Tag Archives: slightly silly

Magpies

One for sorrow, two for joy,

Three for a girl, four for a boy,

Five for silver, six for gold,

And seven for a secret which can never be told.

 

Boris flew to the meeting tree looking somewhat bedraggled, and down in the feathers.  He’d clearly had a bad day.

“Hey Boris.  Tough day?”

“Oh, hi Tony, you said it.”

Now my job as the Magpie barman is to serve the drinks and listen to the stories.  Occasionally I offer some advice, but my days of flying Informational Magics is long gone, and most of the chicks they send out these days seem to ignore me.

I lined up a stiff drink for Boris and said, “Do you want to talk about it?”

It was clear he didn’t, but then he shrugged his wings and took a long drink of his drink and said, “You know how some days if it can go wrong?”

“Oh yes.  Saw a single one today did you?”

I was joking of course, Magpie magic doesn’t work on Magpies, something I’ve always thought is vaguely ironic.

“Ha, almost as if I had done.  My day started with an easy one.  I needed to get a farmer to see me.  He’s going to get some bad news from his girlfriend it seems.  Farmers are easy I thought to myself, wait until they’re out into a field, and then, you know, pop up.  He conveniently headed out, and so I flew along.  Nothing, he was looking at his phone I think.”

“Bloody things have made it harder than in my day, and no mistake.”

“You said it Tony.  You couldn’t line me up another?”

I watched him finish the first as I poured the second.  I hoped he wasn’t going to drink too much, I’d struggle to carry him off this tree at the best of times, but my right wing has been giving me shooting pains when I extend it recently.

“Where was I?”

“Farmer.  Phone.”

“Yeah, so I had to get over the other side of town for my next job, and I was running out of time, so I popped up again.  The farmer looks up.”

“Job done?”

“I hadn’t spotted him, but Douglas was flying across the field, on his way to his first gig of the day.  Blam, we’ve now given the farmer Joy.”

“Oh, well, could be worse.”

“I know, but now I’m the one who has to go and give his girlfriend Sorrow, because her dream job evaporated and she’s staying with her farmer boyfriend.  Sucks for her.”

“Mmm.”

“Now of course, I’m running late, so I wing it straight over.  I reckon I can get away with it, so I cut over the Grey woods.”

“The ones with the footpath?”

“Yeah.”

“Risky.”

“At that time of day I figure it’ll be fine.  I was wrong.  A couple going for a mid-morning walk.  Blam they get some Sorrow.  Their car engine’s blown.  Then a man walking his dog, more Sorrow.  He’s going to get an unexpected, and wrong, gas bill, but it’ll take three months for him to clear it up.”

“Ouch.  You speak to Control about doing some reverse work?”

“You seen them recently?  Something strange is going on, they’re planning a load of Secret raids.”

“Awful tricky to pull off they are.”

It’s difficult to get seven of us in one place where a human can see, and count, all of us before we have to move on.  Anything getting in the way can turn it into something else, and I hated doing them when I was still in the field.

I went on, “I was involved in one of those once, we ended up giving three Silvers and one Gold before we hit it properly.  Control was mighty angry.”

“Well they’re so angry already, I wasn’t going to ask them to allow three Joys just to fix my mess up.”

“Fair.”

“I get to the meeting place, expecting Steph and Jon, and you know what?”

“What?”

“Bloody Yanis turns up.”

“Oh he’s alright…”

“Maybe, but suddenly the Girl we’re announcing turns into a Boy.  Then while I’m remonstrating with him another couple come along.  Now by this point Jon’s off, but they get a Girl, and they weren’t expecting anything if you know what I mean.”

“A bad day and a half.  Have another.”

His second had gone almost as fast as the first, but he sipped the third a bit more cautiously.

“Next few gigs went ok, but I couldn’t help feeling the day wasn’t done with me yet.”

“No?”

“No.  My last couple of gigs were over by Westfield farm, you know at the edge of our territory.”

“Bordering the Greenlark mob?”

“Yeah.  Bloody amateurs.”

“So I hear.”

I didn’t tell him my mother had been a Greenlark.  When I was a chick we’d been on best of terms with them, but last couple of years there’d been some bad blood.  Accusations of stealing of missions and suchlike.

“Well I was there to do a Sorrow and a Joy, with Steph again.  I like her, real professional.  Always on time, flies low, can disappear into anything.  Easy to work with.”

He was smiling in such a way that I imagined he wanted a little more time with Steph.  He was quiet for a bit.

“You were saying…”

“Yeah, sorry.  Steph.  She turns up as expected, and we’re about to do the double.”

“Nice.”

“Yeah, the dossier on these two said they were inseparable, but that the man always looked round to the right when they got into a new field.  Steph and I were prepped.  The humans climbed into the field and we popped up.  At the same time some bloody Greenlarks are having a fight with a murder on the border of the land.  All sorts of squawking and whatnot.”

“Not good.”

“Not good?  Disaster.  She gets the Joy and he gets the Sorrow.  Her premium bond numbers come in and his ankle gives way.  Doesn’t seem fair.”

“It’s not about fair.  At least they didn’t see the Greenlarks.”

“True.  And I think Steph blamed me, though she didn’t say anything.  Just a bit off.”

“I’m sure she understands, we’ve all been there.”

At that point one of Control’s messengers turned up.

“Oi, Boris, get over to Control.  They need you for a Secret.”

“I’ll be there in two ticks.”

The messenger looked like he was going to argue, but then just flapped off, making a deliberate show of his whites.

“Bloody showoffs, think they’re better than us cos they do the planning.”

“It’s a tough job.”

“Yeah, whatever.  Not sure what the point of a Secret is, I mean they never tell us what it is anyway.”

“Um.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know that’s the point.”

Boris slurped the last of his drink and then headed off, waving his wings a little unsteadily.

I watched him depart and thanked my stars I wasn’t out there anymore.  I’d enjoyed spreading Joy and announcing the little ones.  But the Sorrow was always hard.  I polished up the glasses and waited for my next customer.

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Outsourcing

I think we all outsource bits of our lives, and I wondered how far it might go?

 

Outsourcing

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together for our guest of honour, Mr James Forbes, the leading light of the modern era.”

The room erupted in cheers and clapping, and a tall, austere looking man walked to the podium.  His measured stride ensured he reached the stage while the applause was still loud, and was positioned behind the podium just as it was starting to die down.

He brushed his once brown fringe to one side in a characteristic motion which energised the crowd again.  How they loved him, and even with his hair now almost white, they could still picture him as the winsome youth he’d once been.

“It is an honour to be with you, and for the first time in my life, to have you all in the same room.”

More cheers.  He let it run again, and then his face became sombre, the gathered guests at once responded.

“There are those who couldn’t make it today, but we have their images up there on the memory wall, so they could be present in spirit.”

There were sighs at this thoughtfulness, and many looked at the wall, remembering those who’d been lost along the way.

He turned on his thousand watt smile and the room forgot about the dead, and turned once more back to him.

“But now it’s time to talk about me, and all that you’ve done to help me.”

More cheers.

“Dennis over here, has, as ever, provided me with a script.”  He favoured the man who’d introduced him with a kindly smile.

“He assures me that he originally wanted to mention every single person in this room, but when he timed the speech, it came to 74 hours.  And that was without toilet breaks.”

He delivered the line completely dead-pan.  There was a pause and then the room erupted with laughter.  He’d always been able to work a crowd, with Dennis’ coaching of course.

“So instead I’m going to talk about my successes, and how you’ve helped.”

There was a hush as they waited, each hoping they’d been mentioned, and hanging on his words.

“I was very successful at school, in part due to Thomas Greenwood, yes stand up Tommy, who did my exams, and Philip Pulling, who represented me at football.”  He paused while the two men stood up and bowed to all around them.

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask that you stand up and nod quickly when mentioned, to give us any chance of that toilet break I saved from Dennis’ machinations.”

Quiet reigned again.

“With my grades, and football scholarship, I attended a select college where Tommy once more excelled at my exams.  Poor Philip tore a hamstring, so was replace by William Turbot, who unfortunately can’t be here today.  However when he was representing me, he managed to get me all the way to the finals, and scored the winning goal on my behalf.”

Cheers, which he let run for a while.

“Now with a college degree, and in excellent fitness it was time for me to get a job.”

He looked a little put out, and was greeted with the obligatory groans, and a few wry smiles.

“My career strategists, Harriet and Joyce, there you are, advised me to become a lawyer, and they selected Mr Bryce Jones for the early part of my career.  He ensured I excelled at law school, and landed a job at the top law firm in the country, before getting me through my training and setting me up for a decent run at partnership.  He handed the baton to Pete here who got me through to become the youngest ever partner at the law firm.”

He leaned down and put his arm around another white haired man who was sitting next to him, looking a little confused, but smiled when he saw who was hugging him.

“All that hard work, just to get me to the bottom rung of partnership, and that’s when my strategists had an idea.  We decided to play it a little dirty.  So Jonathan was brought in to be me.  There he is the old dog.  He slept with other partners, or their partners…” an appreciative laugh. “… whatever was necessary to secure my advance, and knock out the competition.  I won’t lie, we had fun, but it was perhaps the least savoury time of my life.”

Hush.

“And then I met darling Alice, the love of my life.”

Alice stood up, still beautiful despite her advancing years, and smiled her quirky, knowing smile.

“Jonathan stepped out, and Russell stepped in.  As me he married Alice, and fathered our first child, young Jeffrey.  Sadly he became confused about his role and we had to let him go, and Jimmy stepped in.  He went on to father Paul and little Thesia.  Not so little now.”

He smiled at his daughter who barely managed to smile back.  She had been lucky enough to get many of her mother’s looks, if not her sunny temperament.

Dennis tapped him on the arm.

“Ah yes, sorry, my tempo is off.  So many faces from the past, all those who made my life what it was.  While the family life was going well, my professional career peaked, when I was made head of the firm.  George Dancing did the hard work, and I am forever in his debt.  Though of course the work was its own reward, hey George?”

George nodded dutifully, and the room chuckled along.

“Here’s where the strategy changed, and the answer was politics.  We felt there’d been enough time since my Jonathan phase, and we’d managed to buy off or get something on everyone affected.  I was squeaky clean, had three wonderful children, and a beautiful wife.  I was made for politics.  My early career, as a senator, was handled by Grace Riely, the first time I’d been a woman, but she was so talented we knew it would work, and it did.  Her schmoozing, and backroom deals, meant within two terms I was the only real candidate for the highest job in the land.  President!”

Clapping and whoops greeted this, much as they had when he’d been elected.

“Two terms, the first performed by Grace and the second by Adam, and my legacy was secure.  It was time to retire.”

They all knew his story, so they knew that wasn’t the case, but he held them there for a little while.

“But with the success we had, I knew there was more, so I ran for Secretary General of the UN.  Edmund Chung represented me, and as the first American SecGen, I set about changing that institution.  Under my tenure, aided by Ken Ho who took over from Edmund for my third and fourth terms, that institution became more than a talking shop, it became the most important global force.  A nascent government in all but name!”

They were on their feet now, he’d got to his true triumph, the one they’d all helped to bring about.  The clapping and feet stamping went on for quite a while.

Time to wind them down.

“Since then, well, I’ve played golf,” he nodded at Guy, “a bit of tennis,” a wink at Tony, “and spent time with my wife.”  He air punched Jimmy gently.

He smiled again, electrifying the room and they all went wild.  The cheering might have continued for a while except they noticed that someone was doing a slow clap.  Silence rippled out from Paul, the great man’s son until the only sound was the slow clap, clap from one of the two men who now walked towards the platform.

Until they stopped and the one who had been clapping said, “I have a question father.”  There was a slight emphasis on father.

Favouring first the clapper, and then his son with a smile he said, “Yes Paul?”

“What have you,” he pointed accusingly at the titan, “ever actually done?”

For the first time Philip Forbes looked confused as if he really couldn’t understand the question.  Then he smiled, “I recognise you now, sorry Albert, you’re my son’s troublemaker aren’t you?”

The young mine nodded, but maintained his grumpy air.  The room let go a collective breath they hadn’t realised they’d been holding, it was all going to be fine.

Philip answered his son, “And to answer the question Paul, I did all that I wanted to, I just outsourced the rest.”

###

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The Dog Ate My Phone

This happened to me (the dog eating the phone bit, not the rest…)

 

The Dog Ate My Phone

“Did I ever tell you about the time the dog ate my phone?” said the rough voice.

Thomas Jensen looked up from his phone to see who was talking. The only person there was a tramp and he seemed to be staring straight at Thomas.

“Ah, no. Not that you’ve ever told me anything. And now…”

He tried to get up, but the tramp had moved so close he’d have to push him out of the way, and he really didn’t want to touch the man.

“Worst day of my life really. Best as well if truth be told. It freed me.”

“Oh, er, how?”

The tramp took this as an invitation to sit down, and start his tale.

“I’d left the dogs in the car. Two lovely chocolate Labradors. Beautiful. You have dogs?”

“No.”

“Great companions. Only problem, particularly with labs, is they’re hungry. I’d left my phone in the car, I don’t know why because I never left my phone anywhere. I left it in the little shelf in the door. Right next to some sweets.”

Thomas tried to look at his watch, but the tramp leant over.

“Dogs had never bothered with the sweets before? Do you know why they did that day?”

“No…”

The tramp leant back, “Nobody does. Anyway they went for the sweets, but the shelf was small and they struggled to get the sweets out, and got the phone first. Crunch. Little bits of glass all over the place. Phone dead. Kaput.”

“That’s very sad, but I have to…”

“Know why I couldn’t just get a new one?”

“Um.”

“Well I ordered one. Or asked my wife to. Same model. But you see the thing was, there was a delay. I wouldn’t have my phone for a week. Can you imagine?”

Thomas really couldn’t, he shook his head.

“My car wouldn’t recognise me. Couldn’t get into my front door, couldn’t buy anything. My virtual credit cards were all frozen until I got a new unit. I had an old one, but it took a different sim see, so they wouldn’t reactivate it. Or would, but it would take longer than the new phone. Do you think I could go to work?”

“Yes?” Thomas ventured.

“No. Front desk wouldn’t let me past, even if they did elevators wouldn’t have taken me anywhere.”

Thomas was starting to be interested despite himself, “But you told your boss?”

“How? No phone. No messenger. No email. I tried to call from the reception desk, but without my phone id to authenticate me… well he refused the call.”

Thomas shook his head sympathetically.

“Then they fired me. No payoff, failure to turn up for work. Except the firing bounced, no phone you see, so I didn’t find out directly. I found out from my wife. What did she do to help me I hear you ask?”

Thomas wondered if he would have asked, but it didn’t seem wise to argue.

“She called me a fool. She also told me to stop blaming the dog, he was suffering enough. I realised then the hierarchy in the house, and I didn’t like it. I said some things. I didn’t mean them, it was just the pressure. You know.”

Thomas tried to look sympathetic, and also as if he had somewhere else to go.

“Well, she said some things too. Then stormed out, taking the dog. Told me to call her when I’d grown up. That turned out to be hard.”

He paused.

“I think she’s in San Francisco now.”

“Um…”

“Anyway, so I was stuck. But only for a week I hear you say?”

Thomas nodded.

“If only. You see she’d ordered the new phone in her name. Now if she’d been around we could have swapped the sims and heydee ho, with a couple of hours, on her phone of course, to customer services it would have all been fine. I had to break into the house. I was watching. Saw it delivered, they wouldn’t have given it to me, and broke in. Big mistake.”

“Why?”

“The house called the cops. That expensive security system I put in. Tied to our phones. I grabbed the phone and ran. And ran, hoping to fit my sim in. Couldn’t, cos of it being in my wife’s name and all, but kept it with my while I wandered. Found myself in the backend of the city. Tough times. I learned a lot. First thing was to drop the new phone, even without my sim it had a tracker and they were trying to find it. I paid for really good security you see. Met some people, learned how to live without the phone, without id, and money. Hard life. Good life.”

The man looked wistful, and Thomas thought he might have a chance to get away.

“Ah, well, that’s a good thing to know. I need to run I’m afraid.”

He indicated his phone, as if he’d had a message. The old man misunderstood.

“Oh no, I don’t want your phone. Don’t need one. Just wanted to share the story, maybe it can help. Wanted to help someone today of all days.”

Thomas hesitated, but had to ask, “Why today?”

“I’m dead today. Legally. After thirty years, all of the automatic payments and suchlike I’d put into place have finally ground to a halt, and the world, your world, has decided I’m dead. Saw the notice while watching one of those demo phones.”

“Um.”

“Go now. No use you wasting time listening to a dead man. But take care of that phone.”

###

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Filed under Flash Fiction

Lobbying for the Merchants of Death

This one came to me after a week’s holiday in Spain…

 

Lobbying for the Merchants of Death

By Jason Gibbs

“Thank you for smoking. Loved that film.”

“Film?”

“Old 2D movie, probably way before your time… anyway there’s this great scene where Aaron Eckhart’s character, who represents the tobacco companies, is explaining how his product kills more people than alcohol and guns.”

“Tobacco?”

“Yeah, you know smoking it? Seriously do they teach you nothing in school these days?”

“Um, yes, I see here it used to cause millions of deaths a year.”

“Yes.”

“More than your clients.”

“Exactly my point, exactly.”

“So it was banned, and alternatives found and now far fewer people die from it?”

“No, no, that’s the opposite lesson. Tobacco was rehabilitated, it’s used in all sorts of things now, paper, a lot of medicines. Tobacco production has grown for the last decade, even while smoking has been consigned to the wilderness of history.”

“Um, so your clients. You think they can be rehabilitated?”

“Of course. But first we need to stop painting them as evil. They do what they do, we just need to find a way of making it less, deadly.”

“But you admit they’ve killed a lot of people?”

“Billions according to some estimates.”

“So…”

“Does that justify wiping them from the planet? No. Are they an existential threat to us? Definitely not. They kill far fewer than they used to, and I think with a little research we can bring that number down to zero. I really do.”

“That requires investment.”

“Yes, and for us to stop this massacre. Do you know what the death toll related to the current programme is?”

“Human?”

“So species centric. Yes, human.”

“No, I thought…”

“Three thousand. So far. Accidents, chemical poisoning etc. That’s more than my clients killed last year and the year before put together.”

“OK, but…”

“But nothing. We stop the massacre, we put resources into finding a prophylactic. Everybody’s happy, the world is a better place.”

“And you have to find new clients?”

“There’s always more clients. And if I win this… well, the sky’s no longer a limit.”

“Who’s paying you?”

“First good question you’ve asked. There’s a lot people. They don’t necessarily agree with my clients, but they think their destruction is unwarranted. Something like, I don’t agree with what you do, but I will give my life to defend your right to do so…”

“Sartre?”

“Apparently not.”

“Ouch. What is that?”

“Might be a bite. If it is, you might want to stop scratching it.”

“Wait, are you telling me some of your clients are in here?”

“Of course. Couldn’t probably represent them if they weren’t here now could I?”

“And one of them bit me?”

“May have, no proof…”

“Um, do they carry malaria?”

“We have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy on that.”

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Coffee Match

This is another using a similar theme to Coffee.  I’ve meant to come back to it, but reading it again I think it still works nicely.

 

Coffee Match

“Latte: I’m so boring. No muffins or pastries, thanks. Take away: Late as ever, no time to hang around here. Benito: today’s name, based on famous dictators, it’s not like they ever remember my real name.”

“Mocha: I need the chocolate hit, and yes to the cream: of course. Ooh, who’s that nice looking guy waiting for his drink? Oh, my name, it is Joan: not that you’ll get it right. I’ll be Joanne, or Jo, or even Jon that one time. Where did he go?

#

“Latte: one day I’ll order something interesting, I wonder what she drinks? I’m sure she was staring at me yesterday. Joseph: perhaps too subtle that one.

“Mocha, but skinny: I need to lose a bit of weight if there are going to be decent men coming in here, and yes, I think no cream either: as he’s definitely sneaking a few peaks at me. Jo: Does that sound more attractive?

#

“Latte: she was definitely looking at me. Actually, can I have that to stay: there’s hope she’ll be in soon. Where is she though? Oh name, um, Pol: no need to give me a funny look, I was distracted.

“Another latte: is she not coming in today? To stay: I’m already late, might as well wait another quarter hour. Mao: yep, didn’t notice the name change, and he only served me twenty minutes ago.

“Latte: boring, and, make it decaf: I’m buzzing from all this caffeine, take away: maybe I can recover some of the morning, wait there she is, I’ll try a smile when she gets to the waiting area. Didn’t ask my name that time, I wonder which one he’ll go for.

“Skinny: yes still, have you seen the weight I’m carrying, mocha: I need chocolate more than ever this morning, with an extra shot: I shouldn’t have stayed up late watching that box set, but it was soo good, and I really wanted to know the ending, and I couldn’t believe she actually did that, wait is he smiling at me? Jon: oh right, not even a double take, thanks so much.

#

“Mocha: mmm chocolate and soya milk: Caroline, yoga guru and all round wonder woman, said it was much healthier than even skinny milk and it would help me lose weight. Where is he today? I was hoping he might actually say something. Can’t hang around too long today, I have to get to that meeting with, hmm, what is her name?

“Latte: boring, but extra shot: I saw she had one, and to be honest today I need the extra jolt, that fifth pint last night might have been an issue, and make it a grande: I’ll need something to keep me going through the morning, especially as I must have missed her already. A blueberry muffin too please: it might help my stomach settle. Bashar: Nice pause there, shows they aren’t true robots yet.

#

“Decaf: I don’t know what happened yesterday but that extra shot made my heart palpitate and gave me an even worse headache, I might lay off the caffeine for a while, latte: still want the milk though. I think I heard her buy soya yesterday, that’s a bit new age for me. Still, she is lovely. Name is Daffy: crossover to cartoon characters today. I’m sure she told the barista her name was John, which seems strange.

“Skinny: definitely don’t want that soya stuff again it was so horrible I do not know what Caroline was thinking, I barely managed half my drink yesterday, mocha: sticking with chocolate, hope the soya hasn’t ruined it for me. At least he’s here today. Maybe he’ll say something. I wish he’d stop changing his name every day, it’s really not that funny.

#

“Latte: boring I know, and not decaf but I need a little pick me up; caffeinated Dutch courage. Oh, and a skinny: not that I think she needs it, mocha: this is it, hopefully she’ll go for it and not think I’m some kind of creepy stalker. My name? Oh, it’s James: yes, really.

#

“Skinny: still need to keep my figure, mocha: does a girl need to explain? And a latte: I told him it was boring, but he certainly isn’t, it was so nice that he finally got the courage to speak to me. What an amazing date, I feel like I’m walking on air. Maybe I should get a muffin? No, don’t want to scare him off. He should be here soon. John: I’ll stick with that as it seemed to amuse him so much.

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Purple Sky

Purple sky

“I want a legacy. I want people to remember me forever.”

“Is this really the right way to go about it?”

“Can you tell me a better way? I am not an artist, or a purveyor of literature. I have no political skills, and you’ve heard my singing.”

Jeremy shuddered. He had indeed heard his boss singing. It was unpleasant to say the least.

“But, turning the sky red?”

“I know. It will be magnificent. Every time someone looks up they will say, ‘It was Kelvin the Magnificent who did this’.”

“Except the ones who think you’re called Kevin.”

“They’ll know!”

Jeremy wondered. He’d worked as the assistant for Kelvin’s act for two years now. Most magicians had a scantily clad woman to help them, but Kelvin felt that was old fashioned. Jeremy suspected it was also because Kelvin had tremendous problems talking to women. All of them.

They’d been having a quiet drink when Kelvin had revealed his hobby. Or obsession. Anyway, it was the thing which kept him busy on the weekends. Jeremy had thought it was just a joke, but Kelvin’s eyes had lit up when he talked about it.

“You’ll see Jez my lad. Everyone will see!”

Jeremy hated being called Jez. It was also usually the signal that Kelvin had imbibed enough for the evening.

“Right then oh Kelvin the Magnificent, let’s get you home then.”

“Tomorrow Jeremy, tomorrow I shall change the colour of the sky!”

“Only if you can get through the hangover.”

“Pah.”

This was followed by Kelvin tripping over and falling to the floor. Jeremy sighed and picked him up, then bundled him into a cab and headed home. He grabbed a kebab on the way and thought nothing more of Kelvin’s crazy talk.

The next morning was a Wednesday, a day off from being a magician’s assistant, and Jeremy luxuriated in a long lie-in. When he finally got out of bed he flicked the TV on and got his breakfast. Fairly quickly he was left staring at the screen with half a weetabix dangling forgotten from his mouth.

On the screen was his boss, handcuffed and being led away by the police. He flicked on the sound to hear the commentary.

“…the Magnificent being led away from the site of the recent explosion. It’s not clear what he will be charged with, but the police are taking him in for further questions.”

“For those just joining us, there has been a large explosion off the coast. There were no casualties, and the man believed to be responsible is in custody.”

The story cycled around a few times, interspersed with some gossip about an American singer and a boy band. Jeremy didn’t hear any of it, and it was a while before he even finished his Weetabix. When he finished he realised he had no choice but to go and see if he could help Kelvin. The man had no family as far as Jeremy knew.

“Oh Jeremy, you should have seen it! It was wonderful.”

“Kelvin, look, just be quiet until we get into the car.”

Kelvin gave him a reproachful look, but subsided while they walked out of the police station. He’d been released on police bail, but they were clear they’d want him back for more questions. At the very least they’d want to know how his machine had operated.

Once they were in the car, Kelvin couldn’t hold silent any longer.

“It was amazing. She hove, hove! Out to sea. The generator started running and I could see the gas coming off. Then.”

“Then?”

“Well, then it blew up. I made a slight miscalculation. It turns out that producing lots of hydrogen and oxygen near an engine can sometimes go wrong.”

“What? Wait. Stop, why were you producing lots of oxygen and hydrogen? Do I even want to know?”

“I told you last night. To turn the sky red. I ran the numbers and if I could convert much of the world’s oceans into oxygen and hydrogen then the additional gases would increase the size of our atmosphere, and therefore the impact of Rayleigh scattering.”

“Erm…”

“That’s what makes the sky blue? Do they not teach anything at school these days?”

“Well, not in my school.”

“So the sky is red in the evening because the light has to go through twelve times the atmosphere to reach your eyes, so there’s much more scattering. Therefore, if I could increase our atmosphere by twelve times, then the sky would always be red!”

“We’d have no oceans!”

“But the sky would be red, people would know my name…”

“They’d know your name as the nutter who converted all the oceans into gas and as a result probably wiped out most of life on the planet!”

“Ah, yes. A side effect. I see what you mean.”

“That’s a pretty serious side effect Kelvin. One might even say a show stopper.”

“Hmm, yes. I need to think on this more.”

It was then that Jeremy realised that Kelvin might actually be properly crazy.

The next few weeks were tough. Obviously they lost their gigs, and Kelvin had to go court, and in the end received a suspended custodial sentence. He’d been quiet in the dock and hadn’t mentioned anything about turning the sky red.   He revealed to Jeremy that it was because he’d wanted it to be a surprise.

After the case Jeremy had to get a new job, while Kelvin seemed to be staying at home. Kelvin had once mentioned to Jeremy that he had a lot of family money, so perhaps he was just enjoying it. Eventually Jeremy moved away and lost track of Kelvin.

Several years later Jeremy woke up one morning, and went for his regular run. He’d been keeping fit for a while, something which seemed to make his recently betrothed happy. He was half asleep when he started, and the sun had only just begun to rise. By the time he finished his run it was full daylight, and that’s when he noticed it. The sky was purple. Well, violet. No matter how he squinted it refused to be blue.

He thought to himself that maybe it was a result of too much running? Or perhaps an atmospheric effect? However it didn’t change. Pretty soon all the news channels were full of it. What had happened, why was the sky violet?

Jeremy dismissed it when he got to work, and was happily tapping away at his keyboard when an awful thought occurred to him. What if it had been Kelvin? What had he done, and more importantly, what were the side effects. After all the last time the man had tried something similar he’d been planning on evaporating the oceans.

A quick internet search found Kelvin’s latest locale. Jeremy rushed there. Panic gripping him.

He knocked on the door, and Kelvin answered. His face lit up when he saw Jeremy and he invited him in.

“It’s so good to see you Jeremy, how are you?”

“Is it you?”

“Is what me?”

“The sky!”

“Ah, well, yes. In a sense. I’ve submitted my explanation to a number of channels. They rejected me as a crank initially, but I’ve had a call back from some eminent professors. Soon my name will be known!”

“Oh my god. What have you done? What else is going to happen? Have you destroyed the oceans?”

“Jez, Jez. Calm down. It’s fine. Nothing like that. You see, your lecture last time helped me understand. So I came up with a different way.”

“How?”

Jeremy had started to calm, or perhaps it was the unreal nature of the conversation which seemed to give him strength.

“It’s simple really. I looked at the problem a different way. I realised that red was the wrong way to go, so I looked at the other end of the visible spectrum. You see, the sky has always contained violet, we just don’t have enough sensors in our eyes to see it that way.”

He held up his hand to forestall further questions. Jeremy held his tongue.

“Rayleigh scattering actually produces a lot of violet, but humans, until now, have only limited ability to see it. I’ve just fixed that.”

He paused, and then continued, “I released a virus which makes some minor genetic changes, which causes human eyes to develop additional violet receptors.”

He saw Jeremy’s face and said quickly, “Don’t worry, I tested it thoroughly, there are no other side effects. Well, except it’s irreversible. It is completely targeted, and very narrow. I released it two weeks ago. The change takes a while, but by my calculations, everyone in the country will be seeing violet by the end of the day…”

“How did you do it? I thought you were just a magician…”

“Oh, well I built a lab. I told you I had family money? Would you like to come and see it…”

Just then there was a loud crash and suddenly the room was filled with hulking men with guns all shouting. They both had hoods put over their heads as they were bundled into some form of vehicle which sped off.

Some while later Jeremy was released. His interrogators soon realised he knew nothing of use to them. The last admonishment was still ringing in his head as he stumbled home.

“Nothing happened. You didn’t see us. You have forgotten all about Kelvin. If we find out you’ve been opening your mouth we’ll have you back here so fast your head will spin. We could have you in prison for a million years as an accessory to a terrorist attack. That’s what this was. You understand?”

Jeremy had nodded mutely.

It took Jeremy a while to get his life back together. He kept worrying he was being followed, but he slowly relaxed. The news was full of reports of biological terrorists, and the government claimed that the original intention of the virus was deadly, but that a lucky mutation had caused it to turn into the violet producing variant. They managed to supress any mention of Kelvin’s name. This caused a lot of debate and very quickly buried discussions of what had actually happened.

After a while Jeremy could even smile when he looked up and saw the violet sky, Kelvin had left a legacy, even if no one knew he was responsible.

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Filed under General

We Need The Money

We Need the Money

“Oh Sarah, come in.”

Sarah sobbed.

“Sit down, I’ll put a cuppa on.”

Dawn worried about her friend and made the tea quickly. She decided it was time for those American-style cookies, she knew Sarah liked them and probably hadn’t had any for ages.

“Tell me all about it.”

Sarah sniffed, “Well, you know we’ve been having money problems?”

“I thought you might.” Dawn looked at her friend’s gaunt face, and tried to ignore the ragged clothes.

“Well, the thing is. After I lost my job, and then Stephen did too, well we thought we could get by. So I’ve been looking for work. I signed up, but it’s a pittance you get these days, and you have to prove you’re looking. So embarrassing. I had a good job!” She wailed.

“There there love, have a biscuit.”

Sarah had been holding back out of politeness, or fear perhaps. She hoovered up the first cookie, and then the next one.

“So Sarah, what we need to do is find you a proper job again and you’ll be fine.”

“Oh no, it’s too late.”

“Why?”

“It’s Stephen, I think he’s done something drastic.”

A cold weight settled in Dawn’s stomach, she asked, fearing the answer, “What?”

Sarah just sobbed. Dawn, who usually had the patience of a saint was tiring of the tears, changed the subject, and soon had Sarah talking about her little ones. Hours of gossiping later and Sarah had calmed down. Dawn was considering whether to mention Stephen when the doorbell went.

“Who can that be? I’ll be back.”

Opening the door she stared in shock.

“Hi Dawn.”

“Ah, Stephen.”

He wasn’t dead. But, his face?

“Sarah here?”

“Yes, would you like to come in for a cuppa?”

“I’d love one. Hopefully a Thompsons’, they make the finest cuppa there is.”

“Err, it might be.”

When Sarah saw Stephen she burst into tears again.

“Dawn, have you some Fluffex tissues? They’re absorbent and soft on the skin.”

“I’ll look.”

When she came back Stephen was trying to comfort Sarah. Dawn was over the shock of his face, she’d just not seen anyone have burger and soft drink logos as tattoos before.

“Thanks Dawn, you’re a real friend. Real friends buy American Family cookies.”

“Why are you talking like that?”

“Earning money Dawn. Saving just pennies a day for the best life insurance, from Geneva Life.”

Dawn looked quizzically at Sarah.

“He’s sold out…” More tears.

“He’s a brand bunny?”

“We prefer advertorially confident. Confidence comes from whiter teeth, try new Solar Gum Extra Extra White.”

Sarah gathered herself together, “It’s only for a year, and it pays enough for our expenses. If I get a job then we’ll soon be out of this hole.”

“Until then…”

“Every other sentence will be an advert sent to me directly via 5G ear implant. The new Strakia 15S, the phone made for 5G.”

Dawn looked at him with horror and pity, hoping she’d never, ever be that desperate.

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Filed under Flash Fiction

Penguins Don’t Need Frying Pans

Sometimes a line just begs to have a story written about it, and this one was from a previous story.  I hope I’ve done it some justice.

 

Penguins Don’t Need Frying Pans

“I worry about your penguin obsession Dave.”

“I worry about your personal hygiene, but you don’t hear me going on about.”

“Funny!”

“Not really.”

Sadly I was only half joking, Sebastian really did have a bit of a problem. I idly wondered if there was an elegant solution to the problem, and realised there was: a girl. As I didn’t have one to hand I parked that to one side and went back to trying to remember what state I’d left my experiments in.

For a while there was silence as we walked back to the lab. Beaker was out today, so Julian and I had snuck out for lunch, and a pint or two. During lunch I tried explaining to him my theory about penguins. It hadn’t gone down well. To be honest it never really did.

“Look, sorry. I’m sure you’re right about tool-use being over-rated.”

“I’m sorry too. Though you might want to consider a hair cut…”

I smiled to take the sting out, and it seemed to mollify him.

“So, why do you think penguins will survive longer than we will?”

Was he just humouring me? Perhaps not, I’d try anyway, after all we had a little way yet to walk, and I was still buzzing from the pints of Portly Porpoise. The local brewery had bowed to the fashion of foolish names.

“It’s simple. Humans have become over-dependent on technology. When The Fall comes, we’ll be screwed. The penguins however, well, as long as there are fish, they’ll be fine.”

“The Fall?”

This was the bit where I usually lost people.

“Yes, The Fall. You know, when civilisation collapses. Plague, a comet, massive earthquakes or alien invasion.”

“Ah yes. The Fall.”

I was used to the knowing smiles. They always thought I was joking.

“Think of it this way. What is required for our society to continue to function normally? Large amounts of power. If that gets impacted in any way, bad things will happen.”

“I see what you mean.”

I’d lost him. Our conversation lapsed and we arrived back at the labs and parted company amicably.

That night I was heading home and as usual took the sky bullet. I mused that this was the heavy tech I was concerned about. Here I was, in a small capsule made from little more than cellulose, being blown along an invisible path by a targeted blast of air. The path was created using some form of projected electric field, and was in effect an airtight tunnel, and the push would send me hurtling along towards my destination.

I’d refused to use them for their first few years. I’d been afraid of what might happen if they went wrong. I now used them all the time; they cut my commute substantially.

The capsule trembled, and then started to fall. It seemed like it was no longer following a pipe.

The power had failed.

As the ground hurtled towards me I thought to myself that penguins wouldn’t have got themselves into this mess.

The capsule trembled, and then I was rocked sideways gently. The backup system had kicked in and a new tube formed around me, carrying me safely home again. As I sailed through the air once more, I reflected on the fact that penguins can’t fly.

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Filed under Flash Fiction

Coffee

I’ve been trying to explore different ways of telling stories.  This was my first attempt as using coffee ordering.  The aim was to write a 500 word piece of flash fiction just in coffee orders.  I’m relatively happy with it, and might well come back to the technique.

 

Coffee

By Jason Gibbs

“Can I have a tall, by which I mean medium, skinny: you see not only am I trying to lose weight, but also it turns out I’m slightly lactose intolerant, and actually since I started having skinny I have far fewer stomach cramps, though in all honesty I’d prefer it if you had goats milk, decaf: a few years ago I gave up caffeine for a couple of weeks as a test to see what it did, and I had two weeks of headaches and feeling like I had a fever so I haven’t touched the stuff since, in fact I think I’ve been caffeine free for over three years now, except once when someone accidentally gave me a cup and my heart started racing and I started feeling paranoid, really, it was horrible, never again, it’s evil I tell you, latte: yes I know it’s a weird Americanised version of an Italian drink which is only really had at breakfast in Italy and even then is considered more for kids, it has milk in it after all, but I like it, though I’m starting to wonder if I should have a white Americano, because I think it’s the espresso I like and not the milk, and what with the intolerance thing, and the lack of goat’s milk, I wonder if that would be more sensible, but in all honesty I’ve ordered this so many times I’m not sure I could really change.

“Anything else.”

“Yes, could I have a grande: what we used to call large, it’s for my boss who’s too damn lazy to buy his own coffee and thinks he’s a big man, both in size and organisationally so should have a big coffee, soya: after he heard about my lactose intolerance he had his checked and it was apparently much worse, so he has soya even though it churns his stomach, mocha: because he can’t admit he doesn’t actually like coffee, with an extra shot: as he thinks that makes him seem more macho, or possibly because he heard his boss get an extra shot once and thinks it’ll help in his campaign to get to the top.  Oh, and also extra hot: I’m not sure he knows what this means, but he asks for it, in a kind of, look at me I’m hot aren’t I kind of way, and his secretary rolls her eyes.”

“Cream on the mocha?”

“Yes, obviously, the guy isn’t actually lactose intolerant, and he hates the soya, so he always says yes to the cream and then pretends he only has a bit.  They used to ask about sugar too, but I don’t think even they would agree to add the seven teaspoons he has to have to stomach the stuff.  I suggested he have tea once and he nearly ripped my head off.”

“A tall, skinny, decaf latte and an extra hot grande soya mocha with an extra shot?  Can I have your name?”

“Murphys”

 

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Filed under Different storytelling, Flash Fiction