I’d been looking for ages for something that would live in the relatively dry and overly warm atmosphere of my apartment and had tried cacti, as well as a whole host of fairly standard house plants over the last five years. The results up to present had always been the same. The things would look normal for a month or so and then there would be the tell-tale elongation of the stems with the colour becoming rather insipid green instead of a rich deep hue and then they would bolt culminating in a trip to the rubbish bin. Even when I followed the instructions to the letter as I had with the bonsai trees the best I managed was a massive nine months. In their case the leaves all fell off! Mother said that I was like her, she could never grow anything, but I remained determined and a few days ago I purchased a pinky/purplish coloured orchid with three flowers and five buds.
After a couple of weeks the remaining buds opened to reveal the stunning content beneath matching the flowers already awakened, so far so good. When you look at the flowers they are rather like the faces of exotic creatures with five overlapping, pale pink, petals striated with faintly deeper pink, and framed in white forming the backdrop of the strangely menacing central part. This area is mainly purple with small white internal areas spotted in the same regal shade and considerably more complex than the petals on which they are mounted. The whole inner area is rather like the mouth parts of a large insect with two side pieces and a lower tongue inviting you in to the depths where you will inevitably meet your doom.
These eight threatening beauties are mounted atop a single dark green stem that has erupted from the heart of five broad and plain green leaves that form the engine room of the amazing creature. The root systems that anchor the plant in a stationary position are capable of drawing breath from the air as well as liquid food from the soil and are apparently as enigmatic as the glorious flowers.
How long will they last? Or will they be the end of me with their threatening mandible like temptations, waiting until my guard is down and then inject me with their poison? Does the seemingly stationary thing of beauty sit on the windowsill in the kitchen, night and day, waiting for the opportunity to draw me into their heavenly jaws? When I turn the last light out tonight on my way to bed and finally lay down to rest will I have to go back and check that the doors or all securely closed? What will happen if I forget?
Have any of you taken one of these sinister plants into your homes and do you feel safe at night?
The Dentist's final patient of the day
The Dentist's final patient of the day
How do you like it? A little apprehensive, unworried or just downright petrified perhaps!
With me the juries out but has anyone considered the dentist? Let's face it there has to be a vocation there to want to spend your days staring into someone else's mouth. Taking in the cavities, gaps, fissures, pits, gingivitis, halitosis, last night's garlic or curry. On top of that are the customers clothes clean? Has it been a hot day and the guy in the chair has been working at a manual job in the baking sun? Is the elderly patient ever so slightly incontinent?
The dentist was tired and it was rather humid in the consulting room. Mrs Prendegast is his final patient of the day and, as usual, she is a little afraid and as a result defensive and that manifests itself in temper.
"I hope you're not going to be too long!" she snapped querulously.
"Just relax Mrs Prendegast," replies our frazzled professional. "Open wide please."
The dentist uses his probe to flick the remains of food from in between her teeth that he spots with his hand held mirror. He makes a comment to his nurse about preparing an injection and,
"Just one small filling down at the back Mrs Prendegast"
"Are you sure? I've had no trouble and if its going to cost. I brush, floss and use mouthwash," she falls silent as she realises the dentist isn't really listening.
The dentist holds the needle down by his side as he doesn't want the lady to faint when she sees the size of the thing. He is practised in moving it swiftly from concealment and getting it into the patient's mouth with the precision of an assassin delivering a fatal blow. The room seems to have become hotter and the heady perfume worn by the middle aged woman is making the health care expert feel decidedly queasy. He can feel beads of perspiration on his forehead and,
"Nurse can you open the window please?" he requests wearily. "And will you nip next door and mix some amalgam?"
The pretty young thing that his wife worries about, and had no need to, did as she was requested and the doctor returns to the cavernous maw that is Mrs Prendergast's mouth.
"Nice and still now and a wide yawn for me please?" he asks.
As he raises the needle to her mouth he feels a sharp debilitating pain in his chest. He freezes a moment thinking to himself that he is not old, he visits the gym periodically - is this his heart? He moves his hands away from the area of his patients face and drops the metal syringe and tries to stand up but can't straighten. The pain is spreading like a fire from a spot just below his breast bone and he grips the edge of the chair holding this lady that he should be treating. Everything stands still, there is no sound, the lights are dimming, the perspiration is soaking his body and he can't move. Then gravity begins to take over and he finds he can no longer resist its power sliding down to his knees. He is dimly aware that Mrs Prendegast has risen from the treatment chair at the side opposite to him and is vaguely relieved that she must be going to help.
"Just lie back now doctor it won't be long now," she whispers close to his ear as she cradles his head down to the floor and then she wipes the blade of the stiletto style knife on the front of the turquoise tunic that is a trademark of the profession, and pops it back into her handbag, rises and leaves the treatment room.
"Bye now," Mrs Prendegast calls to the receptionist as she passes across the reception area.
"Excuse me Mrs Prendegast," calls the girl. "Do you need a follow-up appointment?"
"Oh I don't think so dear," she smiles as she exits.
The Lawn Mower
Shadows crept across the wall as the baking sun set behind the hill opposite the wooden veranda of the gites in the French valley where I reclined with a bottle of red wine. The orange of the light was fading to blackness and the bats hunted the chirruping insects that had taken to the air. I watched a praying mantis assuming a position to kill then I heard the loud, unnatural buzzing coming from somewhere behind me. It was rather like the sound of a lawn mower but unless someone was cutting the grass in the advancing twilight I knew that wasn’t the case.
“Help!” was the scream issuing from inside the cottage.
The noise of my daughter’s screams echoed across the valley as I leapt up from my recliner and dashed inside the accommodation. There was no sign of her but the buzzing noise and her yells were coming from the bathroom at the back of the house. I dashed in to see what the problem was and she was hiding behind the shower curtain pointing with a bare arm up into the corner of the room. The source of the buzzing was the biggest wasp I’d ever seen!
A Valentine’s Day Story
I was sat across from her over a plate of baked salmon covered liberally in dill sauce and served with new potatoes, peas and honey glazed carrots. We were arranged at tables for 12 people and I had just finished helping to serve and taken the only seat left opposite this lovely lady.
“How long have you lived in the town?” she asked pleasantly.
“Twenty six years but with a short break of six years when I lived in a village not far from here,” was my reply.
“I have known him since I was at school. When my husband died he was ever so helpful. I went to school with him but there’s nothing going on,” she said guiltily but with a warm smile as she indicated the man sat next to her. “Then when I was poorly he visited me in hospital and when I got out he did my supermarket shopping and came round everyday just to check on me.”
She seemed very comfortable sat next to Mark and he was taking little notice of her but chatting away to the man next to me about when he worked for a chemical company at a local factory.
“We all worked for ICI or John Cotton in this town who do you work for?” she demanded in a proprietary sort of way.
“I was a teacher and then a banker before I retired,” I explained.
It almost killed the conversation but she was kind and understanding as if teachers ex or current needed understanding. I went on to mention that I was retired and spent time caring for the aged relative that is my mother but this seemed to be of little interest to her. She smiled,
“There is nothing going on really,” she smiled again.
It was time to collect the plates from the first course and start serving puddings so it was a minute or two before I got back with my plate of bread and butter pudding with oranges but it was like I’d never moved.
“He lives next door to me and I’ve known him since we were five but there’s nothing going on,” and there were the sparkling dentures as she smiled again. “Some people think there is but there isn’t!”
Irrespective of whether there was anything ‘going on’ or not this lady was very happy in the knowledge that her ‘Mark’ was her friend and comforter. Whatever else they may or may not want to be they were happy in their existence but there is a shadow in her mind about what other people may think. She referred to the possibility on a number of occasions so it obviously bothered her in a minor sort of way. What was really important was the glow about this lady and the way in which her smile lit up her eyes with a hint of mischief when she spoke of Mark a little like a child who has something up their sleeve to confound an adult.
The meal was at our parish lunch club for the over seventies!
David L Atkinson February 2012
The Fordyce Saga
“What are you worrying about Stacey,” asked Bill. “We are not really involved.”
“Oooh men! When are you going to realise that we could get into trouble too just by being here. He is breaking the law,” she wailed.
There was a silence that was palpable. Bill thoughtfully, you could tell by the furrowed brow, studied his feet and considered what his wife had said so forcefully. Stacey was huffing and puffing but Bill was not about to jump in to an attack on his employer. He was aware that Stacey was reacting on an emotional level to the news Patrick and that boss of his, Takuo Sumisu, had told them over a cup of filtered coffee in Patrick’s apartment this afternoon. He wanted time to think.
“Hang on a minute Stacey,” he said. “We are in a good position. Patrick looks after us and he has taken Ethan on, which he had no reason to do, but for us we have quite a cushy number here.”
“You are right of course Bill but I’m worried,” replied Stacey more quietly.
“Look Stacey it is a lot simpler than you’d first think. Patrick and Sumisu, and that Naomi that you like, well they are trying to make things better for everybody. You know what it’s like when these child molesters, kidnappers and murderers are sent to prison and ten minutes later they are set free because of good behaviour and the like. Well nobody ever thinks of what the families left behind feel. It’s all about the criminal and their human rights. It’s barmy! What about the victim and their rights? If someone breaks into your house and goes through all your personal stuff they have taken your human rights away. All that Patrick and his friends are doing is balancing everything up,” he paused running out of steam.
“Bill what if he’s killed someone?” Stacey left the question hanging in the air.
Bill stared out of the window of Patrick’s kitchen window. He thought about the work he’d done for Patrick that Stacey had no idea about. He’d created spaces in the body work cavities of Patrick’s vehicles to hold the sniper rifle and hand guns. He knew when Patrick had gone away for a few days and taken his weapons with him. In his heart of hearts Bill knew that Patrick had killed people, he had no positive evidence he just knew, and yet he felt that what Patrick was doing wasn’t wrong. If he had killed people it had been to apply the justice that, because of trendy, lefty do-gooders, the authorities no longer had the ability to apply. In the eyes of God what Patrick A Steele did was wrong but in Bill’s opinion needed doing.
“I don’t know for a fact that he has but I trust Patrick and he would only do what was necessary to stop criminals and their activities,” explained Bill.
“Well for our sake I just hope that you’re right,” replied Stacey.
A Beast in the Night
When I first awaken I swing my legs out of bed and plant them on the floor giving myself a couple of minutes to come round stretching, yawning and rubbing my eyes. There is nothing unusual in that I hear you say and there isn’t on a normal morning but this was far from normal. For one thing it was still dark outside conveyed by the lack of the pale light of dawn seeping under the thick tan coloured curtains. I don’t usually wake up in the night. The other piece of evidence was on the carpet just to the left of my foot. I discerned what appeared to be three or four small black shapes that were at the moment stationary but from their arrangement and individual oval appearance could be heading towards me. My movement had caused them to stop in their advance or so it seemed.
Very slowly I moved my right hand towards the switch on the bedside lamp not taking my eyes off the creatures for fear that they may continue their advance. There was not a sound either from inside the room, the apartment or even outside in the street. The air was cold and full of the night’s chill that set my skin prickling with a mixture of fear and anticipation. C’mon pull yourself together they are tiny – I admonished myself. The hairs on my arms were standing up to trap air and insulate my chilled body but my face felt hot as if with embarrassment the skin on my forehead tight and burning. The progress towards the light switch had halted and I resumed the action but wait - had I just seen some movement?
The beasts were still now and I didn’t want to hunt for them if they scattered when I turned on the light. What should I do? What could I do? The wailing of a tom cat outside distracted me once again and I glanced away from my potential assailants only to turn my eyes back to them more slowly dreading what I might see. They seemed to be still. I decided on a different strategy and began to lift my feet very slowly and swing them off the floor and back under the warm safety of the duvet while at the same time reaching for ‘The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes’ a weighty tome and suitable weapon to fettle the little creatures that had disturbed my peaceful slumber.
I turned on to my stomach, without taking my eyes from the creatures, holding the heavy book in two hands and shuffling round so that I could have a good swing at these things on my floor when my foot touched something slightly warm and furry under the duvet. I froze where I was. The creatures had launched an assault on two fronts perhaps? I pushed hard with my right foot and the furry beast under my covers launched itself away from me and landed on the floor with a splashy thump.