Monday, 5 February 2018

Girl at the Window

It was a glorious day, the kind of day that reminds you how beautiful the world is. I was waiting for a bus and if I'm honest, I didn't care if it never arrived. I turned my face up to the sky and let the warm breeze play across my cheeks. The sun painted everything in the most wonderful colours. A stray ray bounced off a high window and dazzled me.

I moved my head out of the glare and saw her. A gorgeous girl was gazing wistfully out of the window. The sun was hitting her full in the face, turning her hair into a cloud of gold. I felt like a birdwatcher, gazing on a fragile creature from the dappled undergrowth. As the moments ticked away, she looked neither left nor right. Her gaze seemed focused on some spot a thousand miles away and she was the picture of beauty. I had a feeling she saw nothing of the world outside her window. Sadly, my bus arrived and life moved me on from that perfect moment.

A day or two later I found myself standing in the same exact spot which made me remember the girl so I looked up. There she sat, just as before, but today the sun was missing and clouds had turned the world grey. Seeing her made me smile but after a few moments that smile slipped away. I nearly believed she were a mannequin when she lifted a hand to smooth a stray wisp of hair.

I'm not sure what worried me so about this girl, but something did. She didn't look distressed, or sad or anything at all. Perhaps that was it, she looked vacant, as if someone had shaken all the emotions out of her. Perhaps that was what she was searching for? The more I watched, the more I became convinced the girl was steeped in melancholy. I wished she would look down and give me a smile, or a wave, some little indication that she was alright, but she didn't. My bus arrived and I got on with a heavy heart.

I found myself returning to the bus stop more often than I needed buses and every time she was there. Her clothes changed, her hairstyles changed but the lost look she wore never altered. I tried waving at her but she never saw me, and what would she think if she did? Some madman gesticulating at strangers I guess because that was what I was, a stranger, but each day I felt more like her stranger. I prayed for a sign and yesterday it arrived.

It was raining and tiny rivers of silver ran over the glass. She wore her hair in a braid, which curled over her shoulder to lie along the line of her arm. As always, she gazed into the distance, her far away eyes searching for something. At first I thought it was a breeze that moved the net curtain, but something changed in her face. Her eyes hardened and her lips pinched tighter. I watched with fascination as a hand rested on her slender shoulder. It was a big hand, a hairy one. She didn't look away from the window but I saw the muscles on her neck bunch under her skin. I watched the fingers tighten and dig into her flesh. A moment before she vanished I saw revulsion cross her face. The net curtain fell into place then my window of wonder was empty.

I jogged across the street to the door of the house and looked at the row of bells. Which one would call her, which one would save her from those fingers? Should I pick one or press them all? What would I say if anyone opened the door? I've been watching this girl in a window and I think she is in trouble! I would end up being called a noseyparker or worse. No, it was a stupid idea. I had let my imagination run away with me. I walked away from the house not waiting for a bus to arrive.

Today, my window is empty. In my heart I know something terrible has happened and I could have, should have, done something, but I didn't. As I gaze upward the rain falls into my eyes and washes my tears of shame away.





Customer Review for Thirty Pieces of Silver
February 3, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Dropping a clanger



The alarm dragged Toby out of his dream, and it had been one he was really enjoying. He groggily threw back the covers and plodded toward the freezing bathroom. He washed and dressed in silence before going to the tiny kitchen to boil the kettle. He turned on the radio to chase the emptiness from the apartment and wondered how he had called this place home for two years.

At ten to eight, he entered the drab office block and waited for the elevator. A second after the doors closed he got the lingering stink of a fart and tried to hold his breath for the five-floor ride. He failed on floor three and choked on the fumes. When the door opened a woman was waiting to get on. Toby hurried away knowing she would now think he was responsible for the horrible stench. It was a typical start to the daily grind in the life of an intern.

The offices of Phoenix International were an open-plan sea of desks, half hidden behind chest-high partitions. Despite the grandeur of the company name, it was nothing more than a telemarketing company. He and the rest of the minions spent all day, every day, calling unsuspecting people trying to get them to upgrade, switch or invest, in whatever company had hired their services. Toby paused at the clock in machine and rested his finger on the pad. The thing beeped and his soul was signed away for another nine hours.

Even though it was early over half the desks were already occupied. In his glass-fronted office, Mr Jefferies lounged in his leather executive chair. Toby started his computer and today’s list of victims appeared. He sighed and pulled forward his script to refresh his spiel. Upgrade to bill pay and get one-hundred free international minutes, it said.

Ten past nine the bell rang for the first time, that God-damn bell. It was one of Mr Jefferies motivational additions but in Toby's opinion it had the exact opposite effect. Every time you made a sale you had to go to the middle of the room and clang the stupid thing then endure the forced joy of your co-workers. Toby stood and joined the muted applause as a grinning redhead smiled bashfully. In his office Mr Jefferies looked like a demented seal, pounding his hands together. Here it comes, thought Toby. Any second now. On cue, Mr Jefferies mimed high-fiving the blushing woman. What ridiculous shite.

At that moment, Suzie scuttled into the cubicle across from Toby's. She powered up her computer, plopped her headset on and was already introducing herself to her first potential victim before she had her coat off. Toby liked Suzie but she always seemed to be in a wiz, with a thousand balls in the air and terrified of dropping even one. She was a mom you see, and one without a partner to help her. The poor girl was constantly exhausted.

Throughout the morning the bell clanged occasionally and everyone jumped to their feet like Pavlov’s dogs, but sales were not overly common. Most people told Toby was told to go f**k himself or some more polite version of that sentiment. That was tough, particularly when his wage was linked to the number of calls he made and the number of sales he achieved. In contrast to Mr Jefferies' celebration of sales, Philippa from accounts seemed to resent every cent that went into a pay-packet. The penny-pinching administrator paused as she passed Suzie desk and said, “Fifteen minutes late, again, Miss Granger.”
“I know, it was my son’s…”
“Excuses won’t cut any mustard with me, Miss Granger. A note will be added to your file,” the shrill woman said and began to walk away. As an afterthought, she added, “And the loss of your first hour of course.”
Toby bristled. He knew the note meant nothing, all Philippa cared about was getting forty-five free minutes work from an employee. It all transferred to the bottom line, pure profit. If Suzie was late every single day they would happily keep employing her and keep sucking her hours away. It was just another scam. Stuff like that got right on Toby's wick. Anyone could see that Suzie was doing her best and a hell of a lot better than most people were. Philippa should be helping make her life better not looking for every opportunity to turn the screw a bit tighter, but that would never happen. Philippa and Mr Jefferies were the same in that way. They knew when they had someone by the short and currlies and they loved twisting those bad-boys.

At twelve forty, Mr Jefferies appeared over Toby and said, “Brain-drain. My office. In five,” before sauntering away. Brain drain? The man was so steeped in management lingo he had lost the ability to use the English language. Toby looked at his watch and cursed the man. That was his lunch break done for and more importantly, he would miss out on seeing Joan. He gathered a pen and jotter then followed his boss. The brain-drain turned out to be a long-winded rant by Mr Jefferies bemoaning the new targets set by head office. Philippa chipped in with bolstering comments from time to time but Toby didn't speak even once. After a while, there was a knock at the door and the smiling face of Joan appeared.
                “Would anyone like to order something?” she asked, nodding toward the basket of sandwiches and buns slung over her arm. Toby felt his heart race and a blush sprang to his cheeks but Mr Jefferies beat him to the punch.
“We’re all good here,” he said and continued with his commentary. Joan slipped out and the only light in Toby’s life vanished for another day. The meeting ended at ten to two and Toby knew he would never make his call quota today. He would only take home sixty percent of his wage. He would be better off on the dole. Despite the pointlessness of it, he picked up his phone and dialled the next number on his list.

Five-forty-five that evening he was putting on his jacket when his phone rang. He picked it up and heard Mr Jefferies' voice on the end of a hand's free connection, road noises filled in the background.
“Glad I caught you, Toby. I need you to do a little job for me.”
Inside, Toby winced but heard himself say, “Sure.”
“There is a guy coming over to install an upgrade in the computer system but he's running late. Can you hang on for a few minutes till he gets there?”
“I was just on my way out,” Toby said and he thought it sounded like a whinge.
“The road to the top is a tough one, Toby. If you can’t put the needs of the company …”
“No. It’s fine, I can wait,” he said. This job was a shitty one but it was the only one he had.
“I knew I could count on you. See you in the morning. Oh, and one more thing. You better clock out to keep the rosters straight.” he said and hung up.
“Shit,” said Toby and slammed the handset into the cradle. His stomach growled and he knew it was going to be empty for a while more. He went to the fingerprint pad and pressed his digit to it. The machine beeped and he was off the clock, but still trapped.

              The office was empty by the time the computer guy turned up and Toby was starving.
“Sorry I’m late,” said the guy struggling under a tonne of cases.
“It’s fine. Let me take some of those,” said Toby.
“Cheers,” said the guy handing over a bag filled with tools then extended his hand saying, “I'm Moggs, nice to meet you.”
“Toby,” he replied and shook the man’s hand. Toby liked him already, he had a devilish twinkle in his eyes.
“Right. Point me in the direction of the server room and let’s get this over and done with. Moggs turned out to be as good as his word and worked like lightning. Soon he had the new programme loading and they had time to chat while the progression bar slowly ticked upward. It turned out they had a hell of a lot in common. They were both interns, they both were underpaid, underappreciated and overworked.
“I’ll let you in on a secret,” said Moggs at last.
“I’m all ears.”
“None of them really know what's going on.”
“None of who?”
“The bosses.”
“Really?”
“Yea. This little baby is the real power behind the wizard,” he said patting his laptop.
“How do you mean?”
“Look, every day this thing spits out a report and they all take it for gospel. Not one of them knows enough about the business or the way the programme works to know if the numbers are real or not. They are all blindly following along behind this digital Pied Piper.”
“So if the computer gets it wrong they would never know.”
“Not unless it goes completely insane. They never see the small things, which is why we have to do updates. To catch the glitches, you know.”
“It must be complicated.”
“Na, not at all. Do you want me to show you?”
“I’d love that if you don’t mind.”
“Sure but keep it to yourself, fair enough.”
“You can count on it.” For the next hour, Moggs showed him the ins and outs of the programme. The backdoor log in, how a few little tweaks here and there could change the whole thing, making fantasy become reality. When Toby eventually left the office, with an empty stomach and a full brain, he decided it was time to stick it to Mr Jefferies and his snivelling sidekick Philippa.

The next morning when the alarm went off, Toby sprang from the bed, eager to get to work for the first time in ages. His head buzzed with all the stuff he could do to show up his boss for the drooling idiot he was. He logged into the administrator section of the programme, as Moggs had shown him, but there he stalled, he couldn’t make himself do it. He didn't want to lower himself to the level of pettiness that Philippa enjoyed. Instead, he opened his call list and started working.
Suzie arrived in a panic, as always, and hurriedly began getting her workstation up and running. “Tough morning?” he asked.
“Terrible. The bus was late and I had to run all the way from dropping my little fella at the child-minder but I still didn’t make it on time. I know that witch is going to dock me another hour, and I can’t afford that. I have to make my quota this week or I don’t know what I will do.” Toby nodded and dialled his next number. While Suzie went about her work he opened the programme window and called up the payroll section. He selected Suzie timecard and changed her nine-twelve clock in to eight-fifty-nine. It wasn’t stealing, if anything it was stopping the company from robbing her. Deep inside he felt a glow of contentment as he went back to work.

Lunchtime rolled around and Joan appeared with her basket of goodies. She stopped at desks asking people if they wanted to buy something and Toby's eyes tracked her like a fox watching a chicken. When she reached his desk she gave him a magical smile and asked, "Would you like anything?"
"A ham roll and a muffin if you have one," he said with a hitch in his voice. It must have been his heart clogging up his throat.
"Sure, Honey," she said and popped them on his desk. She took his money and moved on.
"She called me, Honey," he said to himself and felt a flutter in his chest. She might call everyone honey, but he didn't care. He never enjoyed a meal so much.

The rest of the day passed without incident and it was the first time in ages he felt motivated. Even the clanging of the bell and the pantomime they had to perform with each ring failed to annoy him. Before leaving he logged back into the administrator programme and looked at Suzie’s calls for the day. She'd nearly made it, only twenty short and she had skipped her lunch. In Toby’s mind, she had worked hard enough to deserve her full day's wage so with a click of his mouse he added thirty-five calls to her total and closed out the programme. Toby walked home on cloud nine.

Over the coming weeks, he continued to make little adjustments here and there as people deserved them. He helped Suzie keep on track of her attendance, so long as she wasn’t too late. He added a sale here and there to people who worked hard but rarely got the credit. He adjusted a few customer feedback forms to mention particular staff so they would be recognised and praised for work they had already done. They were all only tiny little things and not one of them were done to damage the company. Actually, he began to notice something unusual. People started getting happier. The bell rang more often and people started believing that the impossible targets were possible after all. They all started to approach their customers with a genuine warmth, and it showed. Mr Jefferies even eased up on them. After all, he believed this new upward trend in sales was all down to him. But all that ended the day the email arrived.

Mr Jefferies came out of his office like a raging bull and stormed up to accounts in search of Philippa. He reappeared with a trail of worried looking managers in tow and the shouting began. The words E-mail and Head Office were repeated often and loudly. Deep in Toby's gut, he knew this was something to do with him so he logged into the server and opened up Mr Jefferies E mails. In glaring black and white, all his nightmares became reality. There was an inspection team on their way from the US to investigate explainable irregularities. Toby knew that meant one thing, they were coming to find him. He kept his head down until five thirty and left the office. His stomach churned with worry and no matter what way he looked at things, trouble lay ahead.

That night he didn't sleep a wink and when he turned up the following day, a cloud of gloom hung over the office. He kept his head down as manager after manager filed in and out of Mr Jefferies' sanctum. The two strangers looming about the place were clearly the American henchmen and their stony glares did nothing to dispel that notion. Around eleven, a girl from accounts fled Mr Jefferies' office in tears. Toby left his cubicle to follow her as he just had to know what was going on. 
"Are you, OK?" he asked the girl as she stopped to wipe away her running mascara.
"No, I'm not. They're saying someone interfered with the accounts and they're trying to pin it on me."
"That's crazy!"
"I know but they don't care. They said I had access codes and they wouldn't believe that I've never used them."
"Don't worry too much. I'm sure it will work itself out," said Toby earning himself a stony glare from the girl.
"And how would you know?" she snapped before storming away.

Toby turned back to the office and knew he had to face the music. He never imagined that someone else could get in trouble for what he'd done. Toby went to Mr Jefferies door, knocked and went in. His boss looked up and barked, "Can't you see I'm busy, Toby. I'm sure whatever it is can wait."
"I don't think it can, Sir."
"Well spit it out then," snapped his boss as the two American's talked among themselves.
"I know who interfered with the computer." That got the attention of the strangers and shocked Mr Jefferies into silence.
"I think you better come in," said one of the Americans.
Once he was seated Mr Jefferies said, "Well, who was it then?"
"Me."
"Don't talk rubbish, you couldn't possibly have done that." Toby sighed and began telling his story. He told them everything but left out Moggs. He said he saw the password and figured out the rest himself. When he came to an end Mr Jefferies jumped to his feet and roared, "You're finished here! You'll never work in this town again! I'm calling the police!" His boss looked to the strangers but their faces gave nothing away.
"What's your name again?" asked one of the men.
"Toby."
"This is a very serious situation," the man said severely. "You're suspended pending investigation. I must ask you to leave the office and not return until you’re contacted, is that clear?"
"I'll get my coat," said Toby, his words crushed under his doom.
"I'll walk you to the door," said the American. Toby felt like a criminal and for the first time he worried that he might have actually broken the law. Could he end up behind bars for this? As Toby was escorted from the office, every eye was on him, including Joan's, who was in the middle of her lunch round.

All that night, and most of the next day, he expected a knock on his door and the feel of handcuffs on his wrists but neither arrived. What did arrive was a text saying, Please attend the office for a meeting in the morning, eleven am. After reading it Toby wondered should he pack a bag. He might not see his flat again for six to twelve months.
When he arrived at work he was shown into Mr Jefferies' office where a full welcoming committee waited, thankfully none of them were police. Present were Mr Jefferies, Philippa, the two Americans and an empty chair for him.
"Have a seat," said the American who had done all the talking on the first day. Toby thought he was more likely to faint than sit but he managed to keep upright in the chair. "I want to start by saying that we have spoken with all the members of staff who you...assisted, and they all confirm they were completely in the dark about what you had done." Toby looked around and noted the glare Philippa was sending his way and Mr Jefferies' smug look. Whatever was coming his way was going to be very very bad. The American continued talking.
"We have made a full assessment of the changes you made and found that you didn't improve your own sales calls, time card, or any other aspect of your personal record. Can you tell us why?"
"It was never about making more money or anything like that. I just wanted people to be treated a bit more fairly."
"That is completely out..." shouted Mr Jefferies but the American held up his hand and silenced him.
"Do you believe people were being treated unfairly?" asked the American.
"Well, unfairly might be overly strong, but not very well." Mr Jefferies looked like he was about to explode.
"Strangely, it seems that even after reversing your influence, this office showed a marked improvement in productivity over the last weeks. Record-breaking even," said the American as if Mr Jefferies were invisible.
"Purely coincidental," snipped Philippa.
"I beg to differ," said the American who had not yet spoken. Toby noticed the first man sit back, this was clearly the big boss speaking. "This young man has done something very stupid but in doing so he has unearthed an even more glaring mistake on our behalf," said the man glowering at Philippa and Mr Jefferies.
"Mistake," snorted Mr Jefferies.
"We, and by extension you, forgot we are an industry dependent on people, run by people and all of them deserve to be treated with dignity. He has also shown us just how ignorant we are of our own success and failings. Having said that... Toby's actions cannot go unanswered. What I'm suggesting is a period away from the office for this young man."
"Please don't send me to prison," sobbed Toby and he failed to hold back his tears.
"I'm suggesting nothing of the sort," said the American, his tone softening.
"Then what are you suggesting," snorted Mr Jefferies pushing his chair back from the desk and stapling his hands behind his head.
"I'm suggesting he comes to the States and works with us in head office for three months then he returns here as office controller." Toby couldn't believe his ears.
"You're rewarding criminality!" yelled Mr Jefferies.
"I'm rewarding ingenuity and he didn't steal anything from us, he made our company stronger!" yelled the American slamming his fist on the table. The sound was still reverberating off the walls when Mr Jefferies snapped his mouth closed. The American turned to Toby and asked with a smile, "You ready to back to work?"
"Am I ever!" said Toby standing to shake the man's hand, delighted he was not going to jail.

As Toby opened the door of Mr Jefferies' office he could see eyes peering at him from everywhere. Slowly, Suzie stood up, smiled, and began applauding. One by one, every one of his workmates joined in until the noise was thunderous. That was when the cheering started. Toby couldn't help himself he snatched a scissors from a desk and walked to the bell in the middle of the room. With one snip the clanger fell into his hand and he held it aloft like a victorious warrior.

In the midst of the hoots and hollers, he saw Joan walking away from his desk. When he got there he found a muffin and a ham roll waiting for him. On the blotter was a note. It said, "I love a rebel. Call me." Beside it was her number, and for Toby, this great day became legendary. 


I hope you enjoyed the story. If you did, why not give my new book a go, I promise you wont be sorry. Squid

Thirty Pieces of Silver - Click here to get the book.


Thirty Pieces of Silver by [McFinnigan, Squid]



Customer review.
January 25, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase


Saturday, 30 December 2017

The List 2018



I was blown away to see that Honeysuckle Lane has made it onto The List, by CQ Magazine. Some amazing books on here and of the ones I have not read I will be getting around to soon. Talk about chuffed to bits. Something for everyone on here so let your friends know.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Smashing

 The bottle twisted as it flew through the air. Everything moved in slow-motion, Lacy could see the lights dance across its surface, her brain had time to register the brand and she even noticed there was still beer inside. Despite all these things, she could not make her body move to one side, put up a hand to deflect it, or anything to stop serious injury coming her way. When the bottle was only inches from her face, a hand appeared and snatched it from the air. She didn’t understand what had happened, which is why her mouth hung open like a dullard. 

His smile was magical. His eyes were crystal blue and filled with fun. He looked up at the balcony where a drunk girl stared down. He tilted the bottle in his hand slightly, asking the question, are you going to say something? The drunk girl waved and vanished. The man placed the bottle on a table as Lacy tried to make the words, Thank You, come out. He just winked and walked away.
               
  As he vanished, Lacy turned to her friend, Tracy, and said, “OMG did you see him!”
              
"He like, TOTALLY, saved your life!” she said, squealing and yelling over the music in in the club. 

“You should so go after him!”

“You think?”

“Totally!”

“I don’t even know his name. I can’t,” Lacy said, hiding her blushing face in her hands but she really wanted to rush after him. She would have if she could see him but the club was too packed. God, she had butterflies in her stomach and her heart was racing. He hadn’t even said a word and he had her melting. She’d never felt anything like it before and she was sure she never would again.

“You’re so prissy, if you don’t want him, I’ll have him,” said Tracy, pretending to go after the man. Lacy grabbed her arm and pulled her back.

“Don’t you dare,” she cried, dragging her friend away to get a drink at the bar.
***
All week, that guy was in her thoughts. The way he smiled, his eyes, the air of adventure that surrounded him, the way he saved her. Every day the feeling grew stronger. One day, she munched dreamily at her lunch and thought of him, of them. Her phone rang and she had to rummage through the junk in her bag to find the damn thing and when she did, it was only, Jason.

“Hi,” she said, not excited, not annoyed. After all, they were dating, of sorts.

"Hi baby, how is your day going?” He sounded bubbly, like a puppy ready to jump up and lick her.

“Same old same old, what about you?”

As he yammered on about some boring work stuff she let her mind wander. She rested her chin in her hand and drifted. At first, she thought she was dreaming him, but there he was, walking down far side of the road. Her savour, carrying four Starbuck’s coffees in those paper containers they give out.

"Jason, I got to run, call you later,” she said cutting cross him mid-sentence and hanging up. She quickly gathered up her belongings and dashed out into the street before she had a chance to change her mind. She had to wait for a break in the traffic to cross the road and by the time she had, she saw her dream man climb into a silver Audi and pull away.

“Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it,” she said stamping her feet and spinning on the spot. She just had to get to know him. Then it hit her. Starbucks! She turned and dashed down the street to that familiar white and green circle floating above the shop on the corner. She ran inside, and thank God, it was nearly empty.

“Hi, what can I get you?” asked the girl behind the counter.

“This is weird, but a guy just left here. A tall guy, floppy hair, blue eyes, really well dressed. Did you see him?”

“Yea, I think I know who you mean,” said the girl stroking her chin. Lacy didn’t think this chick was the sharpest tool in the box.

“Can you tell me his name?” asked Lacy, feeling she was on the verge of a life-changing event.

“Bob,” the clerk said. 

Shit. Bob! Not at all what she had in mind.

“Or it might be John, or Simon or Ethan. He always gets four coffees and those are the names. I think he works in a Law Office on the far side of town.”

“Do you know where it is?” Lacy asked.

“Look, lady, they just come and order coffee. Do you want something or not?” asked the girl, clearly losing interest in this game.

“No, thanks,” she said and left the shop. She had a lead on him, of sorts. As the door closed behind her, her phone rang, again, and it was Jason, again. God, what did he want now?

“Hello,” she said and rolled her eyes as she walked away.
***

Over the next week, Lacy spent every lunchtime sitting in Starbucks, waiting for Bob, John, Simon or Ethan to arrive. On Friday he did. Her heart jumped into her mouth as he opened the door and then looked directly at her. She smiled as he walked toward her but that smile faltered when he continued directly past her to the counter. She followed and stood behind him while he placed his order. When he was done, she tapped him on the shoulder.

“Hello?” he said, clearly with no idea who she was.

“Do you remember me?” she asked.

“You might have to give me a hint,” he said, but flashed her a dazzling smile with an accompanying wink. He was flirting with her.

“You saved me from a bottle in the club the other night,” she said, tilting her head back and giving her hair a flick. She felt herself do it but hadn’t meant to.

“That was you?”

“Yep. I wanted to say thanks,” she said holding out her hand and he took it in his. It was a big hand, but soft. He rolled her fingers in his, as if massaging her, and it was an incredibly intimate feeling.

“I’m Lacy,” she said.

“Ethan,” he said.

“I knew you would be,” she said before she could stop herself.

“Sorry?”

“Nothing. Its… Well… nothing,” she said getting tongue-tied. Behind them, the girl landed a tray-load with coffees on the counter.

“That will be twelve ninety,” she said and Ethan flipped her a credit card which she tapped against the machine. Lacy could see her chance to make an impression drawing quickly to a close so she panicked.

"Do you want to come to a party?” she asked, and was amazed to hear the words come out of her mouth because she had no party to invite him too.

"Sure, when?” he said surprising her.

“Give me your number and I'll text you the details,” she said. He called out his number and she typed it into her phone. On the way out the door, he stopped and turned.

“Can I bring some friends?”

"The more the merrier,” she said, but felt a shiver of anticipation run through her. As soon as he was out the door, she was on the phone to Tracy.

"Tracy, we have to have a party tomorrow!” she yelled. The girl behind the counter to glared across at her. The squeals of delight on the end of the line were all the encouragement she needed. This plan was going to work.

The following day was a whirlwind of preparation. Lacy all but emptied her bank account buying drink, food, and decorations for the party, her first party as it happened. She called friends and extended invitations. When anyone asked the reason for the get-together, she said, for the crack. At six she was stringing fairy lights around the sitting room when someone knocked on the door. Tracy went to answer it and came back with Jason following at her heel. Tracy gave a lip-biting grimace at the awkward situation that was about to unfold.

"Hi Lace, what's are the lights for?

"Jason... I meant to give you a call. You see, there is a bit of a thing happening tonight."

"Cool, a party."

"It's not a party."

"Oh?" he said and clearly not believing her.

"Just the girls over for drinks."

"Sounds great," he said not giving up.

"Only the girls," she said feeling like a bitch.

"Oh. I see," he said, rejection written all over his face. "I better leave you at it so," he said walking toward the door. Lacy watched him go as she stood with fairy light strung over her hands. Before leving he said, "Enjoy the night. I'll call you tomorrow."

"Ok," was all she could say.

When he was gone Tracy turned to her and said, "Well, that was crushing."

"And what was I supposed to say?"

"I don't know but I don't think you should keep stringing him along."

"I'm not stringing him along. We're not exclusive or anything."

"Whatever, girl. Just saying," said Tracy tottering away with more beer to squeeze into the fridge.
***

The party had been going for two hours and the flat was full of people but no sign of Ethan. Lacy was wearing her slinkiest outfit, the one with the slit up to the hip and everyone said how hot she looked but she was miserable. Every time the doorbell rang she rushed to answer it but it was never him. When she given up hope, he arrived. She pulled the door open and those blue eyes made her knees go weak.

"Sorry we're late," he said and Lacy noticed the three others standing behind him, two were stunning girls.

"No problem, it's only starting," she said standing to one side. She watched with horror as Ethan placed a hand very low on one of the girl’s backs to guide her in. It was like being stabbed in the heart.

She watched the two couples make their way into the flat but she couldn't make herself let go of the door. Tracy appeared beside her and asked, "Are you ok?"

"No I'm not, nothing is ok," she said and slammed the door. For the rest of the night, she stayed in the kitchen and swilled wine. Ethan appeared a few times and glanced in her direction but his lady was never far away. By the time the party was winding up Lacy was plastered and in a foul mood. Ethan appeared and said, "We're heading. Thanks so much for the invite."

"No problem. I'll let you out," slurred Lacy walking to the front door and opening it. Ethan's friends left but he lingered.

"Sorry we didn't get to talk more. I really wanted to," he said.

"Yea, whatever," she said and watched him take a step out but he stopped and leaned into her ear.

"Meet me tomorrow," he said breathing huskuly as he said the words.

"What about your girlfriend?"

"Don't mind her. Come on, meet me tomorrow."

Inside, her heart lept in her chest and before she knew what she was doing she agreed. With a wink he was gone, so was her bad mood, her drunken state and every dire thought she had entertained during the night. He wanted her, he really wanted her. 

***

The morning came, but not half fast enough and eventually she did meet him. They sat and shared drink after drink while he explained how much of a cow his girlfriend was. Afternoon turned to evening and before that turned into night, they found themselves in bed. Lacy gave Ethan every inch of her body and would have done so twice if she could. It was magical. The only tiny distraction were the dozens of messages from Jason, none of which she answered. Ethan was the man for her, filling her mind and her body in all ways that counted.

The days passed and Ethan was a constant presence. He whispered everything she ever wanted to hear, he fulfilled every desire she ever held, he was the man she always wanted to have. Nothing would ever be the same for her again. A week turned into two, and lust turned into love but things don't always go to plan. 

Meetings had to be cancelled, outings abandoned, and long leisurely nights in bed cut short by work commitments. True to his word, Ethan did abandon his girlfriend but he always seemed to have so many demands placed on him by work and social commitments that Lacy was beginning to spend as much time alone as she ever did with him.

Weeks turned into months and Lacy started to realise that something was wrong. Ethan never took her to his place, he never introduced her to his friends, the only time they spent together was alone and in bed. She got used to the calls before dates, before nights out, before anything, saying he couldn’t make it. She got used to the excuses to leave early before the sweat on her body had even dried, and although she denied it to herself, she knew he was leaving her. She never saw Tracy anymore, or any of her girlfriends, Ethan didn’t like them. She was alone, she was his and she was drifting further from herself every day.

One night she was sitting in the club, in the same spot Ethan had saved her, waiting for him to arrive and she knew he wasn’t coming. The call had not come and he was not even that late but in her heart she knew he was somewhere else, with someone else, doing what she wished he was doing with her. Across the room, she saw a figure standing at the bar, stoic, distant, and aloof. It was Jason. She had never seen him so proud before, so regal. How had she never seen that side to him before? She picked up her drink and walked across to him, to spend a few minutes catching up, to share a few moments.

As she neared, he saw her, and his face morphed into a mask of dread. It was like she were a monster closing in on him. He held up his hand as if warding her off and started to put down his bottle. His eyes held a lifetime of hurt, a sea of anguish and a universe of pain: and she knew all of that was her fault. He turned from her and walked away, abandoning her as she had abandoned him. The bottle teetered on the edge of the counter before falling outward, twisting in mid-air, reflecting the light of the club off its surface before smashing on the ground, smashing like all her dreams had been smashed. Smashed at the hands of Ethan and more disastrously smashed by her own callousness. 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Hillman Hunter

The back of my Granny's house looked like a breakers yard for cars, mainly thanks to Uncle Mike and PJ. You were never sure which car was running or which was being cannibalised for parts. In the end, it all added to the madness that followed the boys everywhere.
PJ was very fond of one particular car, a brown Hillman Hunter. Admittedly he spent nearly as much time under the bonnet as he did behind the wheel but he never gave up on the thing. One evening, the hunter came limping into the yard, grinding metal screaming from under the car and black oily smoke pumping from the back of it.
Mike stuck his head out the kitchen window and yelled, "What yea done to the thing now?"
PJ got out and slammed the door hard, looking furious, "Flamen clutch is gone," he yelled kicking the tyre.
"I'll make the tae and we'll have a look," said Mike, closing the window to keep the clouds of sticky smoke out of the house. 

As the two boys walked around the car, mugs of steaming tea in hand, they mulled over what could be done.
"You'll be going nowhere in that," said Mike, taking a sip of his brew.
"I have to get into work tomorrow," PJ moaned.
"You'd have more luck pushing a fart back where it came from than getting that thing running by the morning," commented Mike wisely.
"What about the old Mini?" asked PJ nodding toward a carcass of a car up on four blocks.
"Nothing to lose I guess," said Mike, rolling up his sleeves. A few hours later and the Mini had been fitted with a battery that still held a bit of a charge, four scavenged wheels, one a bit smaller than the other three, new spark plugs and a general clean up.
As PJ syphoned petrol from the Hunter and poured it into the Mini he turned to Mike and said, "If this doesn't work you'll have to drop me to the job tomorrow."
"Jesus lad. I've got to be on the far side of Cashel before eight! Not a chance!" Mike would work all night on a car but there was no way he was getting out of bed a minute before he had to in the morning. With fingers crossed they turned over the engine. It whirred and whined and coughed and spluttered but failed to start. Mike shook his big bushy head at the engine as they tried one last time. Whirr whirr whirr went the engine and Mike lost the rag. 
"Start-up yea bitch," he yelled and hit the distributor cap an awful slap of the hammer he was holding. That seemed to do the trick because the little car coughed into life and idled away like an asthmatic with a sixty Rothman a day smoking habit.  

The next morning the car failed to start again, that was until PJ hit the engine a slap of the hammer and off she ran. Weeks passed and the hammer became as necessary as the key to get the little car going. Work on the Hunter was slow, as the necessity of the job dwindled while the Mini was getting PJ around. He found, wink wink, a clutch that would fit the car but never actually got round to installing it. 

One afternoon, PJ was trying to get the Mini started but no matter how many times he bate the distributor cap, the bloody thing wouldn't turn over.
Granny popped her head out the window and cried, "Hey, what's all the caterwauling?"
"Blasted car won't start and I'm taking Maggie to the pictures tonight," said PJ, throwing the hammer at the engine. With no other option, PJ set to work on the Hunter. He managed to get the car jacked up at a forty-five-degree angle with planks rammed against the wheels to keep it up. As he began undoing the bolts keeping the gearbox in place, he was hit by a quandary. He needed a second set of hands. There was nobody around but Granny, so Granny was called into service. 

As PJ loosened the last bolt, Granny was holding the end of a rope, which snaked its way over the car, in the open passenger window and was tied around the gear stick.
"Hold her, hold her now Mammy!" he yelled and Granny braced herself to take the weight of the gearbox. The last bolt dropped into his hand and PJ yelled, "Lave her down, more, more, a bit more. She's out!"
In any other house, having your fifty-year-old mother acting as a hydraulic lift might seem strange but not this one. PJ manoeuvred the replacement part into place as the car wobbled precariously over his head, granny holding a torch so he could see what he was at. Eventually the repair was made and Granny was back on the end of the rope again.
"Pull! Pull! Another bit! Hang on and I give this a slap," PJ cried from under the car and a hammer blow rang out into the evening sky. Something gave and the gearbox slid into place. 
"That's it, Mammy, now hold her there while I get a few bolts into this thing."
After a few minutes, a sweating PJ appeared with his hand still brimming with bolts and a smile on his face. As he wiped his brow with the back of a greasy mitt he asked. "What time is it there, Mammy?"
Granny looked through the kitchen window at the clock on the wall. "Ten to eight."
"Jesus, I have to pick Maggie up at nine. He gave a quick look at the nuts in his hand and tossed them into the glove box of the car and began getting the four wheels back on the ground. Half an hour later, a freshly washed PJ turned the key and prayed. The faithful old hunter started up the first time and purred away into the night.


The nuts were soon forgotten about and the Hunter became a regular sight on the roads once more. That was until a month later, the whole gearbox fell out of the thing doing sixty miles an hour on the way to a job in Dublin. Mike and PJ blocked the countries only dual carriageway for nearly an hour and had to explain to the Guards why the gearbox was only held in by two bolts.



Monday, 6 November 2017

Hi everyone. Thirty Pieces of Silver is up for an e-book contract from Kindle Scout. There is a voting aspect to this so if you are in the mood, and would like to get a free download (If the book is contracted)

Click the link  : https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/3TFCGNCZ1P61R

Log in using your Amazon access.

Click the blue button on Thirty Pieces of Silver (in Crime)

That is it. If it is picked up by the press every one who nominated it gets a free download.

Thanks a million everyone.


Friday, 8 September 2017

Message in a Bottle

Today was a nice day. The hounds and I were out walking near Blenerville and I spotted something unusual bobbing in the water. After a bit of coaxing, Lofty swam out and brought it back in for me.

It was my first real message in a bottle.

I can tell you I got a little excited about it. It was sealed at the top and some cling film and rubber bands had been secured around it. THe bottle had been painted and decorated with some roses and lace. I don't imagine it had been in the water longer than a few weeks because it was fairly intact. Mind you it had been in there long enough to build up a fair bit of slime and seaweed.

I could see the paper inside but the seal had gone and there was water in there as well. I got the top off and emptied it all out. Along with the messages were some lovely rose coloured beads. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble when making this.

So, here is what I found. There were two little cards that would normally go on a wreath for a grave and two other pieces of card. You know, that really touched me. Someone was sending a message out on the ocean for a lost loved one. I don't know if they were for someone who had newly passed on or remembering them on a special day. It might even be for a few different people because I saw a couple of names. One way or the other I thought it was a wonderful way to keep someone's memory alive.  You toss a bottle into the waves and who knows where it will end up, very much like a person's soul. All we can do is hope and hold wonderful dreams close to our heart.

It was hard to make out some of the words because the water had gotten at the card but here is what I could read.

To my dear angel, Mommy loves you always - Mom XXX

Thinking of you Lilly, you can stay as long as you (Last word unclear)

Early birthday wish that your at peace and dining amongst the stars XXX

My dear Tasha, hope you're with me, I need your guidence, love and miss you always - (Signature unclear) XXX

To my guardian angel, protect me from the claws of negative people,




Friday, 18 August 2017

Paper Chain

I'm Charlie, and I am four and a half. The half is important because that's how long I've been going to school. I was scared on my first day, and told my Mom I didn't want to stay but she made me anyway. I remember standing in the hall outside the classroom, and it wasn't like my hall at home. It was big and smelled funny. There were no clocks ticking, or coats hanging on the coat tree and Snookie the cat wasn't lying in her bed. I think I might have cried, but I'm not sure about that. Anyway, like I said, that was a half ago, and a half is a long, long time.

It turned out that school was a great place to go. Teacher is really nice, like another Mom, but she dresses differently. We play games, and there are loads of other kids, not like at home where it's just me, Mom and Dad. There are rules, but not many, and they make us learn new things, but that's ok. I like learning new things, it's easy. Before school, I thought all kids were the same, but I was wrong about that. First off there are girls, now they're different. They don't like the same things boy's do at all. Some boys are different too. Some are loud, some are not, some push and shove, some play nice, and some can be mean, that I don't like.

My best friend is Simon, we do everything together. We sit at the same desk, do our lessons together, play together, and eat our lunch together. Simon is great, the greatest kid in the world, he could be even greater than me.

So today is Monday, and I'm very excited because Teacher said she'd have a big surprise for us on Monday. I'm dressed extra quick, eat all my breakfast, pack my lunch box, put on my bag and coat and Mom is still sitting at the kitchen table.

"What's the rush?" she asks, as she pulls on her coat and shoes. I do wish she'd hurry up.

"It's surprise day! Come on, Mom!" I say, taking her by the hand and pull her out the door. I try to make her run, but she's too heavy. She tries to keep up, but her legs are too old to go fast. Once I heard her say her legs were killing her, sometimes I worry about that, but not today. Today is surprise day. When I get to the classroom, I'm not even the first there. I hang my coat on my hook and go to stand beside Simon. Everyone is crowded around teachers desk where there's something square covered with a cloth.

"What is it?" I whisper.

"I don't know, Teacher won't tell until class starts," he whispered back. We spent the rest of the time before class guessing what might be under the cloth. I thought it might be a cake, I hoped it was a chocolate one with hundreds of thousands all over it. Simon thought it was a time machine because of every now and again it started to make a noise. Time machines are cool, but I still hoped it was a cake. The bell rang, and Teacher made us all sit in our chairs before she took the cloth off the secret. When she did, it wasn't a cake, and it wasn't a time machine, it was a million trillion times better. It was two white mice in a cage, one of them was running around on a yellow plastic wheel making a squeaking noise.

"WOW!" said the whole class together, even the girls. We all began rushing forward, but Teacher stopped us. She said we had to be gentle, two at a time she let us up to see them. Once we all had a look, she told us all about them, how to feed them, give them water and to change the straw in the bottom of the cage. All that week we looked after them, and by Friday things got even more exciting. Teacher said she had another surprise. She said two responsible students would get to take a mouse each home. Of course, my hand went straight up, but so did everyone else's. "Miss, miss, miss, miss," we all chanted, but she wouldn't pick. She said we were going to play a game and the winners would get the mice for the weekend.

Games are great! I'm good at games. She gave out strips of coloured paper and glue and told everyone to make a paper chain as long as their arm. This was easy, we'd done this before. When everyone had their chains made, she held up a basket and said she was going to draw out names for partners. One boy held up his hand and asked, "You mean we might have to play with the girls?"

The teacher only laughed and pulled out the first two names, who went up, and Teacher put their chains together then attached each end to a kids arm. Teacher explained that both would have to work together for the day and not break the chain. The last pair to break their chain would win. Teacher began drawing teams. At last, she pulled out a piece of paper with "Charlie" written in red marker. I jumped up and down with all my fingers crossed. "Simon, Simon, Simon," I chanted in my brain, but it didn't work. The name that came out was "Tom" written in horrible, snot-green, marker. TOM! I didn't want to play anymore, Tom never won anything.

"Come on," said Teacher, waving us up to the front. I walked up, hanging my head and dragging my feet. Tom didn't look like he was excited about this either. As we stood there being chained together, I glanced over at Tom. He was bigger than most of the kids in the class but nearly never gave Teacher the answers she was looking for, but that wasn't why I didn't want to be with him. It was playtime. When he was in the yard he was the loudest of all the boys, running around, pushing and shoving, always wanting to be first on the swings, or the climbing frame, and he even took things out of peoples lunch boxes and ate them. I told Mom once, and she said that was stealing which was a bad thing, and I should never do it. That's why I didn't want to be with Tom, he was a bad boy. When the chain was made, Tom went to go back to his chair, and I went to go back to Simon, already forgetting about the chain. We nearly broke it.

"Dumbo," he whispered when we got untangled. It was only then we realised we had to sit beside each other for the rest of the day. There was no space near Simon, so we had to sit at Tom's desk all the way in the back of the room. When we got there, he folded his arms on the desk and put his head down. I heard him say, "I really wanted to mind the mouse." He must have been talking to me, there was nobody else at the table.

"So did I," I said, and he raised his head a bit.

"We'll never win," he said, and he looked really sad.

"We can try," I said, and pointed at our chain. "Look, it's still together. We have a chance."

"You think," he asked, holding up his hand with the paper chain attached.

"I'll try if you will," I said. I really wanted to bring home a mouse too. He nodded and went to rub his nose with the back of his hand, stretching the chain tight.

"Careful, you nearly broke it," I said, checking the paper for rips.

"Sorry," he said, and his face went red.


When lessons started, the first thing Teacher wanted us to do was draw a picture of any animals that lived in our houses. I got busy with the crayons and soon had a great drawing of a ginger cat with the word "Snookie" over its head. Tom had his hand covering his paper as he worked. I asked for a look, and when he showed it to me, it was just a load of blue circles going around and around.

"What's that?"

"It's a spider web," he said, shoving it closer so I could see it better.

"Wow, you have a pet spider?" I imagined a huge hairy thing like the one I had seen in the pet shop. Tom went red again.

"Not a pet but there are loads in my house," he said and tried to hide the picture again. I don't know why but I started to feel sorry for Tom. He seemed sad, having no pets was a terrible thing. I decided not to say any more about it because it was upsetting him. One by one, kids began forgetting about their paper chains. As each one ripped, they would say, "Oh no!" and hold their hands up to their heads. Every time that happened, Tom let out a little giggle and said, "Ours is still ok." By the time break arrived, half the kids were out of the game already.

"Lunch," said teacher, clapping her hands. First, Tom and I went to my bag and got out my Spiderman lunchbox, then we went to Tom's bag and got out his silver one. The kids who were knocked out of the game were running and playing like always and normally Tom would be right in the middle of it. I was about to go out with everyone else when he held me back and said, "We better let them go out first." I nodded, and we waited till the room was empty. I saw Teacher smiling at us, she knew we wanted to win. We decided to go over to the sandbox to eat our lunch. We sat on the timber which held the sand back and opened our boxes. I got an apple, a small chocolate biscuit and two banana sandwiches, my favourite.

"What did you get?" I asked.

"Ham sandwich and a chocolate bar," he said, but wouldn't let me see in the box. He just closed the lid.

"Are you not hungry?" I asked.

"I'll eat them later," he said and bent over to put the tin at his feet. That was when two boys started wrestling in the sand behind us, and one went crashing into Tom, knocking him over. There was nothing I could do to stop it. I heard the rip as he hit the ground. He jumped up, but it was too late. He held up his arm and looked at the paper loops dangling from it. I thought he was going to cry, but he didn't. His face went very red as the boy who had knocked him ran away. He stood there and looked so mad, I'd never seen a kid look mad like that before. That was when he started shouting and running after all the other kids, pulling apart their paper chains.

Before Teacher could catch him, he'd broken every paper chain. Teacher marched him inside, and everyone in the yard was shocked at what he'd done. Nobody knew who was going to take home the mice now. My toe hit against Tom's lunch box, so I picked it up. The lid was open, I wasn't snooping, but there was nothing inside the box. No ham sandwich, no chocolate bar, only some crumpled tinfoil and crumbs. Tom was telling fib's as well. Why did he do that?


After the break, Teacher looked as mad as Tom had looked earlier. He was sitting alone at his table, his head resting on his hands and his ears were very red. Everyone was asking Teacher who was going to take home the mice and pointing at Tom saying it wasn't their fault he broke their chains.

"Sush! Sush!" cried Teacher until everyone stopped talking. "After what happened I don't think its a good idea that anyone gets to take home the mice today."

"What!" everyone shouted, everyone but Tom. Then everyone was saying it was Tom's fault, Tom was naughty, Tom was bold, Tom should be punished, but they should not. Teacher soon had enough and stamped her foot, stopping all the noise. "I've decided to take the mice home myself, and that's the end of it," she said, crossing her arms. There was no changing her mind. I saw lots of kids giving Tom angry looks, and I felt sorry for him. They were all pointing at him and said it was all his fault, but I knew that someone had broken our chain first. Nobody seemed to think that mattered, but I did. I was still sad when Mom came to collect me, and I told her all about the competition and what had happened. She said that Tom shouldn't have done what he did, even if someone else broke our chain, it was naughty. I was thinking about arguing, but sometimes grown-ups just don't understand kids.


All weekend I wondered what the school mice were doing in Teachers house. I wished I'd got to bring them home and let them play with Snookie, but Mom said it might not have ended well, whatever that means. Anyway, Monday came, and I was back at school and excited to see the school mice again. As classes started, I saw Tom sitting all by himself. Everyone was still mad at him, and none of the kids would talk to him. It wasn't fair, someone had broken our chain first, that had to count for something?  Lunchtime came, and I saw Tom take his silver lunch box and go all the way to the corner of the yard and sit on the grass. I didn't think it was right he should be alone so I asked Simon if we should go over, but he was still mad at Tom and said he was a meanie. I looked from Tom to Simon and back again. Simon was my best friend in the world but what was happening to Tom wasn't right. Nobody should have to eat lunch by themselves. I stood up and walked to the far side of the yard leaving Simon behind.

"Hi Tom," I said, and sat on the grass beside him.

"Hi," he said and sounded very sad.

"You shouldn't have broken the chains," I said.

"I know, I'm sorry about that, but they won't talk to me." All I could do was nod because he was right. I opened my lunch box and saw that today I had an orange, two crackers with cheese and a jam sandwich. I looked over and saw that Tom's lunch box was still closed.

"What did you get?"

"Ham sandwich and a chocolate bar," he said, and this time I knew he was fibbing.

"I got jam, I don't like jam. Will you eat half for me?"

"Really?"

"Yea," I said, and handed him half my sandwich. His eyes grew big, and the sandwich vanished in two huge bites. His cheeks puffed out, just like the mice did when they were full of food. It was so funny I laughed out loud, and Tom grinned, his mouth still full of mashed up bread and jam. Some of the other kids in the yard looked over to see what we were laughing about but didn't come talk to us. After, I gave him one of my crackers but kept the orange for myself. We played together for the rest of the break, and when we went back to class, he gave me a huge smile and said, "Thanks for the sandwich, it was the best one ever." I went back to sit beside Simon, and he seemed to be mad at me now.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"Tom's naughty, you shouldn't be friends with him."

"He's not so naughty really, he's just hungry." I could tell by Simon's face he didn't understand, but then how could he. He never opened his lunch box to find nothing inside.