My first review for Basque!

‘HJ Furl does an amazing job bringing the characters to life. They feel real and draw you into their stories as you connect with their lives and experience how they see the world. HJ writes beautifully and makes you want to keep reading until there are no pages left. One of my favourite authors. I wish I could give more than 5 stars for these beautifully written stories that connect with your heart from the first page.’ *****



 

FREE STORY: WRIGGLES

 


Wriggles

Sunrise:

The cool, damp air refreshes me. A thick mist cloaks their graves. The grass along the footpath is heavily laden with dew. Slowly, the mist lifts, heralding dawn in all its glory.

Red sky in the marning, shepherd’s warning!

Trees burst into life, sounds, of spring songbirds. A red deer stirs from her slumber, clambering to her feet out of her bed of bracken. I watch a country couple approach. Their black dog sends colonies of rabbits scampering into a hedgerow. The hound rears against her leash, growling, snarling, halting me in my tracks. The countryman has a strong, resonant burr to his voice, he holds her back.

The countrywoman sits herself down beside the moat skirting the graveyard: exhausted, head- between-her-knees, gulping in the invigorating country air. She has had to tread carefully: the footpath is still muddy and slippery after last night’s cloud-burst. She fixes me with an ice-cold stare,

‘Wait, Jack!’

They make an odd-looking couple. The woman can’t keep still, twiddling her shiny chestnut hair, licking her nude lips. She is dressed in a smart ivy-green jacket worn over a plain, knee-length emerald dress with scooped-out neck. Her legs are bare, save for her pair of psychedelic pink-patterned wellies. I notice that she wears a single pearl on a necklace, no sign of a wedding ring.

By contrast, he is garbed all in black: tee-shirt, short shorts, heavy nail boots. A dark, swarthy, man with greasy-grey hair, his sallow face set in stone like the murderer who stands before the noose. His burly arms are plastered with tattoos of weird dancing girls, swirling fiery dragons, rippling cards: crimson diamonds, bleeding hearts, gravedigger’s spades, the sardonic jack of shadows. He speaks in a gruff, nasal tone, like a snuffling truffle-hunter sniffing soil for fungi,

‘Are ye sure yer goin’ to be okay, Sara?’

‘I’ll be fine!’

She’s puffing and panting, irritated,

‘Give me a minute to get my breath back, won’t yer?’

I can tell she’s nervous. Nervous of him? Of me? Of it? I can’t say. We all know it will return tonight. It always returns at Beltane. I watch, appalled, as the beast tugs at his beauty’s hair, crudely kissing her puffy lips, savouring her as if she were a delicate rose in bloom. She sneers, pressing her hands flat against her belly. I look away, averting my eyes from their intimate display of affection, still listening, though, nevertheless,

‘Can yer feel them, Jack? Aren’t they lively today?’

The woman clucks like a mother hen on her brood, holding his huge, grubby hands to her belly.     

How fortunate is the beast to be in the company of the beauty! What does she see in him?

‘I can feel ‘em! I can feel ’em!’ he cries.

Suddenly he comes alive and bursts into rustic song:

‘I know a young lady who swallowed a fly, I don’t know why, she swallowed a fly, perhaps she’ll die. I know a young lady who swallowed a spider, that wriggled and wriggled and wriggled inside her. She swallowed the spider to catch the fly, I don’t know why, she swallowed the fly, perhaps she’ll die. She swallowed a bird to catch the spider, that wriggled and wriggled and wriggled inside her…’

He fusses over her, not giving me, the aggrieved party, victim of the dastardly hound’s assault, the slightest attention. The black dog refuses to settle. One minute, she pants at their feet: the next, she jumps up and down, barking at me.

‘What’s the matter, Jess-girl?’

Sara sits, calmly stroking the hound’s soft, furry back, kissing her frightened eyes.

Jack glowers at her, ‘She’s smelt a corpse, tha’s what, a dead bird or such like.’

For one awful moment he regards me as if the bloody dog’s tantrums are my fault, then thinks the better of it,

‘Sorry if she frightened yer. Dunno what’s got into her today.’

I shrug my shoulders, eager to be on my way. The strange woman, scared, still staring at me,

‘No worry at all. Do you need my help…?’

Jack butts in rudely before the woman can speak:

‘Think we’ll be fine, thank ye. Lovely marnin’ we’re havin’, aren’t we?’

I relax my guard a tad, ‘Lovely. Red sky ahead, though. Looks like we’re in for more rain.’

‘Red sky in the marnin’, shepherd’s warnin’, or so they say.’

For the first time, the woman addresses me, ‘Wait a minute, aren’t you the man who killed us?’

I tell her: I’m sorry. Tell her I must go. I hurry towards the stile. Glancing over my shoulder, I see the dog, rearing and tugging at the lead. Her master standing still, freeze-framed by the sun, leering at his mistress. The woman, hunched forward, green of dress and green of face, terrified of him. I distance myself from her as quickly as I can, pausing only to watch him heave her to her feet.

They vanish amongst the mossy graves.


Heathen

1644: Heathen.

Following Seth’s disclosure under torture Julia is captured, discovered then publicly persecuted as a witch. But Julia isn’t the witch. Alice, her mystical lover, a pretty little thing with frizzy hair and freckles… Heathen the first of twenty-one sensationally different love stories in Basque - Love Stories on Amazon.

Julia: 

DYING WISH

Lying comatose on top of the counterpane, dead from the neck down. The body twitched! The body lit up, in deep purple! The body came to life!

‘Oh, my God! Charlie! What have they done to you?! Charlie! Charlie!’

Dying Wish - classic sci-fi from Is It Today? featuring astonishing Linnea Sage. Please forgive my ironic sense of humour - I was born or created in West Sussex before relocating to Essex, then off to my remote lighthouse on the Coast!

www.isittodayhjfurl.com

Charlie (after the OPERATION!):



DEDICATION


 Dedication

Of Habitat, and Hope

The anti-mermaid lives outside her mythical habitat, struggling to swim against the tide of modern life. She’s Covid, coughing, gasping for air, drowning in an alien murky sea of despair, an ocean of grief, pain and sorrow. But she is tough: a fighter, a lover of the good, a kind nurse, a caring soul, an example to us all. Megan will make it through, grow a mermaid’s tail of her own, and live to be free. Happy. Content. Swimming in the warm swell of love which tends us all. Her underlying torrent of strength, her bubbly, frothy, inexhaustible hope a driven will to overcome the odds that will surely see us through.

For the Ill, the heroic Nurses and Doctors in our Hospitals and the Carers in our Homes.

HJ Furl 23rd May 2020

Ruth Pownall, Linnea Sage, and Cherry Pie, Voices, Actors, Superstars! 8747 reads and listens. New stories added every week. Previews of Basque. Original Is It Today? Video and Radio Ad. 9 astonishing reasons for visiting the audiovisual read and listen stories on our website at: 

www.isittodayhjfurl.com

Ruth:


Linnea:

Cherry:




FREE STORY: So, This Is?

This is one of my earliest stories, make of it - and it's meaning - what you will!


So, This Is?

I used to keep an allotment in Aigburth between the deer wood and the village cricket green. Rode there on my hybrid mountain bike when the weather was clement. Had this basket fitted to my handlebars for my parsnips. For my darling wife to cook, when I got home.

Used to love my old parsnips, didn’t you, Bethan?

This morning, I lifted my first plump parsnips of the season. They were rooted in the soil by ladies’ legs and hard to pull. Once I’d filled my trog, I sniffed my hands, savouring their earthy aroma, the tang of ripe manure beneath my fingernails. Then, I prised a lump of sticky fudge out of my trousers, sat on my kneeler, and chewed, enjoying the warmth of the rising sun on my cheeks. It was a beautiful, cold December morning. It felt good to be alive.

I stood up and cast my eyes over the allotments - all blanched with frost, barren, and deserted. That’s when I saw the parakeets, flocking and bustling around old Jim’s apple trees. Crazed with hunger they were, beating their wings in a turquoise flurry, gorging on the rotting russets lying strewn, like broken hearts, on the ground. Presently, a gardener appeared in their midst. I pulled off my bobble hat and went over to cry a friendly hello,

‘Lovely morning we’re having!’

Those birds all scattered in one fowl swoop I can tell you! The strangest thing is: the gardener didn’t once look up and speak to me. He seemed hell-bent on his digging. Deeper and deeper he dug, shovelling the wet sods of soil over his shoulder in a madman’s frenzy. I assumed he was digging out the dreaded bindweed.

‘Digging out the Devil’ senile Hughie used to say.

Before he kicked the blessed bucket, Hugh told me that he’d found bindweed growing six-feet underground when he dug out the graves of the dearly departed in Aigburth churchyard.

I didn’t make the connection at first: between the gravedigger, the gardener… and my angel.

The man toiled with his shirt off, streaming with thick floods of sweat. He was built like an ox: short, stocky and very well-honed, paved with slabs of rippling muscle. Thick black hairs sprouted from his ears, nose, armpits, the oily cleft between his massive buttocks, where his saggy cords and y-fronts slipped. He was sporting a red tattoo, a cherub, firing arrows of love from a golden bow into a bleeding heart on his back.

I could tell by the heavy way that he leaned onto his spade, he was exhausted. The crusty old dog paused to dab his wet brow with a polka-dot handkerchief, beckoning for me to join him. Warily, I ambled up and stared at his sallow face. His eyes were opaque, without iris or pupil. He turned wispy white, pale as autumn fog. I was scared, when he went wispy, I can tell you!

The sun disappeared. Dark clouds threatened their untold malevolence. The wind blew up a hurricane, wailing like a banshee. Rain spit-spat, spattered, splashed, then teemed down on us in crystal stair-rods, un-sacred daggers in our black hell. Searing shards rent the sky asunder, showering us with fire sparks.

The cunning, wily, old gardener grabbed my trembling wrist, dragging me screaming and kicking to the edge of his hole. My pleas for mercy were lost on the howling wind. I looked down between my green wellies, and said:

‘What in hell’s name’s that, then?’

You see, the hole was full of stars!

His sturdy hands pushed me away.

Then I was falling, falling, falling…

I keep an allotment in Aigburth between the deer wood and the cricket green. Ride there on my hybrid mountain bike when the weather’s clement. I have a basket fitted to my handlebars for my parsnips. For my darling wife to cook when I get home.

‘Love my old parsnips, don’t you, Bethan?’

‘Not nearly as much as I love you, darlin’.

‘I brought you red roses, Bethan. I know how much you used to like red roses on your grave.’

‘Oh, but they’re beautiful! I love you, Bryn, with all my heart. Come.’

‘Farther up and further in!’

‘So, this is Heaven…’    

Allure - Extract from Basque - Love Stories

 


Allure (extract)

verb: to entice or tempt someone.

noun: attractiveness, appeal.

allure: the power a woman has over a man.

It was Thursday evening, last light, when she walked in out of the rain. Her hair was streaked with wet. She removed her dripping hooded mocha puffer jacket, shook it off, and scooted past me to the toilet, without giving me so much as a glance. I couldn’t help but notice that she was wearing a revealing pink floral print open-backed wrap bodysuit, tight high-waisted light blue riot mom jeans, and white trainers. Shaken, but unstirred, I turned around to polish the glasses.

We offered our customers a choice of exotic cocktails, select organic beers, or vegan wine.

I heard her voice: soft, syrupy, sensuous, prompting me to serve her. Suppressed my cough.

I turned to face her, asked her what she wanted to drink. She told me she wanted Sex on the Beach.

I smiled, Don’t we all?

She had that rare allure of a woman who knows she is beautiful, sexy, gorgeous. 

Allure from Basque - love, as you have never read it before.


EXCLUSIVE AUDIO PREVIEW! BASQUE VIDEO!

Hello,

Thank you for following my blog, which has now had 11,174 reads - and no comments! Why is that? Oh well:

The Basque Video (can you wait?!) should be released on Friday.

Q. Would you like me to post it here for you? Don't all reply at once!

EXCLUSIVE Audio Preview

You can catch an exclusive audio preview of The Potting Shed from Basque on SoundCloud (HJ Furl) and audio with visuals on my website isittodayhjfurl.com

The Potting Shed:


Antonia (Toni) and Allen:


Ruth:






SIMON LOVES....!

Simon loves Art, Animals, Lizzie and Joely. Basque, the sensational title story from Basque - Love Stories. After all, rules are there to be broken. aren't they?

Basque links:

US Kindlehttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B096YF4Q7Y

US PB: https://www.amazon.com/Basque-Stories-rules-there-broken/dp/1913833860

UK Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B096YF4Q7Y

UK PB: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Basque-Stories-rules-there-broken/dp/1913833860

Simon: 


The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living by Damien Hirst. 


Lizzie: 

Joely:



FREE FLASH FICTION: From Where I Sit

 


From Where I Sit

From where I sit, I can see the dried-up riverbed that once flowed, the empty ocean that teemed with shoals of fish. They are all dead now, stifled, in a blink of Humanity’s eye, victims of our self-imposed apocalypse.

From here, I see the hunger lands we both knew as flourishing fields of golden barley. Grazing pastures alive with horses, cattle, sheep. Hidden delights: badger setts, moles burrowing, grass snakes - legless lizards basking under the decimating, deadly sun. Filled now with famine, starvation, strife. Shadowlands for the grieving survivors, the chosen few who pray for the end to come.

Here I sit, gazing at your concrete tower blocks, prisons to the poor, the fearful, locked-in captives of never-ending quarantine. Suckling on the skeletal breasts of social media, milking your discontent, disparaging opinions, rebellious intentions, faded dreams - for all their useless worth.

I see you! Fearing me. Mask-on-face. Standing metres away from me. Sanitiser on hands. I smell your sweat. Feel your hot breath on my cheeks. Catch the teardrops streaming down your face.

See you, pining, yearning for a lost love, our love, a love that can never be consummated.

You see, I’m infected, contagious, spreading like the wildfires burning in the rain forests.

I’m your virus, your destiny, your future - Earth.

It’s too late for you to change your heartless ways.

Think it’s time I left now.

(C) HJ Furl 2021


TAUT

Thanks for last night, Darling. Fondest Love, Sian xx  

A car crash victim stalks a gigolo hell-bent on revenge.

Taut from Is It Today? LIVE featuring Linnea Sage. 

#sleazy #sexy #crime

NEW AUDIOVISUAL STORY TODAY:

www.isittodayhjfurl.com

Braker:


Sian:



The Potting Shed - Extract - from Basque - Love Stories

The Potting Shed (extract) from Basque

The Potting Shed:


Her face became indistinct. Ruth gradually faded away. He felt Antonia, stirring beneath him. He looked into her eyes. They were brimming with tears. Her face was lit by the happiest smile. He brushed her damp cheeks, brushed away her tears, stroked her hair. He loved her so much,

‘You’re crying, Toni.’

She found herself wanting him again, rubbing the hairy small of his back, clawing his buttocks,

‘I always cry when I make love, y’know. How’re you feeling?’

Antonia (Toni) and Allen:


He relaxed onto her, sighing contentedly,

‘I haven’t felt so well in years. I love you, Antonia.’

She felt his weight, his manly body bearing down on hers, igniting his passion with her promise,

‘It’s over, Allen, I promise. She’s gone. I can feel it. I can feel her, sweetheart, I can feel her…’

Ruth:


Reader to HJ: 'Are all the stories like this one?'
HJ to Reader: 'No, no, they're not. They're all different. I mean yes, yes, they are all different? Quirky. I mean, I don't know what I mean. Read Basque and judge for yourself. Basque. Love!

When You Know

Phew! When you know all the eye problems, the stressing, the standing up for being different.... were worth it! Basque - Love Stories - paperback at #9 Amazon Collections & Anthologies. 740pm GMT: (sorry for the poor photography)

amazon.com/author/hjfurl   






Free Story: The Estimation


 

The Estimation

The estimation was Auklet’s responsibility. Bruker made that abundantly clear. Auklet would enjoy all possible resources: astronomers, telescopes, physicists, colliders, mathematicians, and administrative support. But it was Auklet’s sole responsibility to interpret the mass of statistical data presented to him, collate it into an intelligible order, extrapolate it, calculate the effect on geophysical tolerance, then estimate the estimation. Once the estimation was ratified, Auklet would report outcome to Bruker at 14:00 hours in order that Bruker could, in turn, report effect to Calhoun, the Head, for onward transmission to Secretary of State Panstellar.

It wasn’t until Auklet helped himself to his serving of Candida del Reyes-Auklet’s succulent Chilli Con Carne on Thursday night that he realized the error in the estimation. He slapped his forehead,

‘Oh, my goodness!’

Candida’s fork sat suspended in the frigid atmosphere between them, inches from her pink lips,

‘What is it, honey?’ she said.

Auklet sounded fretful, ‘I misinterpreted the statistical data from the scientists and maths boys. Gave inaccurate estimated outcome to Bruker for Calhoun’s effect, for onward transmission to Panstellar!’

Candida reached over the table and caressed the back of Auklet’s hairy hand, ‘So? Don’t worry, we all make mistakes. Just tell Bruker you made a mistake with the estimation. I’m sure he’ll understand. He’s not perfect. I’m sure he makes mistakes.’

‘You don’t understand, Candy. It isn’t Bruker’s position to make mistakes. He’s just a middle- man, a pawn in this game. Like Calhoun and Panstellar, his only responsibility is transmission of my estimation up the line.’

Candida squeezed her man’s wrist, ‘How long’s this been going on, your wrong estimation?’

‘Six months.’

‘Six months!’ she shrieked, ‘Babe! You gave wrong estimations to POTUS for six months!’

Auklet bowed his head, ‘Not POTUS, Candy, Panstellar or Calhoun,’ he corrected, ‘Bruker.’

‘Same thing!’ smudged Candy, mourning him. Candida del Reyes-Auklet was the epitome of kindness being Latino heartthrob maternal, ‘Tell you what you should do.’

He looked up from his lap, hopefully. How he loved this woman, ‘What should I do?’

‘Pretend you never discovered the error. Pretend there’s nothing untoward.’

‘You mean lie to Bruker, so he can lie to Calhoun, who’ll lie to Secretary of State Panstellar?’

‘Precisely!’ she forked food for him, offering it to his mouth, ‘Now, eat your Chilli, like a good boy.’

Auklet ate his chilli. They stayed up to watch an episode of Bridgeton on Netflix, then retired to bed, in Maine.

The following morning, he interpreted the mass of statistical data presented to him, collated it into an intelligible order, extrapolated it, calculated the effect on tolerance, then estimated the estimation. Once the estimation was ratified, Auklet reported outcome to Bruker, so that Bruker could report effect to Calhoun, for onward transmission to Secretary of State Panstellar. Since the estimation hadn’t altered for months, Secretary of State Panstellar deemed it unnecessary to inform POTUS of the situation.

The meteor collided with the planet, over Maine, at 16:41:33, annihilating life on Earth.

THE END

 

 

       

  

 

 

 

The Marital

Wife tries to kill Hubby with Garden Spade! The Marital from Basque - Love Stories - rules are there to be broken out now on Amazon:

Virginia and Brian (re-enacting their Marital prior to sacrifice):




Say Hello to Pearl!

 


Pearl and her human Toy...


Say Hello to Pearl - from Basque - Love Stories

And, in her solitary childhood, not a living soul to play with. Perhaps that was why she was here, as a toy, in a snow year. The full moon shone on her face: her figure, her body, silhouetted in dark relief against the vermillion sky, twinkling starlight, distant planets, far-off suns. Pearl,

‘Come into the warm. Shake off your coat. Take off those gloves. Dust yourself down. Come and sit beside my fire. You must be freezing. Hot chocolate, warm minced pies, rich fruit cake!’

‘Shtop teashing me,’ Toy whistled with the lisp she’d endured: taunted and jeered at since birth, ‘There ishn’t a fire. Or a coat. Jusht me in thith thilly thlip.’

‘Come to bed with me, Toy. I’m a big girl now!’

‘I know that, do you think I don’t know that?’

‘Well then, come to bed.’

Toy was wearing a regulation institutional white slip. She pulled it off over her head and held it aloft like a white flag of surrender....

Basque at Amazon:

FREE STORY: BABY COMETS

 


Deanna

Baby Comets

Our marriage was on the rocks, the edge of a precipice so-to-speak, as soon as Deanna, 46, came out about her secret love tryst with Mel. Deanna’s revelation to the family that she had been beguiled in a forest pond was a heavy cross for us to bear. But she didn’t stop there. Oh, no! Deanna spoilt the tenuous air of pretence that bound us man and wife by insisting on bringing Mel into our family home to live with her.

Out in the forest. Deanna explained that she found him while bathing in an oily woodland dew pond during one of her solitary evening walks - while I was working late at the local sanitation plant, sterilizing. As the moon rose in the velvet, starry sky and will o’ the wisps snaked and curled off the murky water, she found him. Twisting and turning like a tiddly tadpole afore her in the half-light. She waded into the water in her best grey summer dress. And rolled with him. Soaked her flame-red hair. Rinsed her pale, freckled skin. Saturated her flowy dress. Until it clung to her pulsing, flickering legs like a freely-flapping fishes’ tail.

‘He made me his mermaid last night, Derek,’ she bayed.

Her eyes lit up with a passionate flame I hadn’t witnessed in her since we conceived our little Moose, bless her. I felt my belly sag and flop over my belt as my spirits finally gave out,

‘Your mermaid, darling?’

‘Mm! He promised to give me baby comets!’

‘Baby comets?’

Deanna waved her knife and fork, eying my plate,

‘Mm! You haven’t touched your meatballs.’

I felt the bile rise up through my pyloric sphincter valve, burning in my throat. I wasn’t hungry,

‘Baby comets, you say?’

Well, as you can imagine, I was livid at first. Most reluctant to move into the spare room and lie awake at night listening to Mel slithering around the master en suite bedroom with my babe all night through the paper-thin walls of our three-bed starter home in Braintree New Village.

Then there were the kids: Petal, 18, Jason, 16, and Moose, 7, to consider. Call me small-minded, but I really didn’t think they should be sleeping together in the same bedroom at those ages. Try telling Deanna that. She was always the dominant in our relationship: single-minded, determined, strong, and boar-headed. Deanna got her way: the kids all slept as one.

I agreed to move into the spare room, Mel was fished out of the pond to live with my babe, and Deanna had the kids fitted-out with designer ear muffs so that they could sleep with his strange noises. We agreed to break the news about their baby comets to the kids at a hastily convened family reunion in the lounge diner one night before supper.

I sat on the lime leather sofa with my arm wrapped snugly around Moose’s little shoulders, as she rested her arm on my thigh, and squeezed my knee affectionately. Petal leaned into Moose, resting her arm on my baby’s thigh. Then Jason leaned into Petal, propping his elbow on her thigh. We were a close, intimate, loving family. The kids really loved me,

‘And duck!’ I cried.

We all sloped to the right, tumbling into a howling heap. How we laughed!

‘More! More!’ begged Moose, ‘Please, Daddy!’

‘Pretty please, Daddo!’ Petal pleaded, rudely.

‘Go on, Dados,’ barked Jason, ‘Be a sport!’

‘Just let Daddy get his breath back,’ I panted.

As soon as I’d got my breath back, we resumed our original positions then,

‘Duck!’

We all sloped to the right, and tumbled in a heap. How we laughed!

At that moment, Deanna waltzed into the room, looking shag-haggard, as if she’d been dragged through a hedge backwards, holding fins with her beloved Mel. The kids stood up, to attention, saluting their biological mother. I paid no heed to the renegade adulterer and her slimy pond eel. I looked away, sunk, despondently, in the lime-chocolate bowels of the sofa’s leather seam.

Mel writhed, wriggled and slathered about on the sheet of broth-soaked polythene that Moose, our playful tomboy, recovered from its natural habitat after an hour’s snorkelling and groping through the silted-up pond. Petal and Jason dragged her in, kicking and screaming to the water’s edge, tethered to the end of my trusty steel hawser.  

‘Ah, playing duck with the kids?’ Deanna observed, with a weary glint in her bloodshot eyes.

An awkward, guilty silence fell upon our family. I hauled myself up out of the sofa, wanting to be with my offspring in their hour of need. Moose clung tightly to my waist, then my flower Petal did, then Jason, who wasn’t much given towards affection for men being an impudent adolescent. I felt their trembling hands hugging me. Smelled the odour of putrefying flesh as Mel dehydrated on his sludge mat. Heard Petal’s quivery voice, her hush, frightened whisper,

‘What, what, what’s that lying on the floor beside you, Mom?’

Deanna beamed with pride, ‘Why, this is Mel, darling. He made me his mermaid last night.’

I felt Petal sag against my beer gut, flop over my belly, as her spirit gave out, ‘Your mermaid?’

‘Mm! Mel’s going to be living with me, children, in my bath. He’s given me baby comets!’

‘Baby comets, Mom?’ Moose cried, excitedly, ‘Can I have one for Christmas? Please, say yes?’

Deanna smiled at her baby affectionately, ‘But you’re too young to have a baby comet, pimple.’

‘I’m not too young!’ Moose protested, ‘Don’t talk at me as if I’m a kid! And don’t call me pimple. You know I hate spots! I want a baby comet!’

Moose had her auburn hair cut short, page-boy, giving her an impish appearance. She had elfin ears, a freckled nose, a black-bad-tooth smile with gummy-gaps where we fed our girl too much candy. We were a poor family. What did you expect when I worked in sanitation? Sterilization. Moose had just the one set of clothes: winter, spring, summer and fall; her sky-blue tee-shirt, crinkle-cut white jeans, some braided flip-flops. No wonder she shivered with cold and anger that freezing cold November evening.

‘I’ll see what I can do when I have babies, Moose,’ Deanna replied, sounding non-committal. 

Jason jeered at her, pulling faces,

‘So, what are baby comets, Mumbo? Are they like tadpoles?’

Jason’s oakwood hair had grown over his ears. We couldn’t afford to have it cut. He suffered terrible acne. His cheeks and chin were inflamed by a permanent scarlet rash. His thin lips were puffy, split and sore. Jason’s affliction made him an irritable, temperamental, and unpleasant youth to have lounging around the house all day. He sulked on the sofa, with his Daddo, without a hope in hell of ever getting a job or qualification. Our wasted, workshy, wilting, wearied son wore the same dirty white cheesecloth shirt, grey shorts, and reject bowling shoes, every day. I noticed that he had grown bum-fluff on his face. Thick, black hairs sprouted from his slender calves. He would soon be a man, but would never leave our house, could never afford to marry. Sad really.    

Deanna smiled weakly at our dense boy, waved at us, took Mel’s fin in her soft hand and said,

 ‘Maybe, Jace. You’ll find our soon enough. Now, I have to put Mel back into his bath, cook us all some supper, do the ironing, wash up…’

Petal interrupted her flow,

‘Baby comets, you say, Mom?’

Petal had greasy hair, parted on the right, which fell in a thick drape over her shoulders and chest, as far as her petite bosom. We couldn’t afford to buy her shampoo or fashionable clothes. Instead, red-faced Petal moped about the house in her grubby white smock, slashed denims, and open-toes sandals. Helping Deanna with household chores. Dressing Moose in her dirt-stiff clothes. Playing Old Maid with Jace. Singing old Beatles’ hits to keep me happy. Petal would never leave the house, find work, find love, or get married: she couldn’t afford to, now:

‘I think there’s something you should know, Mom, Daddo, Jace, Moose,’ she said.

Out of the forest. Petal found him bathing in an oily woodland dew pond. During one of her solitary evening walks. While I was working late in the local sanitation plant. As the moon rose in the velvet, starry sky and will o’ the wisps snaked and curled off the murky water. She found him, twisting and turning like her tiddly tadpole before her in the half-light. Petal waded into the water in her short summer frock and rolled with him. Soaked her greasy brown hair. Rinsed her sore-red skin. Saturated her cheap charity shop frock and laddered tights. Until they clung to her pulsing, flickering legs like freely-flapping fishes’ tails. She even kicked off her dumpy old clodhoppers...

‘He made me his mermaid last night!’ she cried, her eyes alight with a passionate flame.

I felt my belly sag and flop over my belt. Deanna’s high spirits gave out,

‘Your mermaid, darling?’

‘Mm! Promised to give me baby comets!’

‘Baby comets, you say?’

Deanna wiped a hand over her brow and fainted. Mel wriggled and slithered towards Petal,

‘Mel and I are getting married next Spring, aren’t we Mel?’ she announced happily.

I wrapped my arm round Moose’s shoulders. She rested her arm on my thigh, squeezing my knee affectionately. Petal leaned into Moose, resting her arm on baby’s thigh. And Jason leaned into Petal, propping his elbow on her thigh. We are a close, intimate, loving family. The kids really love me, I cried,

‘And… duck!’

We sloped to the right, tumbling into a howling heap. How we all laughed!

HJ Note:

Yes, it IS weird - like me! Hope you enjoyed some of it, at least!

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