Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Very short story

Very short story :

"So, it's two words then?"

"Yes. Yes, of course it is."

She looks at him shyly from under her lids.

"And one is French?"

He frowns but his eyes show his delight at her scattiness.

"French?" Even the arch of his eyebrow makes her laugh.

"Grey Tante.." she manages,  between the giggles.

"It's Great Aunt!" he says before laughter escapes from him as well.

They are the only two laughing. In a dark, gloomy corner of the café, an old man stirs his tea. He disapproves of the laughter but the Universe chooses to concentrate on other things than stopping the giggles.

His face is set grim against the laughter for so long that, when he finally remembers it, his tea has gone cold.

And that was what the Universe had been doing all along.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Cecily Looking for Love at Cyril's Creek Part Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fourteen
Several weeks later and the evening air was filled with candle smoke and gentle piano music. The walls in Josiah’s house flickered with golden light and a gentle hum of conversation made for a convivial atmosphere. If you were there, the amazing smell of the most delicious food would have whetted your appetite and made you hungry for the meal that Cecily was even now completing. Unfortunately, the delicious smell came from next door, who were having a barbecue. So even though you are missing out on the lovely smell, you have avoided the torture of the terrible meal that the hapless Cecily was ineptly preparing so count yourself lucky.
It was quite the gathering in the normally sterile and solitary atmosphere of Josiah’s lounge. He had even been coaxed into being upright and the right way up for the evening. The guests were fewer in number than the initial run of invitations had anticipated but it was still an amazing turnout for the otherwise anonymous household. Of course, those who weren’t there were busy behind their curtains and taking notes. But the Hendersons were there, as was Mrs Train, a frail looking old lady who didn’t get out much. She had no idea who anyone was but was just happy to be there. At the moment, she was describing her verrucas in loud and vivid detail. Also there were the Smigeons. They hadn’t spoken to anyone in their twelve years on the street and, judging by their pursed lips and sips of sherry, they weren’t about to start now. Lastly, there was Vlarg, a mighty orc warrior. He’d been feeling socially awkward since the dinner party had begun. Now, violence-filled quests, he reasoned to himself, you knew where you were with them. On the other hand, genteel bourgeois socialising? That was awkward. His club twitched but, with a supreme effort, he observed social niceties.
Cecily had carefully planned the whole evening. They would begin with drinks, which Josiah was largely in charge of, which would be mixed with fun and vivacious chat. Cecily would pop in and out with nibbles from the kitchen. Then, they would eat, at which time Hardy would be introduced to the neighbourhood. That was the plan and everyone in the household had been drilled in their role until they had forgotten the existence of salad cream.
That was all very well on a plan, in theory and on the drawing board. In reality, the conversation had been stilted and Vlarg had been clearly put out at the lack of drinking horns. Mr Henderson had been fond of the nibbles, well, at least, he was interested in the cheese straws and had asked how strong they were. As it was, they were pretty crunchy but he had seemed to want them to be baked longer and to be even tougher. He spent the next couple of minutes testing it out, swishing it against the palm of his hand. An uneasy feeling grew within Josiah; he was fairly sure that it would prove tough for the gathering to accept Hardy.
Clocks had serenaded him through the small hours for many weeks now as he lay awake in the dark of the night. Troubled thoughts ran, hopped and sometimes even cartwheeled through his brain, waiting for him to doze off before whispering darkly into his ear. It was so bad, this insomnia, that he taken up reading in order to quell the fears. Each night, The Moon peered in at the spine of his current book, always to discover disappointment. It turned out that the insomnia was not bad enough to drive Josiah to his book. The Moon muttered savagely to itself and began work on a musical about an agoraphobic mountain.
Obviously, the main worry Josiah had was about the flourishing relationship between his beloved Cecily and a talking heron. He was worried about how the stripes got in toothpaste too but the main worry was Cecily. The time he had spent with Hardy had shown him that the wader was eloquent, witty and adored Cecily. However, most people wouldn’t wait to get to know the heron. They would judge and judge harshly.
After a few desperate nights, he had come to the acceptance of the relationship and had decided to help them the best he could. In his nocturnal reading, books by romantic female authors encouraged him to let the young couple follow their hearts and live their dreams. Each morning, he would awaken and spread rose petals around the house. He captured some birds and trained them to sing when the couple were in earshot and tied bows around the necks of fluffy, wide-eyed cats which he placed on soft cushions. It turned out Cecily was allergic to roses and the cats ate the birds. But still, it was the thought that counted. In order to atone for his mistake, he agreed to the dinner party and delivered the invitations by hand. It had been a traumatic experience; his ankles were savaged by many pampered small dogs and once by a rather aggressive middle-aged man in a maroon tank top.
Now, sitting at the soiree, he had reservations. Then he remembered that this was no time to be thinking about his campsite business. He closed the laptop down just as Cecily came in and announced the starter was ready. The party slid into various places around the table. Picture that fine scene, the faces awaiting delicious food, their eyes shining with excitement and the voices chattering. No! You’ve got the seating plan wrong! Try again… I’m waiting… I can wait for the rest of the chapter if that is what it takes... Better.... but why would Mrs Train be wearing an AC/DC t-shirt? Come on, try harder… Nearly, although I don’t think I mentioned a fully working Spinning Jenny being present in the corner… Well done, it wasn’t that hard, was it?
Once the starter was served, a dubious soup that appeared to consist largely of thin strands of pondweed and a slimy meat that was reminiscent of frog, the atmosphere worsened. Only Vlarg appeared to enjoy it.
Trying to hide her disappointment, Cecily collected the still full soup bowls and went to collect the main courses.
“It’s gone quite brown and crusty on top, the one near my big toe,” Mrs Train burbled to no-one in particular.
“Mr Vlarg, do you know anything about knots?” Mr Henderson asked, brightly.
His wife’s cheeks reddened.
“Colin!” she hissed.
Without the warning sound of footsteps, Cecily was suddenly back in the room.
“I had an ulterior motive for inviting you here tonight!” she announced, her voice shaking with emotion.
“Ding dong!”
“Recently, someone very special has come into my life. A soul mate if you will. A gentle, good spirit and someone who cares for me so fully, so tenderly I can scarcely describe the feeling I get from being with him.” She paused and swallowed, obviously close to tears. “I’d like to present Hardy.”
She stepped aside and revealed the heron, tall and proud with a bow tie clinging to the long stringy neck.
There was a bemused and confused silence.
Then, with a guttural growl, Vlarg cried “Main course! Vlarg love heron!”
And, with that, he raised his club menacingly…

Cecily Looking for Love at Cyril's Creek Part Thirteen

Chapter Thirteen
The moon orbited. It had been orbiting for as long as it could remember. Sometimes, people came to visit it and it had the feeling of always being watched but otherwise it had been just basically orbiting. This had never really bothered The Moon; it had some fine craters and liked the shape the sunlight made on it. However, tonight it had a problem.
The Moon's memoirs had been out for a while now. When the memoirs had been completed and released under the title 'Let's Go Round Again: Loony Lunar Tales', The Moon had been delighted. It had dreamed of talk shows, TV rights and a major Hollywood movie. However, sales had been sluggish and the reviews had been cutting.
The Moon was therefore trying to think of ways of getting people to notice the book and to buy it in their droves. It had contacted its Literary Agent, who had feigned being unconsciousness following a nasty reaction to a Brussels Sprout to avoid speaking to him. It had tried to call in a few favours from songwriters and poets who now mysteriously could not remember its part in their success. It had tried to dye its North Pole in order to reveal an edgier side and to appear more three dimensional. It was a sign of its level of distraction that the Moon had chosen the dark side to dye. Of course, it was clear that attempting to go to a fashionable party in Walsall had been a huge and catastrophic mistake. It had left, ashamed and with a legal action for repairing a sea-water damaged carpet pending.
Still, it had no idea about how to make people buy the memoirs. Then-inspiration! It would publish it for free on a blog! No-one else had thought of that and international recognition and fame and fortune would surely follow just as night follows that dreadful light part of the diurnal period that no-one liked and The Moon refused to mention by name.
Thus, exalted and excited, The Moon sank below the horizon, already planning how to redesign his memoirs to be released as a blog. Behind it, in the gloomy remnants of the night, an owl shook its head pityingly. There was nothing you could tell the owl about publishing; it knew The Moon was doomed to failure. With a world-weary sigh, the owl returned to penning its own current writing project- a thriller about a family of voles stalked by a dangerous yet handsome killer.
Meanwhile, oblivious to all this natural literary activity, Josiah, Cecily and the heron stood in a silence that was so awkward it fell over its own feet. It blundered around some more, upsetting a small coffee table (that sobbed loudly all night) before leaving the room, jarring its shoulder nastily on the door frame.
"You're romantically attached to a...a...." Josiah's voice tailed off.
Shamefacedly, he bustled over to some bookshelves. There he flicked through the books, running his fingers along the spines and checking the titles. At last, he found a small book called 'The Misleading Bumper Book of Birds'. Leafing through, he found the entry he was after. He replaced the book with care in order to check the filing system remained pristine.
Having completed this research, he strode back to the centre of the room.
"You're romantically attached to a guillemot!" he blustered.
"Hardy is a heron," Cecily told him coolly. "You really need to get a new bird book. And re-read the last chapter. You identified it correctly then. Why do you bluster so? Are you shocked that I am in love with another? ”
“But he’s a bird!” Josiah hissed.
“He’s kind, he’s gentle, he’s generous. Maybe it doesn’t matter which species he is!”
“I think that legally it does. What do you mean generous?”
Cecily glowed with pride.
“I have a whole bucket full of plump frogs outside,” she boasted.
Josiah stepped towards her, taking her elbow firmly in his hand. The great grey bird stretched its neck up high and fluttered its feathers, fixing the man with a glaring and angry stare. Josiah took a nervous step backwards, narrowly avoiding a piece of cake I left there on the carpet so he would stand in it. But he hasn’t, so that was a waste of time.
Holding up his hands in a placatory manner, Josiah motioned awkwardly to the vexed wader that he just wanted a quiet word with Cecily. Leaving the bird behind, they went into the kitchen. Josiah strode angrily around the room whilst Cecily leaned against the sink, sulking inspecting her nails, anticipating a tirade.
“I just don’t get it,” he scolded her. “What on earth are you playing at, young lady?”
Cecily mumbled something in reply.
“It’s, it’s just a phase, that’s all,” he chuntered on.
Her eyes ablaze, her voice strident, Cecily stood tall and proud. Banging her fist on the table to emphasise the main points, she told him why it wasn’t a phase. It was like the attack from an extremely angry goldfish. Yeah, well, you’re just not imagining an angry enough goldfish. Try harder, you slackers. In the face of her tirade, Josiah wilted like a dandelion that had been picked 3 hours and 9 minutes ago. He reeled as she revealed; it certainly cheered him up to do a bit of Highland dancing. Her voice echoed as she told him of her frustration with him, her passion and her desire to be loved.
“But he’s a bird!” Josiah explained patiently. “People will talk!”
“Then they must talk,” she said, simply, “I have done nothing wrong.”
Josiah sighed and slumped onto a hard kitchen chair. It was the sigh of a defeated man; Josiah had won it from him in a game of cards. His life had seemed like it was getting better and that he would get a chance to be with the woman he had such deep feelings for. But, now that Hardy was on the scene, he realised that fulfilling his heart’s desire was as far away as ever. Something was nagging at him. Reaching over, with scarcely a conscious thought, he switched off the I-Nag that had come through the post in a brown paper parcel the week before. Impulse purchasing is a national crisis, folks. At the end of this chapter, there is a once in a lifetime opportunity to buy the all-new DigiMiser, your electronic aid to thrift. Don’t delay, buy today! Ooh, nice irony, thanks to the IroBot for inserting that little beauty in there. They won’t call it a waste of money now!
The two people sat in a troubled silence. This was broken by a tap at the door. Hardy’s unmistakeably pointed beak poked through the gap and the door swung open just a little. Entering cautiously, Hardy blinked and cleared his throat.
“If I might just chip in, I think I could be of some help in sorting this mess out,” he said.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Cecily Looking for Love at Cyril's Creek Part 12

Chapter Twelve
Pace, pace, pace.
Josiah had been walking up and down for the last half an hour. His worry had grown, unabated, uninterrupted, apart from the appearance of a secondhand walnut shell salesman a few minutes ago. It had been a moment of normality in an otherwise fraught day.
He was worried still about Cecily; the evening had grown dark, cold and had a gentle odour of somewhat over-ripe apples. Unsure of whether to go and look for Cecily or not, he had stayed at home and fretted, somewhat senselessly as it helped nobody and aided nothing.
The pragmatic, nay the spontaneous and impetuous, may cry “Go and find her, you fool! “
But Josiah had considered this carefully, what he felt was fear that the conversation he had had last with Cecily rather signalled that his presence was unwelcome. He also worried that she might be on her way home already and the last thing he wanted was to go out and leave her stranded, possibly distraught at home. Last of all, he had lost the instructions for using the door, so he was completely trapped in the house.
There was a kerfuffle in the front garden which took him back. Back to happier times, innocent days. A warm Sunday afternoon….
It had been his ninth birthday. He was twelve, his parents had ignored the first three birthdays because it would be pointless to celebrate them as he didn’t know what was what at that age. His father spent the subsequent savings on an extensive left football boot collection which was the envy of nobody. Anyway, this time there had been a birthday and a party! The young Josiah was so excited that he had spent the whole day speaking 3 semitones higher than usual. For a whole week beforehand, he rushed everywhere and gabbled so excitedly that his parents had considered phoning the local zoo to beg for tranquilisers.
The kerfuffle had occurred during a game of pass the parcel. Inside each layer of wrapping paper there had been a sweet as a little prize. The young Josiah had been most partial to a particular brand of sweet; a sumptuous and delicious mix of mint and rhubarb. He was sure that there would be a few of these treats tucked away inside the parcel. Youthful anticipation flourished as each sheet was removed; none of his favourites had yet emerged.
It so happened that the music stopped just as the parcel fell into the hands of Marianne. Slowly, her fingers dug beneath the colourful paper, savouring the anticipation and excitement of winning this chance of a gift. Her delicate face looked on with bright eyes and gently rotating ears as she peered at the tearing paper, looking for her prize. All eyes were on the package around the circle. All eyes that is except for Josiah’s. For the young Josiah loved Marianne with all his little heart so he was watching her, waiting excitedly for her face to light up at the sight of something lovely. And light up it did.
There in her angelic hand was a cuboid, covered in the vivid coloured splashes of the sweet wrapper. It was green and pinky-red, a particular combination which denoted the flavour of sweet - lemon and lime in this case. As Marianne opened her delicate fingers to let the remaining wrapping paper fall to the floor, so the paper went limp and another delicious prize rolled out. A bonus for Marianne! Yes, but a trial for Josiah too. It was a mint and rhubarb sweet.
His piping voice had laid claim to it and Marianne had readily agreed that he should have it. Everyone had nodded in agreement,  so with humility and gratitude restored,  he took the sweet. The kerfuffle had happened later when an out of control ball of scrunched up wrapping paper had nearly damaged one of his mother’s prize carnivorous plants. But, eventually, the parents and the young party guests had forgiven her for her loss of temper and the ensuing three-day siege was always the subject of numerous humourous anecdotes over Christmas morning sherry.
Marianne had later gone off to university. She went there to study the effect of the fluctuations in the price of air freshener on skunk owners and had never returned. Josiah had always felt this was inevitable; he just couldn’t compete with the heady world of  skunk breeding. Still, the sweet had been nice.
This delightful trip down memory lane was rather abruptly ended by the door bursting open. Cecily staggered in, looking pale and windswept. A leaf was lodged in her chaotic hair whilst her hands were covered by nettle rashes.
“Thanks for coming to find me, “ she snapped.
“I didn’t think you wanted to see me,” Josiah replied. “I did what I thought  you wanted.”
“You did something? What, some action? Ha! Don’t make me laugh.”
He blinked before answering “I didn’t. You just kind of did a little laugh all by yourself. “
“You know what I mean! “ Cecily said angrily . “I mean you are not a man of action.”
He shrugged.
“You know I need time to perfect my conducting.”
On cue, forty or more musicians filed in and arranged themselves in rows. Each one pulled out sheets of music before proceeding to tune up. This done, Josiah waved his baton and a glorious chord reverberated around the room. Just as Josiah was about to set them off on a subsequent chord, a viola player dropped her bow and two cor anglais players got into a bitter argument over whether you should paint a radiator any other colour  than white. The music trailed away into cacophony and  discord, a revered firm of solicitors famed for their excellent legal minds and flagrant disregard for punctuation.
“That was awful,” Cecily told him as the orchestra filed out, shamefaced, leaving only a concussed cor anglais player behind.
“I am glad you’re safe. I was very worried.”
“I should think so. I was nearly accosted by a cad and a ne’erdowell.”
He staggered in physical  shock before recovering himself.
“Sorry, was that one person who was multi-tasking?“ he checked .
“Ok,” he nodded, adding some information to a database of characters who had appeared so far in the story. When it came to royalties, he wanted to know his exact share.
His horrified demeanour returned and he gasped “How did you get away? “
Cecily looked at him, a hint of triumph or possibly Suzuki on her face.
“I have a new protector. Someone tall, handsome and who loves me.”
“You work quickly,” snarled Josiah, eager to hide his anguish. “Where is he now?”
“In the kitchen, “ she stated before calling “Darling,  could you please come into the lounge.”
Her saviour strode through and stood beside her.
“My word!” Josiah exclaimed. “It’s a heron!”

Cecily Looking for Love at Cyril's Creek Part Eleven

Chapter Eleven
It was all very well leaving Cecily waiting when it was warm and light like Josiah had done. But now the stars had been scattered like those scattered things I saw that time, you know, at that place. They were all scattery, and I thought to myself, ‘They look like stars.’ Yeah? That’s it. That’s what the stars looked like.
Not that it was night. The sun was still setting and there was orange light which was enough to read something by, although you wouldn’t want it to be anything important, like a gouda cheese recipe book. Anyhow, it was getting dark, the light was fading and Cecily was out by Cyril’s Creek on her own.
She cut a pathetic figure, which was not surprising as it was getting pretty difficult to see. In fact, she was lucky not to injure herself with the scissors. Her eyes strained as she scanned across the skies; she was desperate to catch a glimpse of the glider with her beau at the helm. All day she had waited. A whole day looking at the skies, hoping that every unusual cloud, every large bird and every rather surprised, hovering greengrocer was the glider. It felt like a day spent in vain-although nothing could be further from the truth. She could now confirm that her left shoe was passably comfortable on her right foot but her right shoe was a bit too tight on her left foot. Cecily decided that this had been time well spent.
It had been a fruitless search, the glider had not appeared again. Who knew where Tarquin was?
Story entering interactive mode. Please add your choice where required.
Tarquin had, in fact, got as far as____. He had landed in a____. This had greatly annoyed a______, resulting in a_____ on the_____ with a_____. So, now Tarquin was_____. Next, affix_____ Q into_____ X using the____ provided. Translate the following information about_____ into_____, underlining all the____.
Error #652. Interactive story mode will now shut down. Please consult your system administrator.
However, Cecily was not on her own, not completely. As usual, the reeds had their secrets. Mostly they were a bit dull, all about which among them had bent stems. But one of the more interesting secrets was the watcher who was concealed in the midst of the whispering gossiping plants. Those watchful eyes were fixed on Cecily. Even from this distance, her pain and anxiety were obvious to him. Oh yes, the watcher was a male. His head moved sharply, irritated by the moving reeds. Maybe, the watcher reflected, maybe now was the time to break cover and go to Cecily. He waited by nature but now it was time to move. Stealthily, he began to pick his way through the reeds.
Meanwhile, Josiah was pacing uneasily at home. He wasn’t sure if he should have been pacing. Should he just be fretting or was it a time for some good, old-fashioned stressing out? On his mind was the remaining absence of Cecily. He wondered if it had been a good idea to leave her out there. Now it was getting dark, he was concerned about what had happened to her. She might be upset. She could be in danger. Even worse, Tarquin may have returned and the two of them may have been canoodling; driven into one another’s arms by his foolhardy actions.
His foolhardy actions were haunting his every moment now. The agony of speculation grew within him, like a slightly too large tomato that weighs down a vine. Should he chase off to see her, to see what she was doing? Suddenly, a revelation hit him. He was surprised that he had not thought of this before. There was half a tin of creamed sago pudding in the fridge! It could now be eaten without him having to share it. With this happy thought in his mind, he decided to attend to this and to leave Cecily to her own devices.
Roderick was a cad. He had always been a cad. He had, in fact, tried to not be a cad but his father had caught him.
“The thing is, son, I am a cad. My father before me was a cad. It runs in the family.”
“And what of your grandfather? Was he a cad?” the young Roderick had asked.
The old man had gone all misty eyed.
“Now, he was a cad and a bounder. He was a great man.”
There had been a lull whilst his father had let a tear roll down his cheek. Young Roderick had lent his father a handkerchief. The old man had taken it gratefully and pocketed it.
“You see, Roderick. You must be less kind. Less caring. Stop being generous.”
So it was that Roderick was now by the creek, looking for easy prey. Someone who could be manipulated by a cad. In keen anticipation, he twirled his moustache as he saw a forlorn Cecily…
Scroggs was a ruffian. His frayed denim jacket was emblazoned with unpleasant rock band badges. The scuffed brown boots were obviously veterans of some serious bovver and the stains on his t-shirt might have been the sauce from takeaways or blood. He was not averse to getting involved in any kind of trouble, so long as most of it happened to someone else. His dear old ma had explained the importance of it all whilst carrying out a jewellery heist.
As she had lobbed the brick through the window, she told him "Oy, you! You had better be in trouble in school. And anywhere else. You had better bring shame on this family, or there'll be all hell to pay."
She was still screaming abuse at him as the police took her away.
So, a lonely woman was not likely to drop off his crime radar. He put down the vole he had been frisking for loose change and closed in on his intended prey...
Moments later, now he was much closer to Cecily, Roderick raised his hat with a smarmy smile on his face. There was an angry croaking cry and he let out a muffled yell of pain. Something had just jabbed him mercilessly in the groin. He collapsed to the floor.
Seizing his chance, Scroggs approached Cecily; he raised his cosh. There was a wild swoosh and something hit him around the head. Scroggs collapsed to floor, stunned like he had never been before.
Cecily turned round at the noise. She saw the two prone attackers. She also saw, for the first time, her saviour; her mystery admirer from the reeds.

Cecily Looking for Love at Cyril's Creek Part Ten

Chapter Ten
Tarquin climbed climbingly into the cockpit of the glider and flicked a salute at the two of them. 
"Let's go then," he called, his voice shaking with nerves and a mouthful of bilberry jelly.  
"Are you sure he's safe?" 
"I don't know..." 
"But why don't you know?" 
"Because you designed and built the glider and the launcher, not me. How should I know if it will work?" Cecily told him, sharply. 
"Fair point," conceded Josiah. 
"Wait for me, Cecily..." called Tarquin as Josiah strode across to the lever which would release the glider. 
"It's just a test flight, he won't go far," Josiah told her, tugging confidently at the lever. 
But the tamperer had tampered expertly and had adjusted the launcher to propel the glider much further than anticipated. The glider accelerated rapidly, with only the sound of Wilhelm's terrified snivelling left behind. Tarquin flew high over the nearby meadow full of frolicking see-saws, over the stadium and onwards towards the horizon.  
Cecily put her hands to her mouth, apparently in shock and dismay. Actually, she was just smuggling a sherbet lemon in her own mouth; she didn't want to offer one to Josiah. They watched in silence until the little dot became, well a different sized little dot. Then it became a little dot until at last, with one final moment of being the smallest little dot it had been thus far, it disappeared. Somewhere else, it doesn't matter where, it was now a small dot but it was getting bigger. Cosmic, huh? 
"Well, on the plus side it worked," Josiah said. 
"He's lost, he's lost forever!" sobbed Cecily. "You said it would only be a little flight!" 
"I don't understand what happened," Josiah muttered, prodding at the smoking launcher with a toe. Then he remembered his mother's advice about picking body parts off the floor and threw the toe away. 
"He flew too far and now we can't see him anymore!" Cecily yelled. 
A look of happiness and relief crossed Josiah's face as he now understood what had happened. 
Cecily broke into uncontrollable sobs. Then, by way of contrast, she attempted some controllable sobbing, some mildly hysterical whimpering, a bit of scarcely restrained howling before finally settling for some errant sniffing. In her heart she realised that she had developed feelings for Tarquin. His face was etched onto her heart. And her liver. Not forgetting the kidneys. 
Suddenly, angry thoughts crossed her mind. 
"You!" she hissed. "You did this on purpose!" 
"Don't bring me into this," replied the passing mime. 
"If you're a mime, how come you're talking?" she asked. 
He countered "If you know I am a mime, how come you're listening to me?" 
There was a tension in the air for a moment but it didn’t last long. A team of masseurs rushed into the field by the creek. Their skillful fingers caressed the air, working, soothing, undoing the knots and stress. Relief soon showed in the atmosphere. It had been a hard, stressful day for the air; its troubles had now melted away. The masseurs melted away too. Their erstwhile client, the air, decided to go and get a seaweed wrap. Some fresher air filled the vacuum with a commendable sense of duty and, feeling somewhat superfluous, the mime disappeared as well.  
“Actually, I am beginning to think that you did it on purpose,” Cecily told Josiah bitterly.  
“Why would I do that? he asked, affronted.  
“I don’t know,” his housekeeper chanted, ”How about a little thing I call jealousy?  
Josiah turned pale, Cecily had hit a nerve. Using a book all about anatomy, he found out which one it was. The optic nerve. He nodded in appreciation-it had been a heck of a shot. But now he was left with a problem. Cecily suspected that he was doing all this on purpose and he could not deny his jealousy. He searched his soul for an answer but it was no good. It was but the work of a moment to phone his friend Nora but, despite her extensive search down the back of her sofa, she found no solution either. That was all his ideas spent. 
He looked steadily at her, deciding that the truth was the best approach.  
“I had nothing to do with how far Tarquin has flown,” he declared. “Something went horribly wrong. I am as upset as you are. “ 
“You didn’t lose someone you cared about! “ Cecily protested.  
“And what about Wilhelm? “ he asked,  his voice choking with emotion, “Who else will know how he likes his prunes?” 
Suddenly, she seemed weary. It was just a little something that he intuitively picked up from her snoring; Josiah could be sensitive when required. Creeping, he slipped away and left her sleeping peacefully, sure that if nothing else she would be comfortable under the stars and above the soft turf. He dragged the launcher along, reflecting on the previous events, wondering how it had all turned out like it had. It was a frustrating and slow walk as the many elasticated ropes, chains and the brand seemed to be purposefully snagging themselves in the thick bushes and brambles. 
Finally, he was back on the streets and walking along the pavements. Everywhere, curtains twitched and half-seen faces melted away from his glance like rabbits from a poorly toasted marshmallow. That all changed when Mr Henderson called him back just after he had passed the much gossiped about house. 
“I say, is that a brand?” Mr Henderson, eyeing up the hefty frame. 
Josiah admitted that it was. 
“Are you, er, planning to use it for anything. The whole contraption, I mean,” the neighbor continued, looking flustered. 
“Not really,” Josiah admitted. 
“Do you think I could have it?” 
Glad to see the back of it, Josiah passed it over and began to walk back home. He felt lighter, better, without the wretched frame. It had caused a chasm between him and Cecily and he regretted its very existence. He let himself in and slumped upside down in his armchair, a defeated man. 
You find yourself in a treasure room. A chest full of coins is open before you. 
If you take the coins, turn to page 86. 
If you leave the coins, butter a freshly-toasted crumpet. Leave it somewhere concealed so it will go off and smell. Then turn to page 23. 
If you choose to leave the spacecraft, you are reading the book really badly. Pay Attention!