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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        “Good Lord, what’s all the fuss?” I asked, walking into the kitchen. “You all look like you have seen a ghost.”

        Exhausted by my busy day, I had come home and gone straight to bed. I had slept through dinner and had come downstairs thinking to fix myself a wee snack and a cup of hot chocolate.

        And walked crash bang into some sort of a drama going on.

        Another one!


          Aunt Idle:

          After all the fuss had died down about the missing Mater, I lost interest in the map and the strange note. It was as if the distraction interrupted my train of thought (some might say another of Idle’s hamster wheels, or another ludicrous tangent), so I gave the maps back to the girls and the mysterious note was mostly forgotten. If it meant anything, well, sooner or later it would become clear.

          Truth be told, it wasn’t just the fuss about Mater that distracted me, it was the phone call from my old friend in New Zealand. Flora Fenwick was making another of her arty party videos, wanted to come over to check out some of the empty properties for filming. I’d seen all her arty farty party videos online, and we’d been friends for years via Spacenook, but we’d never met in person.

          The timing was perfect.


            Bert crept past room 8 again, listening. There it was again, the voice of a woman. How the heck did the dusty old geezer manage to smuggle a woman into his room? It didn’t make sense, there were so few people in the town that a strange woman would have been noticed, someone would have mentioned it. And the woman had a strange accent, Bert couldn’t place it, but it wasn’t an accent he was familiar with. Sounded almost old fashioned, although he couldn’t be sure. His hearing wasn’t so good these days. A foreign woman in town, and not a mention anywhere? No, it didn’t make sense.

            Bert had a few jobs to do, but wanted to keep an eye on the door of room 8. Whoever was in there would need to come out to use the bathroom sooner or later. He decided to ask Prune to keep watch while he fed the chickens, Prune would enjoy keeping a secret, and he wanted to keep quiet about his suspicions until he knew a bit more. Nobody would find it odd to see Prune lurking around in a dark corridor.


            “Do you not see that satchel o’er yon upon that fine stout table? Do but hand it this way, noble sir.”

            Prune pressed her ear to the door and frowned. It was a woman’s voice, but what was she on about?

            “Your Grace, I would sit with thee and spake…”.

            Her name must be Grace, deduced Prune, wondering why the old dusty bugger was speaking funny as well.

            “…..whence I have received from thee the artefact. Get to it, you lay about excuse for a man, I do ha’e me most urgent and important things to apply my considerable value upon.”

            What a rude tart, thought Prune, and she hadn’t even paid for a room. She heard no more from inside the room because at that moment Aunt Idle came roaring and crashing down the corridor with the hoover. Prune scuttled off past her and went to find Bert.


            Prune had just started to explain to Bert about Grace when Mater came beetling across the yard to join them.

            Bert, where’s the fish gone?”

            Bert and Prune looked at each other. “What fish?”

            “The flying fish that’s been hanging on the wall all these years, it’s gone,” she said, pointing towards the house with her walking stick.

            Open mouthed in astonishment, Prune raced back to the house to check for herself.


              Aunt Idle:

              Those maps got me remembering all kinds of things, not that I was fretting about the note because I wasn’t, but once I’d quit flapping about the note, all kinds of things started popping into my mind.

              Odd little cameo memories, more often than not a mundane scene that somehow stuck in my head. Like that cafe with the mad hatter mural, mediocre little place, and I cant even remember where it was, but that number on the mural was just wrong, somehow. It’s as clear as a bell in my memory now, but not a thing before or after it, or when it was, other than somewhere in New Zealand.

              I kept getting a whistling in my left ear as I was recalling things, like when I remembered that beach on the Costa del Sol, with a timebridgers sticker in the beach bar. I can still see that Italian man walking out of the sea with an octopus.

              I can still see the breeze flapping the pages of a magazine lying on a bench in Balzac’s garden in Paris, something about a red suitcase, but I can’t recall what exactly.

              A motel in a truckstop village in California…the sherry was making me drowsy. I almost felt like I was there again for a moment.

              Conjure up a bowler hat, he said, while you’re out today. I forgot all about it (how often I thank my lucky stars for having a bad memory, I much prefer a surprise) and saw a delightful hurdy gurdy man wearing a bowler hat (In June! I do recall it was June). My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, he was playing. I’m sure to have forgotten that, but I made a video recording.

              All these locations were holes in the maps, those ripped up maps the girls brought home from the Brundy place, just after I got that note. I was beginning to see a pattern to the connecting links between the letters ripped out of the map locations, and the wording in the note (which was made of ripped out letters from place names on a map, and glued onto the paper, as anyone who is reading this will no doubt recall). The pattern in the discovery of connecting links was that the pattern is constantly changing, rendering moot the need to decipher a plot in advance of the actual discovery of spontaneous development of the shifting patterns of discovery, and deliverance of the decipherable delegation of the delighted, promptly at noon.



                Aunt Idle had passed out in the armchair drinking her sherry last night when I went to show her what me and Clove found online when we were googling map stuff, mumbling she was and dribbling a bit. Prune said something peculiar, but when pressed she wouldn’t explain what she meant. Something about Aunt Idle speaking in the same funny accent as Grace, though gawd knows who Grace is, Prune wouldn’t say. Secretive little bugger, our Prune.

                After breakfast Aunt Idle asked how our home schooling was going this week, so I told her we’d been exploring geographical anomalies and rare maps. She had an impressed look on her face; that is, until we showed her the link we’d found about the mysterious box full of maps and diagrams. That’s when her hand flew to her mouth, just like the other day when she saw us carrying that map covered mannequin up the drive.

                “1977! Oh my god!” she exclaimed, and then “Tampa! Florida! of course!” and then infuriatingly, wouldn’t explain what she meant.



                  I am concerned about Dido. The silly trollop has taken up drinking again—in front of the kids too. Mark my words, she will end up back in rehab if it goes on. Like last time. And then where will we all be? Those poor little mites without a father or mother and their Aunt fast turning into a crazy slush. There’s no telling her though. God knows I have tried in the past.

                  I can only hope she will settle down when that kiwi friend arrives—Flora someone. Though I don’t hold out much hope really. I have not met a kiwi with a half a brain in their head yet. And that awful accent! I don’t need this aggravation at my age.

                  Calm down, remember what Jiemba told you.

                  I have not told you yet about my visit to Jiemba, have I? There has been so much going on here, what with the fish going missing and that odd guest staying in Room 8 and Dido’s antics, it nearly slipped my mind.

                  It was Prune who hid the fish, of course. Sensitive wee thing — she has always had a particularly strong dislike of the awful old relic and I can’t say I blame her. Dido went ape when Prune eventually confessed, but secretly I found it rather amusing.

                  I digress, yet again.

                  In the end it was Bert who helped me more than Jiemba. The dear man waited out in the truck for me while I kept my appointment with Jiemba. And he held my secret safe from the others. I am grateful to him for that. It felt nice to have someone who would do that for me. On the trip back home he opened up and told me stories about the town. Apparently in its heyday it even had an ice-cream factory; I hadn’t heard that before. Nor some of the other stories he told me. There are not many left around here with the knowledge Bert has. I feel I may even pluck up courage to tell him what I have seen at the Inn. Perhaps he may have some thoughts on it.

                  But not just yet.

                  Jiemba gave me some salve made from native bush bark for my aches and pains. It seems he is more modern than his father—things change I guess. I wanted to ask him about the ghost, but what with the dogs and kids running around outside and the heat and the baby screaming in the house somewhere, I could not bring myself to do it. But one thing he said to me has stuck.

                  “Live from your heart”.

                  It was the way he said it. Very intense. He went quiet and stared at the floor for a long time while I tried not to fidget. As though he was communing with some spirit world I could not see. Though I would dearly love to. I have thought about those words since then, trying to figure out what they mean.

                  I’m not sure I can even find my heart, let alone live from it.

                  F LoveF Love

                    “I heard Mater calling Aunty a trollop,” announced Clove ceremoniously.

                    “What’s a trollop when its at home?” Corrie looked up with interest.

                    “A tart I think. Prune! get away from the door. I might not be able to see you but I can smell your stinky feet. Go have a bath or something.”

                    “Ye are the stinky tarty trollops” said Prune, feigning stately dignity as she poked her head around the door. “Dunna yer spake that way to her whose feet yer not fit to touch or nothing! Ye tarty trollops,” she added for good measure.


                      Prune was only to too happy to take credit for the disappearance of the flying fish when Bert suggested it. It would give them more time to work out what was going on in room 8, before anyone else thought to suspect the enigmatic dust covered fellow of having a hand in it. Tell them you buried it in the woods, Bert told Prune, when she asked what she was to do if they asked her to bring the old fish back, and then say you can’t remember where you buried it. She was a good girl really, thought Bert, cooperative and resourceful when she wanted to be, if something captured her interest.


                        Aunt Idle:

                        Really, the old girl is getting worse. Calling me a tarty trollop in front of the kids, it’s a damn shame nobody thinks of the children around here except me.


                          Aunt Idle:

                          Flora arrived, hot and dusty from the travelling, in the late afternoon. A shower and a well iced gin and tonic soon revived her, and I got the girls to see to supper and the oddball in room 8, and asked Bert to keep an eye on them while Flora and I sat on the porch. It did me a power of good to sit chatting and joking with a friend, a woman of my own age and inclinations, after the endless months of nothing but the company of kids and old coots.

                          She looked pretty much the same as I’d gathered from the videos and photos online, although her bum was a lot bigger than I expected considering her slender frame, but she was an attractive woman with a merry gurgle of a laugh and warm relaxing energy.

                          I asked her about the video she was planning to make, but it all sounded a bit vague to me. “Frame” it was to be called, and there were various period costumes involved and a considerable amount of improvisation, from what I could gather, around the theme of “frame of reference”. What that meant exactly I really couldn’t say, but she said we were all welcome to play a role in it if we liked.

                          We’d been sitting out there until well past sundown, enjoying the cool evening air and a bit of Bert’s homegrown pot, posting selfies together on Spacenook and giggling at the comments, when we heard an ear splitting scream coming from an upstairs window. Flora looked at me with a raised eyebrow, and I just cracked right up for some reason, don’t ask me why. I laughed until the tears were rolling down my cheeks, and my ribs ached. I tried to stand up and fell back in the chair, which made me laugh all the more. I was wiping my eyes with a paper hanky when Clove appeared, saying Prune had had a nightmare.

                          “Oh thank goodness for that!” I exclaimed, which set me off again, and this time Flora joined in. I did wonder later when I was getting ready for bed what she must have thought about it all, me having hysterics at the sound of a screaming child. But it did me a world of good, all that laughing, and I was still tittering to myself when I lurched into bed.


                          Aunt Idle:

                          Tattler, Trout and Trueman. Where had I seen that before? I squinted at what was left of the business card that Flora had been ripping up to use as roaches last night. I could make out tel: 88 , but the rest of the number was missing. There wasn’t much left of the card, no other writing left to see. But where had I seen that name before?

                          I shivered; there was a rising mist and it was damp and chilly on the veranda, gloomy as the sun hadn’t quite risen yet. I like it first thing, before anyone else is up. Bert’s usually up, but I never see him, he goes off out the back somewhere. I stood there for awhile watching the mist rise and wondered whether to go and fetch the camera.

                          And that’s when I remembered where I’d seen Tattler, Trout and Trueman. It was on that note that I’d hidden inside the camera manual.

                          Could it be a coincidence? Should I ask Flora where she got the card, whose card it was? Or did Flora have something to do with the note?

                          My hand flew to my mouth. Automatic reaction so you don’t suck any flies down with the sharp intake of breath.

                          “Got toothache, Aunt Idle?” asked Prune.

                          “Jesus Christ, Prune! You made me jump out of my skin! What are you doing up so early?”

                          “Who is that man your friend brought with her? Is he from the desert?”

                          “What man? She came on her own.”

                          “Well who’s that tall man in the blue robes then? He said his name was Sanso.”

                          WHO?” I could almost hear myself say that in italics. “Where? Where did you see him?”
                          What did he say?”

                          I could see Prune was weighing this up, she wasn’t called shrewd prunes for nothing. I wasn’t at all surprised when she said “He told me not to tell you anything,” and ran back inside, slamming the door behind her.



                            I am picking some grass for the guinea pigs. Delicate wee things; they don’t handle the heat well and I have moved them to the shelter of the shed. The wind has come up strong and I am enjoying the cooling it brings with it. The long grass bends away from me as though seeking safety from the scissors I hold in my hand. For a moment the wind subsides and I can feel how the sun is burning my neck so I take refuge in the shade of a tree.

                            Thinking time.

                            I heard Prune crying out last night in her sleep. She had already fallen back asleep when I went to check on her. It crossed my mind when she cried out that she may have seen the ghost too. I asked her about it in the morning but she did not seem to recall her nightmare.

                            “I slept liketh a log but I thanketh thou for thy kindness in asking dearest Mater,” she said to me.

                            ”Enough of that cheek!” I told her, but was privately relieved she was okay.

                            Anyway, It has been twice now. I wake and there he is, over by the antique oak chest in the corner of my room. At first I can’t move or call out. And by the time I can he has gone. When I say “gone”, I don’t mean he walks out the door. He just sort of fades away. He has his back to me so I can’t tell you what his face is like. All I can tell you is that he is tall and he has on a blue robe, in a silky fabric, almost like a dressing gown with a tie in the middle.

                            There, I have told you now. You may be thinking it is just a silly old woman’s dream. But you don’t get to my age without having plenty of dreams, and this was nothing like any dream I have ever had.



                              “Get away from that door Prune, you nosy parker!” It wasn’t the first time I’d caught her eavesdropping outside room 8.

                              “Begone, thine tawdry wench, spaketh not thus to thine majesty or I’ll have thee hung drawn and quartered!” she replied in a whisper as she slid past me and ran down the corridor.

                              It suddenly dawned on me that this funny speaking Prune had been doing lately was something she was picking up on from behind that door. I inched closer to the door, bending down to press my ear to the keyhole. I was slightly off balance when the door flew open suddenly, causing me to stagger right into the room. Caught red handed, I could feel the blush rising as my hand flew to my mouth. There sitting on the end of the bed was what can only be described as an Elizabethan wonder woman superhero.

                              I backed out of the room quickly, but not so fast that I didn’t see what was on the bed behind the woman. It was the flying fish that had gone missing from over the fireplace.


                                Flora, rising late as was her custom, and feeling the relaxing glow of being on holiday, strolled leisurely out of her bedroom door in search of coffee. As she stepped into the corridor, one of the twins, not watching where she was going, collided with her surprisingly forcefully, knocking her to the ground. She knocked her head on the door frame, felt a rush of noise and the sweet metallic scent of blood before losing consciousness.

                                “Flora! Miss Fenwick! Oh my god, Flora!” Corrie cried. After getting no reaction from the inert body and seeing the pool of blood spreading alarmingly, she sped off to find Aunt Idle.

                                As soon as Corrie was out of sight, Prune emerged from the broom cupboard opposite, saw the body on the floor, and ran in the opposite direction in search of Bert.


                                  Flora came to her senses muttering something about a coachload of American tourists in Italy. Bert had been the first to arrive at the scene of the accident. Not one to flap in a crisis, he calmly picked up the injured woman and carried her to the sofa in the living room, instructing Prune to fetch the mop and clean the blood off the floor. By the time Bert had seen to the wound on Flora’s head, she was starting to come round, muttering gibberish and apparently confused.

                                  “Where am I? Is this Florence or Rome? Am I late?” she asked, telling Bert she was perfectly alright now thank you, although she clearly wasn’t.

                                  “No, you aint late, dear, it’s still quite early,” Bert replied soothingly.

                                  “But I must get to the Vatican Library, I must be getting on now,” she said, trying to stand up.

                                  Bert gently but firmly pushed her back down, saying, “Have a nice cup of tea first, plenty of time for that later.”

                                  “What the dickens is going on now?” asked Mater. “What’s all this about Rome? Anyone seen my reading glasses?” she asked, peering around the room from the doorway.

                                  Bert explained briefly, and asked Mater to sit with Flora while he went to make the tea.



                                    I wasn’t snooping, I swear, and I wasn’t looking for anything either, it just popped up on my side bar on Spacenook and caught my eye. I mean, the title was so peculiar it kind of stood out ~ “Martian Pig Pruning” ~ so I clicked on the link, thinking it might be a diverting Pythonesque parody of all the aliens and other dimensional vibrations bollocks that seemed to be the latest #trendingtrash to swamp the newsfeeds, because sometimes you just have to laugh and find the funny side.

                                    F LoveF Love

                                      “One moment I was on my way to get coffee; the next I was up there on the ceiling. I looked down and saw a lady lying on the ground with blood oozing from her head and I was thinking ‘someone should help her!’ and then I realised with some surprise it was me laying down there on the ground. ‘How could that be?’ I asked myself. I realised that I must have died. And, do you know what? I didn’t care. I felt amazing. For the first time in my life I felt truly free. I felt no more attachment to the body on the ground than I do to this … “

                                      Flora paused to look around and her gaze finally settled on one of the sofa cushions — a dirty looking thing which was decorated with an embroidered kangaroo.

                                      “… this cushion here.”

                                      She hit it to emphasise her point and a cascade of dust rose in the air. She looked at Mater sadly and continued softly:

                                      “Then I heard a voice telling me it was not my time and next thing I knew I was back in my body with this pounding great headache.”

                                      Flora paused reflectively for a moment while she sipped on the cup of tea Prune had bought her.

                                      Mater, this experience has changed me. I thought I had it all before: good looks, a fantastic figure—especially my butt—a successful career, but now I realise I was in penury. Trapped by my own brilliance into a shallow empty existence.”

                                      “What’s that you say?” asked Mater, struggling to follow Flora’s very thick New Zealand accent. “And who the devil is Penny?”

                                      She wondered where Bert had got to. One moment he was there and the next he just seemed to disappear.


                                        “Oh there you are Bert!” Mater said, trying to push aside the odd feeling that Bert had materialized in front of her, rather than walking into the room in the usual way. “Flora wants to spend a penny.”

                                        F LoveF Love

                                          It was Mater who decided they needed to get some cleaning help. She commandeered Clove to do some research on the internet and eventually found a woman from New Zealand, Finly, who was offering her cleaning services in exchange for room and board.

                                          “Bloody kiwis,” said Bert when he heard. “The place is riddled with them. Bloody come and take our jobs. Haven’t we got more than enough of them here already? I am having a hard enough time avoiding that Flora, going on about her spiritual bloody awakening.”

                                          “If you can find anyone local who would be willing to do the cleaning in exchange for a place to stay, I will be glad to consider them,” retorted Mater sternly. “But in the meantime this place is fast becoming a pig-sty and Dido is too busy smoking and drinking to see it.”

                                          Naturally Mater got her way and a few days later Bert, still grumbling, agreed to go and pick Finly up from the airport. Mater assembled the family in the main living room.

                                          “Now remember, the main thing is to be courteous. God only knows why she agreed to come to this backwater of a place, but we don’t want to put her off.”

                                          ”Don’t we indeed?” smirked Aunt Idle.

                                          “Yeah exactly, it is friggin’ weird I reckon. Why would she come here?” asked Clove, privately deciding she had better run a more thorough background check on Finly.

                                          “I thought Finly was a boy’s name,” said Coriander. “That would be cool. A boy cleaner. I hope he’s hot. He can clean topless”

                                          Aunt Idle, who had already been into the gin even though it wasn’t yet 10am, put her hand over her mouth and started to giggle.

                                          “It can be a girl or a boy’s name and someone called Coriander is in no position to throw stones. And mind your language, Clove.” responded Mater tartly.

                                          Clove rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically. “Well as long as she doesn’t try and boss me around, it might be quite fun to have a slave to clean up after me.”

                                          Prune had been keeping an eye on the window. “Shush, she’s here!” she shouted excitedly.


                                            Aunt Idle:

                                            Well I’m not one to complain, as you know, and I’m not the competitive sort at all, but I did have to raise an eyebrow when everyone agreed to Mater’s suggestion of getting some help with the cleaning. It’s a wonderful idea, but it wasn’t her idea, I’d been planting the seeds for ages. She never would have suggested if I’d carried on doing it all myself, I had to let it go a bit, get in a mess. When they started talking behind my back about me drinking, I played along with it, splashing gin on my hair and leaving an empty bottle laying around. I had to keep retrieving the same bottle from the bin, so I could pretend it was another bottle I’d drunk. They were all easily fooled, and I started to enjoy it.

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