The Post Box Topper Summer Scene
By Dawn Knox
Drink: Tinto de Verano
Bonzer Buns had become the meeting place for not only the Creaping Bottom Post Box Topper Society but for what Vera had begun to think of as the Tilly and Effie Private Investigation Bureau. Not that the pair of would-be sleuths had any clients. However, they’d taken it upon themselves to keep the woman they suspected of being a serial killer under surveillance.
Tilly’s grandmother Dora, and Effie’s brother, Des, lived on either side of the murder suspect, Alice, and they’d joined with Tilly and Effie to keep an eye – and an ear on her.
Vera thought it was a lot of nonsense. Alice Gruber might be a grumpy old woman who made strange noises during the night, but bad temper and nocturnal wanderings weren’t criminal offences as far as Vera knew. But then, she actually didn’t want to know. She’d seen Alice in the village but had never spoken to her. Neither did she want to. The woman had a sour face.
And Vera had problems of her own. The July topper. How would it be received? She was waiting at the CBPBS table to discuss it with the other members, who incidentally, were late. Vera tapped the tabletop with her fingers.
Meanwhile, Tilly and Effie at the TAEPIB table looked at each other forlornly.
“Doesn’t that woman ever sleep?” Tilly grumbled. “She made those tapping and whirring noises into the early hours. I don’t think I’ll be able to keep this surveillance up much longer, I’ve got school on Monday. I’m already in trouble for nodding off in geography.”
“I shouldn’t worry,” said Effie smugly. “I think there was an accident last night and when I saw Alice in the communal sitting room this morning, her black eye appears to bear that out. It might put a stop to her shenanigans.”
“Oh, I wondered what the crash and yelp was all about.”
Effie had sat for hours with her ear against a glass which she’d pressed to the dividing wall between Des’s and Alice’s apartments. She suspected Tilly, who was staying with her gran on the other side of Alice’s rooms had spent most of her time listening to that racket she called music. But no one could have missed the bang. Effie had run next door and knocked on the pretext of making sure Alice was all right, but no one had answered.
At least while Alice was at home, she wasn’t murdering anyone. Although from the metallic banging, Effie wondered if she wasn’t constructing some sort of mantrap.
When Beryl came out of the kitchen, she eyed her two employees suspiciously, then glanced about the café, presumably looking for something that hadn’t been done.
Finding nothing, she frowned at them. “I don’t know what this unholy alliance signifies, but I hope you’re going to behave with a bit more sense than you did yesterday, Tilly.”
Effie and Tilly looked at each other sympathetically. “Never mind, dear,” said Effie patting Tilly’s hand. “Everyone will be grateful when we’ve stopped Creaping Bottom’s serial killer in her tracks.
Fed up waiting for the others, Vera had gone outside to survey the July’s Post Box topper that she and the others had fitted the previous night. She’d had several sleepless nights during the planning phase. It was becoming harder to think of something original and eye-catching.
The May Alien Coronation scene had been a media sensation. Then, the June Wedding spectacle with its post box-sized knitted panels of the bride and groom, had been photographed by people from far and wide. Unfortunately, although the shopkeepers of Creaping Bottom had rejoiced at the influx of tourists, it had also caused problems. Miss Witter, the postmistress had repeatedly lost her temper because of the crowds queueing to have their photographs taken with the knitted bride or groom on the post box.
“Too much noise,” she’d said to anyone who’d listen. “Too much traffic and pavement congestion. Too many tourists.”
Unfortunately, she’d been very vocal, and those waiting in the queue to have their photo taken with the bride or groom had started taking photographs of Miss Witter and posting them on social media.
Vera was still rather hazy about exactly what or where the Twitter was, but it obviously wasn’t a good thing when it was associated with the hashtag #BitterWitterTwitter. She suspected Tilly had been involved, because how else would the tourists and sightseers have known the postmistress’s name?
Vera patted the edge of the grass-green crocheted bonnet with the blue ‘lake’ in the middle that sat on the top of the post box. Well, that was July’s topper, for better or worse. During the planning stages, she’d rejected several outlandish plans from Levi who’d been in favour of courting the world’s media attention.
“We can’t keep this pace up,” Vera had complained and eventually, everyone had agreed. How could they outdo the previous two months’ toppers? And if it had been possible, how would they be able to keep it up?
That hadn’t been the only problem. Their success had prompted many of the village’s shopkeepers and major players to – first, suggest they were featured in a post box topper – and later, to beg.
Ravi from Gadgets A-Go-Go had Vera shaking her head in disbelief when he’d proposed they knit the interior of his workshop, with a woollen Ravi sitting inside as an advertisement for his business. Some people obviously believed in miracles.
Sheila Gote had suggested they featured the Debonhair Styles Salon to publicise it. She’d reminded Vera of how stressed and humiliated she’d been when Stuart had put her under citizen’s arrest. That had merely reminded Vera of how stressful and humiliating it had been when Sheila had given her a ‘Revenge Haircut’. No, the woman had already had her pound of flesh.
Miss Witter, the postmistress had demanded compensation for the aggravation of the squirrels invading the top of her post box and the insulting crowd who Vera and her ‘cronies’ had incited to riot outside her post office. She’d insisted she should be featured on the July topper. After all, weren’t they using her post box? What about wear and tear? If Miss Witter had been nicer and had said ‘please’, Vera might have considered it but under the circumstances…
Mr Snyde, the butcher, had also requested Vera promote his shop, and he’d been most aggrieved when she’d turned down his bribe of six extra sausages.
And even Prenderghastly, the Reverend Prendergast, had floated the idea that, since the church fete would take place in July, she might like to feature All Saints’. Perhaps him preaching on his pulpit…?
And, to top it all, that wretched reporter, Tony Parstedd had threatened that if she didn’t do a topper with a newspaper theme, starring him, he couldn’t be held responsible for the outcome.
With each person, Vera had been polite but firm. The answer had been ‘no’. The Creaping Bottom Post Box Topper Society would neither be bullied nor bought. There would be no advertising.
The other members agreed with her. If she favoured one person, the other villagers would plague Vera until the society’s toppers had advertised every business in Creaping Bottom. How dull would that be? And Vera would not bring Post Box Topperism into disrepute by having it linked with corruption. She’d stand firm. She refused to be moved. She would not allow it. She would—
‘All right! We’ve got the point, Vera,” Stuart had said testily. “Please could you stop lecturing us.”
So, that was that. They’d decided on a simple summer display with knitted people enjoying the park – picnicking and playing summer sports. Levi had suggested cyclists but eventually, he’d given up knitting bicycles and had made little models out of wire around which he wound wool.
Stuart said he was cheating, but Vera thought they looked rather cute with the knitted riders on top in lurid colours to represent their Lycra outfits.
Everyone had worked very hard and now, Vera admired the result. A woman rowed a boat across the blue crocheted lake next to a lone swimmer, and nearby, a fisherman sat with his rod. On the green crocheted grass, hikers hiked, sunbathers sunbathed, dog walkers walked dogs and cricketers played cricket.
Yes, it was a thoroughly summery scene. It might not draw tourists but perhaps that was a good thing…
Beryl woke in the early hours. Her dreams had been of Effie and Tilly’s Creaping Bottom serial killer, who compounded her wrongdoings by thumping and whirring at night.
It must have been the noise that had prompted Beryl’s strange dreams.
Whirring? What could possibly be whirring at 2.25 am?
Beryl’s eyes were drawn to the windows. Bright lights blazed outside her curtains. That definitely wasn’t normal.
With a sigh, she got up and peeped out. Sleep was instantly banished as she stared in disbelief. The tiny aliens in their spacecraft had returned. They hovered over the post box with lights playing down on the topper, operating something that looked remarkably like a pair of scissors suspended beneath the spaceship.
Beryl had had enough. There were plenty of villages in this country and plenty of Post Box toppers. Let those aliens find another one to pester. She wanted her sleep.
Tugging on her dressing gown and thrusting her feet into slippers, she stomped downstairs to the cleaning cupboard. She seized a broom and after quietly letting herself out of the café, she raised her weapon to shoulder height and swung. The blow sent the alien spaceship hurtling as far as Mr Snyde’s butchers’ shop, where it plummeted to earth, finally coming to rest next to the bus stop.
The following morning, Vera, Stuart, Levi, Sally and Petronella gathered around their usual table in the café.
“And this,” said Beryl triumphantly, waving a carrier bag aloft, “is the alien spaceship.”
She pulled out a drone and placed it on the table. Everyone stared silently, shaking their heads in disbelief.
Vera didn’t know whether to be pleased there didn’t appear to be an alien invasion or annoyed she’d been taken in by a drone.
“I watched it hover over the topper. It had downlighters and a sort of snipper tool suspended beneath, which was trying to chomp at the knitted figures,” Beryl said.
“A drone.” Stuart leant forward to pick up the battered item. “Who’d have thought it. But it is fiendishly clever,”
Vera beat him to it and pulled it out of his reach. Stuart could be remarkably clumsy sometimes.
“Is there any way we can trace the owner?” Petronella asked.
“We probably won’t be able to tell that unless we can mend it. I’d be happy to give it a go. I’m a demon with a screwdriver.” Stuart reached out for it again, but Vera pretended not to see and kept firm hold of it.
A demon with a screwdriver? Well, that was true. Stuart was a demon with any sort of tool.
“Let’s take it along to Ravi,” Beryl said.
“Ahhh!” The sound came Vera’s lips like air from a slow puncture in a tyre. “Sadly, we may have burned our bridges with Ravi. He wanted us to advertise his shop on our topper and I refused. Things got rather heated.”
“There’s no need to bother Ravi. I’d be happy to take it home and tinker.” Stuart reached out for the drone yet again, but Vera held on to it, looking about desperately to the others for help. She knew they understood her dilemma.
“Perhaps—” Levi said.
“Yes?” Petronella, Sally and Vera said simultaneously.
Levi jumped with surprise at the hasty and enthusiastic response, then continued, “Perhaps I might have an idea.”
“Thank goodness for that,” muttered Vera under her breath. She handed him the drone.
Sally batted her eyelashes. “Oh, Levi, you’re so clever.”
“Well, that remains to be seen,” said Stuart, glowering at everyone.
Levi held the drone away from Stuart. “What we must do is knit a new figure dressed in a white lab coat, like the one Ravi wears at work. Then we need someone to make a tiny laptop—”
“Knit a laptop?” Petronella asked.
“No, make one out of wood and paint it. I think Stuart would be good at that.”
Stuart? Vera thought. What is Levi saying? Stuart was probably the one the least likely to make a success of such a tiny object. On the other hand, Stuart was now beaming. She’d obviously underestimated Levi’s people-management skills.
Levi continued, “We’ll place the new figure and the laptop next to the picknickers and tell Ravi he’s part of our topper but that unfortunately we can’t include advertising of any description.”
“But advertising was what he wanted,” said Petronella.
“I know but we’ll make it clear it’s that or nothing. The honour of appearing on our topper might compensate…”
“It makes sense,” said Petronella. “However, what will happen when the others who’ve badgered us to advertise them find out Ravi has been featured on July’s topper?”
“Well, I have another idea,” said Levi.
It had meant a lot of hard work that night, altering the characters that were already on the topper and also getting new figures ready.
A dog collar was an easy addition to the fisherman who was to be passed off as the Reverend Prendergast.
Only small alterations were needed for the two picknickers. A knitted sausage was placed in the hand of the male to convert him into Mr Snyde, and an elaborate woollen hairstyle was added to the woman, to turn her into Sheila Gote. The knitted version of Ravi in his white lab coat sat on the blanket with them, his laptop on his lap. Thankfully, Stuart had made a good job of the computer, much to everyone’s surprise.
A sack of post was added to the rowing boat, to turn the rower into Miss Witter delivering mail.
“Oh no! We’ve forgotten Tony Parstedd,” Petronella said as the last figure was placed back on the topper.
“Tony Parstedd? No, don’t worry, he’s on there,” said Levi.
Levi shook his head.
“The cyclist? Tennis player?”
Levi smiled and pointed at a small triangular knitted shape behind the swimmer and next to the rowing boat.
“Ah!” said Petronella. “Shark’s dorsal fin?”
Luckily, Ravi was thrilled with his woollen picknicking avatar and had been intrigued when he’d learnt about the drone. He’d offered to look at it. A day later, he announced he’d fixed it and using a bit of technical wizardry, he hoped it would automatically fly home when he switched it on.
Beryl and the members of the Creaping Bottom Post Box Society gathered outside Gadgets-A-Go-Go for the grand switching on ceremony. Everyone wore trainers, or at least shoes they might easily run in. If the drone took off – although that was rather doubtful – everyone would need to pursue it, or at least keep it within sight until its destination was revealed.
Vera’s heart was already pounding, and the chase hadn’t yet begun. Would this be the occasion when she came face to face with A. Godbin? She had a tremulous feeling in her stomach that said it was.
“Ready?” asked Ravi.
Everyone lined up as if starting a race. Six heads nodded.
“Go!” shouted Ravi as he switched on and the drone rose vertically. It hovered for a few seconds above them.
For an instant, Vera wondered if it was going to keep going up. Had they been wrong? Was it really an alien spaceship? But, after rotating through one hundred and eighty degrees, the drone shot off along the High Road, about six feet above their heads.
“Run!” yelled Vera. “Follow that drone!”
At the post-chase meeting in Bonzer Buns, Ravi was included in the commiserations. Having spent so much time mending the drone, he’d felt he had a vested interest and had joined in the race to discover the owner. He, Levi and Sally had been the fastest and had pursued the flying object as it turned off the High Road and headed towards Hurrah House. Then, just as they’d thought that was its destination, it had veered away and set off in the opposite direction towards Upper Chortle. About half a mile along the road, the drone had coughed and spluttered. Finally, it had divebombed and crashed.
“I was so sure it was heading for Hurrah House,” Levi said, his face wrinkled in a frown.
“That’s full of old people,” said Stuart. “The owner of the drone is hardly likely to have been one of them.”
“Are you saying all old people are nice?” Vera’s voice was cutting. “Or are we just too stupid?”
“More coffee anyone?” said Beryl soothingly. “I’ve got some slices of Perth Pistachio Pie just out of the oven…”
Beryl might well have renamed the cake Perth Peace Pie because the slices were so large and delicious no one had the heart to argue.
Vera mused as she munched. It was disappointing they hadn’t unearthed A. Godbin.
But his time would come. She was certain. And in the meantime, there was still plenty more Perth Pistachio Pie. And of course, they still had to discuss the planning of the August topper…
To read the previous stories in this series:
Part 1 – Post Box Topper Outrage – https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2023/02/the-post-box-topper-outrage-by-dawn.html
Part 2 – Post Box Topper Surveillance – https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2023/02/post-box-topper-surveillance-by-dawn.html
Part 3 – Post Box Topper Confusion – https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2023/03/post-box-topper-confusion-by-dawn-knox.html
Part 4 – Post Box Topper Shock – https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2023/04/the-post-box-topper-shock-by-dawn-knox.html
Part 5 – Post Box Topper Triumph – https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2023/04/the-post-box-topper-triumph-by-dawn.html
Part 6 – Post Box Topper Photo-Opportunity – https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2023/05/the-post-box-topper-photo-opportunity.html
About the author
Dawn’s three previous books in the ‘Chronicles Chronicles’ series are ‘The Basilwade Chronicles’, ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’ and 'The Crispin Chronicles' 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
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