This Town’s Death

Another Monday, another bottle of milk by the door. Semi-skimmed as always. Padding out of the front door in her dressing gown, she wandered down the garden path marked by small paving slabs surrounded by grass to check her post box.

No letters. Death breathed a sigh of relief and headed back in to make some toast. The house she was in came with the job. A little two bedroom end of terrace property with a nice long front and rear garden, a shed for her bicycle and gardening tools, plus a freestanding bathtub that was always perfect to sink into after a day’s work.

Some days were busier than others. Other times she could go weeks without having to pull the scythe down from the fireplace and cycle out to the location given to her in the Final Letter. They always arrived in the morning, a black envelope sealed with white wax. The contents of the letter were just there for the sake of tradition. As soon as she opened it the knowledge of who, where, and when popped into her mind.

With nothing to do that day and no reason to walk into the town center, she padded upstairs with her toast and tea to settle in front of the typewriter. On days a letter arrived, she was this town’s Death, reaping souls and sending them along to wherever they were destined.

On every other day, she wrote love stories under the name Patricia Lively.

A Quick Look

“Go on, let me take a look.” He whined as his friend kept his back to him, clutching the black zip-up art folder tight to his chest.

“No, you wouldn’t like it. It’s not very good.”

“Aw, come on, the teacher likes your art work, and you’ve shown me other stuff before.” He wheedled. “Just a quick look at your new project. Please? I’ll get you a can of coke?”

“I don’t, look, no, I don’t want a can of cola, and I don’t want to show this stuff off. It’s just… no.” His friend shook his head and started off down the corridor towards the steps.

He had to hurry to catch up to him. “I’ll let you borrow my new Call of Duty when it gets here. Just for a quick glimpse. Ten seconds for a weekend of the best FPS action out there?” Whatever Dean had been working on, it had taken up nearly all of his free time for the past month. Matty was at the point where he was considering chaining the folder up so his mate could get a weekend of gaming, a kick-about in the park, or some biking done.

“For the last time, no. Look, I’ll see you later.” Dean said, putting his foot firmly down on the step below before vanishing into the crowds pushing their way down the steps to escape school for the weekend.

Matty sighed. How much harm could a quick look at his friend’s charcoal and chalk drawings do?

 

He finally got his chance that weekend. He’d popped over to Dean’s house and saw him heading down to the shops with a shopping list in one hand and a wad of re-usable bags in the other. Grinning, Matty headed to the front door and knocked.

“Oh, hello Matthew!” Mrs Turner smiled as she came to the front door. “How are you doing?”

“I’m well thanks, Mrs T. Is Dean in?”

“He’s just popped down the shops for me, my back’s playing up a bit again.” She stacked shelves in one of the local retail stores, working alongside Matty’s older brother.

“Can I wait for him here?” Dean asked.

“Of course, Matthew.” She smiled, before looking apologetic. “Could you give me a little hand with the ironing?”

“Always.” He smiled at her.

 

The ironing had all been done, and Matty carried the dark green basket for Mrs Turner up to the landing. There were two piles separated in it. One for her, and one for Dean. With her permission he put the pile on top of her bed, then carried his friend’s into his room for him. Art supplies crowded several of the surfaces, and it took him a moment to find the folder his mate had been carrying at school the other day.

Slightly nervous, he put it on the bed and quickly unzipped it to look at the sheets of A3 inside. His fingertips carefully flicked through the pages as he took each in, struggling to process just what he was seeing.

Downstairs he could hear the front door opening and shutting. Matty made no hurried effort to close the folder as Dean thundered up the stairs and flung his bedroom door open. Looking up from the art, he could see it all written on his mate’s face. A quick look was all he took, yet it let him see deep into his best friend’s soul.

Dean’s fists clenched as he surged forwards, right hand pulled back to take a swing. His face was mottled with red as rage, fear, and hurt struggled to dominate his expression.

Matty easily blocked the punch and used the opening to step forwards, pulling his friend into a bear hug. “It’s okay.” He said, though he knew it never would be.

The Garden Dragon

Every time she went outside she had to pick the wooden statue up. Nestled under a shrub, on top of some slate chippings, stood the carved Chinese-style dragon, its beady gold eyes peering out at the patio. Parts of the wood had turned green in places, giving its scales and beard a verdant tint. She wasn’t sure what caused it to fall, she always made sure to place it firmly on flat ground. Perhaps a cat would brush against it while prowling for birds, or a wing would knock it over as the birds pecked under the bush for bugs and seed.

Setting the washing basket down, she quickly smoothed out the slate, righted the statue, and returned into the house to get started on the ironing.

 

As soon as the back door and utility room door shut the garden dragon roused itself to undulate through the air, chasing the glistening dragonflies that visited from the neighboring pond.

 

“Oh what in the-” She sighed, looking at the dragon sprawled out on the slate once more. Going through into the garage to get dinner from the freezer would have to wait for a moment. Crouching, she carefully set the dragon statue vertical once more and bopped its nose with her finger. “You stay where you are.”

She didn’t expect it to listen to her. Her kids barely did.

Apple Time

“Hey, it’s apple time! Did you know it’s that time? Everyone needs an apple time, so it’s apple time for me!”

Every day at 10.33 on the dot, that song would issue from the breakroom. For three years, he had to put up with Marc singing about apple time as he cobbled together a quick brunch. The most ridiculous thing about it for Adam was that in those three years, he had never seen Marc eat a single apple. It was always oranges.

It was 10.30. In three minutes, that song would begin again. With his jaw clenched he hit the Windows Key and L to lock his computer and left his cubicle to get a cup of coffee.

The sight that greeted him had him seething. Someone had drained the last of the coffee and not sorted another pot out. With hands trembling from barely restrained fury he started to prep the other pot, staring with hard eyes at the rounded clock in the break room.

“Hey, it’s apple time!” Marc sung to himself as he strolled into the room just off the main thoroughfare.

“NO!” Adam whirled about to confront his colleague, knuckles white as his fists tried to fold in on themselves. “It is not apple time. It has never been apple time! Every day I have had to listen to you sing about apple time, and I have never seen you eat a damn apple! It’s always oranges and I know it’s oranges because you leave the peel in your bin and I can smell oranges every time I go past your desk!” He was breathing hard at the end of his rant, the beet red flush of fury draining with the rest of his colour as he realised what he’d just done.

Marc just smiled that boyish smile of his. “I get it.” He said, tapping a finger against Adam’s shirt. “Tomorrow.” What that actually meant was vague, but Marc retrieved his brunch from his lunch box, orange and all, and whistled a merry tune to himself as he left the break room.

The rest of the office workers stared at Adam as stepped back into the room. His voice had carried more than Marc’s singing ever did. “Sorry.” He mumbled in apology, thumbing behind him. “Someone left the coffee pot empty.”

 

It was 10.30. Adam had been watching the clock closely while typing up his figures. Locking his computer with a press of two keys, he made a cautious approach to the break room. There was coffee in the pot. HR had sent an e-mail out about being ‘Coffee Considerate’ the previous afternoon. As he prepped his favourite mug, he could hear footsteps approaching. Turning as casually as he could, an apple appeared in the doorway, followed by that boyish smile, brown hair and blue eyes. Marc wet his lips with a quick flick of his tongue before opening his mouth. Adam prepared for Apple Time.

“Orange you glad to see me? Orange you glad I care? For today I’ve an apple, and maybe with you I’ll share!”

A New Hat

Their glasses were all empty. Edna noticed that as the nice young orderly from the nursing home wheeled her past the pub. Her hearing wasn’t so good any more, so she couldn’t make out what they were saying. They were obviously wrapped up in their conversation and talking animatedly about something. From the scarf one of them was wearing, it was probably about football.

The city was bustling. The school holidays were in full swing, workers were let out from their offices for the weekend and it was her turn for a shopping trip into the city. It was nice to get away from the home once in a while. There were only so many times you could sit in the garden or read in the quiet room before you yearned for something a bit fresh. She had a little money with her, enough to treat herself and the orderly to a cake and a cup of tea at the little cafe near the river. Maybe if she found something cheap, she’d treat herself.

As she was wheeled down the high street, something very expensive caught her eye in a charity shop window. “Peter?” She called. “Peter!”

“Yes, Mrs Burrows?” Peter said, bringing the wheelchair to a stop.

“Could we go in there? I’ve seen a nice hat.” She gestured over to the window.

“Of course we can. We can go wherever you want today.” He smiled down at her. It was a bit of a job to navigate the chair into the store, but he did so without knocking it against the door frame and flagged down a shop assistant to get the hat.

It was marvellous! Bright and blue with all sorts of feathers and fascinators forming an elaborate crown. The brim was wide and it would be perfect for sitting in the sun. It must have been worn to a race day at some point, or a fancy wedding. With slightly shaky, wrinkled hands she placed it on head to cover the thinning white hair. “How do I look, Peter?”

“Like royalty at Ascot.” He said with a brilliant white smile, drawing a rich laugh from her.

The marvellous item was only two pounds fifty! Edna Burrows carefully removed the exact change from her little coin purse.

She couldn’t wait to get back to the home and show off her new hat.

Penny

It was always a good day if she found a penny on the street. She walked with her head down most of the time; lost in her own little world only to snap out of it if there was an insect to avoid treading on, something icky to step over, or a penny to pick up. She had a ledge in her house just in from the front door. Wide enough for ten one penny pieces, she’d stack them up in tens. When the ledge was full she put them all in a little coin bag from the bank to change for a pound.

She never did it for the pennies she got as change. The ledge was only for those small copper coins found on pavements or on seats. She was almost up to seven hundred found pennies. Seven pounds just laying on the street over the course of her adult life!

A shiny new penny glinted at her in the morning sun. With a sound of glee she bent and picked it up. The excited little noise she made went up a notch as she spotted another just in front of her. Two pence in one day? No, three pence! Four! More! Her pockets were bulging with coins by the time she got to the train station for her morning commute. She wondered on the occurrence as she stood near the ticket office. Maybe someone was taking a charity collection to the bank and the bag had a hole? It was when she lifted her head to look around that she noticed something was off.

No people, only pennies.

Just For A While

It was a cleansing feeling, shedding off the trappings of the day. The school bag came off first, apparel that would still feel heavy even without the textbooks in it. The jacket came next, then the jumper, the tie, and the shoes. Heading to her room, the rest of the uniform came off. Tights, skirt and blouse were soon replaced with worn tracksuit bottoms and an old tee, ragged at the hem from being drawn over the knees.

Even with the uniform gone some of the weight remained. How best to shift that varied day to day.

The aging computer packed with shareware, MIDI files and .txts of guides and fanfic could wait till after dinner. TV wouldn’t get good until six. The hand-me-down console’s plastic pad tethered to the system was tempting, but that had the same trouble as the PC. There was always the hi-fi, a massive stack of parts that passed from owner to owner until finally finding a place in her room, but no.

Falling back onto the sun and moon chair bed, rarely unfolded for a sleepover, she grabbed the worn book with a yellowing receipt sticking from the top edge from its place between bed and dresser.

Noble quests, prophecies, sorcerous power and the clash of steel on steel. There was none of that in her school life. But just for a while, before dinner and the continuing adventures of Picard and Co., the weight was gone.

Clopping

Clop clop clop one way.

Clop clop clop closer.

The gait was irregular, unsure.

Each strike of the foot clicked against the laminate floor and echoed about the room, through the open plan layout and to their ears.

“Is there a horse in there helping out?” He wondered aloud.

A rapid flurry of clopping followed, a head poking out from around the corner. “IT’S NOT FUNNY, DAD!”

She clopped back into the kitchen, leaving him with a glare from his wife. Her mouth’s barely suppressed mirth twitching at the corners of her lips dulled the usual impact her looks had on him.

“She needs to practice for her new job.” She chided.

“Oh shit, the pasta!” Came from the one-girl stampede in the kitchen.

“I get that, but while cooking?”

“Aw sod, the veg!” Their daughter was at a gallop now.

“She was quieter in those old clod stompers she used to wear!”

His wife sighed. “The goth days are gone now, it’s going to be all business and heels.”

“Fuck, the fish!” Their daughter swore amidst the clanging of pans and pots.

Her husband chuckled. “She’s still got the mouth of a sailor though.”

That Lovely Girl

“There she goes, that lovely girl.”

She had an air of genuine kindness that the residents loved. Always interested in their tales from decades past, no matter how often they rambled on during their telling. When they sung her praises to their relatives, she was always modest.

“I don’t need to be thanked for that.” She’d smile while steering a tea trolley loaded with treats, all ready to be dispensed before Countdown came on.

“Isn’t she such a dear?”

Every once in a while when they were distracted, a ring or trinket would vanish.

But they’d never blame her, that lovely girl.

This week’s Three Word Wednesday words were: Distracted, Genuine, and Modest.

It Tolls For Tea

Her sword arm ached from the raging battle she had been fighting for the last hour. Blows were carefully parried, strikes avoided and thrusts countered. The sun had just started to set when a mighty bell tolled. The warring warriors looked up and around at each other as the sound hung in the air.

Sheathing her blade in the scabbard, the knight pulled the helmet from the top of her head. “The queen needs me.” She declared, before departing the field and heading for the castle.

There was no cowardice in her actions.

Even the mightiest knight could not resist the call of pizza night, and no plastic swords or rubber helmets were allowed at the royal table when it was time for a feast.