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The Summer Job ~ Not a Christmas Story

The Summer Job – Not a Christmas Story

by

Kerry J Donovan

© Dec 2015

 

Pure Whimsy

 

The summer sun flared through the window, highlighting the dust hanging in the stifling air. The fifty-something woman behind the desk smiled without mirth and waved him into the applicant’s chair.

“Take a seat please, Mr St Nicholas.”

Graham St Nicholas obliged. Never let anyone say he wasn’t an obliging fellow.

The woman, Gladys Emmanuel according to the rectangular nameplate atop her workstation, paused for a moment before dropping a hand into an open drawer. She retrieved a thick sheaf of papers and pushed it across the cluttered surface. The package pushed a stack of papers and files aside as it progressed.

“Here is our standard application and CV pro-forma pack,” she said, popping a boiled sweet taken from a bowl on her desk into her mouth. “Please complete it, in triplicate, and return the copies to me by tomorrow. We’ll then arrange an appointment with one of our job placement specialists who will put your details into our system and see what we can come up with.”

Graham St Nicholas flicked through the information and couldn’t hold back a sigh. “This looks rather complicated,” he said, trying not to sound too despondent. Jolly was his default position but these circumstances made it difficult. “I’m a rather long way from home. Isn’t there an easier way to do this without so much travel? I just need something to tide me over until the busy season.” He looked up to see the lady frowning and added, “But I would be more than happy to put in the effort if there were a real opportunity for me here with Jobs4Unlimited.”

The woman peered through her black horn-rims, pursed her lips, and sniffed as though a bad odour attacked her nose.

“To be perfectly honest Mr St. Nicholas, we’ve never had to place a person with your skill set at this time of the year. Furthermore, your age does count against you. I mean, there aren’t many openings for double-millenniogenarians. I am not sure what Ebenezer Stroud in our Pensions Department would have to say about it. However, we can but try.”

Her pinched lips thinned into a smile.

Continue Reading »

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Chameau’s Tale ~ A Short Story

Here’s a bit of nonsense for your delectation. 

This was the first story I ever posted on the Interweb, back in 2012.

Hope you like it.

 

Pierre Chameau stared up at the half-painted ceiling with resignation. His wife—‘she’—was right, as usual. He never finished anything and he wouldn’t be finishing the ceiling any time soon.

Damn it, what a waste of space he was.

Chameau had never believed in fate, but the final straw had been waiting for him all bloody day, which had started gently enough, with a stroll down to the shops for groceries and a stop off at the bookies for a light flutter. The visit to the pub on the way home lasted longer than it should have done, but when the cat’s away …

The first straw came after he’d settled down for his early evening snifter. He put his feet up on the coffee table and leaned back, a massive smile on his broad face. He’d never have done that normally but with ‘her’ being away for another week he felt safe. He’d polish the surface later. What ‘she’ didn’t know would never harm him.

A week into ‘her’ fortnight away with the grandchildren, Chameau was relishing his brief return to bachelorhood. He was alone and free to do as he pleased. As long as he completed the pre-return housekeeping blitz, he’d be safe from her whiplash tongue.

He shuddered at the thought, but it didn’t make him want to do the work.

‘She’ had left him a list of chores, but he still had another week. Tonight he’d relax. Time enough to finish the work tomorrow, or the next day, or the next. He eased deep into his comfortable chair and raised the glass to his lips, but missed.

Whiskey spilled down the front of his last clean T-shirt. Fuck. How had that happened? He jumped up, spilling yet more of the liquid gold onto the carpet.

“Damn it!”

He placed the glass on the coffee table surface and formed another ring—another to clean later. Always later.

Chameau grumbled and mumbled as he shuffled towards the kitchen searching for a cloth. The washing machine would see action tonight—if he could figure out how the damned thing worked. He needed to reduce the tower of dirty T-shirts.

The second straw fell when he stubbed the little toe of his right foot on the way to the kitchen for the cloth. He hopped around and the expletives flew—another sin ‘she’ denied him. The misdemeanours were piling up. He eventually managed to reach the kitchen, limping.

The third was a direct response to his exasperated whipping of the tea towel from its hook on the side of the wall unit. It was one of those slow-motion accidents he never saw coming.

The tea towel snapped back, a King Cobra coiling for the strike. His hand instinctively pulled again, causing the cloth to recoil and flick at the beautiful glass tube that contained one and a half kilos of dried spaghetti. It was the thick type of spaghetti, the type with holes through the centre, not quite as big as macaroni. He didn’t know what the Italians called the stuff, but Chameau had always thought of them as his little Bolognaise sauce straws.

Unable to react, Chameau’s jaw dropped in disbelief as the spaghetti tube tumbled gracefully from the granite surface and hurtled bomb-like towards the quarry-tiled floor.

The delicate glass jar exploded into a million razor-sharp pieces. The liberated spaghetti cascaded around the floor, demented prisoners freed from an eternity of incarceration. They hid under cabinets, table, and chairs, desperate to avoid recapture.

With the crash still ringing in his ears and the recalcitrant dishcloth hanging limp in his hand, Chameau screamed in rage and frustration. He kicked the side of the fridge—enlarging the dent that he’d made when installing it and forgetting that he wasn’t wearing any shoes. The damaged toe reminded him of its earlier impact with the door. Tears flowed, as did the invective.

Number four shouldn’t have happened. Chameau cut his index finger during the clean up. Crying again, he wrapped a wad of kitchen paper around it and carried on. He had to move the shopping bag, still full after the morning’s trip to the shops, a few times. He finally left the bag on the floor near the table and continued; he’d empty it later.

The fifth occurred when he hit his head on the underside of the granite surface as he scrabbled to collect some of the spaghetti that had found its way under the sink unit.

After an age with dustpan and brush he was finally convinced he’d collected all of the escapees and returned to the lounge.

Back on the sofa in front of the TV with a fresh glass of whisky, taking more care when he sipped, the phone rang. Calmer now, but not by much, he trudged back into the kitchen to answer the call. This time, he wore slippers

Once bitten …

He lifted the receiver and had the usual nightly conversation with ‘her’, but this time, he had something interesting to say. ‘She’ started giggling.

“Yeah, great,” he fumed. “I finally get a laugh out of you.”

‘She’ couldn’t stop laughing as he spoke of his evening’s efforts. ‘She’ would miss the spaghetti tube—a Christmas present from her mother years before the old bag’s unlamented demise—but would replace it with a rather fetching one ‘she’ had seen on her travels. A great one for collectables was Chameau’s wife.

“Yes, I have cleaned up the mess, dear,” he answered.

Weary patience coloured his voice as the wife continued ‘her’ regular barrage.

“Yes, I have locked both the front and the back doors.”

He had.

“Yes I did water the garden.”

He hadn’t.

“Yes, Dear. I did look in on Mrs Clements next door.”

Again, he hadn’t.

“I love you too dear.”

He did, sort of.

‘She’ broke the connection. Wearily, Chameau replaced the receiver and turned to head back to his waiting whiskey.

The sixth and final straw laid him out.

On his way through the kitchen, his slipper-shod foot found one of the remaining pieces of spaghetti. It shot out from under him.

He completed a lacklustre imitation of a gymnast dismounting from the balance beam and hit the floor in a loose pile of limbs and spilled groceries.

On his way down, the back of his neck connected with a tin of baked beans inside the shopping bag. His third cervical vertebrae fractured on the impact and severed his spinal cord.

His body rolled to an involuntary stop and Chameau lay flat on his broken back unable to move, unable breathe. Vision dimming, he stared at the half-painted ceiling he’d never finish… 

[Chameau is French for camel.]

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The Ballad of Jurgen Somerson the Busker

The Ballad of Jurgen Somerson the Busker

For my musician son, Kyall…

The chord, a G-major, fades to a thrumming silence. Next time I’ll add harmonic after tones to beef up the ending.

It’s not Carnegie Hall, but all I need is an audience. Shoppers rush past. Most ignore, but some glance and nod in appreciation. A blonde woman stops, smiles, and listens. Her head bobs with the rhythm. When she leaves, there’s another banknote, a Jackson, among the coins in the guitar case. I’ll eat well tonight.

My guitar, Genevieve, is warm and responsive in my arms. She shares my successes and failures. I’m nowhere without her. Destitute.

I flex cramping fingers. Three hours is too long to play without a break, but it’s warm in here and the acoustics suit our tuning. Playing in this cavern, we don’t need amplification.

The Mall is a cave of sorts, but one of light, not dark. Built with enough glass to allow the sun’s rays to illuminate the shop fronts and entice the punters. There’s magic here inside. I sing out:

“Drop money in the case, come hear me play.

I’m here to entertain for another a day.”

Crack, crack, crack.

One long, reverberating, dissonant cord. Three atonal notes ringing.

I fall. The polished floor rushes up to meet me. Blurry, fractured images swim around my head. Mirrored glass shatters and people run. One falls, and another.

A thumping booming silence, interspersed with the yelling, mocking calls of seagulls.

Seagulls in a Mall? Is that possible?

The stark brightness leaves no dark corners as hiding places. We’re all in the open, exposed and vulnerable. What’s that smell of copper and iron rust?

Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.

“Jürgen wake up, it’s time for school.”
“Not now Mother, I’m hiding.”
“Hiding from what?”
“Not what, who. I’m hiding from him. The man in the gallery.”

My eyes open to nothing but dark red blood on floor tiles. How much blood can a body lose before it fails?

Above and around, legs scatter into the distance, attached to people fleeing for their lives. Seagull cries transform into people—screaming. My hearing clears, but the relief is short lived. Pain replaces the dull, throbbing deafness.

Pain. Everywhere and nowhere. It pulses in my arms, stomach, head, and heart. I can’t isolate one pounding, throbbing ache from another.

Genevieve, my beautiful golden guitar, lies on the ground in front of me—out of reach. My girl rocks on the floor, uncovered and defenceless. Splinters in her body near the bridge, expose her white innards. Will she sing for me again? I lower my head to the tiles and weep. The stench of blood-iron and floor wax is nothing compared with the loss of my darling.

A running foot connects with my shoulder. A woman cries, trips, loose blonde hair flies around her head as she tumbles and slides across the blue-grey tiles in full view. A fallen target. Out in the open, she scrambles, searching for cover. I reach out.

Another crack echoes off hard surfaces. The woman jerks. Blood pours from a shattered leg. More shots. Someone’s shooting!

Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.

The woman stares at the bones sticking through her skin. Claret pumps out her life. Blue eyes turn to me, pleading. What use is her Jackson now? Her generosity might have put her there. Wrong place, wrong time. I hug the rough concrete trashcan—the only thing between death and me. I close my eyes and ears to her calls.

“Jürgen hurry, it’s time for your music lesson.” 
“Five more minutes, Mother.”
“The lessons cost your father a fortune. Hurry, or he won’t be pleased.”
“Coming, Mother.”

The woman’s voice cuts through the panic of a hundred terrified souls. “Help me, please.”

“Don’t move or he’ll see you. Play dead. The police will be here soon. I’m sure…”

Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.

“You left the Philharmonic?”
“My life. My choice.”
“You’re a disappointment, Jürgen.”
“Sorry, Father. But I must follow my muse and sing the Blues.”

Blue flashing lights bounce from reflective white walls. Sirens wail.

“They’re here,” I whisper. “We’re safe now.”

Crack, crack.

The flooring next to the blonde woman’s head explodes and showers her with chippings and dust. My ears ring and I hear her screams again. “Help me! Please!”

What can I do?

An inch closer and she’ll be gone. Is the sniper pausing to reload?

Prying cramped hands from the rough cement litter bin takes more strength than I imagine. Scratched fingers tremble, no strength left for the simplest chord. When I try to move, the pain pulls into a pin sharp, defined focus. A bloody wound at my side matches the damage to Genevieve. The bullet passed through her and into me.

There’s no time to wait for the police to set plans. I have to move now, before I’m too weak.

Gauge the distance between us to make sure there’s room to move and somewhere to hide afterwards. Yes, there! Another bin, ten yards away and closer to the wall. Can I make it? Have to. No choice.

Suck in a deep breath and hold it in. Ignore the pain. Clamp a hand to the bullet wound. Stem the blood flow. Focus on the route. Run through the rescue sequence in my head. Dive, grab, and pull. Dive, grab, and then pull.

Ready?

Only one chance to get this right. Go on three.

One.

Keeping the bin between the sniper and me, I unfold into a sprinter’s crouch. Left leg bent right leg straight and back, ready to push off.

Two.

“Help me.” The woman’s call is weaker now.

I focus on the target.

Three.

Go, go, go.

Drive off one leg, dive forward. Grab her. Trainers, slipping on the shiny floor, squeak in protest, but momentum carries us forward and we crash into the second bin. Safe. We’re safe!

Genevieve and me. We’re safe!

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Short Story #1 – Sweet William (Part 2)

Sweet William (Part 2)

Continued…

Every Sunday morning, Mum and Dad dragged us, kicking and screaming, to church. They’d done so ever since I could remember. We hated going, but had to put up with the boredom. No choice to it in those days. Mum’s word was law and she had the devout Christian ethic of the true eyes-closed, heads-up believer. Dad used to go along with her to keep the peace more than anything else.
Most of the year there’d be no more than fifteen in the congregation. Two expatriate Irish families, my lot and the Kellys, plus a few other pious souls. But in summer, holidaymakers would often add to the ranks of our seaside congregation, and more importantly, swell the offertory platters.
The priests beamed at their increased flock, but Tom and I groaned and scowled. Larger numbers meant the sermon continued ad nauseam. We guessed the priest probably worked on the assumption the longer the service lasted, the more money he could squeeze from the poor unsuspecting newcomers. After all, they were English tourists–rolling in money.
The Trents arrived, unannounced, on the first Sunday of the summer holidays, mother and father, and their four children. William, a slim blond-haired mite of a boy sat next to his father, his three, golden-haired teenage sisters sat on their mother’s side of the pew.
Without doubt, the Trent girls were the most beautiful creatures my thirteen-year-old, hormone-clouded eyes had ever seen. Tom and I swopped glances. He grinned. I gulped.
As the only young lads in the congregation, Tom and I were press-ganged into serving as altar-boys. I detested the task and loathed the daft, frilly cassocks which made me feel like a right twit, but my position facing the congregation gave me a great view of the gorgeous new additions to the throng.
The minute I saw her, I fell arse-over-head in love with the luscious, lustrous, luminous, fourteen-year-old, Annette.
To be honest, I made so many cock-ups during mass that God, if He or She did exist, should have cast me into the darkness there and then. I forgot my place, tripped over my vestments, and spilled the sacramental wine. The whole ninety-three minute service was littered with my errors.
At the end of the debacle Mr and Mrs Trent introduced themselves to the priest and the rest of us poor mortals. I was delighted to learn they weren’t simply another transient holiday family. They were new permanents!
Apparently, Mr Trent had been promoted to manage the local bank. And they’d transferred from somewhere exotic in England, Birmingham, I think he said.  I wasn’t really listening.
During the introductions, Annette, resplendent in her Sunday best lemon-coloured dress, hemline a respectable one inch above the knee, stared demurely at her feet. I, tongue-tied, couldn’t speak. William hid behind his father. The two older girls smiled sweetly and tried not to look bored.
The following Sunday, Mum and Dad couldn’t help notice Tom and I didn’t need much coaxing to get out of bed.
It didn’t take long for the handsome and supremely self-confident Tom to corral Annette’s older sister, Jeanette. She was a beautiful, knowing girl, with a winning smile and a wonderful pair of, er… lungs.
Tom even managed to wangle an invitation to afternoon tea ­– that day.
God was I jealous.
I tried to drag up the courage to talk to Annette. I practised my speech beforehand and everything, but all I could do was sidle up to her and stutter a faltering, ‘Hello’.
She nodded, smiled and walked away.
Why are girls so much more confident than boys? So much more advanced? They need to be, I suppose. After all, boys think of girls as prey don’t we? We stalk and scheme and lie and cheat all for a chance to get close to them.
And I’m a guy, so no different.

#

To be continued….

As before – anyone who wants to read the end of this story in one sitting, please drop me a line and I’ll send you a .pdf file. 

Comments and critiques are welcome. Have at it…

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Short Story #1 – Sweet William

Sweet William

Memories from a troubled childhood

“Tom?’ I asked as Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Cecelia’, one of my favourites, faded into Mungo Jerry’s In the Summertime.
“What’s up, baby brother?’ He called from the top bunk.
I hated it when he called me that and he knew it, which is why he carried on doing it, of course.
“Turn the radio up a bit, I can’t hear it.”
Tom had bought the radio from saved pocket money, and so controlled the volume. The sound level decreased. He could be a real pain in the bum sometimes.
A few minutes later I asked. “What’s a closet?”
“Bloody hell boy. You know what a closet is.”
He turned, and the bunk-beds creaked in protest. We had outgrown the beds but our room was too small to separate them. I had to live with nightmare visions of Tom’s bed collapsing on top of mine and crushing me to death in the process. Some night’s I didn’t sleep very well.
“Yeah, I understand it’s a wardrobe,” I said, “but what does it mean when a bloke comes out of a closet?’
“Oh, I see. It means he’s just told everyone he’s gay. You know-–queer.”
“Why would he do that? Wouldn’t he want to keep it a secret?”
“Yeah, it’s part of this new Gay Rights thing. There’s a load of celebs doing it. You know, militant poofs who want to shout it from the rooftops.”
“Okay. Right.”
“Why do you ask?”
“Nothing. One of the guys at school said it about Elton John and David Bowie.” I should have known he wouldn’t leave it there, but I’ll never learn.
“You seem very interested in the subject. Are you gay, baby brother? I mean, you don’t have a girlfriend, do you? I’d better keep my back against the wall.” He tittered, and the bed protested again.
“No, I mumbled. Don’t have a girlfriend, but I’m not gay.”
“I know, and you don’t have a girlfriend because you’re fat.” He chuckled again.
“You can be a nasty bugger sometimes,” I mumbled.
Tom sneaked out an arm and rapped me on the head with his fist. He called it a ‘gaffer’s knock’. It was another thing I hated. I rubbed the sore spot and wondered whether I’d ever be big enough to thump him back and get away with it.
The radio burst into George Harrison’s “My sweet Lord”.
“Turn it up, Tom, I love this one.”
This time the volume racked up and we sang the song together, but not too loud. According to Tom, the walls in our Council House were paper thin, and the neighbours had the ability to hear a fart in a thunderstorm.
They had ‘Ears like Jodrell Bank’, according to Mum.

#

Every Sunday morning, Mum and Dad dragged us, kicking and screaming, to church. They’d done so ever since I could remember. We both hated going, but had to put up with the boredom. No choice to it in those days. Mum’s word was law and she had the devout Christian ethic of the true believer. Dad used to go along with her to keep the peace more than anything else.

To be continued…

If you would like to read the rest of this story, send me an email and I’ll send you a .pdf file. It’ll cost you nothing. That’s right, free, gratis, rien, nada – zilch.  

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