#FlashFiction: It takes a village to raise a child

Michael was quite enjoying retirement, more so than he had expected.  He could remember some old buffer leaving the firm when he’d been the new boy.  In those days it had very much been a whip round of the team, a discrete card which everybody signed, attempting to say something interesting and unique, and of course failing.  Gold watch from Management, or something similar, everyone joshing the leaver about them escaping, all that time on their hands…and that slightly panicked look in the leaver’s eyes ass they tried to work out what they were going to do instead of the same thing that they’d done five out of seven days for the last 40 odd years.  These days, you had to go on a course about how to retire.  Progress…

Sitting in the session with a half-dozen or so others who were flying the nest, he’d tried to think about what he was going to do with himself with ‘all that spare time’.  He and Marion had been talking about this for donkeys years, but it had never seemed real before, and after all there were only so many sun-drenched holidays you could take in a year.  It didn’t seem real with Kerri and Ethan from HR trying to jolly them all along.  He’d found himself drifting into a slightly mischievous mood, and he and Derek, ‘from Accounts’, had been positively disruptive by the end, although they were both old hands at that game so no-one had even realised what was going on…

Kerri and Ethan needn’t have worried.  His days had taken on a certain work-like regularity, quite naturally.  Marion liked to be spontaneous, but luckily she had plenty of friends who liked spontaneity too.  He always made sure there was some flexibility in his schedule to accommodate ‘her indoors’ – from time to time.  Not everyday, obviously.  The regularity was comforting though, no denying that, but he was making an effort to work through all the things that he’d said he would do when he had the time.  Well, maybe not everything – he’d given up on the idea of going hang-gliding.  That was just asking for trouble.  He’d taken the garden in hand thought and turned the manicured-but-dull plot into something much less generic.  Messier, but more fun.  He’d really enjoyed setting up the watering system as well – a vast underground rainwater tank and solar-powered pumps to move it around to various water-butt when required.  There was also a labyrinthine network of drip-feeders and porous hoses to target the water where it was needed.  Marion was on an environmental blitz, trying to cut-out microplastics and such like, and if she was disheartened by the prolonged absences in the garden, she was delighted with the continuous supply of fresh, seasonal fruit and veg.

He was also catching up on his reading.  He’d heard this story of two little old ladies who’d gone into a bookshop and asked for – he could never remember how many exactly – a number of books.  They wanted some recommendations for some books that they really should read: they’d worked out how long they probably had left, how fast they read, done the maths and…well, they didn’t want to waste time reading rubbish.  Michael had made a similar calculation.  Who knew at what point he might start loosing his marbles? Or his sight might deteriorate? Or…? So, he had a bucket list of books that he was determined to read, and now that he had the spare time he spent at least an hour a day reading.

And there were all sorts of other things – his old farts group, the bridge club, online Scrabble that had started as a way of keeping in contact with his best friend, who’d emigrated to Australia, to be closer to his children, and had grown into a network of people that he only knew online.  And of course there were the Grandchildren, Archie and Amelia.  He’d known that Marion helped their daughter Judith out quite a lot with the twins, but he’d been surprised at how much he’d been inveigled into this world – and more surprised at how much he enjoyed it.

He could remember when the twins were born, and indeed, when Judith came into his life.  When Judith was born, it was still quite a new thing for men to be in the delivery suite – he’s half expects, half hoped that he would be told to wait outside.  Roll on to Judith becoming a mother, and she’d been adamant that she was going to have a water-birth, at home.  That dream had fizzled out when she’d found out she was having twins: it wasn’t verboten, exactly, but the midwife had been very clear in expressing her concerns and there was the implication that Judith would be negligent somehow, if she continued with her plans, and so she and her wife Harriet had done the hospital dash just like everyone else.

Judith had her way when it came to child-care though.  A full year of maternity leave, and then a part-time return.  She’d been adamant that she didn’t want the twins in a nursery, so she’d done some deals with other mum’s, new friends met through clubs and activities post-birth and two days a week were covered by a nanny-share.   The rest, another half a day a week, were a mix of Harriet taking leave, when she could, Marion, Harriet’s parents, and even once or twice Phyllida, Marion’s best friend.

Later, things had become a little easier when the children had started pre-school and eventually school.  He’d done the occasional drop-off, before he’d been officially retired, and there had been odd days here and there where he and Marion had taken them off to play grounds and the kind of National Trust places that were better suited to children.  There was the carnage of birthday parties and village fayres.  One of his favourite things, when they’d been old enough, was to take them to car-boot sales: £3 each and the challenge of finding the most interesting thing possible, or the most of something or – well the game could be tweaked all sorts of ways.

He’d done a good morning’s work in the garden.  He put his tools away in the shed and stumped up the garden path to the back door.  Boots off, and popped onto the welly stand that he’d made, he washed up and made coffee – instant, because Marion was out.  He settled down in his big armchair with his book and ploughed through “The Confession of Father Brown”.  As he’d suspected, it was nothing like the series on the telly.  He made himself a sandwich and thought about what he should make for dinner.  As he looked out at the garden, an idea that had been vaguely forming at the back of his mind coalesced.  That bit of the garden just there would be perfect for the children to take charge of…he was picking them up from school in a couple of hours, he could suggest it to them then.

After the debacle when he’d unwarily ended up in sole charge of the children just after he’d retired, he’d been a lot more cautious about looking after the children.  But he’d gained confidence, and he’d found having a plan always helped.  He’d also gotten used to the fact that it didn’t do to show your grown up how much you loved them in front of everyone else, nor for adults to be too demonstrative either.  As usual, he’d been given book bags and coats and drinks bottles to carry.  As usual, snacks had been demanded.  As usual, there had been a request to go to the park.  This was all pretty standard, almost reflexive, and he’d learned to let these things pass to some extent before responding.  Today Amelia was talking to a friend about how Grandad was going to take her to watch the cricket.  He hadn’t realised that Amelia had been listening to that conversation, and he hadn’t realised that she’d be interested.  What had come as even more of a shock was that Amelia’s friend had said she’d like to come too.

He’d rolled with it, and the friend’s mum had said it sounded lovely – he wasn’t sure how sincere that had been – but he resolved to take them all to a match as soon as possible, strike while the iron was hot.  Probably a Twenty20 match rather than a test…  If he played his cards right, this might become a regular thing.  Brownie points for something he wanted to do anyway…win win.

Later, after Judith had picked up the children, tsking over how grubby they were from working “their patch”, he thought about that old phrase that it takes a village to raise a child.  So true, so many people involved.  Sometimes though, a village could be one person fulfilling different roles, being different things to different people at different times.

© David Jesson, 2019

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#FF Prompt: It takes a village to raise a child

Musing on the old saw that it takes a village to raise a child, it seemed like it might be quite a good prompt.  All sorts of ways you could take this…

No genre, no limitations other than it must not be NSFW.
Let the muse take you where you will …

Word count: Whatever you can get written in the time limit! 1-2k seems like a good idea, but if you can tell your story in 500, go for it.  5k feels like the top end though.

Deadline: 2pm GMT on Friday 8th February 2019.

Don’t forgot, if you miss the deadline, you can always post your story to our #TortoiseFlashFiction page


As always, please post a link to your blog in the comments below, or send your story to us via the contact us page and we’ll post it for you.

Job Hunting

How could it be Fall again? Summer had seen my bank balance plummet, to the point that I was starting to tip into the red – a double whammy of too much fun and too few clients. I looked at the dog-eared copies of my favourite ‘tec novels slanted against each other on the shelf. What would Philip Marlow do? Sam Spade? Nick Charles? They’d shake things. They’d damn well find a client. I found a pencil and paper and started to write a list.

© David Jesson, 2018

________________

A little bit of Flash Fiction, which I submitted to one of Janet Reid’s competitions.  There are a number of rules, but the key ones are:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:

fall
plummet
tip
slant
list
3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the
prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.
Thus: fall/fallacious is ok but fall/faille is not

 

Project Gutenberg #FlashFiction

The 1st of December is the birthday of Project Gutenberg, an online archive of out-of-copyright books that have been digitised and are made available to anyone who would like to read them.

A quick reminder that the prompt was to go to Project Gutenberg, have a look at the recent releases and pick a title that appeals: that is the prompt, and the title of your story…

An Engineer’s Sketchbook

There were probably only three people in the world who still called him Christopher, and one of those was his Grandmother.  At school, the custom was still to call the boys by their surnames, but some of the younger masters would buck the trend – if the Head or Bursar weren’t in earshot anyway.  And if you were going to go against what was practically a rule, you’d think you’d go al, sirl the way and use a chosen name.  But no.

Dr Hughes was young, earnest, and more than a little shy, all topped off with a generous helping of obliviousness.  As a relatively new master it was inevitable that he’d inherited the mantle of Career’s Advisor from a colleague who was retiring.

“Ah, Christopher, come in.  Have a seat.”

“Please call me Toph, sir.”

“Now then, lets see.  Well.  Are you enjoying being in the Sixth Form?”

“If I’m honest, sir, I don’t see very much difference to being in Year 11.”

“But you were paying attention in Assembley, when the Headmaster was talking about university?”

“Yes, sir, of course.  But I’m really not sure what I want to read.  Nothing really appeals.”

“Well then Christopher, lets take a look at your reports.”  Dr Hughes opened a manilla folder and riffled through the papers inside.

“Toph, sir.”

“Ummm?” Dr Hughes did not look up.  “Well, Captain of the First XI for Cricket and the First XV Rugby, so a sportsman. Good marks in French and Spanish.  Reasonable compositions in English…History is not your strength is it? With a little more effort in the Sciences you could probably have your choice of any Medical School…The world is not quite your oyster, although it could be, Christopher, it could be.  Have you decided whether it’s to be Oxford or Cambridge, yet?”

Toph was tempted to say that he’d been considering a Red Brick, but whilst History might not have been his best subject, People was something he excelled in.  It would do no good to give the master apoplexy.

And so the interview ground it’s slow but inexorable way to a conclusion that was unsatisfying for both parties.  Dr Hughes immediately put it out of his mind as he moved on to the next pupil in the Lower Sixth, reflexively making some marginal notes in Toph’s file, which he’d already forgotten before the closed folder was placed back on the stack on the table.

A few weeks passed, and then it was half term.  Following tradition, a trip to Town was organised, which would include a visit to the cinema.  Surprisingly, Tom, his youngest brother, had beeen desperate to go to the second hand bookshop that was one of his Father’s favourite haunts.  Jonno, the middle brother, had also been keen on the idea.  He was looking for some references for an art project on the one hand, and some old but not valuable books on the other for various pieces that he had in mind.  Toph could have gone off on his own somewhere, meeting up with the family at the cinema, but he decided that accompanying the rest to the bookshop might be quite fun.

On the way to Town, he was uncharacteristically withdrawn: Jonno was making notes and doodling in his sketch book, Tom was talking nineteen to the dozen about a book he’d found there on a previous visit.  Toph sat back and let it all wash over him as he thought about the mad man they’d been to see talk a few days before.  It had been a charity event,  something about closing down orphanages by getting the children homed with families, but the speaker was an explorer who’d travelled round the world by bike. He’d come into contact with the charity when he’d passed through Bosnia, and he’d stayed in contact.  Toph didn’t have many detractors, but there were one or two who thought him superficial.  They’d be surprised at how much he’d been affected by the talk.

Given the energy that Tom had been exhibiting earlier, he was quietly focussed in the shop, working his way through various departments in a methodical  and determined manner.  Jonno knew what he was after and wasted little time in finding it.  Toph browsed.   He nearly missed it: a little white haired old man moved a pile of books and exposed a blue-leather covered book, tooled with gold, upin which was emblazoned the legend “The Engineer’s Sketchbook”.  He picked it up, and leafed through it.

Toph was the kind of person who excelled at things because he wanted to.  He’d decided he wanted to be the best cricketer he could, for example, and he’d set out to make it happen. Without something to focus on, he had a tendency to drift.  As he looked at the book, two neurons in his brain fired together and he suddenly knew not only what he wanted to study at uni, but why, and what he was going to do afterwards.

He would read Mechanical Engineering, and travel the world, for a few years at least volunteering, his skills whereever they might be of use.

© David Jesson, 2018

Post Script: How could I not go with that title as my prompt?  I’ve written a few other stories about Toph, Jonno, and Tom, and you can find these via the Index page.  The charity mentioned in the story is a real one, and you can find more details about Hope and Homes for Children here.  Al Humphreys is also real, and not only that but an amazing and inspirational human being.  You can find out more about him here.  I firmly believe that everyone should be issued with a copy of his Microadventures book: you don’t need kit to have adventures and you don’t need to travel to far off climes.  (But that can be fun too).


An Artist in Egypt

There he went again. Shaking his head, Jonathan thought (and not for the first time) what a strange fellow his neighbour was. Up every morning shortly after dawn, he’d take breakfast on the verander, just as Jonathan did; but while Jonathan was having a cigarette with his coffee, he’d pack up an easel and a large bag, before heading off across the dunes.

Leaving for the Embassy, Jonathan would be back anything from teatime to late at night, depending what had blown up during the day. Tourists generally, especially the upper class ones, were the bane of his life. Oh, there were plenty of working and middle class tourists who got into trouble, but they were generally grateful for whatever assistance Jonathan and his team would give. But the upper crust … oh no. Always went their own way, ignored Foreign Office advice, and that given them by the Embassy. When they did get into trouble and needed fishing out – for they always did – they treated Jonathan and his team like a bunch of lackies. No gratitude, simply annoyance and ill manners.

The most recent lot had enquired after a chap they knew, who turned out to be Jonathan’s neighbour. For some reason, Jonathan felt a degree of kinship with this man he’d never spoken to and decided to check if he wanted this group to descend on him. Not that he’d done so yet, for it had been a long day yesterday and he’d only been home for a quick shower and change into dress uniform before that shindig at the French Embassy. He should have gone over this morning during breakfast, but it was his one moment of private peace – and he hated to give it up. Something told him that his neighbour would understand. He’d leave a note with his card on the way to work.

As he got home that evening, the sun was dropping low in the sky – his neighbour’s “lot” had already managed to get into trouble and, to divert attention from their idiocy, had complained to the Ambassador that Jonathan hadn’t located their friend. The Ambassador had not been pleased and had given Jonathan a very lively flea in his ear. Jonathan knew he’d have to speak to his neighbour that evening to obtain his wishes.

Changing into casual trousers and shirt, he accepted a long cool drink from his boy, before walking out onto the verander. Although still just a silhouette, he was confident he spied his neighbour returning over the dunes from a day’s painting. He decided to walk across the road to greet him. With luck he’d be able to raise the matter and get the chap’s decision, all before either of them would have to extend an invitation to the other. These damn tourists, upsetting a chap’s routines.

It didn’t go according to plan though. “Got your note” said his neighbour, handing his easel to Jonathan, before striding across the road. Reaching his front door, he passed his bag to his boy and then looked back across the road to where Jonathan was still standing – looking a touch gormless if he was entirely honest – and beckoned him over “you’d better come in for a drink while I clean up.”

Once inside, Jonathan was struck by how different the interiors of their houses were, especially considering their identical footprint. His neighbour’s house was cool and airy, whilst Jonathan’s was warm if not stuffy. Where Jonathan’s home was furnished like a typical British army batchelor – relatively spartan, with well-crafted pieces of furniture – this was lush and layered. There were colours and textures, comfort was clearly of prime import. There were also a number of paintings on the wall, all in watercolour – a mix of dhows on the river, and buffalos working the fields, to views of an entirely buccolic and decidedly English countryside. Jonathan had to admit that he was really rather taken with them – they had clean lines, and a slightly sketchy quality which suggested movement. He knew he’d buy one before he left.

His thoughts were interrupted by his neighbour’s return. Handing him a drink, he announced “Tristan Dawes – but you presumably already knew that from the contents of your note. So, who are these reprobates who’ve asked for my whereabouts?” Jonathan pulled his notebook out and read the names, noticing that Tristan’s facial expression wasn’t exactly one of delight as he did so. “What’s the drill then? You give them my whereabouts, and my peace is over?” Jonathan smiled “Not at all. If you’ve no wish to see them, I simply advise them that you’ve left instructions not to be disturbed … by anyone. They’ve no rights to your address and the Ambassador isn’t obliged to provide it to them.” Tristan nodded before holding out his hand to shake Jonathan’s  “Thank you, I didn’t expect that.”

He’d gained another flea in the ear from the Ambassador for not persuading his neighbour otherwise, but Jonathan stuck to his guns. The Ambassador would do anything for a quiet life, even if it was not strictly correct protocol.

He and Tristan took to having supper together, one night a week, alternating between homes. Jonathan arranged for him to join Embassy trips into the more far flung parts of the country, where he could paint new and different scenes. In return, Tristan had earmarked two paintings for him. Turned out Tristan had not only come to Egypt to escape his over-bearing family and family friends (like the lot who’d tried to track him down) he’d come to Egypt for the dry heat. Having been a bit of a speedster as a young man, the broken bones which came with the inevitable crashes had left him with arthritis. Cold and rainy England may have his heart – which it did, for he still painted it from his memories – but Egypt had provided him with the conditions to be able to continue wielding his brushes.

© Debra Carey, 2018

Ten ghosts

ten ghosts

I was in bed one night last month, all as per usual. Todd was gently snoring and I was fidgeting about trying to fall asleep, when I heard it. “What did you say?” I asked. But on he snored, so this time I gave him a little shove as I repeated: “what did you say?” “Eh, oh, what?” he replied. I repeated myself and he insisted that not a word had passed his lips before returning to that gentle snore. To be fair, it hadn’t sounded like him. Todd’s a bit loud and this had been the gentlest of whispers. I lay still and listened for what seemed like ages before starting to drift off again. Then it happened again, but this time I stayed quiet and listened – really, really hard.

I’d turned a fan on before going to sleep, but there was definitely something else and it sounded like whispers. The longer I listened, the more certain I became that there were multiple voices whispering in the dark. At some point I must’ve drifted off because when I woke up, the fan was off and the whispers were clear.

They were talking about me. I heard them say “Her” and yes, it was with a capital H. Then one of them used my name. I tried not to freak out and concentrated on just keeping my breathing regular as if I was meditating. I heard one of them say “that car, it’s so old” whilst another chimed in with “and yet she drives it so fast, always going over the speed limit”. I had to really focus on not sitting up and saying “hey, don’t talk about me like that!” Then a really little girl voice said: “I’m so scared for her, there’s been too many near misses on roundabouts”. And that chilled me. She was right, I’d become a tad cavalier and noticed that I was getting rather more hoots than usual on roundabouts. I made a mental note to scale back the speed and be more careful at junctions. And then I drifted back to sleep.

In the morning, I convinced myself it had all been a dream. But it kept happening. If I woke in the middle of the night, kept quiet and really listened, I could hear them. There were a lot of voices, although four were particularly vocal. They would discuss what had been happening during the day and sometimes they would hark back to other stuff. Each seemed to have a particular bee in their bonnet. One man didn’t like Todd and kept pointing out negative things about him: “he drinks too much” or “I don’t like his temper” and “why does he’s keep saying uncomplimentary things about how she looks?” It was weird, if I was having a conversation, I’d been able to defend him, but I wasn’t, and so their opinions stayed out there, worming their way into my mind. I can’t say I liked what I heard. The worst was when they all started to agree with him “he’s so controlling …”.

I took that man’s advice one day and packed my bags. I’d pretended to go to work, but came home once he’d gone. I’d been planning it for a while now – putting aside a bit of money in a secret savings account and arranging to work for my old mate Julie in her pub down in Wales. I hated my job anyway and as I’d just been paid – straight into that new savings account – I was skipping town with my month’s wages. The doorbell rang – it was that man-with-a-van I’d hired to help me move. There wasn’t much I wanted to take mind, I didn’t want any reminders, so I took only what I’d brought with me. The van followed me on my final task – dropping my car at the local second-hand dealer. He was only giving me a few quid for scrap value, but it was one more thing put behind me.

My whispering ghosts were going to be happy tonight …


© Debra Carey, 2017

Flashfiction -Photoprompt

We had made the campfire, cooked something to eat, and swapped yarns: the whole thing was quite festive.

The fire was dying down, so we lay down and looked up at the night sky, continuing our discussion about how Earth-like the planet was, complete with the rock shaped by wind and water.  The night-sky was both familiar and unfamiliar – we could still make out the Milky Way, but none of our familiar constellations.

As wreckage from our spaceship made shooting stars,  two questions were in everyone’s minds: How were we going to get home?  Did we want to?

© David Jesson, 2017 (100 words)

Guide to identifying a time-traveller

About Time

I looked out of the high window to the street outside.  The rain poured down, not torrentially, but with an insistent persistence, that left the pavement devoid of pedestrians, and road itself almost barren of of vehicles.  What should have been a quiet summer’s evening was a complete wash out, and I was glad to be inside.  I turned from the window and picked up my glass from an antique occasional table.

“Not a time to be outside” I stated to the room at large, not really expecting a response.  The four of us had, as was our wont, adjourned to the Library after dinner, scowling concertedly at a new member who had the temerity to try an join us.  The Library had been ours for time immemorial.  Greywood had plomped into ‘his’ armchair and, tumbler of single malt not withstanding, had fallen asleep.  None of us could really understand how he did it.  He was demonstrably asleep, with light purring snore emanating from around a large fluffy moustache – that we would often joke had a life of its own – and yet not a drop of whisky would be lost from the glass, all would be consumed before the evening’s end.

The Commonwealth Club (we often called it the  Prune Club – being elderly curmudgeons was our raison d’etra) is an anachronism, looking like something that Phileas Fogg might have belonged, hundreds of years before.  But even in our supposed modern world it has its place.

Darbishire and Memana were bickering over some item or other that they had read in the news as I was looking out of the window, but they broke off as I made my comment on the weather outside and Darbishire said “that reminds me of a joke: time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana!”

Memana groaned and I looked round for a pillow, or failing that a book, that I could throw.  Greywood huffed through his moustache and fixed Darbishire with a steely gaze.  This was another of Greywood’s traits that we had never fathomed: no matter how deeply asleep he seemed to be, he always knew what was being talked about.  We waited for the inevitable anecdote from his time in The Service.

That was a truly terrible joke [said Greywood], and besides which, it is factually incorrect.  Fruit flies may, indeed, like a banana, but time does not fly like an arrow. Every moment in history is available to us if we had but the means to access it, and what we experience is merely the brain trying to make sense of all this time happening at once.  During my time in The Service, I was seconded for a period to the Bureau of Anomalies in Time and Space.  Some boffin or other had managed to crack a limited form of time travel, and whilst the Government had tried to keep it under wraps, a boot-leg version had leaked out to the criminal classes.  There were two issues with this technology.  One, whilst you could jump a reasonable amount of time into the past or future, you could only do so for a few seconds, a minute at most and you would come back to where you jumped from as if you were on a bit of elastic.  The other was that the process of jumping had a physiological effect and all the muscle fibres in the body would contract a small but significant amount.   As a result, the technology was all but useless for espionage, and the technology was suppressed lest it fall into the wrong hands. Suppressed badly, and inevitably it did fall into the wrong hands.

The head of BATS was not a complete fool – you don’t get to head up such a specialist group if you’re an idiot.   He acted promptly, called in extra support as required and the team were able to track the leak and find the criminal group who were planning to use the equipment.  They had had some plan of using the  technology to gain information on sporting events.  We managed to catch up with them in the midst of their first attempt and scooped them all up, with the exception of the time-traveller.   Police records indicated that we had the whole gang as far as was known and so it was no simple matter to find our lost waif.  We did not know what he (or she) looked like, we did not know where they had jumped from, how far into the past or future they had jumped, or when they had returned to our time.  As I say, the head of the team that I had been seconded to was not a complete idiot and, as he had seen me at work before, he called me in early.   A job like this is tricky in so many ways, but I was able to tell the team reviewing the CCTV footage from the venue what to look for and the Police were able to pick up the, as it turned out, man before he had got too far.

Greywood sipped his whisky, wiped his moustache, resettled himself into his chair and started to fall back to sleep.  There is only one thing to do at such times and we all knew the drill.  Memana was closest and kicked Greywood’s foot.

“Hey! Oh no you don’t!  How did you know who to look for?”

“I would have thought it was perfectly obvious – I told you about the technology, and it’s physiological effects.  All they had to do was look for the person who suddenly had serious problems walking – time wounds all heels, you know”.

© David Jesson, 2017

 

One man’s now is another man’s history

Sonia awoke to a persistent beeping noise: “What the hell is that?” she muttered. She’d told her team not to wake her under pain of death and they’d never not complied. That’s when she realised it wasn’t her phone but the Gadget. Pulling open the drawer she read the message flashing in fluorescent letters: “Report immediately.”

Punching in her entry code – not her birthdate (she’d terrorised all her staff with instant dismissal if they used that) her’s was the date her dog died – Sonia strode into the office.. She found them all sitting round the coffee machine, feet up and chatting. “Up!” she yelled in her best sergeant major voice and enjoyed the scampering response. “We’ve got a top priority alert. A suspect on his way from Boston. Time Traveller. Someone down there goofed and he used a ray gun on the senior security guy who’s now gone all ga-ga.”

Her team looked decidedly unhappy with that news: “Erm boss, how’re we supposed to handle that without getting fried ourselves?”

“We’re just running interference” she reassured them. “We announce a delay with the refuelling truck which gives them enough time to get a specialist out here from Boston. Everyone needs to keep calm, act natural and it’ll be just fine.”

It’d been Sonia’s suggestion that they use the excuse of the refuelling truck as a delaying tactic. Here in Anchorage, the conditions meant they frequently needed to handle freezing weather and today was certainly cold enough to freeze the proverbials off a brass monkey.

Sonia changed out of her uniform into something a bit more unchallenging and low level before making the announcement about the delay. Her announcement was greeted with the expected groans, so she announced that free hot refreshments were available. She took the opportunity to move amongst the passengers and engage each of them in brief conversation, but no-one was triggering her spidey senses.

Her phone rang “John’s landed” she heard in her ear. This time it was her turn to groan. Really, her little brother? They’d had to send the doofus to handle this on her territory? Sonia flashed her best smile to the cute looking guy in the Bruins sweatshirt and excused herself. Pity this wasn’t a real delay, she could’ve pulled there.

Pulling on her outdoor layers and boots, Sonia crossed the runway to where John’s plane was taxiing to a stop. Bundled up, John emerged first and hurried down the stairs. “Hi Sis, it’s the guy in the Bruins sweatshirt. Have you spotted him yet?” “Don’t be ridiculous” she snapped in response, “I’ve just been chatting to him and he’s just an ordinary guy.” John grinned, “Yeah he is exactly your type, but he’s the guy, I promise you.” “So why didn’t you stop him at Boston then?” John sighed, he could feel his big sister assessing him cooling, expecting him to confess that he’d messed up. “I identified him, but while I went to get my kit to put him down, the head of security persuaded my boss that he could handle it without any fuss himself. Seems he was wrong.”

“What this ray gun he’s using?” Sonia enquired. “We don’t know yet. It’s the first of its type we’ve come across” John admitted. “They usually just knock you out, but these ones seem to make their victims loose their memories and their mental faculties.” “Sounds nasty.” “Yup, that’s why I put out the instruction to just delay him. I didn’t want my big sis getting into any trouble she couldn’t handle” grinned John.

Swiping him round the ear, Sonia asked for details of John’s plan. “Well, he’s seen me before, so …” “He’s seen you before? That’ll make it more difficult. How well would he know you?” “We chatted for nearly an hour, so it’s a risk. I’m going to need to disguise myself. Any thoughts?”

Sonia pondered as they walked across to the airport terminal. Going to her office, she signalled a cleaner pushing a mop and bucket to join them. There John and the cleaner switched outfits, including the glasses and knitted hat the cleaner was wearing. Sonia walked round John and admitted “I’d not recognise you even if I was expecting to see you.” “Perfect” said John and got his kit prepared. Pulling on thick heavy cleaning gloves, he pushed the mop and bucket across the terminal building and into the lounge. John pushed the mop around in the guy’s eye-line and when he was confident there’d been no reaction, he moved round behind him. Looking over the top of his glasses, John picked his spot carefully and plunged the needles into the guy’s neck. The guy startled, but collapsed before he could get his hand into his pocket. Sonia and her team raced in, removed his ray gun carefully, and cuffed the guy.

Later, as they were walking back to his plane with the prisoner, Sonia asked “I forgot to check, how’d you know it was him in Boston?” “Usual thing, I got an instinct …” “Oh come on” said Sonia “this is me remember, I know how your mind works. What was it that triggered those instincts?

“There was something wrong I couldn’t put my finger on, so I struck up a conversation with him. We talked ice hockey ‘cos he was wearing a Bruins shirt. He knew facts and figures, but there was no colour, no opinion. Even though he said he was a long-term fan, there was no passion. So I asked about more stuff. And he was the same – all facts and figures, but nothing personal.”

“Time travellers need to get their cultural references right, especially when they come from the future. My guy sounded like he was reciting history … not talking about life.”

© Debra Carey, 2017