Saturday, 17 April 2021

They Came

     

by Pete Pitman

Alpha Centauri cocktail

 

The spaceship draws close to our Solar System.

   On board, the Commander is in conversation with his First Officer.

   “This is a momentous day,” states the Commander, pacing up and down the deck, two of his arms folded behind his back, the other pointing at the viewing screen. “We have travelled for forty years, at a little below the speed of light, and at last we’ve reached a star system that is home to intelligent life.”

   “It’s been a long journey, Sir. Surely, it will be worth it,” said the Officer, his antennae bouncing about his large cranium. “The dominant life forms - known as ‘humans’ -  have built cities, they use mechanical methods of transport and have even explored their neighbouring planets.”

   “True,” said the Commander, his tail thumping the deck. “We have a good understanding of these humans. And now that they’ve built computers with universal communication systems, we will be able to monitor their systems and learn what to do in order to guide them.”

   “Yes, Sir. I’ve heard they are able to send packets of digital information that can be viewed by the recipient.”

   “True,” said the Commander. “This gives us the opportunity to understand them more fully. To gather more detail. We plan to ‘listen’ to two platforms in particular. They’ve named them Facebook and Twitter.

   “Imagine their joy when we impart all our secrets.”

   “Oh yes,” said the Commander. “We’ve spent so long searching and waiting for someone to pass on our knowledge to...” He halted as he fought back the tears cascading from his two outer eyes, before continuing. “We can reveal to them all the secrets of the Universe. Answer all the questions our distant ancestors struggled with for so long.”

   “They are very fortunate, Sir.”

   “Indeed, they are,” said the Commander, staring out into space. “We can increase their life-span a thousandfold. Encourage them to live long, happy and meaningful lives. Introduce them to our code of--”

   There was a bleeping noise coming from a device attached to one of the Officer’s antennae.

   “Sorry to interrupt, Commander,” said the Officer, waving his middle arm. “I’ve just been told, we are now able to listen to and view their communications.

 

“What!”

   “Erk!”

   “Aaargh!”

   “Yuk!”

   “I don’t believe ...”

   “Right. Turn the ship around, we’re going home.”

About the author

The author is a retired computer programmer who writes short stories across a number of genres. He’s had a number of stories published in various magazines. He’s currently redrafting his children’s adventure novel from the point-of-view of a pensioner looking back. 

Friday, 16 April 2021

Jelly Donuts

 

by Steve Carr

red wine

 

An icy breeze blew in through the front glass door, being held open by Rose, who waited as Mrs. Lewinsky tried to persuade her dachshund to enter the building while tugging lightly on the dog’s rhinestone studded leash.

‘Now be Mommy’s little precious, Filbert, and come inside,’ Mrs. Lewinsky cooed to the dog as she raised her ankle-length fur coat to her calves and knelt down, almost face-to-face with the pet.

It seemed intent on standing absolutely still and watched its owner purse her heavily rouged lips and blow kisses like an over-excited goldfish.

Rose wanted to laugh, but on the first morning of the new job, she knew better. ‘May I offer some help?’ she said.

Mrs. Lewinsky looked up at Rose. ‘You’re that new concierge I met when my honey-poo and I left on our little morning walk, aren’t you?’

‘Yes, I’m Rose,’ she said. ‘I used to be a dog-walker so I may be able to help you out.’

Mrs. Lewinsky peered at Rose, thoughtfully, her left eyebrow raised. ‘Filbert isn’t just any dog that obeys just anybody,’ she said. ‘Sweetums and I have a very special relationship.’  She turned back to the dachshund. ‘Don’t we kissy-face?’ she said.

The dog sat on its haunches and stared blankly at Mrs. Lewinsky. 

Rose shivered as a cold wind swept over her. ‘Have you tried ignoring Filbert to see what he does?’

“I could never ignore my little lamb,” Mrs. Lewinsky said. ‘Did you ignore the dogs you walked?’

‘Well, no, but that was diff . . .’

Mrs. Lewinsky cut her off with a wave of the hand. ‘I’m sure it was much different, but that is my point, exactly. Filbert isn’t just some ordinary dog that can be walked around by just anyone.’

A UPS van pulled up to the curb. The driver got out holding three packages in his arms.

Thinking about ways she could get around Mrs. Lewinsky’s logic, Rose watched as the driver walked up to the doors, looked first at Mrs. Lewinsky, Filbert, and then at her.

‘There a problem?’ he asked.

‘Mrs. Lewinsky can’t get her dog to come inside,’ Rose said.

The driver shifted his packages to one arm, leaned down, picked the dog up with the other arm and walked into the building lobby, leaving Rose and Mrs. Lewinsky staring after him, their mouths agape.

Mrs. Lewinsky rose up, pushed past Rose, and ran in behind the driver. She grabbed Filbert from him, and with a loud ‘harrumph’ turned and stormed across the lobby to the elevators and pushed the elevator buttons on the brass plate on the wall. She placed the dog on the floor beside her, the leash shortened and wrapped around her arm, and tapped her foot impatiently as she waited.

Rose closed the door, and uncertain if she should try to assuage Mrs. Lewinsky’s outrage or tend to the packages being delivered, she turned to the driver. ‘You had no right doing that,’ she hissed, her voice just above a whisper. ‘Clearly she loves that dog.’

He chuckled. ‘Oh that,’ he said. ‘I’m well acquainted with Mrs. Lewinsky and Filbert. That’s not love. It’s a power struggle.’ He paused for a moment. ‘You must be the new day concierge.’

‘Yes I am,’ she said, trying to sound more self-assured than she felt.

‘Pleased to meet you. I’m Tony Milan,’ he said. ‘This is my first stop almost every morning.’

‘I’m Rose Gentry,’ she said. ‘I assume those packages are for residents in this building?’

He grinned, showing off a beautifully white, perfectly straight set of teeth. ‘It’s why I carried them in.’

She blushed, turned, and walked towards the concierge stand. Over her shoulder she said, ‘I meant . . . er . . .oh never mind.’ She went behind the stand and waited and watched as he placed the packages on the table next to the stand. She wondered if his legs got cold in the shorts he was wearing, but stopped herself from asking.

The bell on the elevator rang and the door opened. Mrs. Lewinsky entered the elevator, dragging Filbert in along with her. As the doors closed she glowered at Tony.

Tony leaned on the stand and eyed Rose up and down as if inspecting her. ‘You’re much prettier than the previous concierge,’ he said.

‘The previous concierge was a man,’ she said, crossing her arms. ‘Now that you’ve made your delivery, I’m certain you have other packages to be delivered elsewhere.’

‘I know when I’m being given the heave-ho,’ he said, laughing. He pulled his coat tight around him and walked to the doors. Before going out, he asked her, ‘What do you prefer, bear claws or jelly donuts?’

‘I’m a vegetarian,’ she said.

He burst out laughing and went out the doors.

‘I’m a vegetarian,’ she said aloud several times hearing how ridiculous the non-sequitur sounded as she smacked her forehead with her open hand.

#

The apartment Rose was given to live in as part of the payroll package for being a concierge was on the sixth floor. It was furnished expensively and the apartment itself was more luxurious than she was used to, so she spent the first few hours after getting off work mostly just walking around, examining everything while making a halfhearted attempt to unpack her boxes and put things away. She spent an extended amount of time at the window that looked out on the river, returning to it any time she needed to reassure herself that she wasn’t dreaming: she had an actual view! There was ice on the river and the trees were bare, but while holding a hot cup of tea and wearing her favorite fluffy slippers, she felt like she was living in paradise. Before going to sleep and lying on the bed, she called her best friend, Rachel.

‘I met this most annoying guy today, named Tony,’ she said, starting off the conversation. She then went on to describe his dazzling smile, thick curly black hair, muscular but hairy legs, deep baritone voice, and how he exuded so much self-confidence.

When Rose stopped to take a breath, Rachel said, ‘I think you have a crush.’

‘Nonsense,” Rose said. ‘Didn’t you hear me tell you how annoying he was?’

After the phone call, Rose placed the cellphone on the stand next to the bed, turned off the lamp, and rolled onto her side, cuddling a pillow.

The sound of her alarm clock beeping startled her into awaking, not remembering when she had fallen asleep. She sat up, mumbling to herself. ‘Rachel’s insane. Me having a crush on that jerk. Ha!’  She crawled out of bed, showered, ate a small breakfast, and dressed for work, all the while thinking about Tony. The only piece of clothing she had to wear that signified she was the concierge was a dark green jacket that had brass buttons, She slipped it on over her pale yellow dress and glanced at herself in the mirror. Feeling okay about how she looked, she left her apartment. By the time the elevator reached the lobby she had forgotten about her talk with Rachel and about Tony. The night concierge, Patrick, barely exchanged two words as he stepped aside and she took her place behind the stand. He had made it clear during her hiring process that he had wanted the day shift position.

She spent the next hour opening the doors for the tenants leaving for work and sweeping away the dead leaves that were carried in on icy gusts of wind each time a door was opened. When Mrs. Lewinsky stepped out of the elevator with Filbert in tow on a jeweled leash different from the day before and crossed the lobby, Rose almost stumbled trying to reach the door first, hoping extra kindness and attention would repair any damage that had been done the day before. Mrs. Lewinsky walked past her taking no notice of her, tightening the grip she had on Filbert’s leash as he bolted ahead, quickly seeking a place in the small area of grass just outside the front doors to take a poop.

Tony’s UPS van pulled up to the curb a few minutes after Mrs. Lewinsky and Filbert were no longer in sight. He hopped out of the van carrying one large box. A white paper bag hung from his clenched teeth.

Rose watched him walk up to the door, but remained behind the stand as he momentarily struggled to open the door until he hoisted the box onto one shoulder and held it there with one hand while opening the door with the other. He walked across the lobby and placed the box on the table and then took the paper bag from his mouth and placed it on the stand. ‘I brought you something,’ he said cheerfully.

‘What is it?’ she said, hiding her annoyance that he didn’t seem irritated in the least that she hadn’t opened the door for him.

‘Open it and see,’ he said as he leaned on the stand.

She opened the bag and peered in. ‘That’s a bear claw, isn’t it?’

‘Yep. Just for you.’

‘Bear claws have almond paste and I’m allergic to almonds,’ she said. She wadded the top of the bag and handed it back to him.

He appeared crestfallen for a moment and then quickly rebounded. ‘I’d like to take you out sometime,’ he said with a huge smile.

She couldn’t look away from what she was certain was actual twinkling in his eyes. ‘Why?’

‘You intrigue me.’

A movement in front of the building drew her attention away from him. Mrs. Lewinsky was coming up the walkway. She was walking backward and tugging on Filbert’s leash. The dog was tugging the other direction.

‘Uh oh,’ Rose said louder than she meant to. She rushed to the door and opened it. ‘Do you need any help, Mrs. Lewinsky?’ she said.

Mrs. Lewinsky turned her head and scowled. ‘Dearest Filbert is being a bit peevish this morning,’ she said. She turned back, facing the dog who hadn’t budged an inch. ‘C’mon dumpling, show this young woman what a treasure you can be.’

At the stand, Tony was laughing hysterically.

Rose could feel her teeth chattering as the cold air washed over her. She turned and mouthed the words to him, ‘Do something!’

He opened the bag, took out the bear claw, and walked to the door. He bent down and held out the pastry. ‘Here ya go, Filbert old boy, a treat just for you,’ he said.

Filbert lifted his snout, took several sniffs, and then ran past Mrs. Lewinsky. When he reached the door, Tony took a few steps back, waving the bear claw, drawing the dog inside. Still holding onto the stretched leash, Mrs. Lewinsky followed behind.

‘Don’t give that to my Filbert, you awful man,’ she said.

Tony put the bear claw back in the bag and placed the bag back on the stand. ‘It was her idea,’ he said, pointing at Rose.

‘No it wa . . .’ Rose started to say in protest.

‘Pick you up tonight at eight?’ he said interrupting her, smiling from ear-to-ear.

She nodded, hesitantly.

He started toward the door, but stopped to kiss Mrs. Lewinsky on the cheek before going out.

#

When Rachel called at six, Rose didn’t mention she would be going on a date in two hours with Tony. All day she had thought of canceling the date but didn’t know how to contact him and she didn’t like standing a guy up. She wasn’t entirely certain why she had even agreed to it other than he made her knees go weak. She listened to Rachel blather on endlessly about her job as a florist. Rose liked flowers, especially given that she was named after one, but as she curled her hair for the date, they weren’t what she wanted to hear about at all. She really wanted to talk about the effect Tony had on her.

After the call and with her long auburn hair coiffed to perfection, she sat at the window and stared out at the lights from the city on the other side of the frozen river while sipping on a glass of wine. She rested her head against the back of the chair and slowly drifted off to sleep.

Her eyes snapped open. Bleary-eyed she glanced at her watch. It was two hours past the time she was supposed to have left on the date with Tony. The half empty glass of wine had fallen into her lap, leaving a large stain on the dress she had planned to wear. She jumped up, looked around for her cellphone hoping there would be a text message, then she remembered they hadn’t exchanged numbers. She ran to her door and threw it open, wondering if he had knocked and she didn’t hear him, and had left a message pinned to the door, but no, the evening concierge would have stopped him in the lobby and then called her. She slammed the door closed, tossed the phone onto the sofa, and ran into the bedroom.  At the vanity dresser mirror she gazed at herself, horrified. Her hair was as disheveled as if she had spent an entire night tossing and turning in bed. Her lipstick was smeared, giving her face a clownish appearance. She sat down on the edge of her bed as tears streamed down her face.

‘I’ll kill him for standing me up like this,’ she muttered.

#  

The next morning, still feeling bruised by being stood up by Tony, Rose stood at the concierge stand flipping through menus from local restaurants. The only remotely kind words Patrick had said to her since their initial meeting as he tossed them to her, was, ’You better be informed about the local restaurants. Tenants sometimes want recommendations on where to eat out.’

Forgetting for a few minutes to keep an eye on the elevator and who was coming out of it, Mrs. Lewinsky had gotten almost to the door before Rose looked up from a menu and saw the woman and her dog. Rose dashed across the lobby and pushed the door open just in time.

Pulling Filbert along behind her, Mrs. Lewinsky glared at her, wagged her finger at her, and said, ‘You better be careful or you’ll be next.’ She went down the walkway ignoring Filbert’s desperate attempt to be allowed to poop in the grass.

Rose closed the door. ‘Be next?’ she mumbled aloud. ‘What does that mean?’ Just as she began to turn to go back to the stand, the UPS van pulled up to the curb. She gave thought to locking the door and leaving Tony out in the cold, but when a different driver got out of the van, she was suddenly overcome with concern for Tony. When the driver reached the door carrying two small packages and a white paper bag she opened the door for him. ‘What happened to Tony?’ she blurted out.

‘He was fired yesterday. Some customer from this building called and said he had threatened her dog. The lady put out a restraining order on him. He can’t get within a hundred feet of here without facing being arrested.”

Feeling nauseous and guilty, she leaned against the plate glass window next to the doors.

‘Tony asked me to give you this,’ the driver said, handing her the bag.

She quickly tore it open, already suspecting what was inside it. A jelly donut.

Also in the bag was his cellphone number written on a heart shaped piece of paper.

#

Six months later Rose and Tony sat on the grassy bank of the river tossing pebbles into the slowly moving current. The scent of dandelions and buttercups hung in the air.

‘Now that Mrs. Lewinsky is moving out and you got your old job back we can live together in that building after we’re married,’ Rose said.

‘Who said we’re getting married?’ he said as he put his arm around her and pulled her close to him? ‘There you go assuming things again.’

‘What have I assumed?’

‘That I fell in love with you at first sight.’

She batted her eyes playfully. ‘You did though, didn’t you?’

‘It was just a crush. But I don’t go around bragging about it,’ he said with a chuckle.

‘Well, we have to get married now,’ she said.

‘We do?’

‘Yes, I finally found a bakery that will make a wedding cake that looks like a giant jelly donut.’

About the author

Steve Carr, from Richmond, Virginia, has had over 500 short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals, reviews and anthologies. He has had seven collections of his short stories published. His novel Redbird was released in November, 2019. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

      

     

Thursday, 15 April 2021

The Farmhouse

 

by Emma Deimling

dry white wine

            The farmhouse had been beautiful once: all long wooden beams furnished with deep reds deep enough to drown out the fall leaves scattered in the nooks and crannies of the farm’s roof. The roof itself blushed with the most innocent of green paint, such protruding a color that it almost apologized for being uncouth in its shade.

            Annalise had always loved her farmhouse; she had told her mother once that she never wanted to leave. She couldn’t get enough of its sturdy walls that leaned a little too far to the left, the open windows so open that they invited you to peek over the thoughtfully chosen furniture and hardwood floors polished from the wear of socks slipping about the hallways.

            One window in particular, its gossamer drapes tucked away from the glass, begged you to peer in at the baby grand piano carefully displayed, the keys turned towards the outside so that anyone who perchance passed by would look on the player touching the keys. 

            The farmhouse had been beautiful once. But the drapes were shut now, the ghosts of shadows the only indication of life within its walls. The piano was gone—it wasn’t like there was anyone left to play it.

            The green roof was no more green but gray and sallow—all the life drained out of it from the years of spitting rains and battering snows. The deep red was no longer deep but shallow and pink like the edges of scars marring over pale skin. The walls of the farmhouse that had leaned so sturdily had tilted a little too far left—the whole structure on constant vigilance against the threat of falling over entirely.

            Annalise had always loved her farmhouse; she had told her mother that she never wanted to leave—and so her mother had acquiesced to her wishes and had a little unassuming gravestone placed before the window that had looked in on the piano. 

About the author

Emma Deimling currently works as a writing tutor at the Ohio State University’s writing center. She has been published in numerous magazines, the most recent being The Broadkill Review.  

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

The Crispin Chronicles 1 Her Ladyship’s Garden

 

                                                                by Dawn Knox

tea (are there any scones?)

 

Mr Willetts pressed his ear to Her Ladyship’s library door–his eyes screwed up tightly as he struggled to listen to the murmur of voices coming from within. His neck had become stiff from the strange position he’d assumed but he was determined to ignore the pain and to find out what his mistress and Mr Po Lin, her Gardener, were talking about. It was an affront to Mr Willetts’ dignity that the lowly Gardener was allowed in for a discussion while he, Her Ladyship’s butler, was excluded with no idea of the topic of conversation.

Such meetings took place frequently–usually after Her Ladyship had returned from a trip, but the wooden, library door was so thick, all sounds coming from the enormous, book-lined room were muffled and indistinct. On one embarrassing occasion, he’d pushed his ear so hard against the door, the latch had given way and he’d stumbled sideways into the library and tripped over the cat. He didn’t think Her Ladyship had believed he’d come over dizzy in the passage and had keeled over. She’d merely remarked he’d made a miraculous recovery in managing to leap to his feet and aim a kick at the cat.

Nothing more had been said by Her Ladyship about his dizzy spell and the subsequent sideways ingress into the library, since then, Mr Po Lin had always bowed politely with a serene, if inscrutable smile on his face whenever the two men met.

Too obsequious by far, Mr Willetts thought and reminded himself he was the butler of the Old Priory and therefore in charge of the house. Mr Po Lin was merely a Gardener. He tried not to dwell on the fact the Garden in question was actually an entire estate.

I am his senior, Mr Willetts reminded himself.

Nevertheless, he’d have been happier if he could find out what was going on and why he wasn’t involved.

 

Her Ladyship could hear the scuffling of her butler’s feet outside the door and knew when she left the library, she would see the mark of an ear on the polished wood. It amused her greatly that Mr Willetts was so desperate to learn what business she had with the Gardener, that he was now waiting outside the study, with his ear pressed to the door. Mr Po Lin also seemed to be aware the butler was eavesdropping and both he and Her Ladyship kept their voices low and just in case the butler’s hearing was more acute than they realised, they were careful not to let slip any clues.

Finally, their business was concluded and as the Gardener was about to leave the library with the latest brown paper-wrapped parcel under his arm, Her Ladyship rang for Mr Willetts on the pretext of discussing her diary for the rest of the week but actually, to prevent him from snooping any further. Not surprisingly, it took the butler seconds to enter the door and he glared at the Gardener as he left.

Her Ladyship took an unnecessarily long time to open her diary and find the correct week, then to check and recheck dates and times. When she judged Mr Po Lin could no longer be seen from any of the windows of the Old Priory, she sent Mr Willetts to the kitchen to bring her tea and scones and crept down the stairs after him, to hear Cook explode.

 

“Scones?” Cook shrieked, “I haven’t got any scones. It’s Wednesday. Jam tart day. Monday’s scone day. You’ll have to take jam tarts up.”

Mr Willetts grumbled and insisted it was his head on the block and that Cook ought to be better organised. It was scones or nothing.

“Then it’s nothing!” There was the sound of pots being slammed down on the range.

Her Ladyship crept back upstairs to the study and sat at the desk. Shortly after, Mr Willetts knocked at the door and entered with a tray on which he’d placed an ornate teapot, matching sugar bowl, milk jug, cup and saucer. And jam tarts.

“Thank you, Willetts,” she said, pretending not to notice the lack of scones, “please tell Cook I’ll be down shortly for a kitchen inspection.”

Her Ladyship smiled.

Mr Willetts smirked.

She knew he would enjoy delivering that message because there was nothing that enraged Cook more than a kitchen inspection. It was most diverting. And Her Ladyship was often in need of distraction. For all the dates and times she’d discussed with Willetts, the truth was, she didn’t have a great deal to do. She looked longingly out of the library window at her Garden. How wonderful it would have been to walk over the lawns and admire the flowers but severe allergies meant the closest she got to her Garden was to admire it from the windows of the Old Priory and to listen to Mr Po Lin’s reports. But she remained involved in the running of the grounds by ensuring that whenever she went travelling in her ancient Morris Minor, she brought back a Garden Ornament carefully wrapped in brown paper. She never saw the final resting place of each piece because she left that to her Gardener, but it made her feel part of the process.

She tried to escape in the Morris Minor as often as possible–or as often as she could give Roger, the chauffeur, the slip. On each return, he made it perfectly clear it was his job to drive and that he didn’t approve of Her Ladyship helping herself to the car, but she didn’t take any notice. It was actually most diverting and worth stealing away in the Morris Minor just to watch Roger in the rear-view mirror waving his arms. She paid her staff twice the going rate so it seemed fair they provide her with a certain amount of entertainment periodically.

Mr Po Lin, would by now, have reached the Gazebo and would be unwrapping her latest acquisition. It was a sturdy Garden Gnome with his hands on his hips in a ‘Do as I say and do it now!’ sort of attitude, and she knew the trusted Gardener would place it in the perfect position.

 

Mr Po Lin unwrapped the tough-looking Gnome and placed it in the shafts of afternoon light, on his table. He was certainly a handsome fellow with his rosy cheeks, twinkling eyes and no-nonsense attitude. The Gardener turned the figure around and surveyed him from all angles–he had a perfect position in mind for the Gnome who, he was sure, was going to leave his mark on the Garden and its Ornaments. But what should he be called?

Mr Po Lin tilted his head to one side and rubbed his chin. Bartrum. Yes, that would be his name. Having completed one of the most important parts of the procedure, Mr Po Lin drained the last of his tea and picked up the newly-named Gnome. Bartrum would be placed in the position the Gardener had selected and then he would return to his cottage and allow the magic to begin.

 

The following day, the Wooden Robin opened one wooden eye and peered at his clock. How, you may ask, does a wooden eyelid open and more interestingly, how does a wooden eye see? Well, obviously, it has something to do with the wooden eye being connected to a wooden brain–assuming the Wooden Robin has a brain, of course. Or it may possibly be because the Wooden Robin lives in Her Ladyship’s Garden where the unbelievable is the norm.

The Wooden Robin doesn’t lose sleep over complicated questions such as how he can see with wooden eyes, walk on wooden legs nor why his socks always slide down and gather around his wooden ankles. He always sleeps like a log and he usually dreams of soaring amongst the clouds on wooden wings. From high in the sky he looks down on Her Ladyship’s mansion, surrounded by acres of Garden and he often spots Mr Po Lin, the Gardener, mowing the lawn. After a few aerobatic manoeuvres, he swoops downwards and skims over the top of the woods catching sight of his reflection in the lake. Spiralling ever closer to earth, he makes out the Gnomes, Elves, Animals and other assorted Ornaments who live together in the Garden. He calls out and they look up at him and wave because–by and large, they’re a cheery bunch–and they’re all his friends.

This is one of the Wooden Robin’s recurring dreams. However, this particular dream will never come true because he can’t fly–and that’s probably a good thing because he also has a fear of heights.

The clattering of the alarm broke into his reverie and brought him back to earth with a bump. Today was the day he’d volunteered to deliver the post for Deano, the Post Kangaroo, who wanted the day off to visit relatives. Clambering out of bed, the Wooden Robin selected a bib from his drawer which he tied around his neck, then checked the front doorstep for the postbag Deano said he’d leave there.

Over breakfast, the Wooden Robin looked through the letters he had to deliver. One of them puzzled him. It was addressed to someone called Bartrum. He didn’t know a Garden Ornament with such a name but he wasn’t perturbed–after all, new Ornaments appeared all the time and before long, it was as if they’d always been there.

 

Not far away, Bartrum awoke, yawned and stretched. He had the sense of having done the same thing before in this bed, yet the memory only seemed half-formed. With a start, he realised there was someone else in the bed with him and then immediately, he knew it was Mrs Bartrum, his wife. It was strange he had no recollection of being married, nor, indeed, anything beyond the previous evening; nonetheless, he seemed to have a history.

“Good morning, dear,” said Mrs Bartrum, “whose turn is it to make tea?”

“Mine, I think,” Bartrum said although he couldn’t remember ever having shared a pot of tea with her before.

Bartrum was amazed he knew the way to the kitchen and where everything was. He paused to consider while the water boiled, recalling the previous evening when realisation that not only was he in the grounds of a beautiful country estate but also that he was actually alive, had come instantly, as if someone had switched on a light. After that, he had made his way to the home he didn’t know he owned and had gone to bed. He had no recollection of where he had originally come from, and was only aware that in the Garden he had an identity that was more of a blank canvas than an oil painting and instinctively, Bartrum knew it was up to him to paint something really quickly.

If the past seemed rather indistinct to Bartrum, the future and its possibilities appeared to be very clear. He was destined to be in charge. And no one would stand in his way. He stood with hands on hips as he watched the steam puff out of the kettle.

 

With a slice of toast between in his beak and Deano’s postbag slung around his body the Wooden Robin hurried out of his house, stopping at the gate to pull up his socks. Without hesitation, he turned left towards the Bartrum residence. He couldn’t quite remember who Bartrum and his wife, Mrs Bartrum, were, nor did he remember having been to their house before, but for some reason he had the idea they were important and he would deliver a letter to them first. When the Wooden Robin knocked on the door, a large, robust Gnome opened it and looked at him, echoing the surprise that he felt. If there were such a thing as déjà vu in reverse, this was it. Not that the Wooden Robin had ever heard of ‘déjà vu’, he simply had the feeling that although initially, he had no recollection of Bartrum or his house, the more he thought about it, the more his memories came into being and appeared to have been there all along. How else could he have known that this was Bartrum and that he was important, nor where he lived?

 

Bartrum, too, was perplexed, this Wooden Robin with a green bib around its neck held out a letter to him and enquired about his wife and son.

Son?

So, he had a son?

Well, yes of course he did! Now he thought about it, memories of young Wilmslow flooded back and having been reminded of yet another aspect of his life, everything became much clearer.

And suddenly he realised he must also be acquainted with the Wooden Robin with his drooping socks and green bib. Instantly, he knew, as if he’d always known, that the Wooden Robin was a delightful, if rather simple, colour-blind bird who had once bought a job-lot of bibs, believing they were all red. Sadly, they weren’t and occasionally he put the wrong one on. Bartrum remarked upon it and the Wooden Robin winced, realising he’d made an error, then with the last yank at his socks, he waved cheerio and set off to deliver the rest of the post.

How strange, thought Bartrum, the more he rummaged through the emptiness of his memory, the more crowded it seemed to become. He carried the letter into the kitchen and after he’d shared a pot of tea with his wife, he realised the canvas of his life had a few splodges on it and pictures were beginning to take shape. Bartrum knew it wouldn’t be long before it was a beautiful painting. He would see to that.

About the author 

Dawn’s two previous books in the ‘Chronicles Chronicles’ series are ‘The Basilwade Chronicles’ and ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’ both published by Chapeltown Publishing.

You can follow her here on https://dawnknox.com
on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SunriseCalls
Amazon Author: http://mybook.to/DawnKnox