Copywrite Peter l. Barnes April 10th 2020
“Fred, what are you doing?”
“Clearing the garage like we agreed,” said Fred.
“Still. You’ve been doing that for days,” said the voice from the kitchen. “What’s taking so long?”
“Clearing out thirty years of storing my stuff in the garage will probably need more than one day,”
“Hoarding you mean,” came Mabel’s voice, grating on Fred’s ears like a rusty file on sprung steel.
“The same as your sewing boxes and cloth scraps.”
“Whatever, I’ve left your breakfast on the steps.”
Fred took the plate, which in theory, mimicked the delicious breakfasts they’d had in Sydney Harbour. Of course, Mabel always bought the wrong type of avocado, so instead of lovely lumpy green and tasteful delight, what was on the plate was a flat mush of nothing, making the limp toast, more soggy than usual.
Fred gazed around the garage wondering where to start, looking up at the cobwebs where spiders had been self-isolating for decades. I wonder what they get to eat, hopefully the annoying mosquitos or maybe each other. Do spiders get stuck in their friends’ webs, he wondered.
Not wanting to be disturbed again, Fred tried to get the old analogue radio to work, hoping to drown out the sound of his wife’s voice. But the old radio no longer tuned in, probably a cracked ferrite rod unable to pick up signals. Fred had tried the new-fangled digital radios but had never found a station. More attempts to tune into Radio Four only brought more crackling noises, made worse by the worn-out speakers.
Talking of flying insects, one wasp seemed intent on getting into the garage and disturb him, if not sting him. Fred took an old sandal and threw it across the garage, completely missing the offending wasp but luckily hitting the door, slamming it shut, effectively barring its intrusion, as well, thankfully, his wife’s moaning.
“I’ll start with the childrens’ toys,” he said to the pile in the corner.
An old bus, which had been used to help the toddlers walk, now rusted and forlorn sat on the top shelf.
“Maybe somebody would be able to restore that and make it useful again,” said Fred, dusting it down and replacing it on the shelf. “Wow, the old castle I built for the boys, now long gone to warmer climes. That definitely can go to the charity shop, once they reopen.”
A box held old teddies, worn and stained from years of hugs and tea parties, but still with the buttons in their ears. “They could definitely go to the auction room,” declared Fred. The toy car collection, still in their original boxes could bring enough money for a holiday, he didn’t watch ‘Flog It!’ for nothing.
“Gosh is this still here. I thought I’d thrown it out long ago,” said Fred, dragging out a beautiful coffee table. Hand made by himself, as requested by Mable. Crafted wooden legs and struts, varnished instead of French polished, after an attempt to follow YouTube videos, failed to live up to expectation.
A wooden model sailboat, painstakingly put together to try and demonstrate that he did have the patience, not of a saint perhaps, to complete such a complex work. Finished and proudly presented to Mable, but not allowed to be displayed on the mantlepiece, dismissed as a dust trap.
A cot and high chair saved for any grandchildren that might come along but now that his sons and daughter were spread across the globe, unlikely to be needed, but bringing back fond memories of crying and food spread across the kitchen floor and of course, nappies. Well maybe not such fond memories, reflected Fred.
A box in one corner held the treasures of holidays long forgotten, a batik from South Africa; a boomerang from Australia; a flag from America and posters of trips including a memorable poster of him swimming with dolphins, which despite the claims on the poster, did nothing for his wellbeing. Maybe swimming with a mermaid might have been more his style, assuming he was a merman.
One memorable trip was on a cruise ship to the Mediterranean, where Mable had been taken down with a food bug and confined to the medical suite, allowing him to enjoy the pleasures of relaxing by the pool, watching the nubile ladies diving into the water and generally lying about in the sunshine.
He started ticking off all the power tools and separating them into two piles. One for those he used frequently and those he would probably never need. But on reflection he put them all into one pile for ’keep at all costs’. This clearing out was not going well so far. Moving onto all the spare wood he kept from whittling, to offcuts allowed him at last to find things to throw away, although it was still quite a small pile.
A big box in one corner was his old parts for cars and bikes. There were several parts that could definitely thrown out as they applied to vehicles sold many years hence. But getting to the bottom he pulled out a long cable.
“There you are,” he said to the cable. “How did you get in here?”
Now he was talking to inanimate objects, whatever next thought Fred. But this cable was special, it was bought for the bike he was storing for 20 years and after years of searching he had found the cable on the internet but had been distracted when it arrived by Mable struck down by a mysterious bug. Fred was sure she would get these bugs whenever she thought Fred was drifting away and enabled her to demand his full-time care.
He had thrown it into the box in frustration and it had obviously slipped to the bottom, never to be found again, ‘til today. “Why didn’t I clear out the garage earlier.”
He went over to the back of the garage and slowly hauled a tarpaulin off the object in the corner.
“Silver, how are you?” He wheeled out the huge gleaming motorbike out of the corner admiring its gleaming chrome and silver paint job. Still as wonderful today as the first time he had bought it. Actually better, many years of stripping, polishing and painting had turned it into a gleaming monster. The battery was still on trickle charge for which he thanked his foresight, that maybe one day he would get out on it again.
He took the object out of its protecting plastic and opening his tool box and connected the clutch cable from handle bars to the lever, carefully threading it though the channels. A quick pull showed that the cable was still free and capable of allowing him to change gear.
“Now, where’s my box of biking equipment?” he said, searching for his collection of biking gear. Leather and helmet donned and boots pulled tight. He was almost ready. He opened up the door, “Just off to the dump, dear.”
The sun was low on the far horizon, as a whirr of a motor lifted the garage door. Shafts of light swept around the garage as the sunshine reflected off the chrome. A click of the key and a rumble as an engine burbled into life. A clunk, as first gear engaged. The wonderous almost forgotten smell of oil and fumes swirled around the garage and drifted out into the street.
A scream from the kitchen door, as Mable realised what was happening.
“Right,” said Fred. And with a twist and a roar and a shout of “Hi Ho Silver.” And with thoughts of William Tell, Fred and bike disappeared into the fading sunlight.
Or – A Klutzy Dragon
© Peter L. Barnes March 2020
The Dragon picked bacon bits from between her teeth, with her especially sharpened claw. Breakfast had been perfect. Ten bacon slices crispy; twenty fried eggs, soft but with crackling white; thirty spicy sausages, straight from the farm; fresh vine tomatoes; a pile of wild portobello mushrooms; finished off with a 500-gram raw and bloody steak.
She paid her bill, surprisingly low, and walked down the hill to finish off with a lovely cappuccino at the local Tiffanies Coffee shop. She walked through a field enjoying the sunshine when she came upon a pixie sitting in the middle of the grass munching on clover.
“Pixie Lott, how are you?” asked Priscilla.
“I’m fine,” said Pixie. “Why are you not flying?”
“I can never fly on a big breakfast.”
“I don’t know why I gave you powers, maybe I should take them away.”
“Maybe not,” said Priscilla, belching out a ring of fire all around the pixie. “I know you love trapping people in a pixie ring, now see how you feel.”
Arriving at the edge of the sea, Priscilla found a beautiful mermaid sunning herself on a rock, crunching on an unfortunate lobster, quietly singing to herself.
“How does the lobster feel?”
“Crunchie,” said the Mermaid, licking her lips.
“Not how does it taste, feel?”
“And the pigs you ate this morning?”
“Grateful for a humane death, unlike eating the lobster alive.”
“How would you expect me to cook food under water?” asked the Mermaid.
“Find a hot pool,” said Priscilla blasting a small pool in front of the Mermaid’s feet until it started boiling over.
The mermaid looked down at the small pool where several snails in seaweed were bubbling away.
“Looks tasty,” said the mermaid. “Pity about the rest of the pond life though!”
Priscilla walked further along the seashore checking out the debris piled up amongst the weeds, coming across the White Unicorn resplendent with her rainbow stripes, shining out in the bright morning sunshine.
“Morning Wolfmother,” said Priscilla.
“Morning Priscilla,” said the Unicorn. “Why do you always call me that?”
“Look it up,” said Priscilla. “Anyway, what are you doing?”
“Cleaning up the plastic,” said the White Unicorn, tugging a large sack of plastic fragments along the beach, using her white flowing tail.
“Let me help,” said Priscilla.
“No don’t do that,” as the unicorn saw the dragon taking a deep breath and punching a fire ball at the bag.
Woof went the bag, sending up a cloud of burnt plastic smoke into the sky, blocking out the sunshine.
When the smoke had cleared, the Unicorn stood amidst the wreckage, her tail shrivelled up and her glorious coat blackened.
“Thanks for nothing,” said the Unicorn, as Priscilla strode away.
Walking further along the beach she found a small child looking down at the pebbles and a Fairy godmother asking her what the matter was.
“I’ve dropped my stone,” wailed the child. “How will I find it now?”
“Was it special?”
“Of course,” said the girl. “It was my pet stone; I’d painted it black.”
“I can help,” said the fairy godmother, about to cast a spell to reveal the stone
“So, can I,” said Priscilla, and unleashed a stream of fire, blackening all the stones and inadvertently turning the fairy’s wand into a pile of ash.
“Thanks for nothing dragon,” said the furious godmother.
“But the child now has a choice of loads of stones.”
Priscilla watched a group of gnomes fishing in the incoming waves. The central gnome was sitting on a throne.
“Morning King Cannot.”
“Whatever,” knowing better to interfere, no way is this going to go well.
Walking back up the beach to her local coffee shop, Priscilla came across a wizard and witch, fighting it out over a young lady who was being transformed from a poorly dressed waif into a beautiful princess and back again.
“She won’t go to the ball said the wicked witch, casting the poor spell once again.
“Oh yes she will,” said the Wizard, determined that the young girl would have her chance.
“What’s this, some kind of magic reality show?” queried Priscilla.
“She needs her chance in life,” said the wizard, making her outfit even more sparkling
“No, she needs to finish her chores in my house,” said the wicked witch, “I’m her stepmother and what I say goes.”
Priscilla stepped into the fray and blew a smoke screen over the warring factions.
This time the wicked witches spell went wrong and Cinders stayed in her lovely gown.
“What have you done?” screamed the hag.
“I’ve swapped your wands,” said Priscilla. “You will only be able to make good wishes in future.”
The witch stormed off in a huff.
“I suppose the opposite is true for me,” said the wizard “But I can grant negative spells instead.”
Cinders swept away in the TV’s stretch limousine.
Priscilla sat outside the coffee shop, sipping her cappuccino.
“What’s the problem Pricilla?” said the Prince, joining her.
“Everything seems to be wrong this morning,” she said. “I can’t do anything right.”
“That explains my ever after fairy tale, turning into divorce.”
“Really, I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t worry I was never suited to cold climates,” said the concerned Prince. “How did this all start?”
“It started after breakfast at that café you recommended.”
“I told you they did a wicked breakfast, so it’s your own fault for trying it.”
Four and a half books on and I found a gap in my original plot (actually never wrote it). I wonder what I was thinking six years ago. What was in the book discovered in an actic?
Copywrite Peter Barnett
A long time ago, a seventeenth century blacksmith was working on a long steel pipe for a customer called Lord Brexman. Lord Brexam’s estate was overrun with deer and he needed some economic and effective way to bring them to his table. He was having a party with many guests and the deer were roaming all over the hills, making bringing them down with bows and arrows very haphazard.
Lord Brexham had found a recipe for some exploding black powder which required along with some sulphur, copious amounts of urine and charcoal, both ingredients were abundant at the local blacksmith. Now all he needed was a way to blast a small projectile a long distance.
After long discussions with his blacksmith they agreed a long steel pipe was the way to go. The blacksmith finally had the long straight pipe, open at one end and closed at the other where he drilled a small hole and cavity. Lord Brexham commissioned a carpenter to carve a stock to hold the barrel and it was ready to test.
They wrapped a small amount of the black powder in a small bag and rammed it down the barrel followed by a round lead ball. Lord Brexham feared that the whole device might blow up in his face and asked one of his minions to shoot at a herd of deer which were grazing nearby. A small amount of the flash powder was placed in the cavity and everything was set. The minion lifted up the barrel and the blacksmith placed a glowing rope onto the flash pan. A second later there was an immense bang and the projectile hurtled towards the unsuspecting deer, knocking it down and killing it instantly.
The minion fell over backwards with the force of the explosion but was unhurt.
“Wonderful,” said the Lord. “I shall name this device the ‘Brexit’, after me of course.”
The dinner party with foreign diplomats turned into a bit of a disaster as each wanted their home-grown food represented on the table. The discussion around the fish course was especially heated, as were talks about who had the best tomatoes.
However, the Brexit became extremely successful and soon became the mainstay of weapons to win wars, and lose them of course, but the earliest device became a very collectable item, especially amongst politicians of the modern day.
David was presented one after his desire to preserve the status quo and it reminded him of the English civil war.
One named Theresa showed an interest in them, as it reminded her of the successful wars in Europe and bought one to hang in her bedroom.
One named Jeremy bought one, as an ironic reminder of his perceived horrors of the colonial era.
Whenever the three were seen on the streets of London they paraded their ancient weapons as a reminder of what they stood for and the crowds cheered or jeered depending on their inclinations. Some leaning one way and some another, hurling insults at each other such as leave or remain. Finally, it all came to a head one day as all the minions were given a final choice.
“Call yourself the three brexiteers, you’re useless,” said the electorate, pointing their fingers at them. “You’re fired.”
And so it was, that a mop haired, Boris, was handed the baton.
The Smart Dragon
Copywrite Peter L. Barnes
A slightly Corny story, but then do Dragons get corns?
Trying to keep up with her classmates.
Thank goodness she had been allowed to join the class, although the teasing that she was a ‘bit of a dragon’ in on-line posts, was a bit hard to take. She wasn’t a bit of a dragon; she was a full-blown dragon.
The main reason that Georgiana had been accepted into the school in the first place was because she had been orphaned at an early age, too many Georges and ‘Game of Thrones’ fans having taken their toll.
Seating arrangements had been a bit of a problem, but fortunately as a ‘special needs child’ they had been given a grant for a metal desk, instead of the usual wooden units. Typing wasn’t a problem as she had her own computer and clawboard. The screen saver was just that, a steel shutter that dropped like a guillotine in front of the screen, if there was any hint of a fire.
She used the Dragonet for all her homework, and Tinder to try and connect to other dragons. Who on earth thought that Tinder was a good name for lonely dragons? And anyway, swiping left and right across her smart phone had ruined many a screen, she was thinking of going to court to force manufactures to improve them. Surely, it was against her dragon rights to have to spend so much money on new phones.
The school was having their annual Christmas play this year and the teacher, Mr Johnston, who acted as the producer, had tried to find a part for her, but this was proving very difficult despite Georgiana’s obvious acting skills. Apparently, there wasn’t a dragon in the bible and Mr Johnson really didn’t think her donkey impression was going down well, something about straw being a fire hazard.
“Life isn’t fair,” she said to Mr Johnson.
“Well I’m sorry but I didn’t write the story,” he said. “Maybe next year we’ll do George and the drag… What??” as Georgiana growled at him.
“And there’s no need to do dog impressions either, this is not a ‘dog in the manger’ story.”
“Sorry but I’m a bit frustrated at the moment.”
Georgiana was trying to concentrate on today’s maths class, she never understood the decimal system, having only 8 claws that had made counting so difficult. The practical IT teacher had come up with a solution but she was still trying to come to terms with the extra digits he had made with his 3D printer. It had a tendency to click like an abacus, at the most inappropriate times, much to the annoyance of the rest of the class.
As for school dinners, sticky toffee pudding and ice-cream were the most annoying, with the ice-cream melting and dripping out of the sides of her mouth, making her look like a drooling teenager. As for the pudding itself, her claws were definitely a mess for days afterwards.
Trying to fit into their world, she went to talk to the Girl Guide Leader, Mrs Poole, to see if she could join up.
“Well,” said Mrs. Poole. “Let’s see some of your skills, for instance can you tie some basic knots?” Handing her two lengths of rope.
“Oh, let me try, but I might be all thumbs, or claws in my case.” Georgiana fumbled with the rope but only succeeded them cutting them into smaller pieces.
“Oh dear, what about turning two sticks into a fire.”
Georgiana laid out a small pyramid of kindling, then shaved some wood into small slivers with her sharp claws, before rubbing two sticks together. “Oh look,” said Georgiana, pointing to a flying bird, then surreptitiously breathing a tiny flame into the slivers and getting the fire going. A pleasant smell of burning pine drifted around the hall.
“Well done, that’s lovely,” said the Guide Leader. “Now what about our gardening project?”
“What is that?
“We have a small allotment and need to grow some vegetables.”
“That should be easy,” said Georgiana, showing Mrs Poole her green claws.
“Oh yes I see what you mean, they should be perfect,” said Mrs Poole, not wanting to upset the dragon any further.
“We’ll need to sort out some sort of uniform for you.”
“Well we can hardy sew your badges onto such a scaly skin.”
“You could tattoo them on of course,” said Georgiana.
“You have tattoos?”
“Yes look!” she turned her shoulder.
“Oh! A human!”
“Well you lot have dragons, so I have humans.”
The first weekend away with the girl guides was a great success especially after the heavy rainfall the previous weeks. No dry spot to pitch their tents for miles around, before Georgiana warmed up the grass and evaporated the water in a cloud of steam. Collected firewood defied all stick spinning attempts but with a little help, the campfire was now burning brightly under the huge cooking pot. All her group were awarded with ‘training their dragon’ badges.
Georgiana settled into her new life, finally making some new friends amongst her classmates, although the sleepover was not a success. However, it did mean her friends’ mothers finally bought flame proof nightgowns.
Moving to university became more of a challenge although transport was never a problem. They found a quiet cave near the campus, where it was rumoured that Merlin had found refuge. Now it’s a little-known fact that Dragons tails are normally quite empty as it helps their balance when flying. However, when going into battle, it is standard practise to fill their tails with their gold hoard or certainly part of it. This can then be used to swing around on their opponent and the weight of gold is usually enough to knock them over and even kill them.
But a little know fact is that when their tail is cut off and stored in a deep cave, the flesh will decompose leaving all the gold and jewels to the new owner of the tail. Which is why people who cut the heads off the dragons lose all the accumulated riches. Silly humans. Georgiana had collected many tails over the years and now used them to fill her new cave, which is where the expression ‘lying on a bed of tails’ derives.
Aeronautical engineering became a passion and she was soon designing comfortable and efficient passenger planes. Her own version of the internal combustion engine being far more efficient that the jet engines of old, and of course much more environmentally friendly.
This of course turned her into a ‘D’ list celebrity, along with her success in writing human fantasy stories, so it was not surprising that she was invited to all the TV reality shows. She opted for ‘Strictly come Prancing’ where children were allowed to display their skills with their ponies. The producers finally had to ask her to resign from the show as her tail kept on knocking over the cameras.
After all her hard work and set backs she decided it was time to settle down and it was Tinder that finally came up with her perfect match.
more to follow
Plain Jane Grey
Copywrite Peter G Barnett (aka Peter L. Barnes) 2019
The onesie upon the line, hung lifeless and unmoving, undisturbed by any breeze. Jane sat by the window and stared at her spinning wheel and tried to imagine a finished article but could not even envisage the start. She looked out at the nothing day, no wind, no rain, no snow on the ground, just a grey blankness from which no magical images would appear.
The path was not beaten to her door, the flowers had not bloomed; the bushes were withered and the leaves on the tree were very ordinary this year. Not the bright greens of spring, nor the vibrant dark greens of summer, and certainly not the red and orange colours of autumn. For all intents and purposes the outside world was merely a black and white version of normality.
Her heart was empty, a dark hole in her chest where love should preside. No matter how hard she tried, no-one came up to her standards, which were already pretty low. But even that was a lie, she hadn’t actually met anyone who had a vague interest in her. Her last date had been on the school bus where even her ‘boyfriend’ had sat in another seat and occasionally glanced her way. Well she supposed it wasn’t even a date, she just contrived to be on the same bus as he was.
She used to marvel about some of her friends, well acquaintances to be more accurate, who used to pick up boys at the drop of a hat. And then dump them as quickly, knowing there were more fish to hook at a moment’s notice. To try and improve her appearance she went to a colour match consultant but was given a simple array of greys and blacks, with the occasional white highlights.
She opened up her computer to see if anyone had responded to her friend requests only to be disappointed once again. She followed a few tweets of the soap opera stars, wondering why their lives did not reflect the story lines, before remembering that TV was not all reality shows. She didn’t enjoy the animal planet programmes because viewed in black and white, it made the commentary seem ridiculous and out of touch with her as a viewer.
Articles in the newspaper made painful reading, not only for the content but her eyes seemed to be taking an undue strain these days. She decided that she needed new glasses as her vision seemed to be losing focus, whether this was a euphemism of her life or reality she didn’t know.
Her visit to the optician was an eye opener. Besides being a bit of a dish, he diagnosed an unusual problem with her eyes, after a session with the Ishihara charts. The reality was that she didn’t see colours at all, in fact she could only see in black and white.
He gave her a pair of tinted glasses.
“Now look at the garden.”
She looked out at the rose garden behind his clinic and was astonished to see a row of pink roses.
“I will make up a special pair for you for your next visit which will show you even more colours.”
Jane’s life steadily improved from a dull grey outlook to a more colourful one even if it was only pink tinged. She looked forward to next week but thought a new outfit might be in order. Looking through the clothes shelves for ‘pink’ on the lable she finally found what she hoped would be a matching outfit.
Arriving at the clinic the optician gave her an odd stare at the new outfit.
“I think we can improve on your look once you have your new glasses.”
“Well it still doesn’t colour match,” he said in a kind voice. “Did an assistant help you?”
“Oh no I wouldn’t want them to be bothered with me,” said Jane. “I just looked for pink on the lable.”
“You do know that ‘Pink’ is a designer trade name?”
“No, I didn’t. Oh, dear is it awful.”
“No,” he said, “But we can do a lot better I’m sure.”
Did he say we, thought Jane?
“Now I need you to relax on your side and rest your head between the supports,” said the optician. “You’ll feel a tiny sharp pain, it’s only a local anaesthetic.”
“Now is that numb,” he said, touching the side of her head.
She felt some pressure on the side of her head.
“There, that’s done.”
“I’ve inserted two sensors into your brain where colour is detected,” he said. “They will make contact with these glasses.”
He showed her the frame he had chosen, with two gold contacts behind the ear hook.
“There are two cameras in the frame to give you a 3d vision, with colour.”
He fitted the glasses. “Now close your eyes for a second.”
He turned the chair around and sat her up. “Now open them.”
Her vision was assailed with multi-coloured hues and startling bright flashes. Greens, reds blues and yellows and all the colours of the rainbow, shone in the bright sunshine. A variety of roses and pretty flowers in the garden, made tears flow from the corners of her eyes.
“The glasses only have tunnel vision, so you can only really look forward to get the best effect.”
She looked down at her outfit and understood why he had said that there could be an improvement. “Oops orange and pink don’t really go do they.”
“No, but it could have been worse.” He said. “I’ll tell you what why don’t we meet for coffee at the local shopping mall? I’ll be finished in an hour and we can look through the clothes at Hollisters and see what we can find.”
“That’ll be lovely,” said Jane, her heart thumping for no reason at all, or more probably every reason.
She went outside, mounted her old-fashioned motorbike and kick-started it into life. “Now is that another euphemism or what,” she said to a startled patient entering the clinic.
“She sat at the Costa Coffee shop sipping her dark brown hot chocolate, wondering at the array of colourful outfits on the bright young things.
The chair opposite her scraped backwards as the optician sat down. “Sebastian by the way.”
“Jane but you knew that.”
“But no longer a calamity we hope.”
“Absolutely not,” said Jane, grinning like a cat. “Have I got chocolate on my lips?”
“Only a little chocolate smile,” he said, gently wiping the tops of her lips with the serviette. “Right let’s get over to the shop, shall we?”
They went for a mix of ‘born again, flower power’ tops and sparkly jeans. Some twinkly trainers finish off the look.
“I have to go,” said Sebastian. “Can I take you out this evening.”
“Uh not sure, I mean of course yes.”
“I’ll see you at seven then.”
Jane watched his honed body walk out of the mall and caught several other yummy mummies following his every move. He’s mine she thought, keep off.
She rode back to her cottage, panier bags full of packages. A small shower threatened to spoil her mood but the sight of her first rainbow that seemed to be resting on her roof where the chimney gleamed yellow reflecting the sunshine.
She was ready far too early but couldn’t help admiring her looks in the full-length mirror, normally kept hidden by a blanket draped over the top. Finally, the doorbell rang, and she flung open the door to find a vison in front of her. Gone was his white jacket from the clinic and instead an equally bright shirt and a red bandana showed off his holiday tan. He held out a flower and placed it in her hairband. They both looked straight out of the Woodstock and Free Love Era and they vowed to be hippy ever after.