I don’t know if that’s a second youth or what, but getting to that 100 line has put Mater in an energetic frenzy. She’s been putting her things in order, like she said.
My studies on machine learning and artificial intelligence are keeping me away for now. I’ve been studying hard for that Mars program selection, but it looks like it’s hopeless. Anyway, I had the good idea to put nannycams in all the hidden spots of the Inn. It’s not been as much fun as I’d hoped, spying on Aunt Idle and her manic ramblings. You would think she’s drunk all the time, but for all the recordings, I’d be damned if I’ve caught her yet on tape with a bottle. I guess her body just distills it on its own…
I’m not even mentioning the dubious trails of “Uncles” of late: the Fergus, Basil or otherwise. She’d known quite a few of these in her days, although she’s claimed to have been a paragon of matrimonial virtue, being single woman with kids in these parts must have been rough after she lost Pater.
I think I finally caught something between all the cloak and dagger mascarades, tatty letters and all. Digital footprint isn’t big, but it may be something tangible to begin with.
Meanwhile, we’ll have to get started getting the invitation list in order; Mater’s contemporaries are falling by the minute, and Aunt Dido’s braincells are probably dying as fast as that— it won’t be easy to get a complete list. I know I should enlist Devan, I even put him on that family group thing, but he’s not big with all the tech stuff. As for the twins, well… We still have to hear about their stories. At this rate, might be faster to learn to telepathically tack on Dodo’s brainwaves. She says to whomever wants to hear she’s got direct connection to them… Would sound cultish to me, if I didn’t know better about the sisters! I’ll be worried when Mater starts to take this woowoo seriously.
Well, it wasn’t what I expected. but once I got over being slightly miffed that it was all about Mater, stealing the limelight again, I realized that I would get my wish after all, if Corrie and Clove and the others were going to come back for a visit. When they arrived, they could tell me all about what had been happening. The twins and Pan were to set off soon, on a sea worthy raft they’d been working on. It would be a long trip and hard to judge how long it would take. The waters were uncharted in places, Corrie mentioned in the letter, given that the waters had risen in so many places, but it also meant there was a chance of safe passage by water in places that had previously been dry land. Narrow canals had become wide shallow lakes, so they’d heard. Pan would be able to dive to his hearts content along the way, and they were all excited about the coming adventure.
“We will continue to communicate telepathically during the trip, Auntie”, Corrie had written, which gave me a glow of pride and satisfaction. I hadn’t been making it up, we truly had been exchanging messages all along.
I wasn’t sure how easy it was going to be dealing with Mater in the meantime, though. She was demanding plastic surgery now.
“Plastic surgery?” I said, “You can’t even get a decent tupperware these days, lid or no lid. Where on earth are we supposed to get plastic surgery from?”
Almost a hundred years old, and still vain. I ask you. “Do you see me fussing over my looks?”
“Quite” she replied, and pursed her shriveled lips.
There’s no two ways about it: I’ve let myself go. There’s never any excuse for that, even if you are turning one hundred. I’ve always tried to impress this on Dodo, but will she listen? That hair of hers! God knows what’s hiding in it. And those nasty dungarees she likes so much; they’d stand on their own if she ever got out of them.
Not that I am one for fashion, mind. Last thing I bought was a few decades ago. Some striped pants that one of the twins helped me buy on the internet, on the line, as they say. The legs were that wide I was scared some critter might crawl up to my privates. Don’t want that going on at my age! When Bert said he had a pair like it once, well, that was the last straw.
One hundred! Wonder if I’ll get one of those letters from the King. That’s about all the monarchy are good for now. After that debacle back in the 20’s, thought they’d do away with them. But old big ears is hanging in there; reckon he must be nearing his hundredth soon.
Anyway, the mirror doesn’t lie and what it’s telling me ain’t so fancy. My hair looks like something the moths have had a chew at and I’ve put on that much flab the only thing will fit me is a potato sack. And now Prune’s planning some big birthday bash…I’ve got my work cut out! She thinks I don’t know but there’s not much gets by me. If people think you’ve lost your marbles, they’ll say all sorts in front of you. And since those magic pills the aboriginal fellow gave me, my marbles are all back where they should be, thank you very much! Now I just need some pills for my boobs.
Her family’s origins is South-Asian. April is an aspiring artist, using her free time as a nanny to explore her art. She met June in 1999, while June was on the run from the police and broke into the household where April was in charge of twins and a pack of dogs at the time. June’s unexpected help with the twelve whining household dogs helped win her over and they became inseparable friends shortly after that, despite June’s temper and kleptomania habits.January 16, 2020 at 11:44 am #5593EricKeymaster
Was trying to get a basic timeline in place for future reference:
- (1935) Birth of Mater
- (1958) Mater marries her childhood sweetheart (ref)
- (1965) Birth of Fred
- (1970) Birth of Aunt Idle
- (1978) April 12th, Mater’s husband dies
- (1998) Birth of Devan
- (2000) Birth of the twins Coriander & Clove
- (2008) Birth of Prune
- (2014) Start of Prune’s journal about the Inn (she’s 6 at the time – ref)
- (2017) visit of Arona, Albie, Maeve, Hilda, Sanso etc. to the Inn
- (2020) The year of the Great Fires (ref). Mater is 85. Idle is 50. The twins are 20. Prune is 12.
- (2027) First settlers on Mars; Prune’s left for a boarding school to pursue her dreams
Fast forward 15 years later
- (2035) Idle receives news from the twins (now aged 35) & waterlark adventures.
Mater is alive and kicking at 100.
Fast forward a little more
- (2049) Prune arrives with a commercial flight on Mars, having won a place through a reality show.
Mater is deceased. She would have been 114.
Little after, the Mars mission is revealed to be an elaborately constructed mass illusion, and the program is terminated via an alien invasion simulation; like the other survivors from the program, she returns to Australia but cannot reveal the details of the program.
Oddly enough, I was optimistic about the new year. First of all, it was novel to even realize it was a new year. And what a tonic it was to have Finly back! And not just because of the dusting, although it was a pleasure to see a bit of sparkle about the place where she’d spruced things up. Even Mater had a new spring in her step. She said it was the chocolates, one a day she said was better than any vitamins. I’d eaten all mine the day Sanso and Finly and the others had arrived (and regretted it) but Mater had hidden her box to savour them slowly and secretly. I remarked to her more than once that she should have the decency to wipe the chocolate off her lips before coming downstairs, gloating because all mine were gone. But it was nice to see her happy.
It was a funny thing with chocolate, I’d forgotten all about it. It wasn’t like I’d spent years craving it, and yet when I unwrapped (gift wrapped! oh, the memories!) the box Sanso gave me, it all came flooding back. I popped one in my mouth and closed my eyes, savouring the slow melt, ecstatic at the way it enveloped me in it’s particular sweet charm.
I felt so sick afterwards though that I was left with the thought that there was something to be said for a simple life with few opportunities for indulgence. I hadn’t felt that sick since the plague.
I was glad I’d worn that old red dress when Sanso arrived, and just a little disappointed when he left before my seduction plans reached fruition. I did try, but he had a knack of dematerializing whenever I got close enough to make a move. Disconcerting it was, but it kept me on my toes. Literally, in those high heeled red shoes. I twisted my ankle on the damn things and been limping ever since. Oh but it was worth it.
Finly! What water larks, where? Did you see…? I was almost afraid to ask. Had she seen the twins?
Yes, she said, with a smug and enigmatic smile. But that’s a story for later, she said. Maddening creature that she is, she still hasn’t told me about it. She will when she’s finished cleaning, she said.
Bert tells me it’s Christmas day today. Christmas! I just looked at him blankly when he told me, trying to bring to mind what it used to be like. I can’t remember the last time Christmas was normal. Probably around fifteen years ago, just before the six years of fires started. It’s a wonder we survived, but we did. Even Mater. God knows how old she is now, maybe Bert knows. He’s the one trying to keep track of the passing of time. I don’t know what for, he’s well past his sell by date, but seems to cling on no matter what, like Mater. And me I suppose.
We lost contact with the outside world over ten years ago (so Bert tells me, I wouldn’t know how long it was). It was all very strange at first but it’s amazing what you can get used to. Once you get over expecting it to go back to normal, that is. It took us a long time to give up on the idea of going back to normal. But once you do, it changes your perspective.
But don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been all bad. We haven’t heard anything of the twins, not for a good ten years or more (you’d have to ask Bert how long) but I hear their voices in my head sometimes, and dream of them. In my dreams they’re always on the water, on a big flat raft boat. I love it when I dream of them and see all that water. Don’t ask me how, but I know they’re alright.
Anyway like I said, it hasn’t been all bad. Vulture meat is pretty tasty if you cook it well. The vultures did alright with it all, the sky was black with them at times, right after the droughts and the fires. But we don’t eat much these days, funny how you get used to that, too. We grow mushrooms down in the old mines (Bert’s idea, I don’t know what we’d do without him). And when the rains came, they were plentiful. More rain than we’d ever seen here.
Prune’s been back to see us once (you’d have to ask Bert when it was). She was on some kind of land sailing contraption, no good asking me what was powering the thing, there’s been no normal fuel for a good long time, none that’s come our way. Any time anyone comes (which is seldom) they come on camels or horses. One young family came passing through on a cart pulled by a cow once. But Prune came wafting in on some clever thing I’d never seen the likes of before. She didn’t stay long, she was going back to China, she said. It was all very different there, she said. Not all back to the dark ages like here, that’s what she said. But then, we were here in the first place because we liked a quiet simple life. Weren’t we? Hard to remember.EricKeymaster
A wild eyed crow was cawing relentlessly since the wee hours of the dawn.
Nothing much had moved since everyone arrived at the Inn, and in contrast with the hot days, the cool night had sent everyone shivering under the thin woolen blankets that smelled of naphthalene.
Deep down, Bert was glad to see the old Inn come back to life, even if for a little while. He was weary of the witch though. She wouldn’t be here without some supernatural mischief afoot.
He glanced in the empty hall, putting his muddy pair of boots outside, not to incur the fury of Finly. He almost started calling to see if anybody was home, but thought better of it. Speaking of the devil, Finly was already up and busy at the small kitchen stove, and had done some outstanding croissants. In truth, despite all her flaws, he liked her; she was a capable lady, although never big on sweet talks. No wonder she and Mater did get along well.
Bert started to walk along the hall towards the hangar, where he knew old cases where stored, one with a particular book that he needed. It was hard to guess what would happen next. He found the book, that was hidden on the side of the case, and scratched his head while smiling a big wide grin.
He was feeling alive with the kind of energy that could be a poor advisor were his mind not sharp as a gator’s tooth.
The book had a lot of gibberish in it, like it was written in a sort of automatic writing. For some reason, after the termite honey episode, Idle had started to collect odd books, and she was starting to see spy games hidden in the strangest patterns.
Despite being a lazy pothead, the girl was smart, though. Some of her books were codes.
Bert’s had his fair run with those during his early years in the military. So he’d hidden the most dangerous ones that Idle had unwittingly found, so that she and the rest of the family wouldn’t run into trouble.
Most of the time, she’d simply forget about having bought or bargained for them, but in some cases, there was a silly obsession with her that rendered her crazy about some of those books. Usually the girls, especially the twins, would get the blame for what was thought a child’s prank. Luckily her anger wouldn’t last long.
This book though was a bit different. Bert had never found the coding pattern, nor the logic about it. And some bits of it looked like it talked about the Inn. “Encoded pattern from the future”, “remote viewing from the past”, Idle’s suggestions would have run wild with imaginative solutions. Maybe she was onto something…
He looked a two bits, struck by some of the parts:
The inn had been open for a long time before any of the tenants had come, and it had been full of people once it had been full all day long.
She had gone back after a while and opened up the little room for the evening and people could be seen milling about.
The rest of the tenants had remained out on their respective streets and were quiet and peaceful.
‘So it’s the end of a cold year.’
The woman with golden hair and green eyes seemed to have no intention of staying in the inn as well; she was already preparing for the next year.
When the cold dawn had started to rise the door to the inn had been open all night long. The young man with red hair sitting on a nearby bench had watched a few times before opening his eyes to see the man that had followed him home.
There was a young red hair boy that had arrived. He was curious as to the man following.
The other random bit talked about something else. Like a stuff of nightmares. And his name was on it.
The small girl stood beside him, still covered with her night clothes. She felt naked by the side of the road. There was nothing else to do.
In the distance, Bert could faintly hear the howling of the woods, as two large, black dogs pounced, their jaws ready to tear her to pieces. The young girl stared in wonder and fear before the dog, before biting it, then she was gone. She ran off through the bushes. “Ah…” she whispered to herself. “Why am I not alive?” She thought to herself: this is all I need.
If I am here, they’ll kill or hurt my kids. They won’t miss me for nothing.
She ran the last few kilometers to her little cottage; not long after, Bert heard the sound of the forest. He was glad it was.
Maybe the witch was not here for nothing after all.
As if I didn’t have enough to think about without this! Bert had let it slip that he’d been down to the old Brundy place but that man is like a sardine tin without a key when he’s got a mind to be secretive, and he wouldn’t tell what the dickens was so important down there that he had time for it, now of all times. That got me thinking about that time the twins brought a life sized doll from down there and scared me half to death, but before I had time to start thinking about those ripped up maps that ~ I’ll be honest ~ I’d forgotten about, Finly burst in with her hand over her mouth and a wild look in her eye.
“Don’t be sick in here!” I snapped and quickly swung her round by the shoulders and gave her a shove in the direction of the bathroom, but then she blurted out that Prune had eaten the chicken. “Prune?” I said, admittedly rather stupidly, I mean, nobody told me Prune was coming, or had I forgotten? And then Finly shook me ~ actually shook me bodily! ~ and shouted, No, The CHICKEN! That’s when my own hand flew to my mouth, and I said, Not the chicken. Finly said Yes, and I said No, and this went on for a time until I had a moment of clarity.
Don’t tell her what was in the chicken, Finly, I said, Just go and give her something to make her sick. Quickly!
Bloody woman rolled her eyes in a most unnecessarily exaggerated fashion at me and fled. I was left contemplating the nature of modern humans and their love of theatricals when it dawned on me that making Prune take something to make her vomit, at such short and urgent notice, with no explanation forthcoming, might be difficult to accomplish. Especially for the likes of Finly. I wondered if we had time to devise a cunning plan, or if we had no choice but to resort to brute force.
That’s when a little voice popped in my head and said, “Magic: The last resort.”
I was looking forward to it, to tell you the truth. Things had been so dull around the Inn for so long, I’d started to feel that the old place had slid right off the map. Maybe things would have been different if Bert had remortgaged the place, but he’d refused, and there was no persuading him. So we’d bumbled along managing to keep the wolf from the door, somehow. It was quiet with the twins gone to college, and Devan who knows where, off traveling he’d said but had not kept in touch, and lord knew, Mater wasn’t much company these days. And there were so few guests that I was in danger of talking them to death, when they did come. Bert said that was why they always left the next morning, but I think he was pulling my leg.
Then out of the blue, I get a request to make a reservation, for two reporters here to cover the story, they said. I almost said “what story, there is no story going on here” and luckily managed to stop myself. If they wanted a story, I’d give them a story. Anything to liven the place up a bit.
On impulse, I decided to give Hilda “Red Eye” Astoria room 8 at the end of the corridor. Now there was a story, if she wanted one, the goings on in room 8! And to make it look like the inn was a busy thriving concern, I gave Connie “Continuity” Brown room 2, next to the dining room. Connie Brown was doing a report for the fashion column, and had inquired about the laundry services, and if there was a local dressmaker available. Of course I assured her there was, even though there wasn’t. But I reckoned Mater and I could manage whatever they required. Fashion shoot at the Flying Fish Inn, I ask you! What a joke.
I asked Bert what story he thought they were here to cover. He shifted in his seat and looked uncomfortable.
“We don’t want then digging around here, you don’t know what they might find.”
I looked at him piercingly. He asked me if a gnat had got stuck in my eye and why was I squinting. I wasn’t sure which dirty dark secret he was referring to, and frankly, would be hard put to recall all the details myself anyway, but I had a sneaking suspicion the old inn still had plenty of stories to tell ~ or to keep hidden awhile longer.JibParticipant
Devan came back from Brisbane to help them plant the sale sign in front of the Inn. He was not sure how his sisters would take the thing, but the twins have been gone, and Prune was planning to go to Mars, her latest fad since she had seen a TV program about the Mars mission. Devan couldn’t believe they were talking about colonising Mars, but he couldn’t believe his family has stayed so long taking care of the old Inn.
Eleri’s eyes began to feel heavy and she blinked, trying to resist the increasingly strong urge to nod off to sleep, as a gust of wind rustled the branches overhead allowing the moonlight to illuminate something that looked very much like dragon scales. Eleri blinked again and shook her head slightly to shake the illusion back into some kind of realistic image. The sudden wind had dropped and the trees were motionless, the path below them dark. It was impossible now to even see what had looked like dragon scales in the brief flash of moonlight. All was still and silent.
With nothing to see in the darkness and nothing to entertain her, Eleri’s mind started to wander, wondering if her grandmother being a dragon (as her father had often said) meant that she was one quarter dragon herself. It occurred to her that she very rarely thought of the dragon that was her grandmother, and wondered why she was thinking of her now. She had been a strong woman, who would fight tooth and nail to get what she wanted, always on the move wanting to get her teeth into a new project, leaving discarded suitors along the wayside as she swept along, grandly announcing to all and sundry, “Do you know who I am?”
Formidable armed with a rigid crocodile (possibly baby dragon skin) handbag and matching shoes, stately and considerably girthy notwithstanding the stiff corset, her grandmother was not one to easily ignore. Dressed in dragon scale twinsets, in no nonsense crimplene navy blue and white, many were quite charmed by her forthright manner and the spirited ~ some would say arrogant ~ toss of her peroxide lacquered waves. Others were not so enchanted, and found her imperious manner unpleasant.
It was a simple matter of teeth, when it came to disabling her. The difference was remarkable. There was no actual reason why her lack of teeth should change her so ~ she still had the matching shoes and handbags, but the regal stance and the arrogant tilt of her chin was gone. Not having any teeth made her seem shy and evasive, and she mumbled, saying as little as possible. She lost the power of manipulation along with her teeth, and although nobody really understood why, many wished they had thought of hiding her teeth years ago. It was such a simple solution, in the scale of things.
And the moral of that story is, Eleri concluded with a wry but not too dentally challenged smile, Toothless Dragons Don’t Bite.
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.
“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!
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.
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.
“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?”
“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.
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.
Corrie’s findings from elsewhere:
“I’m just going for a walk,” he replied, irritated. “And what are you doing skulking around at this hour, anyway? Shouldn’t you be in bed?”
“What are you doing with an orange suitcase in the corridor at three o’clock in the morning?” the young brat retorted. “Where are you going?”
“Owl watching, that’s what I’m doing. And I don’t have a picnic basket, so I’m taking my suitcase.” Quentin had an idea. “Would you like to come?” The girls local knowledge might come in handy, up to a point, and then he could dispose of her somehow, and continue on his way.
Prune narrowed her eyes with suspicion. She didn’t believe the owl story, but curiosity compelled her to accept the invitation. She couldn’t sleep anyway, not with all the yowling mating cats on the roof. Aunt Idle had forbidden her to leave the premises on her own after dark, but she wasn’t on her own if she was with a story refugee, was she?”
Good riddance she thought, one less guest to worry about.
Not that she usually thought that way, but every time the guests leaved, there was a huge weight lifted from her back, and a strong desire of “never again”.
The cleaning wasn’t that much worry, it helped clear her thoughts (while Haki was doing it), but the endless worrying, that was the killer.
After a painful ascension of the broken steps, she put her walking stick on the wall, and started some breathing exercises. The vinegary smell of all the pickling that the twins had fun experimenting with was searing at her lungs. The breathing exercise helped, even if all the mumbo jumbo about transcendant presence was all rubbish.
It was time for her morning oracle. Many years ago, when she was still a young and innocent flower, she would cut bits and pieces of sentences at random from old discarded magazines. Books would have been sacrilegious at the time, but now she wouldn’t care for such things and Prune would often scream when she’d find some of her books missing key plot points. Many times, Mater would tell her the plots were full of holes anyway, so why bother; Prune’d better exercise her own imagination instead of complaining. Little bossy brat. She reminded her so much of her younger self.
So she opened her wooden box full of strips of paper. Since many years, Mater had acquired a taste for more expensive and tasty morsels of philosophy and not rubbish literature, so the box smelt a bit of old parchment. Nonetheless, she wasn’t adverse to a modicum of risqué bits from tattered magazines either. Like a blend of fine teas, she somehow had found a very nice mix, and oftentimes the oracle would reveal such fine things, that she’d taken to meditate on it at least once a day. Even if she wouldn’t call it meditate, that was for those good-for-nothing willy-nilly hippies.
There it was. She turned each bit one by one, to reveal the haiku-like message of the day.
“Bugger!” the words flew without thinking through her parched lips.
That silly Prune, she’d completely forgotten to check on her. She was glad the handwritten names she’d added in the box would pop up so appropriately.
She would pray to Saint Floverley of the Dunes, a local icon who was synchretized from old pagan rituals and still invoked for those incapable of dancing.
With her forking arthritis, she would need her grace much.”
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