Message in a Bottle

“This is the exact spot,” I said, but the kids had already wandered off.

“Right here. It was a day just like this one.”

By now, I was talking to myself. My wife was standing not far away, but she wasn’t listening — not really.

She was listening in the way that wives do when their husbands talk a lot — not really listening.

It amazes me when I hear women complain that their husbands never tell them anything. If he suddenly started talking to her, she’d be over it in about a fortnight.

“Sorry dear, what were you saying?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

No reaction.

Usually, when I say, ‘it doesn’t matter’, I get a disgusted sound that says, ‘why say it if it doesn’t matter?’ Which is a fair point, I guess.

“I thought a lot about what to write, what with the size restriction and all.”

By now, my wife was making a bum shaped hole in the sand. Positioning herself so that the sun wasn’t in her eyes and where she could still see the kids. The kids were knee-deep in rock pools. I told them to wear old runners to protect their feet from the sharp rocks, and they did. Which is amazing. They rarely listen to me. I guess they thought it would get them to the beach a lot faster if they didn’t put up their usual fight — the usual arguments.

“I dug the bottle out of the garbage. We didn’t have recycling bins in those days so I had to scrape the bacon fat off the bottle and wash it. It was a Haig’s bottle. Someone gave it to my dad for Christmas. We never had booze in the house but mum looked the other way when it was Christmas. I never saw dad drink it, but by late January the bottle was empty. I hid the bottle under my bed and got to work on the note. Such a small space for me to unburden my soul.”

One of the boys held up a hermit crab, shell and all. He waved it around a bit until the crab bit him, and he dropped the creature. I could hear his yell over the sound of the waves. His younger brother had to restrain him from stomping on the tiny creature.

“Serves you right you little shit. A bit of your own medicine,” I said softly, and the breeze carried the words from my clenched lips and wafted them away.

My wife offered consoling words from her bum comfortable position, and his wounded finger became an afterthought as he began to beat his restraining younger brother.

“Knock it off you little bastards,” I said, just a little too loudly, and the older couple with the small dog looked at me as though I’d shot their dog and left it to die. The dog, on the other hand, was delighted that there was another loud human close by — it hadn’t noticed me up to that point. So it bounded in my direction, tripped and face planted into the warm sand, recovered itself and continued to bound my way.

I was impressed with its resilience.

I squatted and mentally put down the bottle I had been describing and embraced the wiggling mass of fur.

“Dougal! Come away from that nasty man!”

I ignored the insult and continued to rough up the happy fluff ball.

“If you head over that way you can continue the fun. Those two boys love dogs. Feel free to bite the bigger one if it takes your fancy,” I said, and the dog rushed off in the direction of the two brawling boys.

“Dougal! Come back.”

Small smelly boys trump annoying older owners every time.

“So where was I? Oh, yes,” I said as I picked up the imaginary bottle with the imagined note enclosed.

“I chose the paper very carefully. It was hard to find, as I recall. It had to be thick but not too think to fit through the neck. I made several attempts at the text. I don’t think I ever put in that much preparation to any of my school work.”

“What was that dear?”

“Nothing. You go back to whatever it was you were doing.”

The dog had reached the boys. All of them seemed to be watching the hermit crab making its way out of the kill zone.

The youngest (why did we name him Reginald?) said something to the eldest, and the fight started all over again. This time the dog joined in. The dog had hold of one of my eldest’s shoes and was giving it a good shake. Beelzebub, as I like to call him, flicked the small dog high in the air, and it landed on a sandy patch with a yelp. It shook itself and immediately rejoined the fray.

“I really like your dog,” I said. “Can I take him home with us?”

“No you can not,” said the furious lady who was halfway towards the melee.

The woman detached her dog from my son’s shoe (he’d reattached himself) and gave Beelzebub a clip over the ear. Beelzebub put his hand to his head and said, “Ouch.”

“Are you going to do something about that?” said my wife.

“What would you suggest?” I said. “I’d give the woman and the dog a medal, but I left the box of medals I usually carry around in the car.”

“Typical,” said my wife.

“You should be ashamed to call yourself a parent,” said the older woman with the wriggling dog under her arm.

“I am lady. Deeply. But, at least your dog likes me,” I said.

“He doesn’t know any better,” was her reply, and I’m sure she will think of a much better comeback line halfway home in the car.

“So,” I said to an audience of none, “I studied the tide times in the newspaper to work out the best time to launch the bottle. No sense floating it if it was just going to wash back up again. I remember my mum was impressed that I was taking an interest in something ‘scientific’. ‘It’s oceanography, mum,’ I said and she was even more impressed. I don’t think she thought I was as bright as I might be.”

A seagull flew down and sat on the sand in front of me. I wondered why until I noticed that I was holding my hands as though I had something in them — a bottle.

“Sorry mate. I don’t have anything for you,” I said and showed my hands like I was a blackjack dealer. The seagull got the point and flew off.

“My parents were sitting down there.”

I pointed unnecessarily.

“I wandered up here and took the bottle out of my beach bag, and stepped to the water’s edge. I couldn’t decide whether to throw it in, which might draw attention or just float it out. In the end, I decided on the latter and pushed the bottle gently towards Bass Strait. It bobbed around for a while, and I thought it might beach itself, but ever so slowly, it floated away on the tide. I sat and watched it for a couple of hours. My eyes hurt, and eventually, dad called me to come so we could go home. I lay in bed that night and every night for the rest of our holidays, wondering if I had attached the cork correctly and wondering where my bottle headed. Where would it make landfall?”

“Shouldn’t we gather up the kids and go and buy some lunch?” said my wife wiping the last of the sand off her well-rounded bottom. “I must do something about that when we get home,” I said.

“What was that dear?”

“Nothing,” I said.

I called the boys, and we all ate lunch, listening to the waves on the other side of the trees.

“What happened to your bottle dad?” said my youngest.

“Don’t know. It just floated away, never to be heard from again,” I said.

“So, why do you keep going on about it,” said my oldest with a mouth full of chips.

“You wouldn’t understand.”

~oOo~

The woman who found the bottle, thirty-one years after I launched it understood.

“Everything you wrote in that note, I was feeling the same way at the same time,” she said.

“I still can’t believe you tracked me down. After all these years.”

“When you sold your mum’s house the new owners kept the same phone number. They gave me your number and here we are.”

The current holder of the bottle was a little weather-beaten (aren’t we all), but she has eyes that look right into me.

We talked about our teenage selves. Our late-in-life marriages. Her divorce. The death of close friends and our total surprise at our ages, considering we felt we could still be sitting on the beach wondering what our lives would be like when we got to be our age.

The sun was going down, and I excused myself and rang home with a thin excuse. I’d be back as soon as I could – boozy meeting.

“What were you doing that day? The day you found the bottle,” I said.

“Do you really want to know?”

I knew that tone. Did I? Really?

“Yes.”

“It’s not as dramatic as it sounds and I wasn’t going to do it there and then, but I was taking a last walk along the beach. I’d planned to take my life that night.”

She looked down at her drink, and I took a breath.

“But you didn’t. Kill yourself, that is.”

“Oh, I did. I’m just a ghost these days.”

“And a very attractive one if I may say so.”

She put her hand up and moved a stray hair back into place.

“The bottle and its contents distracted me. I took it home, opened it and fell into your teenaged embrace. I know it doesn’t make sense, but I believed, at that time, that the universe sent me this gift. A way of saying, ‘give it another go – there’s magic out there’. Everyone wants a reason to hang around, don’t you think?”

I thought about my dark times.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“I didn’t ring straight away. I knew it was a long shot that you would be at that number after such a long time. I wanted to sit in the glow of possibility before the bubble burst. And besides, what if I found you and you’d grown up to be a prick, or worse still, happily married with kids. I’m not sure I could have handled that then. I’m okay with any outcome now, but not then.”

“I’ve dreamt about this day. I won’t pretend I haven’t. But I’d given up. Sure, I’ve told my kids the story about the bottle so many times that they glaze over now when I tell it. I thought that some beachcomber from some far off island in the South Pacific might pick it up and cash in the bottle and discard the note. There was a type of comfort it that. I never thought that an attractive (that’s the second time I’ve used that word) woman from Melbourne would find my message and tell me that it changed her life.”

 “Don’t get too smug. The night is young. I may still top myself.”

I smiled. She smiled, and I wondered.

We had grown up and grown middle-aged through all the same world history. We listened to the same music, watched the same movies, endured the same politicians.

We drank a bit more, and my cheeks were glowing. Driving home was looking like a dangerous idea.

We stopped talking. I guess we knew. All that shared history lived separately but at the same time.

“I’m not saying you would want to, but if you did, I live quite close to here. You probably shouldn’t be driving. You could get a taxi, of course, but my place is cosy. Small but cosy. If I open the bedroom window I can hear the waves. Do you like waves? Do they help you sleep?”

“I fear that sleeping would be the last thing on my mind if I came back to yours,” I said.

She stood up and took my hand, and we walked up the hill to her tiny flat — one half of an old weatherboard house with a glimpse of the bay.

She turned the key, and we stepped inside.

The bottle was perched on the mantlepiece in her lounge room. There was wood in the fireplace and logs stacked next to it.

I lit the fire, and that night we made up for all the years we had lived apart.

Tomorrow would be early enough to make sense of this.

For now, there was the fire and her body and all the dreams I had all those years ago.

Barry Asks a Favour — an audio story

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There are favours, and then there are FAVOURS.
A cup of sugar is fine, but I’ve always thought that the loan of a lawn mower was a bit too much. It’s all a matter of degrees. You might be happy to do any favour asked of you, or you might have limits based on who was doing the asking.
Boris lives by a strict code, so when Barry asked a favour, he did not hesitate, even when Barry pointed out the danger.

 

 

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Every Girl’s Dream?

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Is it every girl’s dream to be an artist’s model?

Do girls secretly dream about being approached. Standing quietly, looking gorgeous, at some avant-guard party inhabited by musicians, writers and painters, and a tall vaguely handsome man walks up to you and asks you to ‘sit’ for him.

This was never my fantasy, but it happened to me just the same.

I’m well read, I like art in all its forms, and I have existed, thus far, outside the artistic world. That was until that night and that party. I was wearing my favourite gown and, as you would expect, I felt great. I guess my enjoyment of life was showing because there he was, talking to me. The room was full of stunning females, and I pointed this fact out to him. He dismissed my point and asked me to turn my head slightly.

“My tits are much more interesting than my face.”

“I don’t agree. You have just the face I’ve been looking for. Your tits are excellent, but I can get excellent tits any time of the day or night. A truly beautiful face is hard to find.”

I was a little taken aback. I know that I’m attractive. I’ve always known it but the word ‘beautiful’ was one that I had avoided. But that’s the thing about artists when they say beautiful they are talking about something that the rest of us struggle to see. They see the difference between pretty and beautiful and beautiful and stunning. I defy you to define the difference, but if I put those questions to an artist they would instantly have an answer, and they would be able to back it up with examples.

In the end, I said yes. I’m no longer a child, and I’m not worried about ‘being taken advantage of’. Not in the literal sense or the metaphorical one.

His studio is three floors up in the old industrial part of the city. The view is impressive without being stunning, and the light is lovely. Whenever we’d take a break, I liked to wander around and look at the finished and unfinished canvases which littered the room. I got the impression that he often slept there when the work demanded a late night. The single bed in the corner of the room was just barely comfortable enough to sleep on but more than adequate for making love. I asked him where it came from and he said it belonged to an uncle and that he had rescued it when his uncle died and the family were throwing out all his stuff. The small table on the East wall was his as well. He told me that he found a bundle of old letters in a space behind the single drawer. Mostly they were mundane correspondence letters but a small group, tied up with a silk ribbon, suggested the possibility of romance which had not blossomed. He spoke wistfully about his uncle and the lost opportunity for love.

“The rest of the family thought he was a bit of a duffer, but I liked him. He always remembered my name, and there was a heap of us youngins. He seemed a bit sad, but he always smiled at me and told me stories. Somehow he found out that I liked to draw and paint and he always asked about my current project. When they were throwing out his stuff, they came upon a heap of drawings that I had given him. He kept them. I felt bad that I had not realised at the time that we had a connection. Maybe he saw something of himself in me. Something unrealised.”

“Kids are too busy being kids to notice the subtle stuff. He liked you, that’s the thing to remember. And I’m sure that he would be impressed by the number of women you have had in his bed.”

“Yes, I think he would be.”

On the other side of the studio, there was a workbench covered in paints and painting paraphernalia, including many paint-splattered art books and sketches. The tiny bathroom looked like it has hosted a major battle and I only rarely used the toilet. Just in an emergency.

One of the walls was solid brick which still had remnants of ancient plaster. There was also an old fireplace which looked functional. The fire surround would have been more at home in an old kitchen, so I’m guessing that this was not part of any past living quarters. Most likely this used to be an office, and not a high class one. Now it was serving a creative purpose.

I did a little modelling when I was young, and I know that it is incredibly tedious. You get used to the treatment, or you don’t do it. If you are looking for glamour, you are looking in the wrong place.

I’m still not sure why artists insist on having live models. It would be heaps easier, not to mention cheaper, to take a bunch of high-resolution photographs.

My artist, insisted on me being in the room. I think he enjoys the company. It’s true that artists experience a spectacular sex life and my artist did ask me if it would be possible for him to make love to me as well as being his model. I was impressed with how comfortable he was with the idea. Not exactly ‘matter of fact’ but certainly relaxed. I told him I would give it due consideration and we would see if we both felt like it at the end of the assignment. He seemed to be okay with that, and I thought that the painting would have a more exciting edge if he were thinking about the possibility.

I was right. The painting is beautiful, and he is an attentive lover with some serious stamina. Not what I expected, but then again if we got what we expected all the time, life would be very dull indeed.

There wasn’t any long-term future for this talented man and me; I could see that. We enjoyed each others company, and he was a superior lover, but he would always be an artist, and his work would come first — all-night sessions while he laboured to finish a commission, not to mention the casual seduction of any female who walked through that door.

I like him very much but that is not the life I have mapped out for myself. Artists are fun to play with but they are way too much work long term.

The painting is finished and so is my time in this room. I sit in this chair and remember how much fun I’ve had, and I feel a little bit sad.

I’m pleased that my likeness will live on and that my beauty is immortalised, but it’s almost time for me to seek out the next adventure.

There’s no hurry though — I’m going to sit here for a while and bask in the glow.

Dyspnoea

Version 4

I’m really not that good at breathing in.

My mum was the first to notice it.

It has a name and everything — dyspnoea.

It created a few problems when I was at school.

I would talk really fast on the out breath, and everyone would stare at me, waiting for me to finish the sentence, which I was unable to do until I managed to breathe in.

As I got older, I learned how to say stuff in a precise manner, but when I was younger, it multiplied my embarrassment.

One of the upsides of my affliction was that I rarely needed to be banged on the back because I had ‘breathed something in’.

You know the scenario; you are eating a biscuit, and someone says something that requires an answer. You breathe in quickly and down goes a chunk of biscuit followed by you coughing and sputtering followed by some large bloke pounding you on the back or worst still, trying the Heimlich manoeuvre on you resulting in three cracked ribs and flying biscuit crumbs.

Doesn’t happen to me.

When I breathe in small children, stop and stare.

The convenience store is open [I’m pretty sure that they stay open unless someone dies, and even then it’s only a ‘half day’] and I don’t recognise the person behind the counter, and more importantly, they don’t recognise me. I grab a newspaper and a pint of milk. I might be technically on the run, but I’m not missing out on milk in my cup of tea; a person must maintain standards.

The newspaper doesn’t have anything in it about me, and I’m not sure why it should, but it is reassuring all the same.

The date on the newspaper tells me that I have travelled forward in time by one hundred and fifty-eight days.

People are still driving cars and talking on mobile phones, and there are no longer any unmarked police cars parked outside my house.

Amazingly my letterbox is empty; someone has been collecting my mail.

When I get back home from the convenience store, I see Mrs Wilson waiting for me.

It’s too late to hide so I keep on walking, and I say ‘hello’ as though there is nothing unusual about this day.

“I’ve been collecting your mail for you. The man on the TV said that burglars notice if the mail piles up, so I have been taking it to my house each day. Not Saturdays and Sundays, of course, they don’t deliver on the weekends. They used to on a Saturday when I was a little girl.”

Mrs Wilson is pleasantly nuts.

She’s been pleasantly nuts for as long as I’ve lived on this quiet little street.

The other neighbours talk about her behind her back, but I’ve always liked her, and she has always been friendly to me.

She babbles on for several more minutes without mentioning the police raid or my boarded up front door. She doesn’t ask me what happened, and she doesn’t want to know where I’ve been, she’s just happy to see me.

She reminds me of a large faithful dog. They don’t care where you have been, what you have been doing, or why you have been away for so long — you are home now, and that’s all that matters.

As I mentioned, Mrs Wilson is more than a little bit crazy, and I wonder how she has escaped the attention of the authorities and her greedy family.

Her house must be worth a small fortune, but somehow they have not been able to sell it out from under her.

I asked her about it once, and she gave me the best answer.

“I know where they live, and everyone’s scared of people like me. They never know what we might do,” she said with a cheeky grin.

I patiently listened as Mrs Wilson continues her monologue but it occurs to me that I’m somewhat exposed standing on the street, in daylight, in front of what remains of my front door.

“Would you like to come to my house for a cup of tea Mrs Wilson?” I say, remembering that it has been six months since I’ve had a cup of tea.

The thought of that much time makes me wonder how I managed to go that long without a cup of tea; then I remember it has been only a few minutes for me.

I feel a little silly and hope that the next time I’m drunk I don’t mention it to any of my scientist friends — I’d never hear the end of it.

“That’s all right dear; I’m fine for the moment. Besides, you don’t have any gas or electricity.”

Mrs Wilson is sharper than people think she is.

“That nice young man was here a few days ago. He was carrying a large black bag when he left your house. I asked him about it, but he said that it was okay, and I was not to worry. He did ask me to say hello to you when I saw you and to tell you —— now what was it? I know I can remember it, just give me a moment ——- that’s right he said to tell you, ‘thank you, and remember Custer’s last stand’. He said you would understand.”

I must have looked a bit confused because Mrs Wilson asked me if I was feeling all right.

I smiled and told her that I was okay, but in my head, I was working out how I was going to get to Blairgowrie.

‘Custer’s last stand,’ was what we called Michael’s grandfather’s holiday house.

Now I know where he is, and I’m going to beat him with a very large stick when I catch up to him.

No Need To Be Alarmed

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I bought this clock with the fifty dollar note I found wedged in an old pair of jeans. 

We have a new Charity Shop in our area, but I prefer the old one because they don’t always go through the pockets. 

Fifty bucks — well washed. 

Fortunately, we have polymer bank notes, and they go through a heavy wash cycle and come out the other end looking like a bank-note. 

Which is handy. 

Finding the fifty was like receiving a particularly generous Christmas present. 

The eleven dollars I paid for the jeans was my last eleven dollars. 

I won’t have folding money again until the middle of next week. I do have a few coins, but I need them for emergency coffee on my way to work.

Which brings me back to the clock —

No one could accuse me of being a morning person, and like everyone else, I have an alarm on my phone, but my brain is wise enough to ignore it. My brain knows that I need sleep, and it assumes that the sound of my alarm is some kind of terrible mistake, so it ignores it; with the obvious consequence of me running around like a mad person, trying not to be late for my new job. 

I’ve been out of work for a long time, and people can smell your desperation when you apply for work; so much so that when they offered me this job I thought they were kidding. 

I was so fed up with being treated like something that had adhered to the bottom of a shoe I said yes to the offer without asking how much they paid. 

I’ve since found out, they are not going to pay me until I have worked for them for a few weeks and by the time all the ‘start up‘ costs are removed, there won’t be a lot left over. 

Which brings me back to the clock again — 

My mum liked to tell me stories about moving to Melbourne with her sister in the 1930s. They had an apartment on the park and worked at a city cafe. 

For a long time, they couldn’t afford much of anything except the essentials associated with work. 

For a while, they had one fork and a can opener, and they would take it in turns to eat with the can opener.

The cafe opened at 6 am, and they dared not be late.

Jobs were very hard to come by and due to the lack of labour laws in those days, an employer could dismiss you on any pretext.

The sisters spent their first week’s wages on a massive alarm clock; the type with large bells on the top. They put the clock into a biggish saucepan to amplify the sound of the alarm.

They were never late for work.

Frankly, I don’t know how they slept with the magnified sound of a ticking clock in the same room, but I forgot to ask, and both of the sisters are dead now, so I guess I’ll never know.

So, now you know why I need this clock.

In the end, it did not cost me very much. Things that used to be expensive are now inexpensively made in other countries.

I haven’t spent the rest of the fifty.

You never know what might crop up.

I have to stop now because it is getting late and I have to be up early tomorrow. Clean my teeth, wind the clock and off to sleep.

In case you were wondering, my weekend plans include a visit to that Charity Shop — you never know.

I sure could use another fifty.

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Painting by Kenton Nelson

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Terry needs coffee!!!!!

Enjoy my work. Then buy me a coffee?
Enjoy my work? Then buy me a coffee?

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.

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.

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YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS

a novel

is coming soon.