Excerpts from Fish Pie and Laughter
It’s Christmas Eve.
I love this night. It is full of anticipation of the pleasures to come and these start with the song, ‘As we climb the stairs…’ The ceremony of hanging the stockings on the bed-rails, the numerous ‘Good night, but I’m not tired,’ and the final ‘Father Christmas won’t come if you’re not asleep.’
In the kitchen the cupboard is full of naughty calories and the fridge is bulging with party goodies, turkey and ham.
My floured fingers knead the pastry trimmings and the smell of mince pies wafts from the oven.
Upstairs, the excited voices stop.
The house has become quiet, like the eye of a storm.
From the garage, two special presents take pride of place in front of the Christmas tree, a doll’s house and a skateboard.
In the flickering firelight the room mellows and the tree lights enhance the colourful wrappings.
Christmas carols fill the air.
This is a time for us.
In the quietness, we toast, ‘Peace and goodwill, Happy Christmas.’
A Gift of Bricks
At 4.30 in the morning the twenty-seventh brick came flying through Jane Harbert’s bedroom window. It had a message attached with an elastic band. Jane detached it and put it with the other twenty-six messages in a neat pile on her dressing table. It read pretty much the same as the others:
‘You cannot live without me and soon you will realise it. I hope you’ve moved your bed.’
That was why she couldn’t possibly go any further with him – a man who thought that you would live beneath a barrage of glass without simple precautions. It offended her that he should so deny a knowledge of Health and Safety, especially her own.
The twenty-five preceding messages spoke of ‘great attraction’, (good, she liked that), ‘desire to see her’ (well, of course), and ‘she was so different from all the others’ (where had he been not to know that?’) and so on...
His methods had admittedly been a little extreme, but since after their first meeting she’d refused to answer his phone calls and texts, Jane supposed she should expect that.
…‘How did the bartender know when she was free?’ cried one young man.
‘Er,’ he considered, while hurriedly putting together a Ménage-à-Trois sandwich. ‘Well, it was like this – each cubicle was connected through a copper tube in the floor to the cash register down here. When he heard the rattle of gold coming down the tube, he knew she’d been paid, and up went her doll.’ At this point the bartender’s girl friend arrived and, seeing how busy he was, stayed to help.
‘What did it cost?’ called another customer.
‘What did what cost?’ he asked puzzled. ‘Oh, yes, five dollars. The girls preferred it in gold and they also hid gold nuggets and private tips under the floor boards.’
By this time, we had received our refreshments and were tucking into our erotic sandwiches.
‘When are you opening the upstairs again?’ queried a fat elderly gentleman.
The Art of Conversation
…She heard a voice, strident, full of anxiety. A young woman was talking into her mobile phone. She was tall, slim, all in black. She circled the knickers, in her own bubble of sound, umbilically connected across the ether to her communicant. Margaret, fascinated, edged closer.
‘I’ve just bought the most fabulous dress in all the world, it’s fucking fantastic.’
Oh, fancy using the F word about a dress, it must be good. Wish I could see it. I wonder who she’s talking to, can’t be her mother?
‘I’ve got some sexy shoes to go with it, I can’t wait to show them to you.’
Oh, Margaret thought, creeping nearer, is she going to buy her underwear now? Will it be a tanga with a balcony bra?
Are We There Yet
In the early hours of the morning we set off in a Government vehicle with an African driver – our destination Mongu, three hundred miles west of Lusaka. It was a long journey on a dusty track, mile upon mile of almost arid plain with nothing of interest. Suddenly, five hundred yards ahead, we saw a huge petrol tanker stationary on the road. Running towards us at speed were two young Africans, arms and legs moving like pistons. Our driver stopped and we all looked in the direction the young men pointed. Two huge elephant were a few yards off the track near the tanker, ears flapping, feet stamping, trumpeting loudly.