WHAM!

The silence of the sleeping houses was broken by a dull sound, muffled by the piles of snow which still covered the ground. The snow had a greyish hue in the weak rays of the winter sun.

They had come a few days ago, appearing suddenly from nowhere. About ten of them, a family group; small ones, medium sized, adults and a vicious-looking extra large one with only half a tail. What attracted them was the brown patch of nuts and seeds on the snow below the hawthorn tree, spilled by the greedy birds. ­­

As newcomers they were on their guard. At the first sound of the door lock being turned they split in all directions, as though a grenade had landed in their midst. Some disappeared under the fence into the next-door neighbours. I rang on their doorbell but only the dog was awake. A few minutes later the door was opened by the woman, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. “Oh yes, we’ve seen them too. Aren’t they horrible!“ she exclaimed drowsily. Her husband coming along behind almost fell out of the door trying to control the snarling terrier in his arms. “You know”, he added, “these dogs can kill three hundred in an hour if they get up the scent!” Yeah right, I thought, having often seen them dragging the lethargic animal up into the woods to do its business.

After a couple of days we adapted our lives to the intruders, making extra noise opening the door and not leaving any doors open as we fetched the newspapers from the mailbox. We almost missed them when they weren’t around. From reports received we understood they visited other nearby gardens.

The general concensus was that we should get rid of them. So I planned the deed, waiting for the right moment. It came early on Saturday morning. A lone medium-sized animal was preoccupied with digging through the snow to find some breakfast. I slowly slid back the door lock and slipped silently outside. Grasping the blue snow shovel with both hands I lifted it high above my head, held my breath and “WHAM!” There it lay on the crust of the snow, flattened and presumed dead. But wait, its tail was still quivering. Maybe I had just stunned it. Instinctively I raised the shovel once more, “WHAM”, and then again for good measure, “WHAM”. The snow gradually turned dark red around the edges of the flattened corpse. I knew the job was done and left it there to stiffen in the freezing air.

Blue Shovel
The Blue Snow Shovel

Replacing the shovel in the corner behind the door, I returned triumphantly to my breakfast and newspaper. “All in a day’s work for a man”, I told myself.

An hour or so later I knew it was time to get rid of the stiff. So with plastic bag and gloves at the ready, I returned to the scene. But what now! Somebody has stolen my corpse! The only evidence was a pale pink stain on the shrinking snow.

The next day a neighbouring cat-owner proudly described how his cat had come home with one of the intruders dangling from its jaws. “Strange though”, he said, “it was all flattened. I don’t want to know how the cat managed that.” The cat was rewarded with some fresh herring for its bravery.

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An Unlikely Couple

Heavy rain last night, and now the muddy cocoa-coloured water almost overflowed the banks of the narrow brook as it snaked its way to the sea. Yellow water lilies leaned over in the strong current. The hot rays of the sun melted the morning mist.

Two figures walking close together appeared round a bend in the pathway which followed the meanderings of the brook. Two women. One appeared very frail as she shuffled along in her bright orange wellies, trying to avoid the puddles in her path.  Her matching orange raincoat was slightly too large, hanging down way below the knees of her white trousers. She was pale, striking white hair in an almost fashionable page cut, thin and not very tall, probably over eighty. Her thin arm, submerged in the oversized raincoat, was hooked over the arm of the other woman. She was younger and much taller, the older woman not quite reaching up to her armpit. The younger woman had a soft olive face, surrounded by a colourful tight shawl which concealed her hair, long flowing blouse and skirt, heavily patterned in dark green and brown, on her feet a pair of intense white sneakers. They walked slowly, the older woman leaning on her companion’s arm for support, both silent and looking dead ahead.

I stepped aside to let them pass on the narrow pathway. The only sound came from the water on its way to the sea. As the couple passed by, I was sure I could hear their thoughts.

The older woman thought; this is my first outing for ages. There’s so much to see and hear and smell, I just can’t take it all in. Wonder what she thinks about this? What was her name again? Must be boring to be sent out to walk me, like taking the dog out for a walk. She should be having fun with others her own age instead of this. We just have nothing to talk about. I’m so curious about where she comes from. But you can’t ask, can you! Might think I’m nosy. All these puddles – good job I got my wellies on. Poor girl in those thin shoes. She’ll catch her death of cold. Perhaps they don’t use wellies where she comes from.

The younger woman thought; here we are again, now it’s Gertie’s turn for a trip around the park. If only she would talk it’d feel less like taking the dog out for a walk. I’m sure she has a lot of stories to tell. Wonder where she grew up and what it was like when she was young? But you can’t ask, can you? Might think I’m nosy. Ahh! my bad luck. Right in a puddle with my sneaker. Went straight through – wish I had wellies like her.

Turning I saw that they took a firmer grip on each other and continued on their slow, silent walk along the brook.

Commuter Games

She sat on a corner seat at the end of the carriage and opened her fur-lined coat wide, oblivious to the other commuters. Sitting in her cosy corner nest she smiled to herself, ruminating on past memories or pleasures to come. The train rattled on, exchanging passengers at each station.

Suddenly her warm dark voice slices through the carriage; “John!” and then again “John!”, much too sensual for a regular morning commuter greeting. A man in his late 40’s is walking slowly along the aisle towards her, head held high with a scarf chokingly tight around his neck, giving him an aloof expression. As he approaches the woman he pretends to suddenly notice her and exclaims “Hello, fancy meeting you here”. He reaches out to shake her hand, as distant acquaintances do. “Yes, what a surprise” she replies, grabs his arm and pulls him into her corner nest. She links arms and snuggles up to him, face bubbling over with joy. His token resistance is noted by the other commuters, peeping from behind newspapers or glancing up from smart phones. She pulls him closer, like a spider hauling in its prey. Their conversation is muted, whispered almost. New passengers glance furtively at the couple before turning away, looking troubled or perhaps envious.

The train jerks to a halt, ready to offload another batch of commuters. The man disentangles his arm and plants a loud wet kiss on her mouth, jumps up and clears the doors just before they slam. He strides off along the platform without a backward glance, leaving behind only the hissing sound as the doors lock into place. Smiling, she raises her hand to wave but then hesitates, letting it fall back heavily into her lap. The woman snuggles down again into her coat, hugging herself tightly as if he was still there. The other passengers relax, their daily commuter routine back to normal as the train disappears into the dark tunnel.

The man slowly climbs the stairs from the cave-like station, breathing laboured and perspiring slightly as he reaches the open air of the park. He is in a hurry, wiping his mouth carefully with the back of his left hand, lips pale and tense, eyes too clouded to notice the yellows and reds of the trees.