do try to keep your anger under control. Remember what the doctor said about your heart. The last thing we want is for you to require any form of emergency. This whole situation is terribly trying for both of us. It’s just as bad for me you know.’
     ‘How could I know that? I’m not a woman. Come to that you didn’t go to boarding school. Did you?’
     ‘Oh, how can you ask me a question like that. You know I didn’t?’
     ‘Well there you are, I told you I forget things.
     ‘But not things like that. I know we’ve been married a long time but basic facts and likes and dislikes between married couples are sacred. These should remain in your head all your life unless you develop Alzheimer’s, or have you?’
     ‘Of course not. Why are you making such a big deal about it?’
     ‘Why? I’ll tell you why , John Reynolds, because they are the sort of things one simply knows about one’s partner after forty-odd years together. Now you suddenly say you simply don’t remember.
     ‘You mean fifty-odd years, don’t you?’
     ‘Is it really? Yes, I suppose it is.’
    ‘Now who’s memory is slipping.’
     ‘Alright how about another basic fact. What’s my favourite colour?’
     ‘C’mon dear that is below the belt. How on earth would I remember that?’
     ‘You see you neither know nor care. I’ve often thought in recent times that you regretted marrying me.’
     ‘Oh, not that one again? I should have known this was leading there. We’re only into the second week of this wretched lock-down and I have to say I love you or some such tosh. I would have thought the mere fact that I’m here having this conversation with you should be adequate confirmation that I don’t regret marrying you. Isn’t it?’
     ‘The trouble is John we don’t really talk with one another, anymore do we?’
     ‘What are we doing now pray tell me.’
     Marjorie, close to tears gets up and heads out of the room. ‘I’m going to make a cup of tea. I can’t bear anymore of your triteness and silly remarks.’
     John sighs out loud and puts his head in his hands. Raising his head again he gets up and walks to the French windows and looks out into the garden.
     In the kitchen Marjorie busies herself filling the water jug and switching it on. She bends down and pulls out a biscuit tin and puts it on the countertop. Tears by now were running down her cheeks and she stifles a sob. Wiping her eyes and blowing her nose with a piece of kitchen-towel she searches for a plate to put the biscuits on. I really hate him when he gets like this she thinks, almost out loud. If only we’d had children, it might have been so different.
     John is still looking out of the French window as she enters carrying a tray with two cups, a pot of tea, milk and sugar and a plate of chocolate digestive biscuits, his favourite. She couldn’t rightly define what her favourite was. She had spent so many years trying her utmost to please her husband she seldom considered herself. He turns on hearing her placing the tray on the coffee table and sits down in his armchair. She keeps her head down attempting to hide her face and concentrates pouring his tea.
     ‘Have you been crying Margorie?’
     ‘No, yes, it’s all your fault. You just don’t understand. When you went into for your bypass last month I was worried out of my mind. It wasn’t simply a case of being worried for you, when I got home, I started thinking about what would happen to me if you didn’t survive.’
     ‘That is nice to know that you were more concerned about yourself than me.’
     ‘I knew you would take it the wrong way. What I mean is that you are such a private man. John.  You keep everything almost clothed in secrecy. I know nothing about our finances or anything like that.’
     ‘But you’ve never shown any interest in it before. Why didn’t you ask?’
     ‘Because I shouldn’t have to ask. There is so much I really don’t know about that and many other things about you. Personal things that after all these years together I simply surmise rather than actually know.’
     ‘I see, or rather I think I do. Perhaps I should first apologise for not ever considering any of this. Perhaps we should use this period of our incarceration in getting to know one another properly. I must say I’m just as ignorant of really knowing what you think about either. Apart from that one conversation we had about you not getting pregnant I suppose we never have discussed much about each other ever.’
John takes a bite into a biscuit and smiles at his wife and reaches across and takes her hand squeezing it gently. She in turn returns his smile albeit somewhat shyly.
     ‘Yes, thank dear, that would be very nice.’

     About the author

Robin is a regular contributor to CafeLit both on line and in the annual published anthologies. He is a member of the Wimborne Writers’ Group

Friday 24 April 2020


By G. Allen Wilbanks

salt water

Jack lay at the bottom of the life raft. The heat of the sun burned his cheeks while the cool ocean waves rolled beneath his back. He was pinned, trapped between two equally inhospitable domains: the empty void above, and the endless abyss below.

Jack wondered which of the two would eventually claim him. Above, he could breath, but his death by dehydration would be slow and brutal. Below, he would suffocate in panic and pain, but the end would come swiftly.

He raised his head and gazed at the empty horizon where the two rivals for his affections touched.

About the author 

I am a member of the HWA, and have published over 100 short stories in Daily Science Fiction, Deep Magic, The Talisman, and other venues, including a previous publication in CaféLlit. I have published two short story collections, and the novel, When Darkness Comes.
For more information, please visit my website at

Thursday 23 April 2020

Things He Tore Apart

by Yash Seyedbagheri 

unsweetened cocoa

I hop around, an Easter Bunny, a huge rip in my tail.
Kids ask who hurt me. I want to talk of a father’s drunken hands, ripping joy. Fuck Easter. Help your worthless dad. Once he told jokes about sex and lightbulbs, taught piano, hands so long and patient, elegant in gestures.
Then he got fired. Budget cuts. They offered no odes to his music. No tributes to his eyebrows dancing as he talked of Romanticism, his childlike smile.
I deliver candy, absorb joy. Smashed pianos and hands flit about my consciousness.
I toss cheer until it leaves.
What’s next?

Wednesday 22 April 2020

A Message in a Bottle

by Paula R C Readman

mint tea

‘Nana, look what I’ve found!’  Dylan cried, making me turn. He ran towards me holding out a glass bottle covered in barnacles and seaweed. ‘Do you think there’s a message inside, Nana?’ Dylan held it up to the light and we both squinted at it.
‘I’ve no idea.  It does look as though it’s been at sea for a long time.’
‘It might hold a map of lost treasure,’ he said.
A sudden heart-wrenching cry made us both look skyward. A lone gannet sailed across the evening sky. For a fleeting moment, the virginal whiteness of its body flashed red as if to mark it with a bloody death.
Its melancholy cries mingled with the sound of waves crashing onto the beach as it searched among the craggy escarpments, and outcrops for another of its kind. Then it turned towards the setting sun and vanished.
Dylan lowered the bottle, his excitement gone. He slipped his hand into mine and asked, ‘Nana, will the birds ever return?’

Fifteen years ago, I arrived on the island hoping to escape from the rat race and to live in paradise.  I swapped the incessant sound of traffic noise for the cries of nesting seabirds that crowded the ragged coastline until one stormy night.
The following morning we islanders combed the shoreline looking for driftwood to burn, but instead made a horrifying discovery. Among the collection of plastic bottles and other rubbish that washed ashore, there were thousands of dead and dying seabirds.  
At first, we assumed that overfishing had caused their starvation, but on closer inspection, we found their bellies were full of tiny pieces of plastic.
Twenty years ago after the sudden death of my husband, I downsized. My daughter, Sara had moved in with her grandparents years ago, so I moved into a tiny flat on my own.
 With no time for a social life, I joined an online self-sufficiency group. One evening as we chatted, a friend posted the question, ‘What if you could live off-grid, would you?’
The question rekindled a dream I once had.
 I read the comments posted by others. Their main concerns were about what missed opportunities the modern world might have to offer their children. I thought about my own daughter’s needs and wants.
Sara laughed at my dreams of a simple life. For her the high-tech world was perfect. I recalled how she announced via an online link that I was soon to be a grandmother. 
‘Hi Mum. Sorry, forget to mention Joe and I are having a baby. Must dash!  Online shopping is brilliant! A van has just arrived with the things we’ve order for the nursery. Byeeee.’
I knew I had no worries with Sara. We hadn’t been a part of each other lives for quite a while. She contacted me mainly through social media, texting, and occasionally an audio birthday, or Christmas message. Their next email contained a photo of Joe holding their newborn, Lizzie.
I could’ve understood, if I lived abroad, but we lived in the same town.  I had offered to visit them, but Sara never texted me with a convenient date or time. Tired of waiting, I made an impromptu visit, but this caused more friction. 
At least I got a few precious moments with Lizzie, before they strapped her into her car seat, and were gone.
In answer to Jeannie’s question about living off-grid; most said, yes, reasoning it couldn’t be difficult to revert to using old technologies. Who couldn’t live without fast food, online banking, mobiles, integrated TV, online gaming and other time-wasting rubbish?
Wouldn’t our lives better and healthier too?
No one argued against the fact that our modern society gave us a longer, more productive life, with better medicines and faster access to vital information, and no forgetting greener technology, but in truth, the negative outweighed the positive benefits.

As the rain turned to wind-driven sleet, I hurried through the board up shopping centre, pleased to find some shelter as I took a short cut home.  I rushed along in hope of avoiding any of the homeless people who took refuge there.
As a child, I had loved the Christmas shop windows displays with their flickering coloured lights and ‘good children’ promises of much wanted new toys.
With my head down, I rounded the corner and stopped abruptly.  The scene before me wasn’t the usual nativity depicting the shepherds, three kings and cattle surrounded the Virgin Mary cradling a sleeping baby Jesus.
A skinny, barefoot four-year-old dressed in a faded pinafore leaned against the grimy glass. She smiled up at me from under her lanky blonde hair as she cluttered a grubby baby doll to her chest.
Scattered at her feet were a collection of broken toys, torn books, empty beer cans, and fag ends. The spell was broken as her mother tugged her away the glass, and dropped a torn curtain in place.
In that instance, all my childhood Christmases melted away in a sea of overindulgence as I stood there, wondering what the future held for this homeless child and her family.    

One Sunday, I woke to find my neighbours battling out their differences with cussing and door slamming. I pulled my duvet over my head, trying to imagine what it would be like waking to the rhythmic sound of the sea washing the shoreline on a peaceful island.
As I drank my morning coffee, I read an interesting article about self-sufficiency in an online newspaper.  At the bottom, I spotted a competition, with only hours to go. I took a gamble and purchased a ticket.
After tidying my cramp flat, I strolled in the local park. There I watched the squirrels leaping from branch to branch as they searched for their hidden food stores. It disappointed me to see the lack of care by others. I picked up their discarded bottles, sweet wrappers and even dog mess with the bags I had brought especially with me.   

Arriving back home, I showered and made a cuppa, before settling down to check my emails. My stomach flipped at the sight of one.
‘Competition Results’.   The email instructed me to phone a number. My hand shook as the phone rang.     
‘Hello, can I help you?’ a broad Scottish voice said.
‘Yes, I’ve just received this email.’
‘Congratulations, Monica on winning the holiday retreat on the island of Canna.’  
Stunned, I muttered, ‘Where on earth is Canna?’
 ‘All will be explained in the next email.’
I wondered how my daughter would react my amazing news, but I needn’t have worried. As my calls went unanswered so I left a message instead.

To my surprise, I hadn’t won timeshared holiday home, but a house.  That’s when Jeannie’s online question hit me. Could I live off the land, with no experience of self-sufficiency?
The prize included a one-way container for transport my belongings. Once settled on the island, if I wanted to turn, the expense was all mine.

I had just signed the removal man’s clipboard when my daughter and son-in-law suddenly put in an appearance.
‘What the hell’s going on?’ Sara bellowed as she climbed out of their car.
‘Hello, I tried to get hold of you,’ I said, as Joe hovered behind my irate daughter.
‘Yes, but just a text message!  So typical of you, mum, just the same as when dad died,’ she snapped.
‘That’s not fair.  At sixteen, you left me to nurse your father alone while you moved in with your grandparents, because you didn’t like living in hospital as you called our ‘home’.
‘You’re so unfair,’ she snapped, climbing back into their car. Joe shrugged his shoulders and joined her.
Oh, I understood Sara’s devastation. Having lost my own parents when I was young too. My husband Colin was my world and to have my daughter walked out just when I need her most was too much to bear. Our relationship finally crumbled when I had no other choice, but to sell our home, and go back to full-time work.
As my belongings sailed off without me, I leant into my son-in-law’s car and said to my daughter, ‘Let’s go inside, it’s time to talk.’
 I switched on kettle.  The sound echoed around the empty flat.  Once we were comfortable on the remaining furniture, which I had to leave behind, I passed a copy of the email to my daughter.  As she read it, her face transformed from outrage to blind fury.
 ‘Moving to where?’ she spluttered.
Without consulting us first?’ She passed the email to Joe. ‘
‘You’re more than welcome to join me.  There’s enough room.’
‘You’ve got to be joking.’ Sara spat the words out. ‘Your holiday retreat isn’t exactly in the Bahamas. Just some piddling little rain-soaked island off the west coast of Scotland, forget it.’
‘I’m sorry you feel that way.’
‘Can’t you sell it?’
‘No, I can’t’
‘But it must be worth a fortune?’
 ‘Sara, I’m starting a new life. If you ever change your mind, you’ll know where to find me.’
‘If that’s how you feel, mum. Come on, Joe, we’re going home.’

Canna’s Compass hill rose like a shadowy blue rock out of the misty rain. The highest point on the island served to remind us on the ferry how insignificant we were against the forces of nature as we tried to dock for the second time.
 As I waited on the harbour for my belongings to be unloaded, the dense rain clouds lifted. The sun highlighted the white washed buildings that crowded along the edge of a sweeping bay, and I wondered if my new home was among them.
‘Right, lassie time to go,’ called a tall, rugged truck driver
‘Are these all the houses?’ I gestured towards the bay.
‘Ah, that’s the main settlement. There are a few more empty ones scattered around. Newcomers don’t stay long, especially if they’ve children. I’m Calum Blackburn, by the way.’
‘I’m . . .’
‘Monica Keyes. We know,’ he interrupted me as we climbed into his truck.  A broad smile lit up his dark brown eyes.
‘Who’s ‘We’?’ I asked, fastening my belt.
‘Us islanders.’ He gave a throaty laugh, and started the engine.
 ‘So what do you reckon I stay or go?’ I asked as we left the main settlement behind.
 ‘We’ll see.’ He gave a deep chuckle.

Just as I began to wonder where we were heading, Calum turned off a main road.  Soon a large solid built house came into view.  It stood on a flat piece of land. Behind it, acting as a windbreak, a steep bank of fir trees mingled with stunted and twisted oak, silver birch, and juniper grew. Edging the property at the front was a high wall.
As Calum unloaded my belongings, I took the bare necessities through to the kitchen ready for the evening. We dumped the rest in the two front rooms.  I offered Calum a drink and something to eat.
‘That’ll be grand,’ he said.
 In the kitchen, we chatted while the kettle boiled.  I guessed he wanted to know more about me as I did him.  He had returned to the island three years ago to look after his parents.
‘That’s when I decided to stay,’ he said, setting his cup down.
‘Don’t you feel isolated?’
‘Not at all. If you need help, there’s always someone about. We all help each other here.’  

After Calum left, I explored the outside in the fading light and discovered I had inherited a pigsty, a chicken coop and a vegetable plot.
 I hastily unpacked some bedding and went in search of a bed, pleased that the previous owners had updated the property, with all the latest reusable green power to supply the mod cons. At least I didn’t need a candle to light my way.
I choose the front bedroom.  The view of the harbour with its flicking lights made me feel less isolated. I unpacked a few boxes to give the room a homely feel and hung some clothes in the wardrobe.  As I filled the bookshelf with my self-sufficiency books, I recalled how I had memorised the best way to dig up peat for burning. As I crawled into bed, I was relieved to know there was one job less for me to do.    

The next morning I checked out my provisions. Part of my prize was a year’s supply of the basics to get me started. Of course, I had brought as much as I could pack into one container, but that would not last forever.  The well-stocked larder made me realise just how much I took for granted. No quick dash to the nearest 24/7 shop, if I ran out of anything.
That evening as I sat on the front step, sipping my coffee, a daunting feeling washed over me. Could I really rely on my own ability rather than the practicalities of the modern world?
As the sunset and some of the lights around the harbour went out, I wondered how long it would take me to repack.
Maybe Calum was right about newcomers.
I closed the door behind and wandered through to the kitchen. For the first, I became aware of the silence.  My flat had been a constant flow of noise from traffic to people arguing.  
On opening the kitchen window to let out the steam as I cooked I heard the rhythm sounds of island life as I became aware of the sounds of seabirds and the waves crashing on the shoreline.  All thought of leaving vanished along with the condensation.  

One morning Calum arrived to find me struggling to stretch the thick polythene over a metal frame.
‘You’ve been busy in the garden,’ he said taking hold of polythene. ‘If you can keep a polytunnel going through one winter here, I’ll invest in one of my own.’
‘I’ve always dreamt of having an opportunity like this, Calum. I just hope I’ve made the right selection with these seeds,’ I said pointing to the box I’ve brought with me.’  

After a light lunch, Calum introduced me to my neighbours as we went for a drive around the island. By the time, we arrived back home his truck was overloaded with my welcoming gifts from the islanders; chickens, two pigs, and three goats. Once we had settled them into their new homes, Calum left.
During the night, I woke to the sound of the polytunnel rattling and banging as the first strong winds of winter arrived. I pulled my duvet over my head and hoped my animals were safe.  In the morning as I checked for any damage, I was pleased to find everything had survived.

For the last five years, Calum and I celebrated Christmas together. A tree was a piece of driftwood I had decorated with glass baubles, holly, and ivy from the woods behind my home.  As we settled down to enjoy the food I had prepared, my phone bleeped.
‘Right on cue,’ Calum said, stabbing a piece of carrot.
‘Yes, I expect it's Sara wishing us a Happy Christmas.

We stood on the harbour. Calum held me close as we watched my family alight.
 ‘How long do you think they’ll stay?’  he asked.
‘I don’t think they are on holiday, but we’ll see,’ I said as their belongings piled on the quayside.
My heavily pregnant daughter had not said a word since leaving the harbour, while Lizzie chatted about everything she had seen on her journey to the island.
‘How was the crossing, Sara?’ I asked glancing into the mirror. Behind us, Calum and Joe followed in a borrowed truck.
‘Okay, I suppose,’ Sara said, dismissively.

After dinner, Sara settled Lizzie into bed while I cleared the table and washed up. Once we were all in the living room, Calum handed around drinks. I noticed Sara looked tired as she kept glancing sheepishly at Joe.
‘Whatever it is, just say it,’ I said.
‘Because of the world crisis, Monica, I’ve lost my job…and…’ Joe said clutching Sara’s hand.
‘Our overspending… we’ve lost everything.’ Sara burst into tears.
‘We had nowhere else to go,’ Joe continued.
‘Then you’ve come to the right place,’ I said.
‘Oh Mum,’ Sara sobbed as she rushed into my arms. I held her as she shook uncontrollably, tears streaming down her face.
 ‘You’re welcome to stay here, but life on Canna isn’t easy.’
‘Life isn’t easy anywhere, Mum,’ Sara said, taking Joe’s hand again.
‘It’s a tough existence here,’ Calum interjected.
 ‘We’re willing to give it a go.’ Joe stood and held his hand out to Calum. I’m sure we can work together, if you’re willing to teach me.’
‘If it’s a fresh start you’re wanting, let’s start now,’ I said.  
‘Thanks, Mum,’ Sara whispered.
‘On this island, whatever we need it we grow it, make it or have a long wait for it.’
‘It’s come as a tough lesson, but we’re willing to learn to live with less,’ Joe said.

It’s wonderful to see how quickly Sara and her family adapted to living life in the slow lane. As Calum and Joe moved slowly towards us gathering driftwood and rubbish off the breach with Lizzie’s help, I finally feel we’ve become part of the Island community, but what the future hold for us all, I’ve no idea.  
 ‘I never want to leave the island,’ Lizzie said to her parents and step-grandfather,
‘Me neither sweetheart,’ Joe said, ‘now please stay focused you nearly missed that plastic bottle.’
‘So…rrry,’ she sang out as she dropped it into the bag Calum was carrying.

I answered Dylan’s question just as the others joined us. ‘I don’t know if the birds will ever return.’
Dylan’s glass bottle didn’t contain a treasure map, but it was the seabirds that did. The plastic they had unwittingly consumed, carried a stark warning of our own destruction as they were the real treasure we were losing.