Vegetables For Dinner

 

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KEEPER OF SECRETS

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She Had That Sparkle In Her Eyes

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“I’ve never met another man I’d rather be. And even if that’s a delusion, it’s a lucky one.”

Charles Bukowski

“Never chase a pretty girl or a tram, there will be another one along in a few minutes.”

My mum was trying to make me feel better, and it worked, up to a point. She would not be the last girl who broke my heart, but she was the prettiest.

My mum had a saying for most situations.

Her ancestors were Irish and the Irish have an interesting slant on most human endeavours.

I’m no philosopher, but it seems we do most things for love; trying to get some, trying to buy some, or trying to forget.

You cannot have love without money.

I know that about now, some of you are howling: You don’t need to be rich to be happy.

Bollocks!

“If you are poor and you are happy you are deluded.”

My mum didn’t say that one.

She was one of those people who believed that money didn’t bring happiness, and therein lies a story.

I grew up in a household where the belief was that people with real money probably did something wrong to get it.

Therefore, people with real wealth were probably awful people.

Can you see how my logic flowed?

I was just a kid, but I swallowed this thought pattern hook, line and sinker.

None of my friends were rich.

No, that’s not true; there was this one kid.

His dad drove a Jaguar, but his wife had died and that seemed to even things out for me, at least, it did in my young mind.

I grew up thinking that money had a soul and it was as dark as night.

Naturally, with the passage of time, I worked out that this is a load of old cobblers. It’s the line that poor people feed themselves to make their failure seem noble.

After many years of struggle, we finally had a good year.

We had a bit of spare money and it felt good.

We were a long way from well off but we were certainly not living paycheque to paycheque the way we had been for so many years.

I read somewhere that money attracts money, and to feel successful, you needed to carry more money in your pocket.

More than would usually make you feel comfortable.

A hundred dollars seemed like a lot of money to me at the time, and I was sure that there was a neon sign on my back that said, “This bloke is carrying a serious amount of cash. Hit him on the head and take it. He’s a wuss; he won’t put up much of a fight.”

Screw that neon sign.

I stood in line at the bank and when it became my turn I asked for two hundred dollars, “all in twenties, please”.

My voice sounded funny, but I don’t think that the girl behind the counter noticed. She was cute and I had seen her around, but I doubt that she ever saw me; my attractive single male neon had been turned off for some time.

“There you go Mr Rainbow. I hope you enjoy your day. Is there anything else I can help you with today.”

“As a matter of fact, there is.”

I smiled at her, partly because she was smiling at me and partly because I did not want her to see how nervous I was.

“Is there a jewellery store nearby?”

I should have known, but my brain had gone into neutral, and she did ask.

“Yes, Mr Rainbow, just across the road. The White Box has beautiful things. Are you going to use all that money to buy your wife something nice? Birthday? Anniversary? She’s a lucky lady.”

“Probably, but firstly I need a money clip to hold all these notes. I didn’t realise how bulky it would be.”

The lovely young woman smiled at me, but I know that she thought I must be a bit dim. Had I not held this much money before? Didn’t I know what two hundred dollars felt like? She handled large sums of money all the time. It was nothing to her. It might have been other people’s money, but it was money just the same, and if her plan worked out there would be a large pile of money in the shoebox under her bed, very soon. All she had to do was not get too greedy.

“Have an excellent day, Mr Rainbow, and please say hello to Mrs Rainbow for me.”

I looked at her name badge.

“I will Joyce. You enjoy your day also.”

I jammed the money into my pocket and walked unsteadily out of the bank.

I waited for the lights to change so I could cross the street.

Typically, I would have run across the street, dodging cars and enjoying my strength and speed, but today I had visions of being hit by some bozo in a van.

The people would gather around in horror, “He’s badly hurt”, one woman would say.

“He’s carrying a lot of money”, someone else would say.

“Don’t get too close, he must be an evil man to be carrying all that cash”, a small child would say.

The lights changed.

I noticed that a few other people had joined me in my quest to cross over to safety.

The old bloke with the walking stick was trying to stop the medium sized dog from sniffing his leg.

The dog seemed to like the old bloke, either that or the old timer had stepped into something interesting.

We all made it across safely and the dog was very disappointed when its owner went the opposite way to the old man.

The old bloke looked back at the dog and the dog looked longingly at the old bloke.

Maybe they knew each other in a previous life.

As I reached the Jewellery store, I was nearly run down by three small children who were escaping from a frazzled mother.

“Quite a herd you have there,” I said as I deftly avoided being trampled.

“Give me that wad of cash you have in your pocket and you can have them,” I thought she said.

“Pardon?”

“I said, you can have them. I’m fed up.”

I smiled, but I suspect that I looked like I had swallowed a lemon.

The shop was exactly what you would expect a jewellery store to look like — all twelve-volt lighting and satin cloth.

The lady behind the counter was about twice the age of the girl in the bank.

It occurred to me that the shop owner had employed her because she gave the premises an air of maturity.

He was right, it did.

She was well dressed and had a sparkle in her eye that had nothing to do with the lighting.

“You look like a man who has a great deal of money in his pocket,” I thought she said.

“Pardon?” I said, for the second time that day.

“How can I help you, sir?”

The smile that came with the question seemed real. I liked that.

“I need a money clip. Something nice. Something that says I’m not a wanker.”

I wasn’t sure whether I had said that out loud, but the woman didn’t blink. She brought out a small tray.

“We don’t get a lot of call for these. Our customers don’t seem to appreciate such things.”

That sounded vaguely like a compliment to me.

The limited selection was predictable and a bit garish with the single exception of the brushed steel clip with a shiny leaping jaguar. I’d always wanted to own a Jaguar, ever since my mate’s dad had driven us to football practice, all those years ago.

“I’ll take that one, please.”

“Do you have the car to go with it?”

“Not yet, but it’s on the list.”

I removed the wad of twenties from my pocket and the woman behind the counter reacted as though people did that every day. I peeled off a couple and handed them over. I took my change and slid the notes into the clip and put it into my pocket. I imagined some rich bloke in a good suit, with Martini stains on his tie from the three-hour lunch he just had with the bloke from Mad Men.

The book said that you should treat money as a tool.

It has no magic powers; it’s just a tool.

As I walked back to my car, I noticed a slightly scruffy looking bloke selling The Big Issue. He was standing near the pedestrian lights. I reached into my pocket and got out my money clip. I peeled off a twenty and gave it to him. He gave me a magazine and fumbled for the change.

“Keep the change mate; it’s been a good day for me.”

He looked at me and grunted, but I know that he thought I was a wanker.

Only wankers have a money clip.

I didn’t care.

When I got home that night, the kids were in the backyard playing. Our dogs met me at the door and they sniffed me all over. There was something different about me and they were determined to sniff it out. They followed me around for ages, trying to work out what had changed.

I told my wife what I had done, and although she looked a little bit concerned, she was aware of what I was trying to do, and she had always been very supportive of my hare-brained schemes.

“Can I see the money clip?”

I’m pretty sure that it was the wad of money that she wanted to see, so I handed over the clip and the money.

I tried to look nonchalant as I took it out of my pocket.

She held it for a moment, then removed the money and proceeded to count it.

“Two hundred dollars is a lot of money to be carrying around Brett Rainbow. Weren’t you scared?”

“A bit, but I felt better after I spent a bit of it. I know it sounds funny, but it seemed lighter and that made me less concerned.”

“How much did you draw out?”

“Two hundred dollars. All in twenties. Just like the book said.”

“You said that you spent some?”

“Yep. Bought the money clip and gave this scruffy bloke a twenty for a Big Issue.”

“I’ve counted it twice, and there are exactly two hundred dollars here. Did you have other money in your pocket?”

“No. Just the money I drew out.”

She handed me the clip and I counted it.

Two hundred dollars.

It didn’t make sense.

“Did you include the twenty that’s on the floor?”

“No, I didn’t.”

It must have fallen off the bed when Betty was counting it the first time.

I pulled out two twenties and threw them on the floor.

I slid the clip over the remaining notes.

I took the clip off and counted again.

Two hundred dollars.

The two twenties lay at my feet.

The book was right.

Money attracts money.

I looked at my amazing wife who had stuck with me through all the bad times.

She had that sparkle in her eyes.

I was pretty sure that there was a neon sign on my back but it did not say “this bloke is a loser.”

Whatever it said and wherever this was leading us, I was pretty sure that it was not going to be boring.

Floors Need Sweeping

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Too Busy To Die

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Scarlett put the phone down, stared at the wall for a moment, then burst into tears. The clock showed 3:22am — still dressed in the clothes she was wearing when she rang D.I. Blank to ask for his help.

“Sam didn’t come home. Somethings wrong.”

“I find it hard to believe that Sam never came home late before. Just relax Mrs Bennett. He’ll stagger in when he’s had enough.” D.I. Blank wasn’t exactly a friend of the Bennetts, but he did like them. They handed him a case which made the brass take notice of him for a change, so he had a soft spot for Sam which would last about as long as it took for Sam to piss him off again.

“Had enough of what?” Scarlett was shouting and D.I. Blank had never heard her shout.

“Okay, look. I’ll make a few calls and see what I can find out.”

It was well after midnight when Blank rang back. Scarlett had walked up and down in her lounge room, too frightened to sit down in case she fell asleep and missed the call. She wondered if the carpet had a groove in it. The mind does funny things when you are waiting for a call to tell you that the man you love has been murdered. She knew Sam’s life had been dangerous before he met her. She knew that there was a good chance that someone had tried to kill him with that stolen car. She lived with these thoughts and never said them out loud — to do so would be to tempt fate, and fate had been kind to them both — so why take the chance?

Her’s were tears of joy and relief. The young policeman told her that her Sam was on his way home. He had given his statement and the police surgeon said that he was bruised and battered but nothing a nights sleep and a good woman couldn’t cure. The young constable hesitated after he said the last bit. “Sorry, Mrs Bennett, I was just saying what the surgeon said. Probably should have left the last bit out.”

“No need to apologise. I will look after him and try and keep him out of trouble,” said Scarlett.

“I know the surgeon sent him home, but he is going to have a hell of a headache in the morning. I saw the bump on his head. Oh, sorry, I probably shouldn’t have said that either.”

“Not to worry. I’m just glad he is coming home, bump or no bump.”

The dogs woke from their sleep and came to Scarlett’s side. They were both sensitive to her tears. They did what they could to comfort her — they stayed by her side.

She didn’t know how long she had been asleep. The dogs were excited about something — scratching at the door. A car backed out of the driveway and Sam stepped through the front door.

“Honey, I’m home,” sang Sam.

“Don’t you honey me Sam Bennett. Have you been playing with those rough kids again? How many times have I told you to come straight home after school — no hanging out with your hoodlum friends.”

“But mum, there’s not that bad really. Except for the one who stuffed me in the  boot of his car and tried to take me for a ride. Him I can do without.”

“Holy shit Sam. You’re covered in blood!”

“Relax. It’s not mine. Long story and I’ll tell you as much as I can before I fall asleep.”

Scarlett ran him a bath and included her least feminine bath salts. Sam was naked by the time she had turned on the taps. He embraced her and she hugged him back.

“I see that a bang on the head has not dulled his enthusiasm.”

Sam stepped back a step still holding his Scarlett. He looked down proudly.

“Not bad if I do say so myself. You always said he had a mind of his own.”

They held each other and Sam kept his erection. The bath was ready and Scarlett suggested that what Sam had on his mind could wait until after he had his bath.

“And no self-pleasuring. He’s mine,” Scarlett said — smiling.

Her bed was warm and inviting and her naked skin enjoyed the fine Egyptian cotton. What she yearned for was the feeling of Sam’s naked body close to hers. She knew he was in pain so she let the warm water do its healing.

She’d almost drifted off when she felt the bed move. Sam slipped in beside her. He snuggled up but did not caress any of those personal bits that signal a need for lovemaking.

“Do you feel like talking?” said Scarlett.

“What would you like to talk about? Football, the weather, knitting patterns, or my near death experience?”

“Near death experience, please.”

“Oh, that. Not much to it really. Some moronic bozo who held a family grudge. Wasn’t brave enough to face me so tried to squash me with a stolen car, then sneaked up behind me on the way home and attempted to increase my hat size — succeeded on that front.” Sam rubbed the bump on his head. There was no way he could sleep on that side of his head for a few days. The thought panicked him momentarily. Being able to roll over at will is one of those things that you take for granted.

“How did you escape?” Scarlett sounded like a little girl listening to her grandfather telling her a bedtime story.

“I used a technique that has been working for possums for centuries. I played possum. He fell for it, and in the end his scarf finished him off.”

“Damn dangerous things scarves. I’ve always said that.” Scarlett’s humour was a little bit hysterical and this was understandable.

“His mum knitted him that scarf and I held him when he died.” Sam’s voice trailed off and Scarlett waited before putting another question.

“Are you okay with that?”

“Yeah. He was an idiot, but even an idiot shouldn’t be alone when they die. It was sad, and don’t ever tell anyone I said that.”

“I won’t. It’ll be our secret.” Scarlett hugged him for being sad. She loved her tough guy Sam and she loved the Sam who knew what feeling sad meant.

Sam filled in some of the blanks and Scarlett asked a lot more questions and they both knew that when she had sated her curiosity they would make love.

Their passion had a visceral edge that comes from seeing death up close.

They made love as though it might be the last time — not wanting the intimacy to end, but of course it finally did, and they lay exhausted in each other’s arms.

“You might have a bump on your head, but you’ve still got it, big fella.”

“Thanks, kid. You’re not so bad yourself.”

They regained their breath and lay staring at the ceiling as the early morning light was slowly filling the room. First light gives a person new hope — a fresh day full of possibilities.

“Your next session with Dr Doug is going to be interesting.” Scarlett was lying uncovered on the bed and as she cooled down from their passionate encounter she moved the sheets across her stomach and legs — she left her naked breasts exposed. Sam loved her tits and he always enjoyed watching them in the wild.

“I hope the story cheers him up. He’s going to need it. Do you remember me telling you about looking for his missing secretary? Well, she turned up and when the story gets out, Dr Doug is finished. His clients are going to disappear like smoke through a keyhole.”

Scarlett didn’t completely understand why Dr Doug was in trouble. There would be time enough to find out all the details and now there was sleep — glorious sleep.

The Bennetts drifted off into a wonderful slumber and would not stir until the sun went down.

Sam and Scarlett lived in a house on a very large block of land. Imagine four average sized build lots. Despite the distance between them and their neighbours the volume of their lovemaking was such that even the neighbours needed a cigarette when they had finished.

.

.

YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS

a novel

is coming soon.

Dreamers

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Nobody’s perfect

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This story is now part of SLIGHTLY SPOOKY STORIES. But, as a special treat, I am reposting it here so you can read it. Enjoy.

It was originally posted under the title: FLAMING VOLKSWAGON

I didn’t see the early 60s Volkswagen Beetle crash into the lamppost but I certainly did hear it.

I was lost in my own little world while walking along Erin Street on one of those beautiful Spring days. 

You know the sort of day I’m talking about; the air is the same temperature as your skin, the light is golden and all is still. 

I was walking and dreaming, and the bang was a rude awakening.

I walked over to the Beetle, which had hit the light pole head on.

The impact had compressed the front of the little car and although it was not exactly wrapped around the tree the front had a huge lamppost shaped dent. 

The car was compressed up to the windscreen; it had apparently struck the pole at quite a speed. 

I wondered why I had not noticed it zoom past me.

I opened the passenger side door and looked in, fully expecting to see a grisly scene. 

Instead, I saw a young man lying on the floor without any visible signs of injury. My eyes scanned the interior and noticed that his seatbelt was undone.

I stared at the young man and his eyes opened. 

“Didn’t see any use for the seatbelt then?” I said.

The young man didn’t answer but he did move to sit up.

It suddenly occurred to me that this model Volkswagen had the fuel tank in the front and it most assuredly had been crushed.

“The fuel tank is in the front of this thing and I think it’s time we got out of here,” I said with some urgency. 

Sure enough, I could see smoke and a small amount of flame coming from what was left of the front of the car.

As we walked away, the car quickly caught fire. 

I remember feeling calm and relaxed but also realising that the accident had happened near to the front of the house that I grew up in. 

When my mother died, more than a decade ago, we sold the house to a young couple. 

I was walking down this street because it had been so long since I had done so but did not want the young couple to think that I was spying on them. 

I felt a hand on my shoulder and it was the young man who now owns the house.

“Hi, how are you? Why didn’t you come in and say hello?”

He seemed to be more interested in me that the flaming wreck.

“Oh, it’s that ‘impossible hour of the day’ and I did not want to intrude.” 

He seemed satisfied with my excuse and turned to walk back to his house or possibly to watch the fire.

Meanwhile, the young driver had gone back to the car to retrieve a book. 

He returned to my side and we walked off down the street. 

We didn’t speak because it seemed unnecessary.

 

“So, while this was all going on, how did you feel?”

“Strangely calm and confident. I was a little bit embarrassed at being discovered by the house’s owner, but I felt like I’d talked my way out of it.”

“How long has it been now?”

“A little over three years.”

“You know that it wasn’t your fault. don’t you?”

“So everyone keeps telling me.”

“You sound angry.”

“I am a bit. I feel like I should be doing better.”

“You are.”

“I know I am, but it’s all too slow.”

“You told me that the nightmares have stopped.”

“Only to be replaced by these strange little adventures. Admittedly, this one was not without its upside. It left me feeling dreamy and calm, and instead of drifting away, it stayed with me for the rest of the day. Do you have any idea what it all meant?”

“None at all, but even if I did, your impressions are way more important than mine.”

“So why are they paying you all that money?”

“Beats me.”

“You’re just trying to wind me up, aren’t you?”

“Just a little bit. I must have some fun. It’s incredibly annoying listening to people talking all day long. I need to shake things up a bit. Otherwise, I drift off.”

“Bloody hell! I’m suffering and you’re bored? If I were paying the bills, I’d sack you.”

“Ah yes, but you aren’t paying the bills, are you? And besides, you have made some progress, and they are unlikely to take me off your case because I’m the lowest bidder for these contracts, and the lowest bidder always wins.”

“You are honest; I’ll give you that. Honest and annoying.”

“You forgot handsome.”

“Now I feel sick.”

“I’m sorry, you’ll have to feel sick on your own time because our time is up.”

“Not even a single comment on my ‘flaming Volkswagen’ dream?”

“I’m sorry, our time is up.”

“I have to take a bus and a tram to get here. I have to wake up at an ungodly hour because your brain-dead secretary seems incapable of getting me an appointment any later than 8 am. I negotiate the morning peak-hour traffic to cross Collins Street, arm wrestle the one-hundred-year-old elevator and sit in your delightful wood-paneled outer office while your recently deceased secretary files her nails. Every time, I ask her why my appointment does not start on time and she tells me, every time, that I will have to wait because you have a very important client in session. What am I, chopped liver? Pickled herring? Why am I forced to wait every week?”

“Because you are one of my contract clients and he is a private, fee-paying client. It would take four of you to equal one of him. So you wait.”

“Again with the honesty. Couldn’t you lie to me just once? A small lie designed to make me feel better?”

“If you started feeling better there would be no need for me and I would have to fill your 8 am appointment time on a Tuesday. That would be not only annoying but also inconvenient. You wouldn’t wish to intentionally inconvenience me, would you Mr Volkswagen?”

“The name’s Wilson, not Volkswagen.”

“Sorry, that just slipped out. A bit of a Freudian slip, no doubt. There you go. A bit of high-class therapy via a Freudian slip. Value for money that. Not that you generate that much money.”

“Why do you accept patients from them if we are so annoying?”

“I need the money, of course. I have overheads. My children go to private school. My wife likes beautiful things. I have a mistress who likes beautiful things.”

“Aren’t you worried that I’ll use your honesty against you. I could blackmail you because of your mistress. Your wife wouldn’t like it. I could tell her what you said.”

“What do I care. You’re nuts. No one is going to believe you.”

“Fair point. 8 am next Tuesday?”

“Yes. And this time, try not to be late.”

.

Enjoy my work. Then buy me a coffee?

Enjoy my work? Then buy me a coffee?

if the husband didn’t do it …..

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