Monday, 18 May 2020

Aleema

by Dawn Knox

whisky


Previously: A misunderstanding in Santa’s Grotto in the exclusive department store, Honkin & Sniffet, leads to Eddie selling both Brian and Colin for a tidy profit. Since then, Brian has grappled with a tenacious bear cub and a black hole. But what happened to Colin? 


After Brian had been taken away by the Bear family, there had been a few moments of shock, followed by an accusing silence while Gideon and Colin watched Eddie tuck a thick wad of ducat notes in his pocket.

Before Eddie could utter “What?” – despite knowing exactly what was on the minds of his elf and fairy – members of the queue burst into Santa’s Grotto and a fight broke out between an armadillo and a feisty duck. 

“Outta my way!” a hedgehog shouldered past the combatants, spines bristling and tiny fists raised. “Who’s in charge here? Who’s got the monkey fairy dolls?” 

Gideon stepped nimbly sideways and slapped his trotter over Eddie’s beak, whilst trying to hide Colin behind the piles of presents. Unfortunately, he wasn’t nimble enough, and simply succeeded in propelling gifts, elf, fairy and Santa towards the skirmishing parents and howling infants. 

Colin wasn’t sure what happened next because someone seized him by the scruff of the neck, dropped him into a large handbag and snapped the top shut. 

“Who’s in charge here?” he heard the woman with the handbag ask imperiously. 

Colin thought he heard Eddie’s voice – although he couldn’t be sure.

“How much?” the woman shrieked, “Oh, very well. Here you are.”

It soon became clear to Colin that struggling was futile, and that shouting resulted in a mouth full of fluff. The smell of lavender, peppermints and face powder was almost overpowering, but it was the bouncing motion that upset Colin most. He’d been conveyed at high-speed to a waiting car, then dropped in the boot and after several seconds during which doors were slammed and a muffled female voice said “Drive on, Darwin,” the car pulled away. Colin closed his eyes and hoped he wouldn’t be sick. How was he going to escape from this? The woman was obviously under the misapprehension he was a monkey fairy doll and she didn’t sound like a woman who took no for an answer.

He decided to stay calm and pretend to be a doll. There’d be plenty of opportunities to escape if the woman with the aristocratic voice believed he was really a toy.

Some time later, the bag was opened and Colin was tipped out of its depths on to a polished walnut, coffee table. He lay on his back, staring upwards, as if he were a rag doll. 

Judging by the extravagant chandelier and the lofty, ornate ceiling, Colin deduced he was in a very grand house.

“It looks a bit bent, Milady.” A penguin leaned into Colin’s field of view and prodded him with a flipper. 

Keep cool, act like a toy, Colin told himself.

The snout of a large beaver joined the penguin’s beak and peered at Colin through pince-nez. 

“I should hope not, Newton. I paid a small fortune for this fairy. Honestly, the things one does to ensure one’s children have everything at Christmas! The tree’s so tall, I’m not sure they’ll even spot the fairy at the top, but I don’t suppose many of their friends will have a monkey fairy this Christmas. And that, after all, is what Christmas is all about.”

“If you say so, Milady.” 

“It’s disgraceful the toy manufacturers can’t keep up with demand. If I hadn’t got lightning reflexes, one of the riff-raff would have stolen this fairy from under my nose! And the price! It wasn’t even gift-wrapped! I shall have something to say to Sir Hugh Honkin when I next see him. I thought Honkin & Sniffet was a high-class establishment but after the debacle I witnessed today, I despair, really I do. Now, please put it on top of the tree. It’s making the room look untidy.” 

“Yes, Lady Lovelace,” said Newton, reaching forward and seizing Colin round the middle.

Risking a sideways glance at the enormous Christmas tree and its very spiky top, Colin decided he needed a change of plan, even if it meant revealing he wasn’t a doll. He was not going to be impaled on top of a pine tree for anyone. “Excuse me,” he said pushing the butler’s flipper aside, “I’m afraid my guarantee doesn’t cover me for heights. There will be no perching in trees.” 

Lady Lovelace recovered first. She adjusted her pince-nez. “Good gracious, Newton, it’s a talking doll!”

“It seems so, Milady.” 

“I had no idea! But I suppose that’s what happens when one indulges in impulse-buys. Are there any instructions with it?”

“I don’t think so, Milady. Its use is now looking limited if it can’t go on top of the tree. Should I sit it on the mantelpiece with the Christmas cards?”

“Well, be careful, Newton. One of the cards fell off into the fire this morning. One spark on that gauzy tutu and the whole place could go up. But what else can one do with a fairy if it can’t go on top of the tree?”

Colin decided it was time for honesty. 

 “I’m really sorry but I’m afraid this is all a big mistake. I’m not a fairy… so if you could kindly take me back to the shop ̶ “

“Well, if it’s not a fairy, what is it then?” Lady Lovelace asked, her flattened tail beating irritably against the expensive rug.

“I’m a lemur ̶ “ 

“Oh, Milady! I do believe this doll is one of the latest technological innovations! How wonderful!”

“It is? Well, what does it do, Newton?”

“It’s a robot with voice-recognition speaker. I’ve seen robots before, and I’ve seen voice-recognition speakers… but never incorporated together. Although I did read an interesting article once, in Nerdy Monthly ̶

“But what does it do, Newton?”

“It recognises people’s voices.”

“To what purpose?”

“Well, I believe you can ask it things such as what the weather’s like, what the time is and well… so on.”

“You obviously know a lot about technology,” said Colin, “but actually, I’m a lemur. Pure and simple. And I want to go home. So, if you’d just be good enough to ̶ “

“Yes, that’s it,” said Newton, “it’s telling us its wake word.” 

Wake word? What on earth is a wake word? Speak English, Man!”

“Yes, Milady. A wake word is the signal to the voice-recognition speaker to let it know you’re going to ask it something. This unit obviously responds to Aleema. Earlier models had the wake word Alexa but I suppose things have moved on since then.”

“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about Newton. Although I have no doubt you’re going to enlighten me. All I can ask is that it doesn’t take long. The children will be down after their naps shortly and I’d hoped the tree would be finished by then.”

“Yes, Milady, well, it’s probably best if I demonstrate.” He cleared his throat, “Aleema! What is the weather like today?”

Thoughts raced round Colin’s brain. While Lady Lovelace and the butler were asking him stupid questions, at least they weren’t trying to put him on top of the Christmas tree or over the fire. He glanced through the drawing room window at the snow falling steadily outside and feeling rather ridiculous, he said “It’s snowing,” in what he hoped was the sort of way a voice-recognition speaker - whatever that was - might speak. 

“See, Milady!” said Newton excitedly, “It works! Aleema, what will the weather be like tomorrow?”

Colin had no idea, he hadn’t thought to check the weather forecast and it probably wouldn’t have helped him anyway, because he didn’t know where he was. However, if he was going to escape, it was imperative he found out - and this was his chance. 

“Which town would you like to know the weather forecast for?” he asked.

“Well, here, of course, in Treacletart!”

Treacletart! Colin groaned - that was miles from Hummus-on-Sea! There’d be no escape from here tonight, especially not in the snow.

“It will be cold. Zero degrees Celsius,” he said, trying to sound convincing.

“How marvellously clever!” said Lady Lovelace, “But what else can it do other than predict the weather?” 

“I believe it can play music, turn the lights on, tell jokes and all sorts of other things, Milady.”

“How wonderful! Shall I have a go?”

“Certainly, Milady.” 

“Turn…the…lights…on!” she said.

While Colin was wondering if they expected the lights to come on as if by magic, Newton spoke.

“No, Milady, you have to say Aleema first, or it won’t respond.”

“Sometimes, Newton, you are an insufferable clever-clogs.” She cleared her throat, “Aleema! Turn…the…lights…on!”

There was only one thing for it. Colin spotted the switch and swung down off the table, scampered across the expensive rug, clambered on top of a chair and reached up. The elegant, sparkling chandelier suspended from the middle of the ceiling lit up and twinkled. Lady Lovelace clapped her hands together with delight.

“Well, who’d have believed it? I wonder if the Aleema fairy has any particular knowledge of the stock market, Newton.”

Before Colin had a chance to think how he might bluff his way through any financial questions, the double doors into the drawing room flew open and two small beavers tumbled into the room.
“Mater!” 

“Good gracious, children! That is not the way to enter a drawing room! Where is Nanny? Why isn’t she with you?”

The beavers, one with a pink bow on her head and the other dressed in a blue sailor suit looked at each other. 

“She’s a bit tied up, Mater,” said the one with the bow. The beaver in the sailor suit giggled.

“Clarissa and Willoughby! If I find you’ve tied Nanny to the radiator again, I shall be very unhappy.”

“Yes, Mater.” 

“Golly, Mater, what’s that?” Clarissa said pointing at Colin, who was half way back across the floor to the walnut, coffee table, “I’ve never seen a furry fairy before.”

“Is it for the tree?” asked Willoughby, poking Colin.

“No, children, apparently it’s not suitable for the tree ̶ “  

“Can I have it then?” asked Clarissa.

“Why should you have it? I want it,” said Willoughby.

“It’s mine!” said Clarissa grabbing Colin’s wrist.

“Get your hands off! It’s mine!” Willoughby seized Colin’s ankle and pulled. 

“Children! Children! This behaviour is most unseemly. Put the fairy down. You’ll break it.” 

“Watch it!” screamed Colin, “You’ve laddered my tights.”

The young beavers dropped him in surprise. 

“It talks!” 

“Yes, Clarissa,” said Lady Lovelace, “it’s a Voice Ignition Doll,”

“Begging your pardon, Milady but it’s a Voice-Recognition Speaking Robot.”

“All right, Einstein!” said Lady Lovelace irritably, “If you’re such an expert, perhaps you could pick it up and check it still works.”

“Yes, Milady. And I’m Newton, not Einstein. Einstein left last year. I am his replacement.”

“Insufferable! You are simply insufferable.”

“Yes, Milady.” 

Before anyone could react, Clarissa grabbed Colin’s wrist again and dragged him across the rug towards the open door, his bottom bumping against the floor. 

Enough was enough!

“Put me down!” Colin shrieked, “I’m malfunctioning!” 

“There, now see what you’ve done, Clarissa! You’ve broken it! It’ll have to go back to the shop. And I was just about to ask it to play some music…”


“Darned if I know why you want to go back to your so-called friends,” said Cook refilling Colin’s sherry glass, “Have another sausage roll.” She placed three on his plate. “I ask you! What kind of mongrel would sell such a cute little monkey?”

“Well, I’m not actually a m ̶ “ 

“Yes, yes,” said Cook, “I know you’re really a voice-repetition speaker but below stairs, in the kitchen, I don’t really hold with new technology and I’m going to treat you like you’re a real person. Mince pie?”

Colin nodded and smiled through a mouthful of sausage roll. He’d tried to explain about Santa’s Grotto and Eddie selling him as a monkey fairy doll but Cook was a simple soul and when Newton had brought him down to the kitchen out of the way of young Willoughby and Clarissa, so that he could be returned to Honkin & Sniffet, she’d accepted that story too. 

“That’s what I like to see - a healthy appetite.” She placed several mince pies on a plate and added a generous dollop of brandy butter. 

“Like it or not, I’m afraid you’re not going to get back to your friends this side of Christmas. Her Ladyship’s first trip to Hummus-on-Sea will be for the January sales and I expect she’ll return you to the shop then. Where exactly are you broken? You seem to be working okay to me.” 

There was no point explaining he wasn’t really broken, it was best to humour her and keep eating. He shook his wrist limply.

“Oh, you poor dear! Still, I’ve got something that’ll sort that out and take away the disappointment of not being able to get home. How would you like a drop of the finest whisky this side of the Meringue Mountains?”

“Don’t mind if I do,” said Colin.

Links to previous stories in The Macaroon Chronicles series
  1. The Macaroon Chronicles Prologue and the Three Wise Monkeys - http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-macaroon-chronicles-prologue-and.html?m=0
  2. #ChickenInCustard - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/02/chickenincustard.html
  3. The Fine Print - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/02/the-fine-print.html
  4. French for Cheese - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/02/french-for-cheese.html
  5. Porkies and Espiggy-onage (Lies and Spies) – https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/03/porkies-and-espiggy-onage-lies-and-spies.html
  6. Nearly Death by Chocolate - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/03/nearly-death-by-chocolate.html
  7. Waxing Lyrical - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/03/waxing-lyrical.html
  8. Seduced by Zeros - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/04/seduced-by-zeros.ht
  9. Soup-Legs - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/04/soup-legs.html
  10. The Year’s Most Popular Christmas Toy - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/04/the-years-most-popular-christmas-toy.html
  11. Holey Night - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/05/holey-night.html

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 https://dawnknox.com, Facebook here DawnKnoxWriter or on Twitter here https://twitter.com/SunriseCalls 

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