Tuesday 25 July 2023

The Post Box Topper Animal Extravaganza by Dawn Knox Drink, oat milk latte with honey and two shots of caramel syrup

Vera had expected everyone to ignore the July post box topper. A pretty summer scene with its dog walkers, fisherman and picnickers should not have provoked as much interest as it had. But everyone in Creaping Bottom had wanted to know who each knitted figure was supposed to be and to guess who the few unidentified characters were.

Ravi, Sheila, Mr Snyde, Prenderghastly and Miss Witter had proudly told anyone who’d listen which figures represented them. Of course, Tony Parstedd hadn’t spotted the triangular fin on the knitted pond surface nor realised that the imagined shark below it was supposed to be him. Believing he’d been deliberately snubbed, he’d vowed revenge.

As for the unidentified figures, Vera knew they hadn’t been based on anyone. However, no one had believed her so in the end, when asked, she’d merely shrugged, and with an inscrutable look on her face, had said she was unable to divulge that information.

So, claims for the two unidentified cyclists and the dog walker were many and varied. Conversations had become heated as people insisted they’d been the inspiration for each of the figures.

One lunchtime, when Vera, Petronella, Stuart, Levi and Sally were in Bonzer Buns, a fight broke out by the post box. Two men with dogs on leads had come to blows after one of them had claimed he and his canine friend had been the inspiration for the dog and its owner.

Levi rushed outside, ready to defend the topper because it looked as though the knitted dog walker was about to be poked into oblivion as each human dog walker pointed out features that proved it resembled him, and of course, his dog.

‘That is a cockapoo,’ the chunky, ginger-haired man said, poking the knitted dog. ‘Just like my Nutkins.’

‘Nonsense,’ said the blond-haired, bearded man, jabbing the knitted dog with his finger. ‘Everyone can see it’s a Labradoodle like my Willum.’

Levi stepped between them and held up his hand. ‘Excuse me please, gentlemen. I’m sorry to disappoint you both, but I knitted that dog-walking avatar, and I based it on myself.’

Well done, Levi, Vera thought. Very creative. She’d followed the others out into the street. It wasn’t true, but it had put paid to the dispute.

Or perhaps it hadn’t.

Chunky squared up to Levi. ‘It looks nothing like you. And what’s more, you haven’t even got a dog.’

Levi’s mouth opened and closed. Opened and closed.

But sadly, not creative enough, thought Vera.

Then Sally stepped forward. ‘I think the little knitted chap looks exactly like Levi. Handsome and suave. And as for his dog, it’s currently in the canine beauty parlour.’

Well done, Sally, Vera thought.

But Chunky wasn’t about to give up. ‘And what sort of dog is it? A Labradoodle or a Cockapoo?’

Sally stared at Levi.

Levi stared at Sally.

‘A cocka—’ said Sally.

‘A labra—’ said Levi at the same time.

‘That is,’ said Levi, ‘it’s a Cocka-Loodle-Doo.’

There was silence for a few moments while each dog walker looked down at his own dog.

Finally, Chunky said, ‘Well, where do Nutkins and I have to apply to be knitted?’

‘I’ll take your names,’ said Sally, stepping forward. ‘But I have to warn you there’s a long waiting list, so we may not get around to you until 2025 at the earliest.’

Both men gave their names and contact details and walked away in opposite directions.

‘You were magnificent, Sally,’ said Levi.

‘And you were useless, Levi,’ said Sally. ‘ I mean, Cocka-Loodle-Doo?’

She and Levi collapsed in giggles.

Well, thought Vera, they seem to be getting on well together. Perhaps they might be at a turning point in their relationship.

Brought together by a knitted dog walker and a hitherto unknown crossbreed of dog. Or possibly crossbreed of species.

Not the strangest thing that Vera had seen during her tenure of the Post Box Topper Society chairpersonship.

They went back into Bonzer Buns to celebrate Sally’s triumph and to consider the August topper.

Stuart suggested flowers, and everyone groaned.

‘What, what? It’s summer. Flowers grow in summer.’ Stuart scowled at them. ‘What have you lot got against flowers? It’s probably illegal to be so flowerphobic.’

Everyone ignored him.

Sally looked up the special days in August on her phone, and read out, ‘Women’s World Cup Day…’

“No,” said Petronella. “I loathe football.”

‘How about Sea Serpent Day?’ asked Sally. She looked up to gauge everyone’s reaction, but everyone stared at her blankly.

‘Sea Serpent Day doesn’t appeal? Well, we also have various international days. What about the International Day for Owl Awareness, or for cats, dogs, orangutans or youths – presumably human youths? And not just international days, we have International Bat Night. Then there are World Days for lions, elephants and lizards.… Is that enough?’

‘They’re all heavily biased towards the animal kingdom,’ said Vera. ‘Is there anything that’s not animal-related?’

Sally consulted the list again. ‘Rice Pudding Day?’

‘Rice Pudding? Ugh!’ Petronella shuddered. ‘Well, in that case, I think the theme is clear. It’s got to be animals.’

‘In a zoo?’ asked Sally.

‘So, fauna is all right but not flora?’ There was a resigned edge to Stuart’s voice. ‘Well, okay, how about an ark?’

Everyone looked at him suspiciously. If he meant an ark such as Noah had captained, then it was a good idea. However, there was a suspicion he might have meant the mathematical geometric type of arc. After all, he was the only one in the group who would think of the number 3.14 when anyone mentioned pies.

He assured them he meant Noah’s Ark.

‘It’s perfect,’ Sally said.

It was, indeed, perfect, and for the next hour, they discussed which animals to include. After all, if you mention Noah’s Ark, most people picture popular animals, like giraffes and bears, not lizards and bats. But eventually, they decided they’d use all the animals in Sally’s list of International and World Days, and add a few more different species if there was room.

‘And, as a bonus,’ said Levi with a laugh, ‘if we knit some of the less appealing animals, at least the inhabitants of Creaping Bottom will stop asking which of our knitted figures represents them and stop pestering us.’

It turned out that Levi had been quite wrong about being pestered. Not that people had asked which animal represented them because nothing at that point had been knitted. But towards the middle of July, everywhere Vera went, people enquired what the theme would be for the August topper. Vera told them and someone asked if it was a fundraising effort for endangered animals.

It hadn’t been, but once the suggestion had been made, everyone considered it a superb idea.

‘But how do we collect money for an endangered species charity?’ Vera asked.

Stuart had taken over at that point. ‘We can’t put collection boxes around the post box because they’d soon disappear. But we could leave it up to each person to donate individually. We’ll hang up QR codes which lead to several charities’ websites.’

Beryl had a good idea. She’d been serving up the cake of the day – Cairns Coconut Crumbles ­ and had suggested that as well as the QR codes, local businesses should be invited to bid to sponsor one of the knitted animals, like in an auction. The money raised could be sent to an animal charity. She’d asked if they could, please, include a koala.

‘And whoever’s bid is the highest for that particular animal, can put a sign in their shop window to show they’re supporting an animal charity. A win for everyone… Oh, and I’ll put in a tenner more than anyone who bids higher than me for the koala,’ Beryl said.

Things were getting rather complicated for Vera’s liking, but luckily Stuart volunteered to deal with the financial side. Thank goodness. But wasn’t that what a treasurer was for?

Beryl’s plan had been remarkably well-formed, Vera thought. It was actually rather exciting, and they’d help endangered animals too.


The August Noah’s Ark Post Box Topper was extremely popular. However, as Vera knew, you couldn’t please everyone, and various people were incensed by the omission of their favourite animal.

‘What? No panda?’

‘What? No tarantula?’

‘No jellyfish?’

‘No Amazonian green spotted tree frog?’


Emails and letters had poured in, requesting – and even demanding their favourite animal be represented. Vera sifted through the emails, searching for A. Godbin’s complaint. Would he demand a particular animal? Or would he simply insist she remove the entire topper? She couldn’t wait to find out, but the days passed and although Vera even searched her spam folder, nothing came from her nemesis.

She deleted the other emails, and after reading the letters, she screwed them up and threw them in the wastepaper basket.

Honestly, some people had nothing better to do with their lives. If they’d filled their Ark with as many species as had been requested, the post box would have subsided beneath such an immense weight of woollen creatures.

‘Has anyone criticised us for not representing a Cocka-Loodle-Doo?’ Levi asked and Sally guffawed louder than Vera thought necessary. On the other hand, it had been a jolly afternoon in Bonzer Buns, so much so, Vera’s stomach muscles ached with all the laughter, as well as all the Cairns Coconut Crumbles she’d eaten.

But if there had been complaints, there’d also been thanks. Various animal charities had contacted them to express gratitude for their efforts. Apparently, people had been very generous in their donations. It was one of those days when Vera was grateful to be the chairperson of the group. The absence of communication from A. Godbin, being the only minor irritation in what was otherwise a rather successful July.


At the Tilly and Effie Private Investigation Bureau’s table, Tilly watched Beryl and the members of the Creaping Bottom Post Box Topper Society through narrowed eyes.

‘Well, I like that! Beryl’s congratulating herself for having the idea to make money for endangered species,’ grumbled Tilly. ‘But what about me? She won’t pay me more. I asked for a rise, and she said no.’

‘But you’re not endangered, dear,’ said Effie.

‘My holiday is. I’ve got enough to get to Torremolinos, but not much to spend when I get there.’

Effie patted her hand absent-mindedly; her thoughts were elsewhere. ‘Des said Alice still isn’t back from holiday. He’s wondering if she’s done a moonlight flit. And if she has, then an unsuspecting neighbourhood in Southend-on-Sea may now be in danger.’

‘Well, there’s not a lot we can do about it,’ said Tilly. ‘Nan says it’s peaceful now and she can sleep at night. It’s a good thing Alice has gone.’

Tilly had an idea. She tapped her top lip thoughtfully. ‘D’you suppose we should contact Tony Parstedd? He might pay us for the story, and we’d be doing the world a service by revealing the whereabouts of a serial killer.’

Effie shook her head. ‘Tony Parstedd wouldn’t pay up.’

‘No, I suppose not.’

‘And anyway,’ Effie said, ‘we don’t have any proof… Although if we did…’

Effie and Tilly stared at each other.

‘There’s bound to be evidence in Alice’s rooms,’ Tilly said. ‘And no one would think it strange if you got the key from the manager… Alice might have asked you to clean while she was away…’

‘I might need a forged letter from Alice asking me,’ Effie said.

‘Would an email do?’

Effie nodded.

‘Give me half an hour…’


Tilly and Effie arranged to meet at 9 o’clock that evening outside Alice’s flat. Tilly had visited her Nan and left promptly a minute before nine. Effie had been to see Des and was a few minutes late because his budgie, Pegasus, had escaped again, and Effie had to coax him down from the curtain rail before Des would let her go. She took the key out of her pocket while Tilly, with head swinging left and right, checked the corridor. The sound of blaring televisions blasted out of various rooms while Effie opened the door to Alice’s apartment and let them both in.


Tilly and Effie sat in Bonzer Buns the next morning, staring at each other over their coffee cups.

‘Well, the noises weren’t blenders and choppers,’ Tilly said.

Effie nodded. ‘I know. There’s hardly any equipment in her kitchen at all. And may I say, that Alice Gruber is a very messy woman. I didn’t like the state of her kitchen. I can’t imagine the germs she’s growing in there.’ Effie shuddered. ‘But I checked the knives, and they were all blunt. Dirty, but blunt.’


Effie shook her head. ‘Not as far as I could tell.’

‘Obviously not murder weapons, then,’ said Tilly disappointedly.

‘No, but I was rather surprised at the workbench in the bedroom. It was very well-stocked, although there wasn’t a chainsaw or anything obvious you could use as a weapon. A couple of drills, a few screwdrivers – nothing you wouldn’t find in a tool shop. But the power tools could explain the night-time noises.’

‘D’you think she was making murder weapons?’ Tilly asked. ‘There were lots of bits and pieces on the bench. It looked like she’d dismantled an electric fan.’

‘I don’t think you can fan someone to death…’

Tilly sighed. ‘We’re no better off. We’ve got no proof and I’m going to have to ask my mum for a loan for my holiday money.’

Effie choked on her oat milk latte with honey and two shots of caramel syrup. ‘I just had a dreadful thought. There’s CCTV in Hurrah House. Suppose someone checks it and sees us going into Alice’s rooms?’

Tilly looked at her, aghast. ‘Well, we didn’t touch anything, so they’ll have no reason to check the footage, and, with any luck, they’ll record over it.’

‘But what if they do look…’

‘We’ll just deny it. We’ll say we’ve been framed. AI deep fake.’

‘I don’t know what that is, but if you’re sure. In the meantime, we must keep quiet about what we found…’

‘We didn’t find anything. Except bits of electrical stuff.’

‘That’s true. Although, I was wondering…’


‘That bit we thought was from an electric fan. It looked a lot like that UFO Ravi flew down the street. That groan.’

‘Groan? Oh, you mean the drone?’ Tilly slapped her hand over her mouth, eyeballs sliding from side to side over the top. Any talk of drones would undoubtedly attract the attention of those mad topper knitters. And that was the last thing they needed.

‘Yes,’ said Effie.

‘Best we don’t mention it,’ whispered Tilly through the open fingers of the hand that was still over her mouth. Effie was right. It had looked like the rotor blade of a drone. Why hadn’t she thought of it before? And why had Creaping Bottom suddenly become Drone City? ‘People might start asking questions. And they might work out where we’ve been if we give away too much information. Best to keep quiet.’

This is a disaster, Tilly thought. Whatever Alice was making was bound to be lethal. Could she have been making drones? Drones with death rays? Drones with seek-and-destroy capabilities? It was all too awful to think about. Suppose Alice had her own CCTV camera installed in her flat? If she found out Tilly and Effie had broken in, she might send a killer drone out to pick them off. Their bodies might be found, and no one would ever know who’d murdered them. Tilly bit her lower lip. No point mentioning that to Effie. She’d lose the plot. No, best just to keep quiet. In a few weeks, Tilly would be in Torremolinos. And perhaps she might not come home…


As Vera filled in her CBPBTS journal halfway through August, she had lots to report.

A superb topper and large amounts of money raised for endangered animals. Even the native animals of Creaping Bottom appreciated their friends on top of the post box. At the beginning of the month, during Vera’s early morning walk to check the topper, she’d snapped a photo of a group of squirrels sitting at the base of the post box, looking up at the Ark. She’d sent it off to Tony Parstedd, who’d ignored it. However, it had come second in a local photographic competition and won her £50.

Still no word from A. Godbin, which was disappointing, but perhaps he was an animal lover and hadn’t wanted to criticise their fundraising attempts. Well, she was sure they’d grab his attention with the September topper.

She listed the suggestions:

Something to do with Sudoku for International Sudoku Day. Stuart had proposed that. Well, at least he’d given up on the idea of flowers… Although Vera thought flowers might have been preferable to Sudoku.

Sally had suggested something for Teddy Bear Day. Perhaps a Teddy Bear’s Picnic.

Petronella had wanted a celebration of Hobbit Day. Typical librarian’s choice.

Levi’s idea had been something to celebrate harvest with a special focus on crop circles.

But Vera was going to push for her favourite – Star Trek Day.

Oh well, they’d meet later, and a decision would be made.

One thing was certain, Vera thought, whatever they chose, it wouldn’t be Sudoku.



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


Part 7 – Post Box Topper Summer Scene – https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2023/06/the-post-box-topper-summer-scene-by.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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