Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Conventional Wisdom


It was odd how things panned out. Conventional wisdom dictated water should flow out of the bath when the plug was pulled. Harold frowned, trying to peer through the murky water to the hole and went so far as to use the toothbrush glass as a sort of inverse periscope. He admitted defeat after several minutes and called for Devious to sort the problem out. The imp did not appear, forcing Harold to call for Delirious in his stead.

“Rats, probably,” the imp said, opening his toolkit.

Devious hoped his son would think to open the u-bend before he drowned.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Beautiful Dreamer


She twitches in her sleep, a half smile on her face and her hand drifts to her pelvis. Gillian turns away from her beautiful dreamer, unwilling to intrude upon whatever passes for eroticism in her daughter’s mind. She drifts through the bedroom light as a cat, quiet as a spirit. There is nothing out of place in her daughter’s bedroom, but she is an extraordinary teenager. Lucy’s hunting bow is unstrung next to the wardrobe and her quiver of arrows. One of the hardened steel tips is still laced with blood. Gillian can’t resist licking it clean. She frowns. Goblin?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Colour of Spring


“I love the aroma of spring,” said Harold, touring the borders of the estate. “The scent of cut grass in the first mow of the year, the pungent moistness of the freshly tilled fields, the heady aroma of hyacinths in the borders.”

“The stench of decay from a shallow grave uncovered by rain.” Jasfoup pointed. “Who’s this then, and why has he been buried on our property?”

Harold coughed.

“You property, I mean.” Jasfoup smiled. “He’s been dead a month or two, I reckon. Look! Most of the flesh is still there.”

“I rather not,” said Harold.

“How charming,” said Jasfoup. “Your face is the same colour as the new hawthorn leaves.”

Friday, March 27, 2009

Paper Wings


Harold folded the electricity bill into an aeroplane and launched it across the room. It reached the apex of its flight just short of the ceiling and glided down in lazy spirals.

Jasfoup laughed in delight. “Fantastic!” he said. “That was better than the one I showed Lenny in the sixteenth century. He’d never seen one before but true to form he spent a week in his studio designing them and then produced this six foot replica of a Fokker F-16 with paper wings. I wouldn’t have minded, but he was four hundred years ahead of technology.”

“And did it fly?”

“It might have done had Lenny not fixed a catapult under each wing. He launched off the Tower of Pisa and it flew like a brick.”

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Compost Heap

Harold sniffed at the pungent aroma of peat. “Where are you putting all the soil you’re excavating?” he asked.

“On the vegetable patch in the garden,” said Devious, barely looking up from his sheets of plans and calculations.

“There’s an awful lot of soil for mum’s vegetable patch,” said Harold, doubtfully. “Won’t she notice?”

Devious shrugged. “We’re excavating two thousand cubic feet of soil. What do you think?”

“I think she might,” said Harold. “Her whole garden is only eighty feet by forty.”

“Then where would you suggest we put almost forty tons of soil?”

Harold shrugged. “The compost heap?”

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Millenia Calculus


Devious was not impressed to be digging out the hardened earth of Ada’s new cellar. He could see the point of it because he’d done the calculations himself. It wasn’t easy to work out where something would be in six thousand years but the stone sarcophagus containing the bones of Lilith, first wife of Adam, were seventy-eight feet below Ada’s living room.

Most of England had been a forest in those days. Most of England. Laverstone had been thirty feet of bog nestled against the chalk and Devious was only eighteen inches tall. At least he had some plastic sheets.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Old Meany


The wind stopped.

For a moment, Harold continued to cringe, having folded his six year old daughter into his arms and pulled her tight against his body to protect her from the flying debris. Then one eye opened, and a second. All was serene. He released Lucy.

“Was it a tornado, Daddy?” she said. “Will there be a house coming to fall on you.”

“I hope not, darling,” he said. “But we’re not in Kansas and we don’t get tornados in England. Hurricanes, sometimes, but not tornados.”

“That felt like a tornado,” said Lucy, “which would make this the eye of the storm. It’ll get worse again soon.”

“Best we run for cover then.” Harold scooped her up and ran for the house. “Look at the damage to the roof,” he said.

“Can’t you claim a new roof from the bank?”

“Not for hurricane damage,” said Harold, holding her to his chest as he jogged along. “They count it as an Act of God.”

Lucy was silent for several seconds before she asked: “Why is God so mean?”

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Address Book


There was nothing in the address book to indicate to whom it had belonged, but Harold was having a marvelous time playing detective over it/

“Aunt Stephanie,” he said, pointing out an entry to Jasfoup. “Whoever enters ‘Aunt Stephanie’ into an address book under ‘A’?”

“Someone who doesn’t know their aunt’s second name?” the demon suggested. “Or perhaps this Stephanie’s only a pretend aunt, like a next-door neighbour.”

“Or perhaps,” said Julie, plucking the book from Harold’s hands, “it belongs to someone who believes familial ties more important than genealogical ones.”

“I don’t follow,” said Harold. “What could be more familial than a name?”

“Love,” said Julie. “The books owner loved her Aunt Stephanie and wanted her at the front.”

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Off the Cuff


At the top end of Markham Street, well away from the shops and clubs, where the commercial properties bleed into residential townhouses, lives an old woman*. She has no Sight, does not hear ghosts, is not a witch or a supernatural creature or even related to one. She is a seamstress and an open minded one at that. She has no qualms about making a satin evening gown for a burly fireman or a black opera cloak for a lady with a lisp. She was, however, taken aback when Harold took her his favourite shirt after it was shredded by a dog** and asked her to “sew a shirt on this cuff.”



*’old’ is relative. She’s older than Harold, anyway.
** Ahem.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Shopkeeper


Harold only growled slightly while wrapping ‘The Panderings of Melodia’ as an extra birthday gift for Lucy. How many times had he asked John to make an authentic copy of it last week? The imp had concentrated on the “Malloria Malefic” instead, reasoning that since they had a genuine buyer, it took priority over an extra birthday gift for Lucy.

The imp was right, of course , but that didn’t stop Harold’s grumbles. As John had pointed out, Lucy was fourteen and far more interested in pop music than the history of the Faery Plane. They could always borrow it back to make a copy when Lucy was at school.

What really bugged Harold, though, was that the imp was a better businessman than him.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Power of Belief


Lucy tucked the baby monitor into her backpack and shrugged into her camouflage jacket. Picking up her competition-grade recurve bow and a double sheaf of hunting arrows, she headed outside, waving to Julie as she crossed the stableyard toward the woods. She whistled softly to herself as she trod familiar paths, her volume dropping as she approached the boundary of the goblin lands. She set one end of the wireless monitor just inside their territory then retreated a hundred yards, settling into the shadows and nocking an arrow to the string. Her father didn’t believe in goblins but she’d prove him wrong. Lucy raised the bow, ready to draw and fire, and spoke into her end of the monitor.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Blue, I think...


“The meat’s off,” said Julie, holding it at arms length. “I told you not to take it out of the freezer until we needed it.”

“It does pong a bit,” said Jasfoup. “It’s not my fault we had a takeaway on Sunday instead of a roast.”

“What shall I do with it?”

“Give it Felicia,” said Jasfoup. “A werewolf is a sort of dog and dogs would eat anything up to and including vomit.”

“I would not!” said Felicia, her face a mask of utter disgust. Her brow smoothed as she reconsidered. “Not unless it was something really tasty, anyway.”

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dangerous Liaisons


Gary Blake visibly flinched when Jenna shouted to him from the front door.

“Gary? Is there something you’d like to tell me?”

Gary frowned. There was nothing he wanted to tell her. There were plenty of things he ought to tell her but hadn’t: he’d finished off the milk (and the coffee), he’d put a hole in the bathroom wall, he’d bought sexy lingerie (and kept it).

“Felicia’s here.” Ah, yes. He’d had a night with Felicia three months ago, but he wasn’t going to tell Jenna. She was evil when jealous, even for a werewolf.

“And she’s brought puppies.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Demons are Another Matter


“I think the bump on his head sent him off his rocker.”

A voice, like plasticine mixed until grey, filtered through Harold’s consciousness and he sat up, wincing at the sudden pain. “Are you all right, lovey?” A kindly older lady in a fawn coat touched him lightly on the arm. “You were ranting on about an angel clocking you with a two-by-four. We thought we were going to have to call for the padded van.”

“I’m fine thanks.” Harold stood, cautiously. “I was dreaming. As if I could see angels!”

The small crowd laughed and dispersed. Jasfoup just smiled.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Knit one, Purl one, Throw one


Harold peered into the darkness of Ada’s cellar. “Hello?” he said. “Is there anyone down there?” He waited three seconds before pulling the door.

“Dad! Don’t you dare!” Lucy appeared at the bottom of the steps, carrying a tapestry bag.

“That’s Mum’s old knitting bag,” said Harold. “It suits you, you know.”

“Thanks Dad.” Lucy pushed past him. “Gran? Can I have your old knitting bag?”

“Of course you can, love.” Ada smiled and patted her arm. “For a school project is it?”

“Something like that.” Lucy kissed her cheek, already calculating the aerodynamics of a number three knitting needle.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Impending Detention


The storm rattled even the double-glazed windows of the manor. Lucy looked up as the curtains billowed, the end of a pencil between her teeth as she tried to solve the calculus problem set for homework.

She frowned. Curtains don’t billow unless the window behind is open, and she didn’t open it. A little practice can turn pencils into bo-shuriken, and Lucy had had plenty of practice. Six HBs pierced the curtains in four seconds and a goblin slumped to the floor. She sighed. Now she’d have to use a biro for her homework, and Miss Pritchard didn’t like biros.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Something Fishy That Way Goes


There was something fishy about the lake when the spring run-off had subsided, making the brook beyond the weir more like a river than the lazy meandering waterway Harold was used to. He dragged Felicia out to investigate.

“Fish,” she said.

Harold frowned. “Of course there’s fish,” he said. “It’s a purpose built lake stocked with the things. What about them?”

“There aren’t any,” said Felicia. “I can smell the memory of fish and the potential of fish and the bitter taste of fish that might have been, but there are no fish in this lake.”

“There must be.” Harold stared out across the water. “I spent upwards of twenty grand stocking this lake last year. What happened to them all? It can’t be herons, not that many fish, and they can’t all have swam and swam right over the dam.”

“No.” Felicia squatted down next to the edge of the lake. “Remember the tracks we found in the winter and the nest of eggs? There’s a predator in there that’s eating all your fish.”

“It’d have to be big,” said Harold. “We’re talking Loch Ness Monster aren’t we?”

“No.” Felicia shook her head. “I’d smell something like that. All I can smell is imps.”

“It’s a mystery,” said Harold, shaking his head. “We’ll have to drain the lake.”

***

Far away, in a small restaurant in Bangkok, Devious the imp used a damp cloth to wipe English trout off the menu board.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Birthday Gift


“Nice watch,” said Jasfoup, looking at the bright pink, three-inch diameter face with a picture of the Mouse Magician, the latest animated blockbuster film character.

“A gift from Lucy,” said Harold, “so you can put your sarcasm away. It’s an hour off kilter, too, with no way the change the hands.”

Jasfoup patted his back, grinning. “It’s a golden albatross,” he said. “Something you really wanted but is going to ruin your credibility.”

Harold sighed. “I know,” he said, taking off his diamond-movement Rolex and replacing it with the Mouse Magician. “But what can I do? It was a gift?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Scarab


The scarab on the cover should have warned Julie to stay clear of the heavy tome. “It means Ra and the sun,” she told herself, conveniently forgetting its double meaning of life and rebirth. The itching began as she traced the first words on the page; the sensation of insects crawling all over her, on and under the skin. She all but ran to the medicine cabinet to look for antihistamine tablets, sure it was an allergy to the preservative on the papyrus.

The itching subsided several minutes later, leaving her with a sudden desire for sheep’s eyes in aspic.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Heritage


Cold drips incessantly from the overhanging roof of the greenhouse. Inside, where Lucy stares out from the embrace of date palm and fern, the heat is stifling. She turns away from the steamed-up windows and slides her feet through the undergrowth. Seconds later she has uncovered a skull, runic symbols etched across its pitted surface. She lifts it up to her face until she is staring into its empty sockets. Cold drips from these, too, a psychic echo of the rain beating on the glass roof. She breathed across the warm bone, her breath misting, and spoke. “Who am I?”

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fortunately, Delirious was Immortal


Harold’s hyaena laugh was only occasionally a problem for his business. When Shonagh Matthews purchased an 1896 edition of Music Hall Heroes she read several excerpts and joined in with his expression of amusement but when Edmund Wentwhistle purchased “A Treatise on the Eradication of Piles” Harold’s chuckles were less appropriate.

Harold was less amused by his subsequent black eye, although Jasfoup found it hilarious. He became more and more indignant, his anger building to almost epic proportions until it found an outlet.

Delirious the imp had Harold’s laugh down pat, right to the irritating hiccough after a long peal.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Colouring In


Lucy sat at the table in Mrs. Trubshaw’s classroom, furiously colouring a picture using the new wax crayons supplied by the Laverstone Arms Bowling Team (as it said in reception). Mrs. Trubshaw squatted next to the little dark-haired girl. “There’ll be no playtime left if you don’t go out soon, Lucy,” she said. “Will you not leave your picture until tomorrow?”

Lucy shook her head, concentrating on colouring in the trees.

Mrs. Trubshaw frowned. “What’s your drawing, of, dear? A picnic?”

Lucy shook her head again. “Goblin Reaver,” she said. “He thinks I can’t see him watching, but I can.”

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Hairless


Harold bounced the baby on his knee, grinning. The baby, Lucy’s first, gurgled back. “She’s got her mother’s nose,” he said, “and her grandmother’s dark eyes but I couldn’t help noticing she’s… well…”

“Hairless?” supplied Lucy.

Harold nodded. “You could put it like that.”

“He got that from his father,” said Lucy.

“Oh?” Harold wondered how best to phrase the next question. Considering his daughter’s hot-headed temperament, he plumped for tact. “Will we be meeting he father at all?”

Lucy smiled, enjoying her father’s discomfort. “I expect so,” she said. “You remember Asphodel, Lord of the Sixth Circle of Hell?”

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Muddy Visitor


Felicia’s attention was arrested by twin tracks leading into the lake, each with a muddy brown scent. She shifted back into human form. “What are these?” she asked.

Jasfoup squatted down, careful not the get mud on his trouser legs. “I don’t know,” he said. “The look like turtle tracks, but there aren’t any in England. It’s too cold for turtles.

“Odd.” Felicia stared at the water. For a few minutes before shifting back to wolf and following the trail backwards to a nest made of builder’s sand and soil warming cables. She shifted back. “We may have a problem,” she said picking up a shell. “Are turtle eggs usually a foot across?”

Friday, March 06, 2009

Drumbeat

Lucy could hear the heartbeat of the house at night. It woke her, sometimes, with its steady thumping like a drumbeat in the dark. She cried the first few times and was consoled and cuddled alternately by Harold and Julie. As she grew older it became just part of the house and ceased to disturb her or if it did, ceased to frighten. Eventually she found it comforting and missed it during the daylight hours.

Daylight was when her long-dead mother Gillian slept in her coffin in the mausoleum. Only at night could the vampire could watch over her daughter.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Overnight Stocktake


Alone in Harold’s shop for the first time in the years that she’d worked there, Julie could feel the steady background hum in psychiatric activity. Contrary to expectation, this diminished at midnight, to be replaced by an odd sound coming from the kitchen at the back of the shop.

“Tink… tink…tink…”

She investigated, creeping slowly to the door and pushing it open. There was an imp at the old pine table. It looked up as the door creaked, one hand tracing the lines of text in a book.

“I’ve made tea,” said John, stirring sugar into his cup. “Tink… tink…tink…”

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Dragons


“Dragons,” said Lucy, pointing at the sky.

Jasfoup’s head all but twisted off he whipped it round so quickly. “Where?” he asked.

“There, in the sky.” Lucy finger pointed at the clouds, drifting lazily overhead and Jasfoup let out a sigh, half in relief and half in disappointment. Dragon streaks were the best food in the nine planes. Fortunately, dragons were extinct on eight of them. “They’re just clouds,” he said.

“Are you sure?” Lucy waved. “Because that one has a rider.”

Jasfoup laughed. “It does look like a rider,” he said.

Above, the Elfin dragon rider Hadrim waved back.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Dead Cars


“I want my tree there,” said Lucy, pointing.

Julie groaned. It had taken her three years to graft a scion of the Fudge Apple onto a dwarf rootstock and now Lucy wanted it planted in the one place it was sure to die. “You can’t love,” she said. “That’s where your Uncle Frederick’s car is buried.”

Lucy frowned. “Don’t be silly. You don’t bury a car. You send it to a car graveyard where old men look after it until it falls apart.”

Lucy frowned. “When did you ever go to a scrapyard?” she asked.

This was a pretty dilemma. How do you explain to a seven year old girl that a car is buried so that its ghost remains usable? Without scaring her?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Hidden Depths


“I have hidden depths,” said Harold, folding the paper and sitting back with a satisfied smirk. “The horoscope tells me so.”

“Did it say how deep?” Jasfoup picked up yesterdays Laverstone Times and flicked through the to the Laversoft section. “What sign are you again?”

“Sagittarius, as well you know,” said Harold, his smirk reduced to a grump. “You have to check everything, don’t you?”

“Of course.” Jasfoup coughed. “Today is a day where anything is possible. People will see your hidden depths when a request is made of you.” He folded the paper. “Tom Blesset asked for a discount on ‘The Faery Alphabet’ yesterday.”

“He can’t have one,” said Harold. “I’m spiting myself to sell it for forty pounds as it is.”

“There you go.” Jasfoup handed back the paper. “You’re so shallow your depths are hidden under a rock.”

“A very attractive, water-smoothed rock, though,” said Harold

Sunday, March 01, 2009

A Lesson To Learn

The object is hand made, lumpy misshapen clay still holding a child’s fingerprints and painted in garish primary colours. Red skin, yellow hair (made from pushing clay through a tea strainer) and blue body. Hands like a skinned corpse were bigger than what, for all intents and purposes, was the head. Jasfoup held it gingerly and looked down at the eager Friday face of his surrogate niece.

“It’s lovely, Lucy,” he said. “Um… what is it, exactly?”

“It’s you, silly,” Lucy grinned, used to his jokes.

“Me?” Jasfoup had something in his eye and gave it a rub. “That’s really sweet of you,” he said, “but why did you make a model of me?”

“Mrs. Simmons said we could make a statue of anyone we admired and you take me walking and fishing and hunting and painting so I made you and a stand and everything.”

Jasfoup smiled. “I think it’s a wonderful statue,” he said, “and I think it deserves a tea-cake and a chocolate milkshake--”

“Banana.”

“…Banana milkshake but I think you’re old enough to learn another lesson.”

“What’s that?”

“Give the statue to your father and tell him it’s him.”

Lucy frowned. “It looks nothing like him.”

“I know,” said the demon, quite truthfully, “but this lesson is called tact. Just say it’s him and he’ll be very pleased.”

“Ice-cream pleased?”

“Double scoop at least,” said the demon, his smile a response to hers. “And you and I will always know who it was really for.”