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Friday, 11 June 2010

#FridayFlash: UCF Stories #12: Early Morning Call


A small pink teddy bear, resplendent in top hat and tails, tap-danced along the counter twirling an ebony cane. The bear's footwear, which looked more like coal miner's pit boots than tap shoes, set up a staccato tap-tap-tap that made Simeon cringe, each step echoing like a kettle drum inside his head. Only when the bear began bashing the tip of its cane against his forehead and shouting, 'Are you in there?' in a soft but insistent Irish brogue, did it begin to dawn on Simeon that he may, just possibly, be dreaming.

Jerking awake, Simeon was afforded the luxury of a few seconds grace before the full horror of his predicament hit him like a runaway train and he only just managed to lean over before he vomited into the waste paper bin behind the shop counter. The shell, he'd lost the fairy's walnut shell. The knocking persisted while Simeon dry-heaved, two empty whisky bottles mocking him from the bottom of the bin.

'Are you in there? Simeon!'

'Shit.' Simeon dragged himself upright and made his way along the edge of the counter, hand over hand, gingerly towards the front door of the shop. His head throbbed and he still felt queasy, stomach acid burning his throat and leathery tongue as he tried to fathom who could be at the door at this ungodly hour. Risking a glance at his watch, Simeon revised his estimate of ungodly, it was 11.36am. He wondered why his right foot was cold.

The knocking continued.

'Alright, alright, I'm coming,' Simeon croaked as he shuffled nearer the door. 'Just stop that god-awful racket. I'll be there in a minute.'

The knocking stopped as Simeon finally reached the door.

Drawing the bolts sounded like rifle shots inside his head, and when he bent down to undo the bottom one, Simeon was hit with a wave of dizziness and was only able to keep his balance by hanging onto the bookcase by the door. He noticed one of his bunny slippers was missing, that explained the cold foot. Eased the door open to the limit of the security chain Simeon peered into sunlit street beyond. He wished he hadn't.

'Uncle Simeon, are you okay?'

Forcing his eyes to focus, and shading them with his free hand, Simeon squinted at the young woman standing on the doorstep. He took in the black leather biker jacket, the jeans and heavy square-toed biker boots before his aching brain could process the word “uncle.” As he squinted past the mane of curly brown hair to the woman's face realisation dawned, confirmed when she spoke.

'Uncle Simeon, it's me, Aveena. Moira and Connor's daughter. So, are you going to let me in, or what?'

Simeon shut the door, wondering as he fumbled with the chain whether this was going to be a good idea or not. Dragging the door open again, he winced as the bottom edge caught on the metal sill, squeaking like fingernails on a blackboard. Aveena squeezed past him, her enormous rucksack almost catching Simeon full in the face as she navigated through the piles of books just inside the door, her white stick beating out a gentle rhythm against the linoleum floor tiles. Simeon closed and carefully locked the door behind her.

'You do know there's a rat sitting on the counter over there, don't you, Uncle Simeon?'

'Eh? Oh, err...yeah,' Simeon muttered. 'Don't worry about him, that's only Crowley.' He paused. 'Hang on, how do you know...'

'I can see his aura.'

'Oh. Is he reading?'

'Yes. It looks like...,' Aveena's sightless eyes narrowed, '...Practical Ceremonial Magic, a Beginner's Gui...'

'Bloody rat,' Simeon interrupted as he pushed gently past Aveena, snatched the book up from in front of Crowley and slammed it shut. Simeon winced.

'What have I told you?' Simeon growled at the rat. 'Just because you got yourself reincarnated as a rat doesn't mean...' Simeon paused as sweat broke out across his forehead. His legs felt rubbery and he only just made it onto the stool behind the counter before they gave way.

Crowley grinned.

Aveena dumped her rucksack next to the counter, and headed for the kitchen, calling out over her shoulder, 'I'm after putting the kettle on. I'm parched, so I am. Tea, Uncle Simeon?' As she filled the kettle, Aveena could still hear Simeon berating the rat in the other room.

A mug of strong tea and a handful of paracetamol later and Simeon was beginning to feel a little more human. Aveena had even managed to locate his missing slipper, which she found on top of the bookcase behind the counter. In response to Simeon's question, Aveena explained that all things have an aura and it was by these auras that she was able to navigate. Living things and books, especially old and esoteric books, had the strongest auras, she said, which was why she had no trouble finding her way around the shop.

'So,' began Simeon, 'What brings you all the way over here? You didn't make the trip just to visit your old uncle Simeon, surely? I haven't seen you since you were, let me think...'

Aveena looked suddenly serious, 'Six, Uncle Simeon. I was six last time I saw you. And you're not that old.'

She contemplated the dregs of tea swirling round the bottom of her mug. 'I did mean to come and see you, but you're right, this isn't just a social call.'

A single tear ran down Aveena's cheek.

'Something's wrong, isn't it?'

'It's Mam,' Aveena sniffled. 'She's...she's...dead. Da too.'

'How...'

'Murdered.' Aveena threw her arms around his neck and sobbed on his shoulder.

It took Simeon a moment or two to return the hug, awkwardly rubbing Aveena's back and trying to make the right soothing noises, while reeling from the news his only sister and her husband were dead, and the thought that Aveena was leaving a trail of snot on the shoulder of his best work jacket.

_______________

Thanks for stopping by to read my #FridayFlash. "Early Morning Call" is the twelfth instalment of my flash fiction serial "The UCF Stories." If you'd like to read the serial from the beginning, the first instalment is here.

Please also check out the rest of this week's #FridayFlash stories (just click the #FridayFlash graphic in my blog's sidebar), and don't forget to check out the #FridayFlash hashtag on Twitter.



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36 comments:

Josie said...

I love how this series is expanding, and your eye for detail and description - the tap dancing, talking pink teddy bear is perfect.

I laughed more than I probably should have at the manner of Mr Crowley's reincarnation :-D

Gracie said...

Gee, Sam, you write about a killer hangover as though you might have witnessed one... or something. ;-)

I felt his pain, truly. And I like the niece and the way she sees auras.

Great story. Loved it.

Cathy Olliffe said...

Awwww... what a sad reason for the early morning call. But so many funny details. (him beating the rat in the next room while she makes tea - I loved that bit). Well done, Sir Sam!

John Wiswell said...

Poor teddy bears. Their picnic will be ruined... by murder!

Emma Newman said...

Great stuff. You know what I really like though? It's the way you capture that kind of disjointed 'wondering about something' thought in the midst of events. Like the wondering about why his foot was cold, that was put in the perfect place. And of course the snot :) Loved it. x

Sam said...

Josie - I suppose it should really have been a pink elephant, the teddy bear just popped into my head. Ah yes, Mr Crowley *chuckle*

Gracie - I don't know what you mean! ;) Thanks for those kind words.

Cathy - Thanks, I'm so pleased you enjoyed this installment.

John - Hehe! If you go down to the woods today... ;)

Emma - Thanks so much, though Simeon wrote that bit of the story, so credit must go to him. There's so much more about Simeon that I've yet to reveal, there are good reasons for his quirks and foibles. It can be a bit challenging, this writing lark, knowing what to reveal about characters and when, can't it? :)

phonelady said...

Okay sam now you know you must put all these together and take them to a publisher and make yourself some money and delight other people . Please tell me you are thinking about doing this .

mazzz in Leeds said...

Great fun, Sam! You do this sort of humour very well - the delicious little chuckle kind rather than the guffawing American Pie kind, if that makes sense.

The first paragraph was hilarious, and Crowley's reincarnation too.

I love that books have auras as well as living things :-)

Anne Tyler Lord said...

Sam, what an interesting story full of rich details that really capture the character of Simeon.

I really love the beginning with the teddy bear and the missing bunny slipper! That was very vivid hangover descriptions!

Sam said...

phonelady - You know, this has been on my mind a bit lately, I'll give it some (more) thought. Thanks for your support of my writing. :)

mazzz - Ooh, ta muchly. I never set out to write humour, it just sort of happens; I blame the characters! ;) You're right though, it's very British hunour, isn't it?

Aveena told me books have auras and I really like the idea, having always thought of books as living organisms in their own right.

Anne - Thanks so much. As I said to Emma, I have so much more background info on Simeon that I haven't used yet, I feel I know him really well. Sometimes it's a bit of a struggle not to just drop the whole load into one story rather than adding it, drop by drop like a fine seasoning; Ooh, get me, the writer! ;)

I loved the teddy bear idea too when it popped into my fevered writer's mind. The hangover, on the other hand, is entirely based on anecdotal evidence, I wouldn't know what a hangover feels like! *grabs halo as it begins to slip*

Michael Solender said...

delicious details here make it a perfectly engaging piece.

Sam said...

Michael - Thanks, much appreciated. I'm glad you enjoyed this piece.

Marisa Birns said...

Really enjoy the quirky Simeon and his foibles!

Yes, there is lovely humor here and I am in awe at your attention to detail and your research skills! I mean, to describe the hangover so perfectly and never have suffered one is masterful. :)

Great installment, Sam!

Sam said...

Marisa - Hehe, I had to speak to a lot of people to get the hangover description just right. ;)

Thanks for those kind words, I do rather like Simeon as a character myself.

T.S. Bazelli said...

You had me at "pink teddy bear". This story had me grinning all the way through.

Sam said...

T.S. Bazelli - Excellent! So pleased you enjoyed it. :)

Mari said...

Yes, Simeon is back! And he has the coolest niece!

Many laughs here Sam, great installment! The Crowley-rat is precious, heh.

Laura Eno said...

So many wonderful things in here! Pink teddy bears, bunny slippers and snot! Absolutely awesome.

Deanna Schrayer said...

Oh yes, Sam, as Marisa said, your research skills are superb! ;)

This was so much fun, even with the sad story behind it. I too loved the little details like the cold foot and bunny slipper, but I especially liked the rat - and I hate rats!

Keep 'em coming!

pegjet said...

First: I have a soft spot for aura stories, so this episode has me.

Second: I always read these with child-like wonder, appreciating how you slip me back into when I believed in magic (and sometimes, well... it could happen, righ?).

I agree, get these together someday and present them in whole.

Sam said...

Mari - Thanks so much! I'm glad you like Aveena, there's more of her to come in future installments; I've only scratched the surface in this story. Crowley thanks you too.

Laura - Aw, thanks. I really enjoy writing this series of stories, I'm very pleased you're still enjoying them. :)

Deanna - Does everyone think I'm an inveterate drinker? LOL! I will confess to being a home wine maker (a skill learned at my Grandfather's knee), and two glasses of the last batch of elderberry wine has much the same effect as Simeon's two bottles of scotch; so I'm told!

Wow! Crowley has a fan! I'll have to tell him.

pegjet - Thanks. I plan to continue the aura theme in future episodes, I'd be grateful for any feedback you'd be able to give. :)

Thanks so much for the feedback so far, I really appreciate it. :)

Eric J. Krause said...

Another good installment! So much great description in this one really brought the story to life. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

a.q.s. said...

very nice description. i really enjoyed this. :)

annie

Olivia Tejeda said...

Funny moments, rich emotion, and vivid detail. Well done! ~ Olivia

ganymeder said...

This had so much in it, a great mix of humor, tragedy, little details. I know it ended sort of sad but my favorite part was how old books have the strongest auras.

Nicely done.

Sam said...

Eric - Thanks. I'm trying to work on my descriptions and I think Simeon lends himself to a more descriptive approach than do the Pixies.

a.q.s. - Thank you, I do appreciate the kind words.

Olivia - Thanks, Olivia. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

ganymeder - I'm really pleased you enjoyed this episode. There is so much more to come from Aveena and Simeon, I enjoy writing them. Thanks for letting me know your favourite part, like you, I really like the idea of books having auras - I've been imagining if old books could speak, what they could tell us about things they've witnessed.

David Masters said...

Ratcheting up the tension again! The opening sentence is a brilliant attention grabber.

My favourite phrase was: "Drawing the bolts sounded like rifle shots inside his head".

Icy Sedgwick said...

I want that teddy!

Danielle La Paglia said...

Wonderfully descriptive. I felt his pain (and nausea-LOL). Nicely done.

Sam said...

David - Thanks for the great feedback. Do I detect a man who knows what those rifle shots sound like? ;)

Icy - If the teddy didn't exist only in Simeon's head, I'd gladly send it to you. There is, of course, always the 2 bottles of scotch method - I'm sure it would dance for you then!

Danielle - Thanks. Not speaking from experience by any chance, are you? ;)

Walt said...

I also liked how well you portrayed this hangover. The acid in his throat, the rifle shot of a door-bolt opening and closing, the confusion of a cold foot. Well done

Sam said...

Walt - Thanks for your great comment. It's amazing what you can pick up by observing and listening to thers, isn't it? That's my story and I'm sticking to it! ;)

Laurita said...

Such a mix of everything going on in this one. I love how the story is unfolding, and as usual your fun and quirky details make all the difference.

Sam said...

Laurita - Thanks so much for the feedback. I'm trying not to jump around too much between the Pixies' and Humans' stories, but some amount of it is necessary to set up for future events...Eek! That was nearly a spoiler!

XPM said...

Dude. This is better than Harry Potter. Well lots of things are better than--you know what I'm trying to say. I'm raiding blogs and reading all the people out there that read me so thank you. And sorry to say...she sounds cute. ;)

Sam said...

XPM - LMAO!!! Thanks, man. I had a sneaking feeling you might like Aveena...she'll give you a run for your money, that girl can take care of herself!

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