Bert felt jealous, cheated on, and blue. Then he discovered he could morph into a giant nightmarish slug...
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On Wednesdays and Sundays I’m blogging nibble-sized chunks of new ‘Life in the Clouds’ novellas. You can check in regularly and read them bit for bit, or leave a message in my 'contact' page, and I'll send the entire digital story to you for free when published.
Life in the Clouds #6: Take a Slug ® James Field.
The village green embraced a large convenience store on one of its three sides. The shop nestled between Ye Olde Inn and a Smithy. Closing time neared, and there were no customers inside the store. A newly employed assistant restocked shelves with medical items, personal items, horse items, canned goods, snacks, and beer. When finished, he’d sweep the tiled floor and clean the soft ice machine.
The door clicked open and the bell above jangled on its spring. The assistant stopped his work, raised the counter flap, and passed through to the business side.
A woman clad in black from head to toe stepped inside. She carried with her a musty smell, as if the fresh air outside had no power to freshen her. The temperature in the shop dropped a few degrees, and a deathly silence fell, broken only by the slush machine whirring and ice-cold drink bottles clinking in the refrigerated case.
“You can have the pleasure of serving this lady,” said the shop owner, who emerged from a private back room. Like the assistant, he wore light-beige coveralls that swept around his portly waist. As always, wrinkles of a smile stretched about his eyes and cheeks.
“Yes, Ma’am,” said the assistant. “What can I help you with?”
“You can put those disgusting pornographies out of sight.” She pointed to a rack of magazines without gazing that way.
“Yes, Ma’am. Anything else?”
“I’d like a bottle of ink, two pounds of potatoes, two pounds of flour, a pound of carrots, a half-pound of butter, six eggs, and a tincan of condensed milk.”
The assistant darted around the shop, fetching and weighing, and placed the items in front of her. Not once did she smile, but stood erect with her hands clasped and breathing piously through her pinched nose.
“Shall we deliver them?” asked the assistant.
The woman regarded him, her mouth turned down at the edges. “No, I always carry my parcels. I am writing a book and nobody must disturb me.” She paid for the supplies with cash. The cash register chimed as the tray slid open and the assistant handed the woman her change. Without comment, she gathered the bundle of food and stepped out of the store.
“That lady’s a nut, isn’t she?” asked the assistant.
“Yep,” said the shop owner. “Her name is Penelope, twin sister of Olive. You’ve met her. She’s the one who flirts with you every time she comes in.”
A tint of red surged across the assistant’s face. “She’s old enough to be my mother.”
“Yes, well, this Penelope never buys meat. She’s a vegetarian. And they say she burns all her garbage—has nothing in the dustbin except ashes. If you knock at her door, she never answers it. Like she said, she’s writing a book; spends all her time at it. Religious crank, I presume. Has a little income though—I guess her folks were rich. Comes out sometimes in the evening and pokes round the village green here. We laughed about her at first, but we’re used to her now.”
To be continued…
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Like to know more about Alf, Bert and the rest of the gang? You can read their chaotic history in What on Earth.
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The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
There’s a lot to like and a lot to dislike in this story. I like that it’s cosy, funny, and heart-warming. The plot, however, is a tragedy. There are two murders, and every character in the book, of which there are many, has a motif. With so many twists, turns, and red herrings throughout the narrative, it lost me in a virtual maze.
But the author commits the gravest crime: he introduces a new, guilty character right at the end of the story. Tut, tut, naughty.
View all my reviews