The Chronicles of the Flying Fish Inn

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      I never could stand the sight of it. For as long as I remember, which is no more than 6 years, admittedly, the odd-looking fish had been preserved and placed above the fake stucco fireplace. It’s been here for much longer, though. You can tell by the thickness of the dust covering it. My friend Bert, that old chap, told me so.
      He has told me many other stories about the town, about my family, and their glorious past. It could just have been no more than stories, but I believe him —for no reason, really. Maybe only because my sisters find him slightly creepy and old. Anyway, I like him.

      In his stories, the fish had fallen many years ago from the sky. There had been rain this summer day, which was, in itself, even less believable than some oddly shaped flying fish falling from the sky. And that fish had fallen in front of what was the private mansion of the Curara family. Our ancestor found it, and decided to take it as a sign of the Almighty that they would be blessed with abundance forever after… But then, everything went downside with fantastic speed. The gold rush stopped in its tracks, the town slowly got deserted, and since then, our family started to believe that it was more a curse than a blessing. However, nobody ever bothered to get rid of the fish that once flew.

      Maybe they were waiting for another one to appear to break the string of unfortunate events. I always think of all the amusing ways I could get rid of it without anybody noticing. April’s fools wouldn’t do… Too easy. But having it served at dinner would be a start. Sadly, with Aunt Idle’s poor cooking skills, there was no chance a fish could come unnoticed.

      So it was on that particular day when I’d found and written down on my secret diary a 222nd way of getting rid of the fish, it was on that particular and fateful day, that everything changed again for the Curara family.

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    • #3524

        The sound of hurried footsteps drew me out of my homework.

        Mater! Mater!” the twins barged in the private boudoir of Mater, our family matriarch.
        “Bloody hell, girls! Have your mother taught you nothing! Bloody knock before you enter!”
        I could easily picture Mater adjusting her shiny white dentures with a push of the thumb, and looking at the two girls with a affable grin on her powdered peach-smooth face.
        “Isn’t it much better? Now, what is it that requires my immediate attention girls?”
        “There’s a strange man at the door…” Coriander said, breathing heavily.
        “… he says he’s a debt collector and he’s looking for you Mater.” Clove completed the sentence.


          The first time one of the guinea pigs died I went up to my bedroom, closed the door and cried. Not just cried. I sobbed my eyes out. Great gasping sounds such as I had not uttered in many a long year. An old lady shouldn’t be crying like that over a damned rat-like critter so I made sure no one else heard me. It’s peculiar that it took me so hard, because I always disapproved of the children having pets. It was that Prune. Begged and pleaded with her Aunt Dido when they went into town one day. And Dido is so damned soft with the kids. I’m always telling her that. Not that she listens. Spoils them rotten to make up for them not having parents around when what they really need is a good slap across the backside. Of course the lazy child cared for the poor wee things for about 5 minutes before she got bored. So I took over their care. Now another one is poorly and I can feel the familiar fear clutching at my heart.

          Death. He’s got his ugly scent all around this damned town.

          Like that debt collector that came by this morning. I could smell death on him soon as I saw him at the door. I got rid of him quick smart. Told him I couldn’t hear a word he was saying and shook my walking stick at him. It’s not my walking stick—I can still walk just fine. I can even get a bit of a gentle jog going if the situation warrants it. No, I found it at the back of one of the cupboards when we were cleaning out the guest rooms. It sure comes in handy sometimes. Nothing like a bit of walking stick brandishing to show who’s the boss around here.

          He’ll be back of course. With some big fancy official letter and maybe a bit of back up next time. Now he knows who he is dealing with.


            Another bang on my bedroom door, my hands suspended over the keyboard. “Go away Prune!” I shouted, exasperated. “If you bang on my door again, I’ll come out and give you such a wallop, now bugger off, will you!”

            “It’s me, Corrie” came Clove’s voice. Walked over to the door and unlocked it. A chat with my sister might help me with this project. Unlike Prune, who would be guaranteed to disrupt my train of thought.

            Locking the door again I tell Clove what I’m writing about. We don’t go to school, me and Clove, we’re what they call “homeschooled” but what that actually means in our case is that we’re left to our own devices most of the time. Aunt Idle asks us (when she remembers) what we’ve been working on, and as long as we’ve been writing something or researching something, she’s happy.

            So when I saw the group project about alternative timelines to avoid the disaster timeline, I had some ideas. Well, to be honest, I didn’t have any definite ideas until I saw the other suggestions. All Americans, and all of them talking about changing the timelines by changing the results of presidential elections!

            “Not much chance of a different timeline there then!” remarked Clove astutely.

            “Exactly!” I knew Clove would get it, she knows were I’m coming from, but then, everyone knows twins are like that.

            “So this is what the plan is, right: “The goal of this exercise is to discuss amongst the group and choose significant past moments, and then As a Group, focus on creating alternate histories, thus sparking alternate timelines. We should vividly imagine moving forward from those probability forks and creating a more viable and desirable future.” Oh, and this bit here: “ our current timeline is convoluted to the point where many probabilities are leaning towards a disaster scenario simply to shake out of the current focus.” And then all these suggestions about different presidents, and then this: “My suggestion would be also to consider how we would like our current time frame to appear,” so I’m thinking…”

            “I’m thinking” interrupted Clove, continuing my train of thought, “Of all those states and communities that got with the programme ten years ago, and took their kids out of school and built those Earthships so they didn’t need money for water and electricity..”

            “And started cooperative worker owned businesses like they do in South America….”

            “And they all started a guaranteed basic income years ago, so everyone was doing what they did best, especially the kids, cos they had such great ideas and weren’t stuck in boring schoolrooms…..”

            “and there was no poverty, and nobody without a home…”

            “Yeah, and they all stopped paying taxes so there was no money for the military, and then loads more people stopped paying taxes too…”

            “Good one, Clove!”

            “So nobody gave a fuck what president was elected anyway, because they were all sorting themselves out, and those states and communities were doing so well…”

            “Because they’d already been doing it for years” I added.

            “…that other states and communities started doing it too.”

            “So that it snowballed, like dominoes, and there were more and more of these places..”

            “And they had exchange students and stuff like that to learn from each other, and shared stuff online..”

            “So when the disasters struck, it wasn’t half so bad because there were already a bunch of people managing perfectly well without dollars or oil, and they could help the people in the disaster. Makes more sense that electing another blimmin president, huh?”

            “Bloody obvious if you ask me” replied Clove. “Pity we don’t have basic income, did you see Mater’s face when she was talking to that debt collector?”

            That made me laugh, remembering her waving the stick around. “Her face was as purple as her cardigan.”

            In unison, we both starting singing Start Wearing Purple and dancing around, acting the fool. I had a purple wig hanging on the back of my chair, so I put that on, and Clove grabbed a purple feather boa off the coat stand. No shortage of wigs in this town, though god only knows why. Just about every damn trunk in every empty house is full of wigs.


              “Just wait a minute for Mater to join us, kids. The dinner will wait a bit longer,” Aunt Idle said, while scraping the bottom of the pan, filling the kitchen with the smell of blackened burnt stew.
              “But she’s late again, and we’re hungry now!” I said, and Clove chipped in “It’s fucking almost ruined now anyway.”
              “Hey! less of that rude language, Clove,” Aunt Idle said, so I asked her why a word is ruder than being late. “Yeah, and why is barging in to her room ruder than being late?” my sister added. “Why haven’t you taught the old bag some manners, Aunt Idle?”
              Clove, really!”
              “What old bag?” asked Mater, crashing open the door with her stick.
              “You” replied Prune, “They’re calling you a rude old bag. OUCH! Clove just kicked me!”
              Aunt Idle, Mater didn’t say sorry for being late, isn’t that rude?”
              “Only when you do it, now shut up and eat.”


                I don’t like the sound of shouting, so I retreated in the silence of the billiard room.
                It was still smelling of the tobacco that father was smoking when he spent hours working there, on the small desk next to the bookshelves.

                I don’t know why I’m always the one who got kicked. Being the youngest isn’t fair. I never got to know my mother for as long as my stupid sisters. And now, father’s absences are stretching for longer and longer ; I dread that I soon won’t see him either… forever…

                I curl into the old teal blue sofa eaten by mites, and rock myself silently.

                I always wanted to escape my strange family, the inexorable fate of a meaningless life in a meaningless town. Yeah, I’m precocious, and I even studied maps to see how far I could get. Unlike so many movie stars wannabes wanting to live a life in the city, and who always ended up back were they came from, often sadder and disillusioned, I will take all the time I need to make sure I will succeed. Much of my plans stay in my head though. Will never write them, can’t trust it with my snooping sisters around.

                For now, I will continue to play them all. I will continue to be the little behaving girl who asks for the cute puppy dog. And pray in silence for father to come back, wishing for him to tell me stranger stories from the beyond of the town.



                  I feel myself moving slowly today. The thought of death and my poor little guinea pig is still nagging. It occurs to me that perhaps I am walking slowly because I don’t want to move too fast into the inevitable.

                  Or perhaps it is just that I did not sleep so well last night. It is so damned hot and night time offers little respite from the heat.

                  At least the kids have stopped fighting. I worry about them. Always shut away in their rooms on that internet thing.

                  I am so tired. More tired than I should be. It is not the usual aches and pains. Something feels wrong. I have made up my mind to go and visit Jiemba, the local aboriginal healer. It is a wee bit of a walk, so I will need to start early, before the heat gets up. I don’t want to ask Dido to take me. “Just go and see the doctor in town!” she will say to me. For all her alternative ways, Dido can still be pretty closed minded about some things—and she thinks I am a crazy old fool anyway.

                  But I think Jiemba has the gift—special healing powers—and he comes from a family of aboriginal healers. His father was a healer and his grandfather too. I went to see him once, his father, years ago. My back was bad and the doctor in town said I would need an operation. He did some chanting, calling up spirits I think, put his hand on my back and pulled out a stone. He said the stone was the sickness causing my back pain, or some such thing. I was sceptical at the time, but my back never did give me any more bother. I’ve read up on it since then and I think there is something in it all. The older I get the more I realise I don’t know it all.

                  Besides, there is something else I want to ask him about and I don’t know who else I can talk to. That’s the problem with getting old—one of the problems anyway—people tend to assume you are losing your marbles if you say anything out of the ordinary.

                  But I think the Inn is haunted.


                    I noticed when Mater left the house early and discreetly. I know all the sounds of the house, and even the light footsteps of my grandmother couldn’t avoid making the floor creak.

                    I’m mildly curious, as it isn’t every day Mater leaves the house, besides for the Sundays’ mass. She always complained about her cracking joints, and plenty other pains. Must be why she liked to threaten everyone with inflicting some.

                    She had looked genuinely sad when the furball had died, though. I was too, but my eyes are set on one of the new spaniel pups from a litter that Battista and Gerardo, the funny Italian couple with the pizzeria next door just had.

                    Battista promised to keep one for me. I lied of course, told her that my aunt had agreed to it. By any rate, Aunt Idle wouldn’t remember giving her approval or disapproval, and would most probably fall gaga for the little puppy. So it would just be a little white lie.

                    I was about to fall back asleep when I hear the door creak open. My first thought was that it was Mater who’d forgotten her keys, but the loud footsteps weren’t hers.

                    My heartbeat raised a little while I jump out of bed full of hope.

                    “Papa Fred!” I almost cried out while flying down the stairs, but then I stopped in mid sentence.
                    The man in the entrance isn’t father.

                    I would have cried for help, but Aunt Idle and my sisters have a very loud sleep, and I don’t want to look afraid. Father had taught me to stand my ground with wild animals.

                    “Who are you?” I ask the dust covered man. He had a broad hat, and a thick bushy beard. His coat was covered with cracked mud and dust from the road.

                    “Apologies for my intrusion young lady. Is that the Flying Fish Inn? Someone told me I could stay there for a while.”



                      I am 73 years old and some think I look pretty good for my age. Not the kids—the kids think I look as old as Methuselah. When I was young my hair was jet black. Now it is white and I wear it in a long braid down my back; it is easy to look after and I certainly don’t trust Dodi to cut it, though she has offered. I wash it once a week and put vinegar in the final rinse to get rid of the yellow tinge. My back is straight, no dowager’s hump like some my age, and I can still touch my toes at a push. I married my childhood sweetheart—the love of my life—in 1958 and he died of sickness, April 12th, 1978. My favourite dish is spaghetti and meatballs. When I was younger, when I lived in Perth, I was a milliner. I don’t make hats now; there is not the same demand out here. And of course there is Fred, my son, who scarpered God-knows-where a year ago.

                      It isn’t much to say about a life, but I suspect it is way more than you wanted to know.

                      This reminds me; Dodi went to a funeral in Sydney a few months ago. The funeral of a dear school friend who died in a motor vehicle accident. Not her fault, as I understand it. She was driving along, minding her own business, returning home from a quiet night playing trivial pursuits at the local community centre. A teenage driver lost control of her car. She was fine; I mean the other driver was fine, barely a scrape. Dodi’s friend was not so fortunate. At the funeral of her friend—I forget her name—the place was packed.

                      At the time, when Dodi recounted the events of the funeral, I started thinking about my own future demise. It may perhaps sound morbid, or vain, but I found myself wondering who might be there to see me off. Other than the family, who would be duty bound to attend, I couldn’t think of many who would care enough to pay their respects—perhaps a few locals there for the supper afterwards and a bit of a chinwag no doubt.

                      I am rambling; I have a tendency to do that. I can’t blame it on old age because I have always rambled. The point is, I don’t think I have done much with my life. And this saddens me.

                      However, I suspect this is of less interest to you than the ghost I mentioned earlier.

                      The idea of a ghost is not a new concept at the Flying Fish Inn. It has been around for as long as we have been here. But it was just a joke—it wasn’t a real ghost, if you see what I mean. Every strange noise or other untoward happening we would blame on “the ghost”. The dilapidated look of the place lent itself very well to having resident ghost, it was almost obligatory, and Fred even had a plan to market our imaginary ghost as a tourist attraction.

                      So what changed? Well, I saw him.


                      Aunt Idle:

                      My hands were shaking so much I could hardly light a cigarette after reading the note. I got it lit and sucked in a lungful, exhaled right into the shaft of sunlight and froze. And I don’t mean cold, it’s hotter than hell, I mean I quit shaking and couldn’t move because that smoke was doing some very peculiar things in that sunbeam. Looked like Penmanship with a capitol curly P, written in smoke by an invisible hand, loop the loop of joined up writing and I could see the words, but damn, two seconds later I couldn’t tell you what I just read and by then the first part had wafted apart. So I sat there reading the smoke until the last of it dispersed, and without thinking took another drag of the cigarette. I’ll be honest, I wondered whether to blow the smoke over my shoulder instead, but curiosity got the better of me, and I leaned forward a bit and screwed my eyes up ready to focus and started exhaling slowly into the sun. Not a damn thing this time, nor the next, and I almost lit another cigarette right off the butt of that one. Just to delay looking at that note again I suppose, but I didn’t, I stubbed it out and picked up the note. The smoke distraction did me good, I was over the shock of it and now I was curious.

                      The note was written in letters cut out of a map, by the look of it. Or maps, hard to say at this stage. The letters were pasted onto a yellowing sheet of stationary paper with a heading embossed on the top: Tattler, Trout and Trueman. Nothing else, just that, no address or phone number, or indication of who they were. There was a brown ring stain, which might be a clue, and a short message. Made me jump when I saw the name at the bottom, because the H was so tiny compared to the ILDE it caught my eye as Idle, which is what the twins call me, and the D I D letters were much bigger than the I E R, making me think it was Dido, which is what the others call me. It’s Delilah but nobody’s ever called me that, although Prune called me Dildo once and got a clip round the back of the head for it. So the note came from Hilde Didier, and I’m ferreting away in my mind and I can’t think of anyone of that name, but it might come to me later.

                      Mater’s acting strange, Aunt Idle,” Corrie burst into the room giving me the most unpleasant jolt it made me think I was having a heart attack until I remembered the note in my hand.

                      Coriander, darling!” I gushed, admittedly uncharacteristically but I didn’t have time to think, swiveling round to her while slipping the note out of sight. I stood up and hugged her, deftly spinning her around while scanning over her shoulder to make sure the note was hidden from view.

                      “Bloody hell, not you as well!”

                      F LoveF Love

                        Bert remembered running away when he was a kid. He had run away often. But he never got very far. They always caught him and took him back. The foster homes might look a bit different on the outside, but to him they were all the same. So he just kept running. These memories flitted through his mind as he watched Mater carefully shutting the front door so as not to make a noise. He watched as she she set down her backpack on the porch chair to check the contents and, obviously satisfied, she closed the bag and swung it on her back.

                        F LoveF Love

                          Bert wondered what Dodo would make of Mater’s disappearance.

                          She has been acting real strange lately.



                            It was the look on Aunt Idle’s face when she saw them that scared me. There’s something strange going on, and not just everyone acting weird, that’s pretty normal around here, but this was a different kind of weird.

                            When Aunt Idle nearly suffocated me with that big hug while she was trying to hide that piece of paper, I didn’t think anything of it. Probably hiding another bill I thought, not wanting us to worry about the debts piling up. Mater wandering off like that was pretty strange, but old people do daft things. I knew all about it because I’d been reading up on dementia. They imagine things and often feel persecuted, claim someone stole their old tea set, things like that, forgetting they gave it away 30 years ago, stuff like that. So I wasn’t worried about either of them acting strange when Clove and I decided to go treasure hunting in the old Brundy house, we just decided to out and explore just for the hell of it, for something to do.

                            The Brundy house was set apart from the rest of the abandoned houses, down a long track through the woods, nice and shady in the trees without the sun glaring down on our heads. Me and Clove had been there years ago but we were little then, and scared to go inside, so we’d just peeked in the windows and scared each other with ghost and murderer stories until we heard a bang inside and then ran like hell until we couldn’t breathe. Probably just a rat knocking something over, but we never went back. We weren’t scared to, it was further to walk to the Brundy place and there were so many other abandoned houses to play in that were closer to home.

                            We weren’t scared to go inside this time. It was a big place, quite grand it must have been back in the day, big entrance hallway with an awesome staircase like in Gone With the Wind where Scarlett fell down the stairs, but the stair carpet was all in shreds and some of the steps banisters were broken, but the steps looked sound enough so up we went, for some reason drawn up there first before exploring the ground floor rooms.

                            Clove turned left at the top of the stairs and I turned right and went into the first bedroom. My hand flew to my mouth. I wonder why we do that, put a hand over our mouth when we’re surprised, well that’s what I did when I saw the cat mummy on the bed. I didn’t scream or anything, not like Clove did a minute later from the other side of the house. It wasn’t a mummy with bandages like an Egyptian one, it was just totally desiccated like a little skeleton covered in bleached leather. It was a fascinating thing to see really but the minute I heard Clove scream I ran out of the room and down the landing. It’s not like Clove to scream. Well who screams in real life, the only time I ever heard screaming was in a movie. People usually say what the fuck or oh my god, they don’t scream. But Clove screamed when she saw the room full of mannequins because to be fair it did look like a room full of ghosts or zombies in the half light from the shuttered windows. She was laughing by the time I reached her, a bit hysterically, and we clutched each other as we went over to open the shutters to get a better look. It was pretty creepy, even if they were only mannequins.

                            They were kind of awesome in the light, all covered in maps, there were 22 of them, we counted them, a whole damn room full of map covered mannequins in various poses, men, women and kid sized. Really clever the way the maps were stuck all over them, looked like arteries and veins, and real cool the way Riga joined up with Boston, and Shanghai with Lisbon, like as if you really could just travel down a vein from Tokyo to Bogota, or cross a butt cheek to get from Mumbai to Casablanca.

                            We hadn’t noticed at first that we’d been shuffling through a load of paper on the floor. The floor was covered in ripped up maps, must have been hundreds of maps all torn up and strewn all over the floor.

                            “There’s enough maps left over to do one of our own, CorrieClove said, reading my mind. “Let’s take some home and stick them all over something.”

                            “We haven’t got a mannequin at home though” I replied, but I was thinking, why not take a mannequin home with us, and some maps, and decide what to do with them later.

                            So that’s what we did. We gathered up the biggest fragments of map off the floor and rolled them all up and used my hair elastic to hold them together, and carried a mannequin all the way home. The sun was going down so we had to hurry a bit down the track. Clove didn’t help when she said we must look like we’re carrying a dead body with rigor mortis, that made us collapse laughing, dropping the mannequin on its head. Once we got the giggles it was hard to stop, and it made our legs weak from laughing.

                            We got home just as the last of the evening light disappeared, hauled the mannequin up the porch steps, where Aunt Idle was standing with her hand over her mouth. Well, that was to be expected, naturally she’d be wondering what we were carrying if she was watching us come up the drive carrying a body. It was later, when we unfolded the maps, that the look on her face freaked me out.


                              Aunt Idle:

                              The twins and Prune were going on about Mater again but I wasn’t listening, I was just wishing they’d hurry up and finish supper ~ I’m trying to think, Think! Look at the maps and piece it all together, clear my mind and try and work it out.

                              “Give it a rest will you, and eat!” The kids were exasperating, always going on about Mater.

                              “She’s MISSING, Aunt Idle!”

                              “What?” I said absentmindedly. “Don’t be silly, she’s probably on the loo, she’ll be down in a minute.”

                              “You haven’t been listening, have you?” asked Prune. “Mater’s been kidnapped.”

                              “She’s DISAPPEARED, we don’t know if she’s been kidnapped or murdered yet, Prune. Don’t exaggerate.”

                              “Maybe she was tied up in the cellar at the Brundy place and you never noticed, Clove.”

                              Bert glance up sharply and frowned at the mention of the Brundy place, it caught my eye, but I didn’t give it any thought at the time.

                              “Oh shut up, all of you! You’ve given me a headache, I’m going to lie down. Prune, you can do the washing up tonight. Corrie and Clove, you can cook for the dust covered man in room 8, he’s not fussy what you feed him, but he wants to eat in his room.”

                              That should keep them all occupied for an hour and give me time to look at those maps. That’s what I thought, anyway.



                                The stranger arrived as I was setting off, but I didn’t have time to stop. By the looks of him he had been on the road for a while. I called out to him that if he was after a room he had better go and bang on the front door, but he might have to knock loudly because they were all asleep.

                                I shrugged off a vague feeling of guilt.

                                Not my problem; let someone else deal with it. Early to be calling though.

                                It wasn’t long before I was wondering dismally whether my mission would need to be aborted. It was only 7:00am, but already the heat was stifling. I was considering my various options, none of which seemed that attractive, when Bert pulled up next to me in his van.

                                “Where are you off to, Mater? You want a lift somewhere. Hop in.”

                                I hopped in. I liked Bert, although he wasn’t one for conversation. He was about my age, maybe a few years younger. Hard to tell with the men around here, they all looked like aged leather. He raised an eyebrow when I told him where I was going, but otherwise didn’t comment. We drove in comfortable silence.

                                “Not far now, Mater. You want to stop for a coffee? It’s still early.”

                                “Are you asking me on a date, Bert?”

                                There was an awkward moment while he worked out I was teasing him, then his face cracked into an amused smile.

                                “Can you cook?”

                                “Burnt toast is my speciality. If you are lucky I would open a can of spaghetti.”

                                “You’ll do then I guess, even if you are a crazy old coot out walking in this heat.”


                                  The knock on the bedroom door awakened Crispin Cornwall.
                                  “Yes? Who is it?”
                                  “It’s Clove, I’ve brought your supper, sir.”
                                  Crispin eased his limbs into action and shuffled over to the door. As soon as he’d been shown to his room in the early hours of the morning, he’s lain down on the bed and slept like a baby, not stirring until the knock on the door. It had been seventeen weeks since he’d last slept, not that he needed sleep in the usual sense, but sometimes even the Great Travelers needed a complete break with the physical. Dragon’s teeth, he said to himself, it made a body stiff though, all those hours of inactivity.
                                  “It’s beans on toast, Aunt Idle said you weren’t fussy,” the girl said, politely enough, though she looked him up and down. “The laundry and shower room is down the hall, thataway, sir.”
                                  Crispin took the plate off the girl, the corner of his lip curling up in amusement. “Look like I need a wash, do I?”
                                  “Sorry sir, didn’t mean to be rude, it’s just that most guests ask for a shower when they get here, dust on the road and all. Will there be anything else you want? Pot of tea? Bottle of wine?”
                                  But Crispin Cornwall had already closed the door. Clove heard the lock click. Rude filthy old fart, she thought to herself.


                                    Bert watched Clove disappear down the hall, and crept out from his hiding place behind the door of the room opposite room 8. He’d positioned himself to get a look at the new guest; something about Prune’s description of him had set of alarm bells in his mind and he wanted to see the new guest for himself.
                                    Silent as a cat, he crept over and pressed his ear to the strangers door. Nothing but the sounds of cutlery scraping plate. Bert waited.
                                    Time limped along but Bert stayed put with his ear pressed to the door. Eventually, he heard it. That humming noise. He remembered it, although he didn’t know what it was, didn’t know what to make of it.
                                    He’d been ten years old when he heard it the first time, ten years old when a dust covered man in a broad brimmed hat had appeared in town. Dang, the guy hadn’t aged in all these years. He was sure it was the same fella, he’d known it the minute he saw him through the crack of the door, but especially now he’d heard that humming.



                                      Funny how things pop up. While Clove was taking supper to the guy in room 8, I signed into Spacenook and the first thing on my perusefeed was an article about maps.

                                      “Cartographies can be altered endlessly to reflect different priorities, hierarchies, experiences, points of view, and destinations.”

                                      How syncy is that. There was another sync like that yesterday, after the kitten fell off the barn roof. I was just posting a photo of the kitten on Spacenook and glanced at the sidebar and there was an ad for a catnip garden memories of dead cats group thing there. I wonder if that dream I had of our old dog Lilly the other day was because the kitten was a remanifestation of her? Lilly’s name was supposed to be Delilah, that’s what it said on her papers, Delilah, but nobody ever called her that. We always called her Lilly.

                                      Anyway, they come and they go, we’ve had hundreds of cats wander through this town, but they always come back. I saw a rat the other day and it reminded me of Boozer, the old sheepdog we had when we were little.

                                      Funny thing was, yesterday morning I’d posted this poem by Mary Oliver:

                                      “…. Tell me, what else should I have done?
                                      Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
                                      Tell me, what is it you plan to do
                                      With your one wild and precious life?”

                                      Made me feel a bit better when I read it again later, because I did wonder if I’d got there quicker when I heard it crying, when it must have been halfway done falling and stuck on a branch, it might not have ended up the way it did. It must have been meant to be that way I suppose. Well, she’ll be back. They always come back sooner or later.

                                      Sighing, I refocused on the article.

                                      “Maps produce new realities much as they seek to document current ones. Maps are always a going-beyond the space-time of the present.”

                                      No mention of a room full of map covered mannequins in the Brundy place though.


                                        Aunt Idle:

                                        I took the rolled up bundle of torn maps into my bedroom and locked the door. I turned the key silently, almost furtively, and then leaned my back on the door. If there had been a security cam in the room, I’d have looked to anyone watching like I was over dramatizing. Ham acting drama queen. Hoped none of the Laptop Lazuli’s, my remote viewing buddies, were tuning in. Thinking about them gave me an idea, but I’d think about that some more later.

                                        After spreading the maps on the floor and sending a half dozen dust bunnies scampering off, I went over to my desk to get the note. I found it in the end, after flapping a bit when it wasn’t where I thought I’d left it.

                                        It didn’t take long to start matching up the letters on the note with the holes in the maps. I started jotting the place names down as best as I could work it out, and of course there were plenty of letters on the note without a corresponding map segment. But it was clear that the letters on my note had come from these maps.

                                        The funny thing was, and it was more creepy than funny, was that all of the places on the map with a missing letter were places of particular significance to me. Either I’d been to that place, or it was a place in The Tales, the stories I’d been writing with the Lazuli’s online.

                                        One of the I’s was from Paris, one from Sri Lanka and another from Siberia. There was an R from New York, a D from London and an H from Shanghai, and so on. After awhile I started to notice that all the letters on the signature of Hilde Didier were from locations in The Tales, and that the content of the note, so far, was constructed of letters ripped from places I had been to. Places I’d been to where I’d left in a hurry.

                                        I needed to find the rest of the maps to complete the picture.



                                          “Why have you locked your door, Aunt Idle?” I asked, after waiting rather a long time for her to open it. She looked a bit flushed, so I looked around to see if she had another feller in there but she didn’t, not unless he was hiding in the closet. She didn’t usually hide her lovers from us though, and anyway, I had more important things on my mind.

                                          Mater’s still missing and it’s been dark for an hour already, what should we do?”

                                          Aunt Idle just stared at me with her mouth open and didn’t say anything.

                                          “We can’t just go to bed, what if something’s happened to her? Nobody even knows where she went!”

                                          Mater’s missing, is that what you’re telling me?” she asked, just as if it was the first she’d heard about it. “Have you checked her room? Did she leave a note or a clue or anything? For heaven’s sake, Corrie, why on earth didn’t you tell me sooner! Go and fetch Prune, well wake her up then!” she added as I protested that she’d gone to bed ages ago. “Prune always seems to know things. And where’s Bert? Has he seen her?”

                                          “I’m trying to tell you, Auntie, that nobody knows!”


                                            The others are all freaked out, but I’m sure Mater is fine.
                                            I bet it’s because they’re not used to thinking by themselves, but they will survive.

                                            I wonder where Mater is though. It’s true she’s not the unplanned escapade type. Has it something to do with the strange stranger, or maybe the debt collector, or her dead hamster?

                                            Adults are such riddles…

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