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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        I’m getting a bit worried about Aunt Idle, she’s been in Iceland ages and we haven’t heard from her, and nothing on her blog for ages, either. When I found this, I did a bit of research into the Bronklehampton case. That’s another story.

        Aunt Idle was going to visit her old friend Margit Brynjúlfursdóttir. It was all very hush hush: Margit had intimated that there was to be a family reunion, but it was to be a surprise party, and she mustn’t breathe a word of it to anyone. Margit had sent her the tickets to Keflavik, instructing her to inform her family and friends that she had won the trip in a story writing competition.

        It was Idle’s first trip to Iceland. She had met Margit in a beach bar near Cairns some years ago, just after the scandalous expose on the goings on of a mad doctor on a remote south Pacific island. The Icelandic woman had been drowning her sorrows, and Idle had been a shoulder to cry on. The age old story of a wayward son, a brilliant mind, so full of potential, victim of a conniving nurse , and now sadly incarcerated on the wrong side of the law.

        Aunt Idle didn’t immediately make a connection between the name Brynjúlfursdóttir and Bronklehampton, indeed it would have been impossible to do so using conventional means, Icelandic naming laws and traditions being what they were. But the intuitive Idle had made a connection notwithstanding. The maudlin woman in the beach bar was clearly the mad doctors mother.

        Idle had invited Margit to come and stay at the Flying Fish Inn for a few weeks before returning to Iceland, a visit which turned out to last almost a year. Over the months, Margit confided in her new friend Idle. Nobody back home in Iceland knew that the doctor in the lurid headlines was her son, and Margit wanted to keep it that way, but it was a relief to be able to talk about it to someone. Idle wasn’t all that sure that Margit was fully in the picture regarding the depths to which the fruit of her loins had sunk, but she witnessed the womans outpourings with tact and compassion and they became good friends.

        The fasten your seatbelts sign flashed and pinged. The landing at Keflavik was going to be on time.”


        ““I wish you’d told me about the 60’s fancy dress party, Margit, I’d have brought an outfit with me,” said Idle.

        Margit looked at her friend quizzically. “What makes you think there’s a fancy dress party?”

        “Why, all the beehive hair do’s! It’s the only explanation I could think of. If it’s not a 60’s party, then why…..?”

        Idle noticed Margit eyeing her long grey dreadlocks distastefully. Self consciously she flung them over her shoulder, inopportunely landing the end of one of them in a plate of some foul substance the passing waiter was carrying.

        Margit jumped at the chance. “Darling, how horrid! All that rams bottom sauce all over your hair! Do try the coconut shampoo I put in your bathroom.””


        And that was the last I’d heard from Aunt Idle.


          Meanwhile, Clove was wondering if she had made the right decision to lodge with the most boring family on earth. True, there had been times when life had been somewhat boring back home, but nobody could accuse her family of being boring.

          But the Smith family! why, even their names were boring. John and Sue had spawned a small tribe of boredom: Sara and Steve, the unidentical, uninteresting and unemployed twins, still bored at home at the age of 27; Jason, an ordinary ten year old who wasn’t even autistic or allergic to anything, and a particularly unprepossessing three year old called Jane.

          It will be an interesting exercise in observing boredom, Corrie had said. Yeah, right. Corrie didn’t have to live with them.

          F LoveF Love

            “What do you think of the new lodger?” asked Sue that night over dinner. It was Monday so dinner was fish pie. Monday, Wednesday and Friday it was fish pie and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday it was meat loaf. Sue believed Sunday should be a day of rest so Sunday dinner was fried left overs.

            John paused mid bite and considered the question.

            “She seems alright, I guess. Doesn’t seem to have much in the way of interests … always locked in her room with the computer. I mean, she could at least join us for dinner. I was hoping for someone a bit more interesting this time … you know, a bit of interesting conversation.”

            “Eat up, Jane. What were you thinking of, Dear?” asked Sue anxiously.

            John grunted. “Oh you know … travel …. and what not. I dunno. What’s on the telly tonight then, Luv? Anything good?”

            “Nothing much,” said Sue. “I might just have an early night. And anyway what sort of a name is Clove? It’s a bit unusual.”

            “It’s a bit bloody odd, alright,” said John. “A bit odd to name your kid after a spice. It takes all sorts, eh. I think there is snooker on the telly later. I might stay up and watch that.”

            “Oh, that’s great, Luv. I might sit up with you and do a bit of crochet then. The twins are out late tonight at bingo — they probably won’t be home till after 9pm.”

            “9pm. That’s late,” grunted John.


              The door to the living room burst open startling Sue whose teacup rattled against the saucer. John merely glanced up with a frown, and pointedly stared at the tv screen.

              “Anyone want to join me for a walk?” Clove asked brightly, perhaps even a little feverishly.

              “When, dear?” asked Sue. “I’m washing the curtains tomorrow.”

              “Now!” Clove replied. “A nice moonlit walk to the park! It’s a lovely evening,” she added hopefully.

              “Steady on, old girl,” said John. “We’re watching the telly.”

              “Things like that need to be planned, Clove,” Sue said. “And besides, we’re watching tv now.”

              “You can’t just go out walking in the dark, haven’t you read the papers? Streets are full of yobs after dark, it’s not safe.” John shook his head and tutted. “Things aren’t like they used to be.”

              Sue agreed. “No, times have changed. You don’t want to be out after dark, not nowadays”

              “But if we all go together it might be fun!” Clove was feeling desperate. “It’s fun doing something spontaneous, just getting up and doing it!”

              John appeared to give this some consideration.

              “No, I don’t think so,” he said, shaking his head again. “No, that would never do.”

              “Things have to be planned,” Sue agreed, “And besides, we’re watching the telly now. I know, how about a nice cup of tea? I’ll go and put the kettle on.”

              F LoveF Love

                “Now, young lady,” said John when Sue had left the room. “Don’t you go upsetting the apple cart. A bit of a chatter about travel and what not … well, that would be a good thing. But spontaneous jaunts and rambles after dark… that is another whole kettle of fish.”

                “I just thought …. “ began Clove.

                “That’s enough!” snapped John. “You watch yourself or you will end up the way of the other lodgers.”

                “What happened to the other lodgers?” asked Clove nervously.

                At that moment Sue bustled in with the tea.

                “Here you are, my lovelies!” she said brightly. “A cup of tea is much more sensible this hour of night. Now I couldn’t remember if you had sugar or not but you can help yourself.”

                “Thanks,” muttered Clove.

                “Young Clove here was asking about the other lodgers,” said John, with a conspiratorial wink at his wife. “But I think that’s a story best left for another time. We’ve had enough upset for one evening.”


                  Clove: there’s something weird about this place

                  Corrie: too boring?

                  Clove: no, its not that. Something fishy going on, something strange happened to the other lodgers

                  Corrie: they all died of boredom? LOL

                  Clove: it’s not funny, I think something nasty happened to them

                  Corrie: pmsl I thought you said the family were all dead boring, you trying to liven things up a bit by imagining mysteries?

                  Clove: I think they’re hiding something and no I’m not imagining it

                  Corrie: go on then, tell me what’s been going on

                  Clove: well nothing, as usual, but John said something to me, he said “You watch yourself or you will end up the way of the other lodgers.”

                  Corrie: well that could mean anything

                  Clove: talk to you tomorrow, gotta go now. John turns the internet off at 11

                  Corrie: what on earth for?

                  Clove: says it’s unnatural

                  Corrie: no wonder the other lodgers left

                  F LoveF Love

                    “What did Clove ask about the other lodgers? You didn’t give away anything did you?” asked Sue later that evening. Sue was in bed with her latest Mills and Boon novel: Caride’s Forgotten Wife. She said to John that reading them was her “secret vice” and she hid them in the bedside cabinet — the one with a lock — so that none of the children would come across them. She whispered her question about the lodgers to John, although it wasn’t clear who she thought might be able to overhear.

                    John sighed heavily and sat down on the edge of the bed. He didn’t believe in these sort of communications before bed time; sleep was a serious business and it was best not to get stressed prior to commencing. But he realised the importance of Sue’s question and decided to make an exception to his usual rule.

                    “Well, I’ll be honest with you, luv, she did ask. She did … and I confess it was I who mentioned the lodgers in the first place. In my defence though, I was getting fed up with her pestering to go out gallivanting god-knows-where in the middle of the night. I was quite sharp with her. But I don’t want you worrying.” He patted Sue’s leg under the woollen beige blanket in a reassuring way. “Tell you what, in the morning we will put our heads together and come up with a story to put young Clove’s enquiring mind at ease should the matter of the lodgers arise again. Now, promise you won’t worry, dear?”

                    Sue nodded doubtfully.

                    “Oh I hope not, John, she can’t know … I couldn’t stand it … you know. I just couldn’t go through it again. All the turmoil and … upset.”


                      Clove realized that she wasn’t going to get very far with her investigations if she didn’t gain the family’s trust and an amicable footing in the household.

                      On impulse while wandering around a discount shop in the high street she decided to buy a couple of packets of gaily coloured plastic clothes pegs to replace the old wooden ones that had been marking her laundry with mossy green stains. Next she put a pack of bright poppy motif table mats in her shopping basket to replace the dowdy stained hunting print mats to brighten up the kitchen table. A tall shiny emerald green pepper mill caught her eye next; that would look nicer on the table than the Titsco powdered white pepper container that the Smith’s made do with. She would pick up some black peppercorns in the health shop when she got the organic oat cakes. They’d like a change from cream crackers all the time, she was sure. The final impulse purchase was a couple of balls of sustainable organic hemp string, which Clove thought would make a nice change for Sue to crochet with.

                      The house was empty when Clove returned. She unpacked her shopping bags and distributed the new things around the place with a satisfied smile on her face. The old table mats she put in a bag next to the rubbish bin: Sue might want to keep them, although Clove doubted it. But better be on the safe side, she thought. The pegs went straight in the bin, and the hemp string into Sue’s crochet basket.


                        “Where’s Mum?” asked Steve. The kitchen door banged behind him.

                        John winced at the noise. “What will the neighbours think with all that banging!”

                        “Where’s Mum?” repeated Steve.

                        “Oh, she had a stroke when she saw the new clothes pegs. Not bloody surprising, either! Far too bright for down the garden, they were! Enough to give anyone a stroke.”

                        “No, seriously, Dad, where is she?”

                        “I am serious! She’s in the hospital, lost her speech but her arms and legs are working fine. Blessing in disguise if you ask me.”

                        “Dad!” Steve was shocked. “Poor old Mum. Who’s going to cook the dinner?”

                        F LoveF Love

                          “Poor old Mum,” repeated Sara who had entered the room behind her twin. “That’s awful. But anyway, there is something we have to tell you.” She looked at Steve and he nodded, encouraging her to continue. John looked at them both guiltily.

                          “If it is that Steve is really a girl, I know that. I’ve known for years, of course. But your Mum did want a boy so badly … the pretence just got out of hand and we started believing it ourselves. Sorry about that.”

                          “No worries, Dad,” said Steve, (who from this point on was known as ‘Stevie’). “It will be a relief to stop pretending though. It’s a bit awkward sometimes … no, that isn’t it. The thing is ….”

                          “Stevie and I are going to Australia,” broke in Sara. “You know, where Clove comes from. We’ve decided to go and stay at the Flying Fish Inn.”


                            “What? You can’t leave here, this is where we live! This is where we come from!” shouted John. “And what about your mother, what will she say?”

                            “She won’t say anything, will she, she can’t speak anymore,” retorted Stevie, feeling a surge of confidence.

                            John’s complexion went an alarming shade of magenta. Gargling with rage he sputtered, “Spawn of the devil, you ungrateful wretch! All these years I’ve treated you as if you were my own flesh and blood…”

                            The silence in the room was profound. John took a step backwards, shocked at his own words.

                            “You mean to tell me,” said Sara quietly, “That we’re adopted?”

                            John tried to meet her eyes with his own and failed, running a hand over his crumpled face instead.

                            “I think he means Mum shagged another bloke, Sara.”

                            “I say!” exclaimed Clove, “How intriguing!” This was surely the most interesting thing that had happened in the house since she’d been living in it. “Who was their real father then?”

                            “You won’t find out from me, you impertinent tart,” replied John.


                              “I want to find out who our real father is before we leave for Australia, Sara,” said Stevie. “While Mum’s in hospital I’m going to search through her things, see if I can find something.”

                              “Like what?”

                              “Well I don’t know until I find it, do I? But I have to try.”

                              F LoveF Love


                                I jumped as Corrie burst into room.

                                “Hey, Mater, guess what?” she called out with, in my opinion, unnecessary exuberance.

                                I had been looking out the window and ruminating on my vegetable garden — the tomatoes didn’t seem to be growing this year — and felt a little irritated by the invasion. Irritated by the children in general that morning, I guess. I had just asked Prune if she could help me with some chores and had been informed that she was unavailable as she was communing with future Prune on Mars. I suppose as excuses for chores go, it was at least inventive.

                                “What is it, Corrie?”

                                Clove is coming home! And she is bringing some twins with her.”

                                Feeling suddenly tired, I sat down on the sofa.

                                “Some twins?”

                                “The twins at the place where she is staying. Sara and Stevie, or something like that. Woo hoo, can’t wait to see her!”

                                I didn’t know much about Clove’s living situation. She communicated frequently with her sister but correspondence with the rest of the family was sporadic.

                                Another thing which irritates me.

                                Sara and Stevie … my mind flittered through the years to rest on some other twins. Same names. Twins I had only met once — many years ago — but nevertheless thought about at times. Wondered how they were getting on in life. I wondered if Fred ever thought about them, or regretted his decision.

                                Of course there was no connection, but I felt compelled to ask.

                                “How old are Sara and Stevie?”

                                “Oh, I dunno … old I think. Maybe about 30?”

                                F LoveF Love

                                  “Yoo hoo! Anyone home?” shouted Aunt Idle. “I am back from Iceland!”


                                    “Bloody good job as well, Idle,” grunted Mater, trundling out from the pantry. “Guess who else is coming.”

                                    It was more of a resigned statement than a question. Idle raised an eyebrow and let it rest, for the time being. She had rather hoped there would be some interest in her own trip.

                                    “Hey ho,” she said. Home. She was home.


                                      Aunt Idle:

                                      One of the best things about going away is the pleasure of coming home. Never in a million years would I expect to miss dust, or overflowing ashtrays, but it was so good to see that familiar layer of dust all over everything.

                                      I cut Maters grumbling short and lugged my case up to my bedroom, calling “Jet lag, speak later” over my shoulder. What was she on about anyway, two more twins from the past? It rings a bell, but I’ll think about that later. I hope she’s preparing a bit of dinner, some of that food in Iceland was ghastly, especially if you’re not a fishy sort of person.

                                      Now all I want to do is get out of these clothes and into an old tattered T shirt ~ the oldest favourite, the black faded to greenish grey ~ and sprawl back on my bed smoking. Dropping ash on the bed cover watching the smoke and dust motes dancing in the shaft of warm sunlight. Stretching my limbs out unencumbered with layers of clothing and feeling the air on my skin.

                                      Iceland is very nice in many ways, I took hundreds of photographs of the scenery and all, but shivering outside while quickly sucking down a lungful, or leaning out of an open window in the arctic blasts is not my idea of a relaxing holiday. Not that I went there to relax I suppose, which is just as well, because it wasn’t the least bit relaxing.

                                      I drifted off to sleep, contentedly gazing at the stains on the ceiling that looked like maps of other worlds, vaguely recalling some of the names I’d made up for the islands and continents over the years, and woke up later dreaming of Fred, of all people. For a minute when I woke up I could have sworn he was standing right there next to my bed, watching me sleep. I blinked, trying to focus, and he was gone.

                                      F LoveF Love


                                        The room was dark, save for a sliver of light coming in through the curtains where I had not quite pulled them together. The rain started this evening bringing much needed coolness with it. I lay in bed and smiled thinking of the funny twists and turns life can take.

                                        I had asked Corrie a few more questions but they were more a formality to reassure my brain that I was not going crazy. In my heart I knew. It is hard to find the right words to describe the state which came over me while Corrie was talking; it was as though the air around me had become lighter — so much so that I could almost see it shimmering — and a great … peace … I think the word is peace … had enveloped me.

                                        I just knew it was them.

                                        What a remarkable coincidence!

                                        No, no, not coincidence. I know better than that. It’s magic!

                                        Magic. I smiled again into the darkness. One needs to be reminded of magic at my age, where with every creaking, aching joint one can no longer be distracted so easily from the steady and inevitable propulsion towards death. A sort of reassurance in the presence of supernatural forces and perhaps a hint that there may be a purpose to my small little life. Dare I believe that I am worthy of magic?

                                        Ah, perhaps I have not explained that well. Is it love? Is love the word I am looking for? When I felt the lightness, the magic, I felt expansive and loving. All the irritation of the morning was gone. And I felt loved in return by forces I could neither see nor explain. Not in my head, anyway.

                                        Yes, and it was even nice to see Idle, though she was so full of rambling talk about Iceland and her trip that I had to excuse myself on the pretext that I had laundry to get in before the rain started. One can only take so much chatter.


                                          AUNT IDLE:

                                          “Have you seen that daft look on Mater’s face this morning?” I asked Corrie. “Pass the butter. sweetpea.”

                                          “She started going a bit gooey looking last night when she was grilling me about the twins that Clove’s bringing with her when she comes home,” she replied.

                                          “Is she going senile?” I asked.

                                          “She’s no worse than usual, Auntie. She does seem overly interested in those twins, though. I wonder why?”

                                          There is was again, nagging at my brain to remember. The image of Fred standing beside my bed popped into my mind. Suddenly the penny dropped. Surely it couldn’t be!



                                            I offered to help Stevie go through her mum’s things expecting her to refuse on the grounds of it being private, but she said, Yes, you do it and I’ll watch, it will be easier that way. Stevie wanted to do it all methodically and start with the drawers, and I said no, that’s silly starting in the least likely place.

                                            So we did it my way, and haphazardly followed random impulses. I’m not sure whether it was successful or not, because Stevie didn’t find what she was looking for (not forgetting that she didn’t know exactly what she was looking for anyway) but we did find something interesting. If I wasn’t going home soon, I’d have sent a message to Corrie right away, but I decided to keep it to myself for a bit, I don’t know why.

                                            The elephant in Sue and John’s bedroom caught my eye, one of those big ceramic Indian ones with a flat saddle to put a spider plant on. It weighed a ton, but we managed to turn it over without making too much of a mess of the spider plant, which we forgot to remove first, and sure enough it had a cavity inside and there were some papers wedged up there.

                                            Stevie got excited and started making squeaky noises and telling me to be careful. I gave her a look, and pulled them out and handed them to her. They weren’t like documents or anything, they were torn up maps with some little bits cut out where the letters of the names of the places were.

                                            “Just a load of old rubbish! It must have been in there when she bought it, I can’t see Mum shoving rubbish up there. How exasperating, I thought we were on to something!”

                                            “Let me have a look at them, Stevie,” I said, slowly reaching out for them. I was starting to have a funny moment, trying to remember.

                                            It took me a minute or two, but I did remember. Although I can’t imagine how it could be connected. But still, it was a bit odd. It reminded me of what we’d found at the Brundy place that day, me and Corrie.

                                            F LoveF Love

                                              The house is empty. Perhaps it is more correct to say I, Mater, am the only one home, for the emptiness which envelops the house so strongly has its own presence.

                                              The family have all left on their respective pursuits.

                                              Dido is off following another guru. I forget who it is …someone she had read about on the damned internet thing they all spend so much time on — I’ve still not come to grips with it but suspect it is time I did. I had hoped Dido would stay home longer this time — there is so much work to be done around the place and I am not feeling any younger. “Just for a week!” she told me excitedly as she left but it has already been nearly two.

                                              Prune, unique child that she is, always had such trouble making friends with others of her age however recently she made the acquaintance of a new girl at school who shares her predilection for unusual interests. Prune is staying at her new friend’s house for the weekend. I smile, feeling more than a little sympathy for the parents.

                                              I have not seen or heard much from Devan for a long time. He is in Brisbane, last I heard anyway.

                                              The twins, not my twins but the other twins; Sara and Stevie, decided they could not leave their mother. Not now. Not while she is in hospital and so poorly. The right decision I feel though I am also disappointed. At Clove’s insistence, Corrie has gone to visit with them. Clove and Corrie don’t know yet … Dodo and I talked about it and decided Fred should be the one to tell them.

                                              Goodness only knows where Fred is now.

                                              I decide I will try and get acquainted with the emptiness. Maybe even make friends. Thought this doesn’t feel likely at the moment.

                                              “Hello,” I say quietly. I can hear the question in my voice. The doubt. Clearly this won’t do. “One has to believe,” I admonish myself sternly. I try again:

                                              “Hello Emptiness. What is your name? I can’t call you Emptiness all the time. My name is Mater and this is my house”.

                                              I say this firmly. Much better.

                                              I notice that sunlight is attempting to enter through the kitchen blinds and I throw them open. It is a beautiful day. I see that Bert is already up and working in the garden. Planting something. I remember now, he told me he was going to start another vege garden, nearer the house than the other one.

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