To show my appreciation for those that read my blog, and to try and write a new story a week, I have dedicated Sundays to short stories. This is one I wrote for my family for Christmas, and it’s filled with equal parts moaning and merriment, which is after all what the holidays are for. Happy Sunday everyone.
It was your regular end of year kinda day. The naked trees waved as the wind pushed through. The grass had taken on a blueish tinge, and crunched underfoot . The cats were yowling to come inside, and the squirrels were as curious as ever, as they leapt through the forest outside of our house. We were glad we moved here, it had that relaxed homely vibe to it; except of course for the racket at the end of the drive.
The constant insufferable noises generated by the men in the van, sent by the National Grid. The mornings were filled with energetic, flamboyant, and out of tune singing as they slugged heavy slate coloured tubing up and down the street; when before there was only the soft hum of the refrigerator, the popping sound of the crumpets, and the occasional territorial tirade of the local wildlife.
Days rolled onwards and still they worked, and banged, and cluttered the streets in their garish colours of orange, yellows, and the occasional hot pink. Their stripy toothpaste coloured van’s just left in the middle of the street, completely blocking my view of that odd couple, whose young wife keeps forgetting to close her windows while she’s getting dressed. Instead ‘m harassed by the constant chatting and the scratching of arses, sips of tea from their big blue thermoses. I came here for nature, not to tormented by grubby faces, and hairy backs all day. Luckily, I had Sue to steady my angry hand, and sooth my gentle heart.
‘What do you suppose they’re working on, Sue?’ I asked as I peered through the egg-shell coloured blinds of the front room.
‘I don’t know, but Julie says it happens every year.’
‘Every year!’ I replied, desperately trying not to spit my teeth all over the window-it had been recently cleaned. ‘How are we going to put up with this every year? It’s un-godly!’
‘Un-godly, dear?’ Sue repeated absently as she bent over with slow and deliberate care trying not snap in half, and stroke one of the cats- I think it was Fiddle-they do kinda all look the same.
‘Well it must be,’ I said as I angrily swiped another bourbon crème and crammed it into my mouth. ‘It’s nearly Christmas, and these people have nothing better to do than bother good decent folk.’
‘I think we’ve got a problem with Kiddles, Dear.’
‘Which one’s that then?’ I said pointing at the fat ginger tom curled up around her beige slippers.
‘That’s Thommy, Dear,’
‘Which one’s Fiddle then?’
‘That’s next door neighbours, Dear,’ said Sue helpfully, as she slumped into the couch with a long drawn sigh. The fat cat at her feet attempted to climb the couch, but after a moments struggle decided that it would be best to just wrap himself around her foot once more.
‘But I keep feeding him?’ I cried out and scratched my head in confusion.
‘I know dear.’
‘And I keep taking him inside at night.’
‘Yeah,’ she said as she rubbed a pitying wrinkled hand on my lap. ‘Julie asked if you’d stop doing that.’
Sue wiggled her foot for the lazy cat to play with. ‘The thing is Kiddles leg doesn’t seem well. I think he’s took a turn for the worse since that accident, Dear.’
‘Well, Julie can buy a sensible looking cat that doesn’t look like one of ours.’ I said mid-mouthful of chocolate confectionary.
‘We don’t have a Persian cat, Dear.’ Sue pointed out. I shook my head in unaccustomed agreement and proceeded to carry on with my snooping.
‘Something’s not right, I can smell it,’ I said fidgeting with the blinds once more.
‘They’ve probably punctured a sewage pipe, Dear.’ Sue said with a sniff. There was the strange sound of scratching, followed by the softest of meows.
‘That will be Kiddles, Dear.’
‘What does he want?’ I answered. One of the workers disappeared into the van, and then back again, carrying a large fabricated pipe. The others waited at the front of the van, armed with a nasty looking masses of wires, tools, and batteries..
‘He probably wants to come in, Dear.’
I felt like saying “If Kiddles wants to come in he should learn how to operate the door, and not just spend his days loafing about licking his leg and sucking his penis. Instead I was met with a prunish look so serious I felt my bowels grumble, and I walked through to the kitchen.
I opened the back door, and there sat the confused, bogeyed stare of the little black train-wreck we called Kiddles. His blue eyes looked up at me pensively, while his tongue remained stretched out, stuck to the frozen spittle on his fuzzy chin.
‘Suppose you want to come in then?’ I asked. The cat which Sue assured me was Kiddles, and not Fiddle, said nothing. He just stared in that particular stupid kinda way animals often do. They say cats are intelligent, but it’s something i’ve yet to witness.
Finally I stood to one side, and gestured for him to come in, to which he meowed and padded onwards. Then I heard it, the sounds of buzz-saws, drills. This was the countryside, you shouldn’t be allowed to do stuff like this on a Sunday morning. Progress, that’s what they call it, bloody progress. I don’t see much change as they tear up the road and fields and forests, just a mess, and afterwards they just pick somewhere else to bother people and start again.
I closed the door, and marched back into the living room, where I sat back in my seat facing the window, and almost shoved my face straight into the glass.
‘The tree looks nice,’ Sue said. I looked back to see her smiling at the five-foot conifer dressed up in the corner. ‘I wonder if Michael and the kids will turn up this year? It was his idea to move here, and he seemed so happy when we did. He can bring that lady of his too, as long as she covers up her bum.’
‘Get your coat on.’ I said, as I launched myself out of the seat and over to the hallway, stepping on the cat, and causing it to shoot off with such screaming force, that it sent me side way’s, back into kitchen.
I forced my arms in my slightly too-tight jacket, which was an early Christmas present from Sue. We hadn’t found the time to take it back yet, so it would have to do, because someone had to do something about this injustice, and it didn’t do anyone any good to go about dying from exposure.
‘We can’t go anywhere now,’ Said Sue as she switched on the television. ‘The Queen’s on the telly.’
‘We’re going to do out duty. The Family would understand,’ I answered with a salute at the screen. It was the same recording we watched every year. We didn’t like all of the new additions to the family as they looked a bit slimy, so it wouldn’t matter too much. If anyone asked I’d just lie and say I watched at the usual time we did every year.
There was was me in my slightly too-tight Christmas coat, and Sue in her usual lilac overcoat that was so large it left only enough room for her woolly hat and skinny black wellies below, which bobbed along the snowy path. Unfortunately we had barely made it to the end of the front garden, when we saw the thugs all over the street. Their eyes were dangerous, and they were armed to the teeth.
‘Be careful, Sue,’ I said under my breath. ‘Don’t make any eye contact, and tell me if they start making gang-symbols.’
‘I think they’re a bit young for gangs,’ said Sue as she squeezed my hand.
‘They’re all wearing the same colours,’ I said, trying to keep calm.
‘They’re about five, Dear, and I don’t think pink is a very gang-like colour, Dear.’
Something hit me in the back of the head. ‘I’ve been struck, Sue!’ I cried, holding my head.
‘They’ve got me. It’s a drive by!’
‘It’s just a snow ball,’ said Sue. I could tell she was trying to keep brave under the circumstances, but it was no use, I knew when to accept defeat, and we went back.
That night the rain came. It was thick, heavy, and dark. In a matter of hours all of the snow was washed away, turning everything in sight to one large puddle. We were in bed when there was a knock at the door.
I grumbled and moaned, and pulled myself from the warm confines of the duvet, put on my dressing gown, and marched downstairs to the door.
‘Who is it?’ I demanded, looking out of the peep hole.
‘It’s Julie,’ said the voice barely audible over the rain. ‘I’ve come to talk about your issues with the all the noise.’
I opened the door, and there was our neighbour, stood there in a long black hooded coat in the rain. I told her to come in, quickly closing the door behind her. The weather looked dangerous now, even with all of the lampposts all you could see were the dark icy water as struck the ground mercilessly, as if trying to tear to pull it apart.
She removed her sopping coat, and sat in the living room, where I turned on side lamps, giving just enough light to seem hospitable, but waste as little energy as possible. We weren’t made of money, and night-time visits weren’t considered good form, especially in the countryside.
By this time Sue had gotten dressed, and decided to make everyone some tea. Julie looked like she needed it. Her long hair was soaked, and stuck to her face like seaweed. Her parlour was an off coloured green, that reminded me of spoilt meat. I would have been concerned, but she had just come back from a trip abroad, despite my numerous warnings about travelling to foreign places. She’d probably given herself food poisoning, silly cow. If she had of listened to me she would have been fine, and not like she was growing algae around the corners of her eyes and mouth.
‘Here’s your tea dears,’ said Sue, as she brought in the tray. ‘Ooo, I like the shells in your hair, Julie.’
I didn’t want to point it out, but she did look a bit like the underneath of a ship. All covered in starfish, shells, and other crazy things that due to the rain looked almost alive. She was one of them new-fangled hippies, and liked to commune with nature. I don’t hold much truck with that sort of stuff, especially when I end up looking like an half-nibbled bait box.
We each took a cup of tea, and then Julie stared at me, with those ghostly green eyes, and took my hand. She traced a grey finger nail over my palm, tracing slimy trails along the lines, till she seemed pleased with what I could only describe as an uncomfortable sexual advance.
‘I know you’ve had some difficulty.’
‘Well when my Michael told us to move up here he didn’t tell us about all the roadworks, kids and noises.’
‘I understand why you’ve been upset, but I wanted to tell you that everything’s finally coming together as we’d planned, so now you don’t have to worry about all those noises.’
‘What do you mean?’ I asked, taking a sip from my cup.
‘I mean that everything has been taken care of.’
‘Everything?’ I asked.
‘Everything,’ she said with eyes that burnt green. ‘The men have uncovered the sleeping shadows beneath, and soon everything will become as it out to, silent and still. I just wanted to say thank you, we couldn’t have done it all without you, or your family.’
‘Oh that’s nice,’ said Sue as she held out a tray of biscuits. ‘We were just saying the other day how hard it is to find good traditional people.’
‘You don’t have to worry about that here. We’re all traditionalists. You could even say we’re the most traditional of all.’
Her hair seemed to curl around her face. The shadow she cast on the wall seemed strange as things stretched and squirmed around the light.
Julie finished her tea, and a couple of biscuits and then went home. By this point i was well and truly exhausted, but when we woke the men had gone, taking their van and their terrible noises with them. Even the little children had all gone. It was as if it was now just me and Sue, and the constant rain that occasionally cast shadows of squid-faced things when the light would hit it just right.
That wasn’t all. Just as soon as I was ready to sit back and relax, the door had gone again. It was Michael, my son, and the kids. He told me that he’d arrived just in time to see the storm that would wash it all away.
Even Kiddles seemed to be getting better, even if he was slightly sticky, and had all those extra bits, but Michael told me that Kiddles had just started to grow his adult legs. Apparently it was a sign of care, which Sue smiled proudly as he had grown hundreds of them, all furless and floppy. He didn’t moan, and even though all of the other cats seemed to hide under the couches and tables, as he slithered and slimed up and down all the surfaces. I had to get the broom out when he tried to climb on the ceiling, I do draw the line at smudges on the walls, even if it was Christmas.
We stood around the tree, hand in hand, as tentacles slid up and down the walls, singing strange little hymns about smoke and shadows. Michael’s voice seemed so dark and different. He called out the names of gods. If you listened you could hear them answer, they were coming closer. He told them to wake from their dark slumber. He told them he had their sacrifice, waiting and willing, as the kids sprinkled bits of sea-salt all around the house. I didn’t understand what he was on about, but it was lovely to see him and the boys working together, they’d obviously rehearsed, I couldn’t tell you how proud I was.
The lights were going out, and a voice in my head told me that there wouldn’t be another, because all of the shadows had eaten them up, but i didn’t mind. I had it all. My boys, and my Sue. I smiled as she placed a tentacled fairy at the top of the tree.