The Magic Ring

Isabella stood gazing up at the Grade II listed building in front of her and inhaled deeply before letting out a long, slow breath, which escaped her lips in a thick cloud of mist. The enormous arched antique wooden door looked less than inviting. Its decorative ironwork adornment had seen far better days and, whilst beautiful in its own way, had an air of eeriness about it. She shuddered. The temperature seemed to drop rapidly and she drew her thick woollen coat around her tightly.

A lion’s head held a heavy circular knocker in its mouth, beckoning her to rat-a-tat-tat an announcement of her arrival. She reached out a hand, before pulling back. She was early. She certainly didn’t want them to think her too keen. She looked around to see if there was a coffee shop where she could wait and shelter from the cold, but the street was devoid of any signs of life. She chuckled to herself; nervous laughter as she envisaged tumbleweed rolling down the centre of the narrow, pot-holed road. Then, fearing that she’d look a little crazy to any hidden onlookers, she took another deep breath and hammered on the door. She took great care to stick to the ‘code’ she’d received; a mystical beat of three slow knocks, five quick raps, followed by four slower knocks.

She heard footsteps within; quiet at first, getting louder. The door creaked open a little and she sensed, rather than saw, eyes upon her. She felt a little self-conscious, that this were a great intrusion on her personal dignity. She shuddered once more and wished they would hurry up and let her in so that she could get out of the cold. The door opened wider and a hand finally gestured for her to enter. She stepped inside. The owner of the hand was nowhere to be seen. She had heard no footsteps retreating.

She stared up at the high ceilings in awe. The reception hall was the height of the entire building. The room was dark compared to the crisp winter sunshine, with only thin shards of colour that flooded in from a great, domed, decorative stained window above, providing any light. She waited a few moments for someone to greet her. Glancing around, she saw there was no seating. She stood awkwardly, suddenly wishing she hadn’t come at all.

Isabella had no idea why she was there or who had invited her. A cryptic note had dropped through her letterbox the previous day – a gold envelope, inside which was a simple black card with the message in bold, black olde English text,

“Isabella, how good of you to come. I wasn’t sure if you’d understand the missive. Exceptional talent. Yes, truly exceptional.” The sentence, whilst booming and succinct in the main, tailed off to an unintelligible murmur, as if the speaker had become ensnared in his own thoughts. Still, Isabella could see no-one and it was a struggle to hear where the voice was coming from within the echo of the hall.

Without warning, there was a snap of fingers and a large fireplace sprung into life near to where she was standing. She jumped away, fearful not only of the flames, but of the man behind the trickery, who suddenly appeared from the minor conflagration.

“Ha! Ha! Ha! Marvellous! Marvellous! Still got it!” The voice reverberated and hung in the air. “Priest hole,” he laughed, raucously, pointing to the enormous walk-in fireplace which, now well lit, she could see took up a considerable expanse of the wall it sat in.

“Isabella. Isabella.” He looked her up and down, holding his arms out towards her. “Look at you. Quite the lady. Smart. Very smart.” He tailed off, again, whilst still holding her gaze, which was, by now, numb with a mixture of fear and confusion. When he moved towards her, arms still outstretched, she took a step back.

“Do you not recognise me, Isabella?” He took another step forward. There was nowhere for her to go now; she had backed herself into a corner. She tensed as he took her hand in his, yet surprised at his tenderness. Looking down at the gnarly digits grasping hers, Isabella froze as she caught the glint of the gold signet ring.

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In salting and pickling beef (Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery)

“I’m going to pickle some beef.”

He looked at her incredulously. “Pickled beef?”

“Yes. In salting and pickling beef and other scrumptious delights, I’m going to make my fortune. It’s my new business idea.”

“Are you going Bodmin?” he asked, eyeing her quizzically.

It was his turn to be on the receiving end of an incredulous look. “No. Why would I go to Bodmin when I can nip round the corner to Morrison’s and get all the ingredients?”

She shook her head, gave him another incredulous look for good measure, and with a loud huff, stuck her nose into her ‘new’ Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery book.

He chuckled to himself – God forbid she should see him laughing at her! She was always having hair-brained ideas about how she was going to make her fortune. But, pickled beef? Who ate pickled beef in this day and age?

~~~~~~

“I’m just nipping to the supermarket, dear. Can I get you anything?” she called.

“No, I’m good, thanks,” he called back. “Take care on the roads.”

“I always do,” she responded. It was a fairly standard call and response between them; neither of them probably even heard the other.

~~~~~~

“Beef, salt, spices; beef, salt, spices; beef, salt, spices.” She repeated the mantra as she got into his car; taking his old battered jalopy as it was blocking her shiny new car in the driveway.

She could understand why he was always telling her to take care on the roads. Since they’d moved to their new home in the country, he was constantly worrying about her driving down twisty, windy lanes. Truth be told, she was a far better driver than he. “It’s not you, it’s the other drivers on the road,” he’d say.

She smiled to herself as she thought about how kind and caring he was and, as her mind wandered, she forgot her mantra. In fact, she pretty much forgot how to drive – coming to a tight bend in the road, she slammed the brakes on, skidding off the road as she did so. She just about missed the post belonging to the gate leading into a field full of cows. The gate had, fortuitously for her, been left open. Not so fortunate for the nearest calf, which took the full force of the car’s sideswipe and lay to rest just beside the passenger door as she came to a halt.

“Oh my!” She uttered, which was a bit of an understatement. “Oh my!”

She looked around to see if there was anybody around who could help her. A nearby cow stared at her and mooed forlornly, but there were no humans around. She got out of the car and opened the rear passenger side door. Looking around once more, she heaved the calf – with great difficulty – into the back seat of the car and made her way home. Once there, and, miraculously, without being seen, she secreted the calf in the shed in the garden.

She let herself quietly into the house and went straight to the bathroom to clean herself up. As she came out, he asked, “did you get all you needed, my love?”

“Drat! No. I’ve forgotten a few bits and pieces. I’ll have to nip back out. Won’t be long.”

“Take care on the roads,” he called.

“I always do,” she responded.

She got back into his car and drove, carefully, to the supermarket, repeating her mantra, “salt, spices, car wash; salt, spices, car wash; salt, spices, car wash.”

~~~~~

(The phrase, “going Bodmin” refers to the Cornwall County Asylum opened in Westheath Avenue, Bodmin in 1815, much of which is still in existence, although it has now been turned into housing. The phrase, “gone” or “going Bodmin”, relates to this and actually means, “going mad” or “simple”.)Urban Dictionary

Let’s go bowling!

A very short – based on a true – story.
The two girls linked arms as they walked. They weren’t dressed for the weather, which was icy drizzle, choosing instead to wear short skirts and T-shirts. They laughed as they chatted about the latest beau on their hit list, seemingly oblivious to the inclement cold.

I was walking in the opposite direction, wearing a heavy wool coat, buttoned up tightly, and a knitted hat with a faux fur lining. As I neared them, I wondered if they would move into single file so that we could all neatly cross the train tracks.

When we were almost level, the one on the left looked me straight in the eye and knocked me into the path of an oncoming Range Rover, which swerved to avoid me.

“And then we’re going bowling.”

Bubble Rapt

What’s this?  A bandwagon?  Don’t mind if I do!

I’ve just published my first book!

Bubble Rapt is a selection of short stories with a twist to leave you all tangled up like a tangly thing.  The stories are mostly by me, bar one, which is extra special.

I’ve popped in a true tale by my Dad, Ray Goldsack, as he always wanted to be published, but didn’t quite get round to it before he died. There you go, Dad.  It would have been his 79th birthday yesterday 🙂

Screenshot_2016-06-18-09-54-55_kindlephoto-428429629

Find out what happens to Robert, the coy carp, and Little  Molly Plankton, and  why Jenny Sanders is so Bubble Rapt!

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

You know you want to!

Penny for the Guy

From a recent flash fiction workshop – “100 word dialogue”

“Barbara! Did you take the chicken out of the oven?”
“Of course I did, Harold, what do you take me for?”
“What’s that burning smell, then?”
“Oh no! Those hoodlums again! It’s always the same around bonfire night.”
“Didn’t we have a bucket around here somewhere? I’ll fill it up from Alicia’s sandpit, just in case.”
“It’s just by the back door. Be careful out there, Harold, just in case they’re lurking in the darkness.
I wish he wouldn’t slam the door so!
What’s taking him so long?
Harold? Harold!”
“Penny for the guy, missus?”
“Why is he wearing my husband’s clothes?”

More so on Fridays

I’ve just come across some of my Dad’s writing that I had the pleasure of transcribing after he died.

He didn’t get too far in writing his memoirs, but the 30 pages I do have are treasured.

I’m sure he’d have made a great blogger!

Here is a little story from his time as a policeman.

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More so on Fridays

Back in 1967, I was transferred to a small cotton town in East Lancashire. To be more accurate, it had once been a cotton town. In 1967, it was better known for shoes, carpets and unemployment, the latter being the more predominant. A small town of some 16,000 inhabitants it nestled in the Pennine lowlands just on the cultured side of the Lancashire/Yorkshire boundary, namely the Lancashire side.

The climate was fierce. Snow came early and left late. During the worst of it, the roads into Yorkshire were blocked, a blessing in disguise, and would remain so for days. In summer, the grass on the surrounding hills turned from white to dark brown, that being the most noticeable change in the passing of the seasons. You have heard the poetic term, lowering hills? These hills got ten out of ten for lowering.

It is said that people are shaped by their environments. After a few months serving on this masochist’s paradise, I was prepared to believe it. A high percentage of the committed crime was violence-orientated and there was very little good-class financial stuff. Sometime in the town’s history there must have been an incredible amount of in-breeding. Whole platoons of miscreants all similar, either in name, appearance or outlook, would create havoc in the town centre, all with the same lack of reason.

Being a small town, the highest ranking officer actually stationed in the place was Inspector. The division containing the town boasted a Chief Superintendent. This worthy was a man who had everyone’s respect. A man of high principles, he preached in a Methodist pulpit on Sundays but did not expect you to share his beliefs. Drink and strong language were not to his taste, needless to say, but he showed tolerance when encountering these traits in others. All in all, a good man in the true sense of the word.

The town was Bacup. The Chief Superintendent was not a man you would associate with Bacup. Nevertheless, to Bacup he came late one Friday night. His timing was a little off. Friday night was the night the local cretins held their weekly break a plate-glass window contest. Giro-inspired local brew would be consumed in large quantities prior to this public-spirited activity which invariably resulted in the cells being filled shortly after midnight.

I had just returned from a tour of the local hostelries and was perusing the message pad prior to going home and giving the wife a good listening to, when the Chief Superintendent arrived. The time was 11.30 p.m., not a good time for visiting. He cut short his salutations when he spied a clapped out old bird cage on the enquiry desk. Contained in this clapped out old bird cage was an equally clapped out old mynah bird. An old seaman had died suddenly that day and his bird had been brought to the Police Station for safe-keeping prior to being despatched to the RSPCA or wherever. Now the seaman must have been a profane old devil for the bird, obviously not understanding badges of rank, greeted the Chief Superintendent with the words, “Squawk off, Squawk off”, or words to that effect.

Ignoring the impertinence of the straggly black bundle, the Chief Superintendent advanced on the reserve-duty officer and enquired as to the whereabouts of the duty Sergeant. The reserve man, an about-to-retire tongue-in-check individual, informed him that the Sergeant was engaged chasing an escaped monkey up Bankside Lane. “Squawk off”, said the bird. At this point the Chief Superintendent developed a suspicious glint in his eye. “Monkey?” he said, “Squawk off”, the bird said, “Bloody hell, its bitten Dodsley”, the radio said, verifying the monkey tale. True enough, as it later transpired, PC Dodsley had taken hold of the monkey only to have his wrist chewed. Slightly appeased at the existence of the monkey, the Chief Superintendent turned to me and said, “Is it always like this?” “More so on Fridays”, said I, only to be rewarded by the return of the glint.

For the next five minutes the dialogue between radio and bird, to the best of my recollection, went something like this:

Sergeant: Why didn’t you stick hold of it?
Dodsley: It bloody bit me!
Bird: Squawk off.
Sergeant: Dont be soft, you won’t get rabies.
Dodsley: Rabies, rabies, why did you say rabies?
Sergeant: It’s on that shed roof, up you go.
Dodsley: Squawk off.
Bird: Squawk off.
Dodsley: I need a jab.
Sergeant: Monkey first, jab later.
Dodsley: I’m off at 2 a.m., ask for assistance.
Sergeant: Squawk off.

Eventually, the monkey was caught and the radio was temporarily silenced. During the comparative calm the bird continued to insist that we should all make ourselves scarce, but we did our best to ignore it. This brittle serenity was shattered a few moments later when the local drunken bobby basher, one William James McKenna, was thrown bodily through the Police Station door by two dishevelled, bloodstained beat Constables. He slid smoothly over the highly polished linoleum floor and came to rest at the highly polished shoes of the Chief Superintendent, where he promptly evacuated the contents of his stomach. “Squawk off”, said the bird. The Chief Superintendent’s shoes now had a decidedly wet look and did not smell of Kiwi. The monkey then appeared on the scene being led in by two panting officers of the law who had definitely less go about them than their captive. The Chief Superintendent looked ruefully from shoes to monkey to mynah bird, who issued one final directive. “I should have listened to you earlier”, he said, and disappeared into the night.

I have tried, and I think with some success, not to exaggerate this story. The Chief Superintendent has now retired, but prior to doing so often regaled audiences with his version of the tale. He probably still does. The facts remain the facts. Maybe my timing of the dialogue is a little out, but basically the story is true.

© Ray Goldsack, 1993

The Ring

He knelt before her and slipped the golden box out from his back pocket, opening it slowly. A diamond ring lay nested within the red velvet – delicate, perfect.

She began to cry. Tears as rivulets flowed down her reddened cheeks.

Whilst she longed to grab him passionately, say yes and live a happily ever after fantasy, she turned away from him. He wasn’t hers; would never be hers. His heart would always belong to another.

She didn’t look back. She ran forward into the past, towards the one who truly loved her.