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  • #5636

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “We’ll start as soon as we get our first client, Tara,” replied Star, “And don’t keep calling me a tart. You had better get out of the habit or you might do it accidentally when we’re working on a case.”

    “What if we don’t get any clients? We’ve advertised everywhere we can think of. Once we get started, we’ll get recommendations, we’ll probably have to take on staff, we’ll be so busy.” A wistful look crept into Tara’s eye. She’d never been a boss, never been in the position of telling a subordinate what to do. It had a certain appeal.  “Anyway, you are a tart.”

    “Was, Tara, was. We are not tarts now, and nobody needs to know what we did for a living before.  Nothing shameful in it of course, but people have such antiquated ideas; it might put them off. They don’t need to know that we might be able to use our skills to our advantage to solve cases.”

    “I’d rather solve cases with our new skills,” said Tara.  “Remote viewing, out of body travel, lucid dreaming, that sort of thing.”

    “Never a bad thing to have an assorted tool box,” replied Star. “We have unique skills compared to most private investigators. Just thank your lucky stars that we escaped the eagle eye of Madame Limonella.  She’ll never think to look for us in here in Melbourne, she’s probably thinking we’ll fetch up in some back street dive in Perth, desperate for our jobs back.”

    “Well it might come to that if we don’t get any cases to solve,” Tara said glumly, “And on less money too, we’re not spring chickens any more.”

    “Don’t be silly,” Star snapped. “We’re not even 40 yet. If we were too young we wouldn’t be taken seriously.”

    “Not even close to 40,” replied Tara, who was 33. “You are, though,” she said to Star, who was sensitive about being 39.

    Star was just about to call her a rude tart when the phone rang.

    #5615
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    June looked at the “locate my e-zapper” app on her phone and had to do a double-take.

    “Look at that, April dear; I need a second pair of eyes, yeah you look a tad more sober than I am. I must say,… I may not be at my peak performance, brain-wise and all,…” she started, her tongue rolling in vapours of the strong Chinese spirits, “but, why does it say the baby is on the move on the Interstate 81, few miles north of Birmingham, Alabama??”

    April’s hand flew to her mouth. 🤭

    #5597
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    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.

    “A job.”

    “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.

    #5584
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    May quickly realized that she hadn’t planned this out properly at all. While Norma was fishing in her handbag for paper tissues, May switched the glasses of wine, so that she had the one with the laxatives herself. It wasn’t fair to inflict that on Norma, who was already verging on distraught. And May was feeling bloated anyway. A good clear out wouldn’t do her any harm.

    May listened with genuine sympathy to Norma’s distress at being mistreated, but a glance at the kitchen clock prompted her to interrupt.

    “Gotta go to the john,” she said, wondering if she had the vernacular right. She had almost said “must pop to the loo”, but that was the kind of lingo she used on the previous mission.  She had to send her finance a message. The rendezvous with the spinach pot was off.  Closing the bathroom door behind her, she reached for her phone and tapped the coded message.

    iggi nefa san forlik snoodetta

    Almost immediately there was a reply. No coded message this time, it was just a rolling eyes icon.  May sighed with relief. What had she been thinking to plan such a thing, on such short notice?

    Norma watched May leave the room, a little frown furrowing her brow. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she felt uneasy. May was acting guilty. Why? Without even knowing why she did it, she swapped her wine glass for the other one.  Immediately feeling appalled at such a silly impulse, she reached to swap them back, but it was too late.   May burst into the room, beaming.

    Norma was taken aback at the difference in May’s demeanour, which threw her into a mental quandary.  Had she mistaken a discomfort due to the need to use the lavatory for a guilty conscience?  And that impulse to switch the glasses!

    “Well, cheers!” she said shakily, holding up the wine glass and then draining it.

    “Bottoms up!” replied May, following suit.

    #5368
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Noor Mary Chowdhury had just been promoted to the role of housekeeper since the arrival of the new Iranian maid, May. It was a nice change of position but sadly the salary was not really following, she’ll have to talk to the chief of stuff, Mr August. She suspected him to have a crush on her and he might get a word in her favor to Mr Lump.

    “Tskk,” she said to May. “You’re not doing it right, rub gently with the newspaper to make the silver shine.”

    “Like that?” asked May. Norma bobbed her head the Indian way, and as May seemed a bit confused she added “close enough.”

    “Mayyyyy”.

    The shout startled them both.

    “Keep doing like that only. I’m the housekeeper, I’ll go check.”

    Norma went to the nursery room and her lips tightened when she saw the two au pair aunties slumped on the couch. June’s eyes were misty, she turned her bottle upside down to show it was empty. April was busy on her phone as usual, ignoring the maid as if she was insignificant.

    Norma snorted, she didn’t say anything but showed her disapproval silently. June’s breath could make an elephant drunk while sitting on its back and April was so ugly she would make it run away.

    “I’m not your maid,” the housekeeper said.

    “Oh that’s right!” said June to April “Coz she’s got a PhD!” and they laughed.

    It hurt but Norma kept her lips tight and left the room. She bumped into Mr August Finest and her mind went blank. He was tall and wore a handsome moustache. She had forgotten she wanted to talk to him about her salary.

    #4864
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    We finally figured out what was wrong with everyone, making us all lounge around for weeks on end, or maybe it was months, god knows it went on for a lot longer than our usual bored listless spells. Barely a word passed anyone’s lips for days at a time, and not a great deal of food either. None of us had the will to cook after awhile, and when the hunger pangs roused us, we’d shuffle into the kitchen and shovel down whatever was at hand. A wedge of raw cabbage, or a few spoonfuls of flour, once all the packets of biscuits and crisps had gone, and the pies out of the freezer.

    Finley seemed to cope better than anyone, although not up to her usual standard. But she managed to feed the animals and water the tomatoes occasionally, and was good at suggesting improvisations, when the toilet paper ran out for example. The lethargy and slow wittedness of us all was probably remarkable, but we were far too disinterested in everything to notice at the time.

    To be honest, it would all be a blank if I hadn’t found that my portable telephone contraption had been taking videos randomly throughout the tedious weeks. It was unsettling to say the least, looking at those, I can tell you.

    It started to ease off, slowly: I’d suddenly find myself throwing the ball for the dog, picking up the camera because something caught my eye, I even had a shower one day. I noticed the others now and then seemed to take an interest in something, briefly. We all needed to lie down for a few hours to recover, but we’re all back to normal now. Well I say normal.

    Finly looked at some news one day, and it wasn’t just us that had the Etruscan flu, it had been a pandemic. There had hardly been any news for months because nobody could be bothered to do it, and anyway, nothing had happened anywhere. Everyone all over the world was just lounging around, not saying anything and barely eating, not showering, not doing laundry, not traveling anywhere.

    And you know what the funny thing is? It’s like a garden of Eden out there now, air quality clean as a whistle, the right weather in all the right places, it’s like a miracle.

    And everyone’s slowed down, I mean speeded up since the flu, but slower than before, less frantic. Just sitting on the porch breathing the lovely air and thinking what a fine day it is.

    One good thing is that we’re taking showers regularly again.

    #4831
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Veranassessee snapped her phone shut, put it in her pocket and turned to hail a taxi. As she spotted one coming around the corner she lunged forward with her arm out to flag him down and slipped on a rolling apple in the gutter. Her extended arm got caught in the spokes of a passing bicycle, and she ended up headbutting the cyclist in the groin, before somersaulting right over the bike and landing head first in the ice cream vendors street cart. The innocent cyclist doubled over, his strange beannie hat with the wooden top getting caught in the mangled wheel spokes.

    #4819
    IdleIdle
    Participant

    Took me a while to get the gist of the thing, but it’s working now. Wait, is it?
    I’ll never know for sure, I have that old phone with no chip in that somehow allows me to text with no mobile reception.
    If Prune hadn’t left so fast, I would have asked her to put the darn thing on my phone, but mainly I’m able to have fun with bot.
    fuirt jllly fckgn e key stickign now as well T
    etetetetetetetete
    Anyway, Sanso buggered off without notice thogh, left me hanging dry in front of the old tunnels. I couldn’t get inside, too narrow entrance, got a tunnel fright! Talk about mood killer. So unlike me.
    Spent a bit of time chatting to various old freinds, part of the old crowd back in th e day, including pople still there I havent seen in years and thats been nice.
    It’s like smelling Mater’s cooking and realizing it was me burning dog food.
    Now I’ll just go la la la la until I find clarity and inspiration.

    #4803
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Can you keep the manic cackling down, you guys,” said Finnley strolling nonchalently through the living room. “I’m on the phone.”

    She waved her phone at them to prove it. “A bit of a dust trap,” she mouthed at Liz and pointed to her prized rope reptile on the dresser.

    “Sorry about that, old chap. Yes, so what were you saying about the book deal? Oh really? What a hoot!”

    “What a hoot?” Godfrey whispered.

    “This is a travesty of justice … or something,” said Liz. “Stop hooting and talking nonsense, Godfrey. And speak up! Shout! I insist you shout your HOOTS!”

    Finnley rolled her eyes. “Got to go, old chap. There’s crazy shit going on around here. I’ll see you at the awards!”

    #4761
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Barbara’s office was dead silent apart from the regular bips of the machines. The whiteness of the painted walls made it feel like a psych ward. She shivered away the memories that were trying to catch her attention.

    It’s been two hours since the Doctor had locked himself up in his rage-release room, a spacious soundproofed room with padded walls. Not even a small window to look inside and check if his anger had subsided. Barbara clearly preferred the trauma of the shouts and cries and the broken plates that were hidden here and there for him to use when he needed most. But when he started his therapy with the AI psych module, the damn bot suggested he built that room in order to release his rage in a more intimate framework.
    Now the plates collected dust and the sessions in the room tended to last longer and longer.

    Today’s burst of rage had been triggered by the unexpected gathering of the guests at the Inn. The Doctor was drinking his columbian cocoa, a blend of melted dark chocolate with cheddar cheese, when the old hag in that bloody gabardine started her speech. The camera hidden in the eye of the fish by their agent, gave them a fisheye view of the room. It was very practical and they could see everything. The AI engineer module could recreate a 3D view of the room and anticipate the moves of all the attendees.

    When that girl with the fishnet handed out the keys for all to see and the other girl got the doll out, the Doctor had his attention hyper-focused. He wanted to see it all.
    Except there had been a glitch and images of granola cookies superimposed on the items.

    “Send the magpies to retrieve the items,” he said, nervousness making his voice louder.
    “Ahem,” had answered Barbara.
    “What?” The Doctor turned towards her. His eye twitched when he expected the worst, and it had been twitching fast.
    She had been trying to hide the fact that the magpies had been distracted lately, as she had clearly been herself since she had found that goldminer game on facebush.
    No need to delay the inevitable, she had thought. “The magpies are not in the immediate vicinity of the Inn.” In fact, just as their imprinting mother was busy digging digital gold during her work time, the magpies had found a new vein of gold while going to the Inn and Barbara had thought it could be a nice addition to her meager salary… to make ends meet at the end of the month.

    It obviously wasn’t the right time to do so. And she was worried about the Doctor now.

    To trump her anxiety, she was surfing the internet. Too guilty to play the gold miner, she was looking around for solutions to her boss’s stress. The variety and abundance of advertisement was deafening her eyes, and somewhere in a gold mine she was sure the magpies were going berserk too. She had to find a solution quickly.

    Barbara hesitated to ask the AI. But there were obviously too many solutions to choose from. Her phone buzzed. It was her mother.
    “I finally found the white jade masks. Bought one for you 2. It helps chase the mental stress away. You clearly need it.” Her mother had joined a picture of her wearing the mask on top of a beauty mask which gave her the look of a mummy. Her mother was too much into the woowoo stuffs and Barbara was about to send her a polite but firm no she didn’t want the mask. But the door of the rage-room opened and the Doctor went out. He had such a blissful look on his face. It was unnatural. Barbara had been suspecting the AI to brainwash the Doctor with subliminal messages during those therapy sessions. Maybe it also happened in the rage-room. The AI was using tech to control the Doctor. Barbara would use some other means to win him back.

    OK. SEND IT TO ME QUICK. she sent to her mother.

    #4715
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Miss Bossy Pants was losing patience. If it weren’t for the heat spell that made her cat-like reflexes duller than usual, she would have shredded the hippie yurt that Ricardo had built for Sophie, that useless temp too fast promoted.

    She had to reason with herself, although she didn’t like that. Mostly because she always agreed with the devil on her shoulder. “OK, I’ll give them a chance to fish for key information.”

    Truth was, there was already enough evidence that Sophie’s brain was mush, and probably heavily tampered with by the Doctor. Who knows what that maniac might have planted as post-hypnotic suggestions in such a suggestible mind. There was little doubt that if she’d escaped, she was actually probably still a pawn he could control.

    She liked a worthy opponent. It would be so much more satisfying to crush him in the end.

    Her phone buzzed.
    “in oz, on ourwya to hippicenter gto grdbraeknig inforamton keep cool hilda &c.”

    Well there was good news after all. She started to list them to give her heart:

    1. Hilda remembered how to spell her own name
    2. She had not lost or broken her company phone
    3. They were not dead or maimed or enhanced yet, so clumsy as they were, they’d probably managed to stay off the radar of the Doctor.

    Of course, the other things she’d learned in that short moment was probably outweighing the silver lining:

    3. She had probably an insane roaming bill to the company phone
    4. They’d continued to max out the credit card to pursue the topic
    5. Clumsy as they were, it was surely a matter of time before they alerted the Doctor to their investigation.

    She thought quick and fast, while waving her fan figorously (it was a modesty hiding fan). Punching the screen of her phone, she typed.

    “Had breakthru too. Sophie was one of the dolls – need to find keys to dirty secrets & coded map to intercept = hashtag bigger than wee key leaks.”

    There, that should keep them occupied and well on track with the wild goose chase, while she devised a plan B.

    #4709
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The vibration of the phone on the table made Barbara jump and she almost deleted her report. Her heart was racing at the thought of erasing what took her an hour to write. She reminded herself to breath like she had learned during her hot yoga class the previous week. It quieted her heart a little and she checked her hair out of habit and winced when she felt the short haircut. She checked her phone.

    “Wonderful!” she said readjusting her glasses. A new acquisition, big and cat eye like, the brim covered with colourful strass. She couldn’t resist.
    She got up from her desk and adjusted her skirt with her six fingers hand. She went to the Doctor’s office and knocked three times on the door. A sleepy voice, a tad angry, asked from the other side: “What?”

    “It’s Barbara. Our undercover agent sent me a confirmation that the Dreamcatcher operation is a success. Subject zero has been activated unaware that you are manipulating her dreams.”

    #4703
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Sweeping the shards of glass and pottery into the dustpan, Lucinda was focused the floor, and keeping the little dog away from the shattered pieces, so she didn’t notice immediately that the doll was missing. As soon as she did, she ran to the door and looked down the hallway but Maeve had gone. How rude she’d been!

    Shawn Paul was looking flustered while locking his apartment door. “Have you seen Maeve a few minutes ago?” she asked.

    “Forgot my toothbrush, had to dash back and fetch it,” he said, fumbling with his key and looking nervous. “Oh, Maeve? She’s gone to Australia.”

    “She’s gone to Australia?” I parroted stupidly, my mind whirling. Shawn Paul tittered nervously and said nothing, turned on his heel and loped off down the hall to the stairs.

    “What the dickens is up with him?” Lucinda muttered, but she had more important things to think about. She dialed Hilda’s number.

    Several hours later she was still trying to reach Hilda by phone. Reluctantly, Lucinda wrote a message.

    “doll stolen tart next door teafed it and is on way to oz but seen another one call me asap need 2 talk”

    #4696
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Ricardo!” Miss Bossy shouted from her office she was rearranging into an office cum interrogation room.

    “Yes, M’am!”

    “Any news from our two insubordinate scouts?”
    “I’m afraid not M’am. Phone coverage isn’t that good in the bush I hear.”
    “Stop that nonsense! What tells you they’re aren’t just squandering my newspaper’s money over unearned mojitos doing precious nothing like gator’s watching on a beach, hmmm?”
    “I think they’d call that gathering clues M’am.”

    If Ricardo hadn’t be so earnest, she would have slapped him in the face for his attempt at humour, but he was blissfully unaware of the unwanted irony and impertinence of his retort.

    You’re going soft… she mused to herself, while snapping electrical wires together making a splash of sparkles in the air. The makeshift interrogation room was ready.

    Ric’! Bring Sweet Sophie!”

    #4689
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “So, ‘ow we going to find ‘im then, Glor?” asked Sharon, taking a slurp of thick muddy-looking tea. “Ow! That’s too bloody hot. I’m going to ‘ave another word with the Matron about that Nurse, I am.”

    “You do that, Sha. Nurse Trassie wasn’t it?”

    Sharon nodded and pursed her lips tightly. “Bloody uppity tart. We bloody pay enough to be ‘ere, I reckon. They should get the tea bloody right.” Her eyes narrowed menacingly. “ Anyway, she’ll keep. So,‘ow we going to find ‘im then, Glor?”

    “Whose that then, Shar? Oh, you mean the doctor who does the beauty treatments? I’d forget my bloody ‘ead if it weren’t screwed on, wouldn I!”

    Gloria scratched her head vigorously, perhaps checking it was still there, before taking a moment to examine her fingernails.

    “Wot’d Mavis say then?” she asked at last. “When you did that texting thing to ‘er?”

    “‘Ere let me find my phone and I’ll read it out loud to you. Oh, blimey, ‘ave you seen my glasses, Glor?”

    Gloria’s generous curves wobbled and gyrated as she convulsed into fits of laughter.

    “They’re on yer bloody ‘ead!” she said pointing and gasping for breath. “Oh, I nearly peeed myself, ya blimmen muppet!”

    “Thanks, Glor. Wot I’d do without you, I don’t bloody know. Don’t mean to make you pee yerself though. It’s ‘ard enough getting them nurses to give out them extra thick pantyliners. Blimmin uppity tarts. Expecially that Nurse Trassie. Anyway, she’ll keep.”

    Sharon peered at her phone. “Mavis says: Wot a bloody brainwave! I need a makeover for my new fella!!’ LOL! “ She frowned. “Wot’s that word mean, LOL, Glor?”

    “Oh, it’s text talk. The younguns talk like that now and our Mavis always did like to keep up with trends. Lots of lust it means. That saucy cow!”

    “She always was a saucy one that, Mavis! Look at us stuck in ‘ere and ‘er with a new fella. Lucky sod. Maybe after our beauty treatment, we might get us a new fella too.”

    “I don’t know ‘ow we’re going to track down the Doctor though, Shar. I don’t know ‘ow we’re going to track him down when we’re stuck in this bleedin’ ‘ole.” Gloria shoulders shook and she began to sob loudly.

    “There, there, Glor. Don’t cry,” said Sharon, rubbing her friend’s back. “They’ll put you on more bloody pills if you cry. Oh! I know wot will cheer you up!”

    “Wot’s that then,” asked Gloria, sniffing loudly into her hanky.

    “I’ve ‘ad one of my bloody brainwaves!”

    “I knew you would, Shar! You’ve always ‘ad brains. I’m all agog!”

    “We’ll get Mavis to go to the papers! Put in an advert to find ‘im!”

    “You’re a blimmin genius, you are, Shar!”

    #4676
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    When Hilda received the message from her old friend Lucinda her first thought was Miss Bossy Pants award for the “Most Stylistic Synchronistic Article”. There was already a synchronicity because she’s also had a tip off from some guy calling himself “Superjerk”, which was also about dolls. If she followed the lead about the doll stories, and managed to connect them together, it could be the scoop of the year ~ whether or not there was an actual connection between them.

    Hilda had made copious notes from the long and garbled telephone conversation with Lucinda about everything she knew thus far, and where she was stuck. Clearly the poor dear needed Hilda’s special expertise in following a lead and putting the clues together to form a picture. Admittedly Hilda didn’t always stick to facts ~ who did in journalism these days anyway! But she had an intuition that this was just what she needed to get her teeth into. It had been a boring year in the extreme reportage department. Extremely boring.

    It had been years since Hilda had been in contact with Lucinda, and that had been on a remote viewing forum. Neither of them had been much good at it, but some of the other members had been brilliant, so it came in useful at times to use their expertise. Hilda made a mental note to rejoin that forum, if it still existed, or find another one. She changed her mind about the mental note, and jotted it down in her notebook. It was a good idea and could come in handy.

    The short and cryptic note from the guy calling himself Superjerk didn’t provide much information other than the synchronicity, which was of course noteworthy. And he had provided the link to that website “findmydolls.com”. The story was already starting to show promising signs of weaving together.

    Not wanting any of the other staff to cotton on to her new thread, Hilda told Miss Bossy Pants that she was going to investigate the “hum” in Cadiz. That peculiar Horns of Gabriel phenomenon that occurred randomly around the world had been heard over a wide area of Cadiz and Seville. Hilda had another old friend in that neck of the woods; so she could easily pretend she was there covering that story, with a bit of collaboration from her friend, while she embarked on the real journey to the Flying Fish Inn, in some godforsaken outpost of the outback.

    That nosy Connie had somehow managed to find out about the whole thing, eavesdropping again no doubt, and Hilda had no option but to come clean with her and ask her to join her in ironing out the story. They would have to deal with Miss Bossy Pants later. If the scoop was the success that Hilda anticipated, then they would be getting an award, not a reprimand.

    It was worth it. Hilda felt more alive than she had done in a long time.

    #4653
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Come on now,” said Ricardo. “Nobody has put anything out there about the dolls. Come and sit down on this nice comfy office chair and tell us what is going on. You will do yourself an injury running in those heels. Lovely shoes of course,” he added quickly.

    Miss Bossy Pants glared at him suspiciously but allowed herself to be coaxed to the nearest office chair while Hilda and Connie raised their eyebrows and Sweet Sophie snorted.

    “That’s right,” he said. “Just let me wipe that chair for you before you sit. Now, you tell us what’s going on while I make the tea. One sugar?”

    Hilda and Connie made gagging noises.

    Slimy creep, hissed Connie.

    “No hurry then,” said Hilda. “We’ve only been waiting half an hour for tea already.”

    Miss Bossy Pants wiped her forehead with a tea towel, too relieved to question what a tea towel was doing on the desk. She pulled her phone out and scrolled through her messages.

    “I received this,” she said. “Read it out will you, Ric. I can’t stand to look at it again.”

    “Put a lid on the doll story or you will be sorry. And I mean very sorry Very very sorry,” read Ric. “Hmmm rather unimaginative as threats go, don’t you think?”

    “Scroll through to the next one.”

    “By the way, it’s the DOCTOR sending this, in case you think for one moment this is an unimaginative idle threat.”

    #4626
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Shawn Paul had decided that this particular day was dedicated to his writing. He had warned his friends not to call him and put his phone on silent mode. It was 9am and he had a long day of writing ahead of him.
    He almost felt the electricity in his fingers as he touched the keyboard of his laptop. He imagined himself as a pianist of words preparing himself before a concert in front of the crowd of his future readers.
    Shawn Paul pushed away the voice of his mother telling him with an irritating voice that he had the attention span of a shrimp in a whirlpool during a storm, which the boy had never truely understood, but today he was willing not to even let his inner voices distract him. He breathed deeply three times as he had learned last week-end during a workshop, and imagined his mother’s voice as a slimy slug that he could put away in a box with a seal into a chest with chains and lots of locks, that he buried in the deepest trench of the Pacific ocean. He was a writer and had a vivid imagination after all, why not use it to his benefit.
    A smile of satisfaction wavered on the corner of his mouth while a drop of sweat slowly made its way to the corner of his left eye. He blinked and the doorbell rang.
    Shawn Paul’s fragile smile transformed into a fixed grin ready to break down. Someone was laughing, and when the bell rang a second time, Shawn Paul realised it was his own contained hysterical laugh.

    He breathed in deeply at his desk and got up too quickly, bumping his knee in one corner.
    Ouch! he cried silently.
    It would not take long he reminded himself, limping to the door.
    What could it be ? The postman ?

    Shawn Paul opened the door. An old man he had never seen, was standing there with a packet in his hands. If he was not the postman, at least you had the packet right said a voice in Shawn Paul’s head.
    The old man opened his mouth, certainly to speak, but instead started to cough as if he was about to snuff it. It lasted some time and Shawn Paul repulsed by the loose cough retreated a bit into his flat. It was his old fear of contagion creeping out again. He berated himself he should not feel that way and he should show compassion, but at least if the old man could stop, it would be easier.

    “For you!” said the old man when his cough finally stopped. He put the packet in Shawn Paul’s hands and left without another word.

    #4624
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    The light in the apartment darkened and Lucida glanced up from her book and noticed the gathering clouds visible through the glass doors that opened onto her balcony. Frowning, she reached for her phone to check tomorrows weather forecast. The weekly outdoor market was one of the highlights of her week. With a sigh of relief she noted that there was no expectation of rain. Clouds perhaps, which wasn’t a bad thing. It wouldn’t be too hot, and the glare of the sun wouldn’t make it difficult to see all the the things laid out to entice a potential buyer on trestle tables and blankets.

    Lucinda had made a list ~ the usual things, like fruit and vegetables from the farms outside the city; perhaps she’d find a second hand cake tin to try out the new recipe, and some white sheets for the costumes for the Roman themed party she’d been invited to, maybe some more books. But what excited her most was the chance of finding something unexpected, or something unusual. And more often than not, she did.

    She added birthday present to the list, not having any idea what that might be. Lucinda found choosing gifts extraordinarily difficult, and had tried all manner of tactics to change her irrational angst about the whole thing. One Christmas she’d tried just picking one shop and choosing as many random things as people on her gift list. In fact that had worked as well as any other method, but still felt unsettling and unsatisfactory. The next year she informed everyone that she wouldn’t be buying presents at all, and asked friends and family to reciprocate likewise. Some had and some hadn’t, resulting in yet more confusion. Was she to be grateful for the gifts, despite the lack of her own reciprocation? Or peeved that they had ignored her wishes?

    Birthdays were different though. A personal individual celebration was not the same thing as Christmas with all it’s stifling traditions and expectations. It would be churlish to refuse to buy a birthday gift. And so birthday gift remained on the shopping list, as it had been last week, and the week before.

    A birthday gift had already been purchased the previous week. Lucinda glanced up at the top shelf of the bookcase where the doll sat, languidly looking down at her. She felt a pang of emotion, as she did each time she looked at that doll. She loved the doll and wanted to keep it for herself, that was one thing. That was one of the things that always happened when she chose a gift that she liked herself: she talked herself into keeping it; that it was her taste and not the recipients. That it would be obvious that she’d chosen it because SHE liked it, not keeping the other person in mind.

    But that wasn’t the only thing confounding her this time. The doll wanted to stay with her, she was sure of it. It wasn’t just her wanting to keep the doll. It wasn’t any old doll, either. That was the other thing. It seemed very clear that it was one of Maeve’s dolls. It had to be, she was sure of it.

    When she got home with her purchases the week before, her intention had been to go and show Maeve what she’d found. Then something stopped her: what if it made her sad that one of her creations had been discarded, put up for sale at a market along with old cake tins and second hand sheets? No, she couldn’t possibly risk it, and luckily Maeve didn’t know the birthday girl who was the doll was intended for, so she’d never know.

    But then Lucinda realized she had to keep the strange gaunt doll with the grey dreadlocks and patchwork dress. She couldn’t possibly give her away.

    I hope I don’t find another doll at the market tomorrow, and have to keep that as well! thought Lucinda, and immediately felt goosebumps rise as an errant breeze ruffled the dolls dreadlocks.

    #4588
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Granola felt a bit stupid in her squishy giraffe suit, lying deflated on the carpeted floor of the entrance.

    Ailill!” she called for her afterlife tech support guy in blue.

    “Up here, darling.”

    She looked up, and sure enough, he was there, a blue pompom ball dangling from the ceiling. It landed quite gracefully next to her giraffe, and turned into a small guy in blue overalls.

    “Got yourself again stuck in rut, haven’t you?” he smiled at the giraffe, propping it up on its elastic legs.

    “You can say that. It feels like days I’ve been stuck in a loop, observing the same people doing the same things. When I think I’m moving on, I’m actually just switching to the next one, but it’s always the same moment.
    Lucinda blathering on the phone while I’m her cushion, and next I’m a paper roll in Jerk’s cash register, and the moment after, I’m the blank page that Shawn Paul stares at for hours, or one of Maeve’s unfinished dolls next. Actually, the giraffe feels kind of an improvement.”

    She looked musingly and a bit enviously at Ailill’s form: “I didn’t think it’d be that tough to graduate to human form. Blobs of red lights were fun enough, but… things! This!” The giraffe looked at its chewed legs and wobbled precariously.

    “In actuality…” Ailill started loftily

    “Oh dear… make it simple please.”

    “It’s part of the evaluation of attachments. You need to move beyond them, then you’ll be free to do more things, to be more. For now, you still see yourself as a props in these characters’ dramaless lives. But try to think about that one: what if they were the props of yours? You are trying too hard to move around the wrong things. The journey is inwards, always my friend.”

    Something squished into the small giraffe, as if it something in Ailill’s speech had made sense to Granola.

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