It’s taking blimmin forever for the Oober to get here, and, wouldn’t you just know it, rain!
“Hop in,” says the driver. He’s leaning over holding open the front door. An older chappie with a shiny forehead and rosacea. He definitely drinks. Maybe he’s come straight from the pub. Still, it’s raining and I’m late, so I hop in. In the back seat, mind. I’m not much of a one for talking.
“I’m Finnley.” I crack a smile to make up for sitting in the back. It feels strange smiling. In my mind, there’s not much point to smiling. It just encourages people to be overly familiar.
“Bert,” he says. He’s Australian I think from the accent and his expression is more of a sneer than a smile. I reckon I pissed him off not getting in the front seat. “F i n n l e y.” He sounds it out like he’s learning a new language. “Always thought that was a boy’s name?”
“Can be either.”
Do I look like a boy, Bert?
Anyhow, that’s enough chitchat for me. I get my phone out and make like I am checking for messages. Haha. As if.
“Here on holiday, Finnley? Pity about the weather.”
Oh here we go.
“Oh yeah, corker! Where’s that, Finnley?”
“Washingtown Beige House, Bert.”
I have to be honest, saying it out loud still gives me goosebumps. And Bert’s surprise doesn’t disappoint.
“You should get the app if you’re so damn impatient!” finally snapped April who had watched a video on how to stop being a crowd pleaser and start asserting herself. Might as well be with June, as she was the kind of bossy britches who would let the light shine anywhere else than on herself.
June looked at her and raised an eyebrow. “Good, you’re learning from our dear Pdt Lump, be yourself. Have you tweeted it already?”
“Why do you always have to make everything a political statement?”
“Because everything is, dear! Don’t get me started on that… Look, I think that’s our driver! Whoohooo!” She waved at him in an outrageous fashion.
“Stop that! Or we’ll have to find another ride, or worse, get assaulted!” The driver did actually look a little bit started by the two in their matching red tracksuits. They had a street dance planned with the Chinese maids from the Chinese Embassy where the party was planned during the time it was empty, due to Chinese New Year.
“Anyway, I hope the kid is going to be fine.” April sighed a little concerned.
“Oh don’t worry about that, what could happen, really? Let’s enjoy our Friday night out, shall we.”
“I’m not sure this was a good idea,” said Shawn-Paul as the taxi driver sped away tooting and shouting, ‘good luck, you’re gunna need it!’
Maeve investigated the gate. “It certainly looks impenetrable … and the barbed wire fence is too high to scale… but, hey, who is writing this? Do you know?”
“Lucinda, I think … “
“Oh well In that case there is bound to be a propeller thingy somewhere and we can fly over the fence.”
“Here you are then,” said the driver. They were parked outside of an imposing iron gate with a large padlock. “This is as far as I can take you. I dont have authority to go any further.”
“Authority? You mean this is it?” said Maeve. “All I can see are trees.”
“Usually there is someone here to open the gate when visitors arrive. Must be running late. That’s not like them.”
“Oh,” said Maeve. “They aren’t actually expecting us. I mean, we didn’t make an appointment or anything.”
The driver shook his head and laughed. He turned his head to look at them. “I might as well take you back then. You don’t get in here without being expected.” He started the engine.
“Wait!” said Maeve. “We haven’t come all this way to give up. Have we?” She looked at Shaun-Paul who, after a moment of hesitation, nodded.
“Bloody hell,” said the driver. “Sorry about that. You fellas alright back there?”
“Yeah, I couldn’t stop,” said the driver. “I’ve only just got my bloody licence back.”
But it was too late. The driver clipped the edge of the street vendors display and upset the apple cart. Fruit rolled and spun off in all directions, causing several people to slip and crash into other innocent pedestrians, making them stagger into still more, like a crazy game of dominoes. A dozing cat was flung off the cart, startling a flock of crumb pecking pigeons into a flurry of upward flapping.
“Hang on. I just saw a friend of mine,” said the driver, skidding to a stop. “You don’t mind, do ya?”
Without waiting for an answer, he leaned over and opened the front passenger door.
“Oy, Veranassessee! You wanna a lift somewhere?”
“I’m out for the exercise. Thanks though. “ She waved them on.
She’s a good sort,” said the driver, narrowly avoiding a large pot hole. “Bloody roads are a disgrace. She’s been on the island for years. Since the upset.”
The driver turned round and looked at them in the back seat. “I’ve probably said more than I should but …. “
“Watch out!” shouted Shawn-Paul.
“It was a long and boring flight.” Shawn Paul yawned, happy to finally stretch his legs on the tarmac.
Maeve rolled her eyes “I don’t know what you are complaining about, at least you managed to sleep throughout the whole thing, even the last bit on that horrid 6-seater plane. I honestly wonder how you managed…”
Shawn-Paul grinned apologetically, “I think the baby bottles of nhum did the trick.”
“I saw you glamouring the air attendant, didn’t know she’d bring you the whole inventory. Poor lass’ might have been a bit desperate for attention.”
A man was at the main door with their names on a sign.
“Hello Sir, happy to meet you, my name is Shaw…”
“Don’t bother, SP, don’t you see he’s the driver, he probably can’t understand a word you just said.”
“Yeah nah, t’is true M’am,” the driver replied. “Your mate’s Canadian accent is atrocious. Haere Mai to Tikfijikoo, right this way please.”
Halfway through the afternoon, Lucinda wished she’d never started rearranging the furniture. It was clearly a case of too much clutter in too small a space, but Lucinda felt compelled to persevere until the perfect combination of requirements and available and suitable positions presented itself.
Eventually a satisfactory arrangement settled into place, and Lucinda sat down on the sofa. She’d found a screwdriver underneath it when she swept under it, a Phillips. She didn’t think much of it, at the time, but later, after a few sips of wine, she wondered if there was any particular meaning to it. Not just any old screwdriver, it was a Phillips. Did that mean somebody called Phillip was trying to send her a message? Or was it the cross that was the symbolic part, like hot cross buns, and Easter. Lucinda could almost smell the warm spicy aroma of the toasted buttered hot cross buns she’d had for breakfast.
After a few more sips of wine, this train of thought led Lucinda to another train of thought ~ or as some would say, a sort of blathering cushion affair ~ and left her wondering about a number of things.
My work was done. The new guru had found her feet and was up and running. My behind the scenes supporting role was over, so I booked a flight back home. I called Bert and told him and he informed me that Mater had been grumbling about being left on her own and how quiet it was. I was under no illusion that she’d welcome me back with open arms ~ not outwardly, anyway. The first thing she’ll do is start complaining about the racket and the chaos, or so I thought. Such is life with the aged ones.
So I was astonished when Mater rushed out on to the porch when my taxi pulled up outside the Inn, and flabbergasted when Bert rushed out after her holding a large box. Stunned by the strange sight of such animation, I simply watched open mouthed as Bert ran back into the house, clutching the box, as Mater furiously admonished him and gave him a shove, looking over her shoulder at me. As if I couldn’t see them!
“I’m home!” I called gaily.
Mater giggled nervously (giggling at her age, I ask you! and wearing a pink floral babygro, it was almost obscene) and ran a withered hand through her sparse locks.
“What’s Bert got in that box?” I asked, in what I hoped was a neutral and cordial manner.
“What box? Er, nothing! There is nothing important about that box, I expect it’s just some old boring rubbish,” Mater replied, a trifle hastily, and altogether unconvincingly. “You must be parched after your journey, I’ll go and put the kettle on.” And with that she rushed inside, failing completely in her vapid attempt to allay my suspicions.
One thing was true though, I was parched, and Bert and the mysterious box would have to wait until after a cup of tea.JibParticipant
“You!”, said Jeremy Duncan Jasper before jumping on the woman. “You stole my cat! What have you done to Max ?”
“I don’t have your cat”, said Funley loudly. She was trying to protect her face as an instinctive reaction and pushed on the ground with her feet. The chair had little wheels which allowed her to escape the man’s grasp, but it bumped on Ed’s desk. She was cornered. She jumped out of the chair and ran behind Ed’s desk followed closely by an angry Jeremy.
“I assume you already know each others”, said Ed, tugging at his mustache casually.
“Of course I know her”, said Jeremy in a short breath. He showed his fist angrily. “She was supposedly from the hygiene inspection bureau when I worked at the veterinarian clinic. She stole my cat!”
“I don’t have your cat”, repeated Funley.
“What have you done with him old crone ? You gave me all those papers to read and sign and when I came back you were gone… with Max.”
“Tsk tsk”, said Ed. “We have more important matters to attend to.” He lifted his hand to prevent any objection. “You may or may not have noticed, but I have and that’s the more important. Reality has been rebooting repeatedly, and each time people… or animals”, he said looking at Jeremy, “are disappearing.”
“We need to do something”, concluded Ed.
“Excuse me”, said Duncan, “but what does that have to do with us ? I’m just a bank employee.”
“A bank employee, who was a veterinarian, a plumber, a taxi driver, a tech guy at the phone company… and more importantly a map dancer. I need a team of gifted people to maximize our chances of survival.”
Funley raised an eyebrow. “Mr Steam, à propos”, she said brandishing the paper she had found in the trash can.
I was offering the plate of mince pies to Mr Cornwall, who had been coaxed out of his room for the first time in ages and was sitting next to the gum tree sapling that Aunt Idle had strung with fairy lights in lieu of a Christmas pine, when they arrived. We were all surprised to hear the taxi hooting outside, that is, except Bert. I heard him mumbling something about “She bloody meant it, the old trout,” but I didn’t remember that until later, with all the commotion at the unexpected guests.
“Here, take the lot,” I said, shoving the mince pies on the old guys lap, as I rushed to the door to see who it was. A tall autocratic looking woman swathed in beige linen garments was climbing out of the front seat of the taxi, with one hand holding the pith helmet on her head and the other hand gesticulating wildly to the others in the back seat. She was ordering the taxi driver to get the luggage out of the boot, and ushering the other occupants out of the car, before flamboyantly spinning around to face the house. With arms outstretched and a big smile she called, “Darlings! We have arrived!”
“Who the fuck it that?” I asked Clove. “Fucked if I know” she replied, adding in a disappointed tone, “Four more old farts, just what we bloody need.”
“And a baby!” I noted.
Clove snorted sarcastically, “Terrific.”
Suddenly a cloud of dust filled the hall and I started to cough. Crispin Cornwall had leaped to his feet, the plate of mince pies crashing to the floor.
“Elizabeth! Do my eyes deceive me, or is it really you?”
“Godfrey, you old coot! What on earth are you doing here, and dressed like that! You really are a hoot!”materParticipant
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.
Cheung Lok gave a look at the arched back massaging his feet. There was nothing enjoyable about it, he thought, unlike what many of his friends who loved a good foot massage said about it.
It was hurting like being trampled by a million wild rhinos, and the release of pain was even painful enough to not be enjoyable.
He had no choice, it was part of the social acts expected from him, and in that precise moment also a cover to get some particular piece of information.
An ugly person wearing outrageous make-up arrived on the seat next to him, making it crack like a pack of cheap matches, the arms of the chair protruding in the middle of the enormous waist.
Without a word spoken, he received the key, and was thankful that he didn’t need to stay longer.
He paid the boss with some cash, and left silently in the turmoil of the city.
He signalled the driver he’d walk to the office. Another peculiarity, as usually officials with his rank would never walk unless under extreme necessity, which was the same as saying never. But he enjoyed walking in the Chinese parts of the city, there were all sorts of smells and activity, it was never dull.
He had too laugh at the insane number of beauty parlours and salons. For all he could tell, either there weren’t enough of them, or they weren’t doing a good job.
For once, it had little to do with the robots replacing human attendants; massage and beauty parlours had been the most resistant to change, and for now, most still employed human personnel. That meant, there was still a large market share escaping the Corporation, and the prototype that Irina stole was supposed to change all that. He had to retrieve it by all means.
“What? You think I’m shallow? That I spend too much time on my appearance?”
Terry Bubble paused a bit then said “Well, maybe a bit, of course yes! I guess that’s what being a drag queen means. You take care of yourself. You enjoy playing with your appearance. You can’t be amateurish about it, it’s about creating an illusion, it’s about making people believe for a moment,…” then he added pensively “and maybe yourself a little”.
“If you ask me, big beautiful chocolate Maurana Banana, what others think about you is none of your damn nosy business.”
The three of them crammed at the back of a tiny flying tuk-tuk with their glowing perspiration under the sunscreen and layers of makeup, attempting to keep the appearances up for as long as they could was extremely entertaining.
“Get ready! We arrive at the drop-off in a minute!” Sadie shouted. At the front of the hovercraft, she was carefully guiding the driver through the jungle thanks to the energy map on the ezapper.
After almost 33 years on the road doing their their show, Geoffroy and the Théâtre du Soleil had had their share of success.
Of course, with an average age of the troupe being close to 66 years old on the eve of July 1789, they were not all young and restless, nor as high on hallucinogenic mushrooms like every other day.
Admittedly, their fate took a turn for the better after that show cancellation at Versailles the day of the attempt on the King’s life. They were stolen a balloon and a tub of lard, but what they gained in exchange was beyond wondrous. Sparks of inspiration had brought the team closer, and even the occasional quarrel between Lison and Francette was a blessing. Now, there was already a new King in Versailles, not better by far, and the wig fashion had improved only so lightly, but it gave good fodder for sarcasm and witty plays.
It wasn’t so much that their play-writing abilities had improved dramatically, to the contrary, but their common hallucination in the Royal Chapelle that day had unleashed their creative power. Their new plays had become famous overnight all over the Europe, liked by peasants who were enjoying its simplicity and nonsensical timing and plots, or even snotty critics all alike, who were somehow discerning artful and intricate royal satire that maybe they’d just invented to sound clever.
Tonight they would play a revival of their universally acclaimed chef d’œuvre, “The whales and the frogs”. With buffoonish wigs and corsets, and their share of heavy compulsory make-up. For some, the frogs were a symbol of the poor people carrying the heavy queens and kings of old, with crazy old Time as a driver, flanked with Janus the two-headed Janitor. Well, that sounded quite erudite and a tad pompous, and frankly for them, they didn’t care what symbol it was, so long as it brought the final money they needed for their retirement plan in sunny Mediterranean where they would take a boat and sail to the new world.
“she felt some security as her companions seemed composed about the journey.”
hire car drivers ~ city driving
“The ocean was not as deep as she had anticipated. Even though the water eventually came up to her shoulders, she found she was able to walk the whole distance.”
shallow ocean waters of Sanlucar
“Who else?, as a matter of fact, Dr Whoohelz,” he winked unapologetically.
“Oh, that?” he added knowingly to the glaring lady. “Did you know pink tutus made from pink panthers’ hides are a symbol of power in most old African countries.”
Meanwhile, Luigi, the hapless driver and his scooter, and the land beneath them had moved and groaned a good few meters further away from the doctor.
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