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.
Wild woodland covers most of The Cloud Estate, a blend of pine, oak, beech, and ash. In less of a hurry now, Bert strolled along a barely visible path and hummed an unrecognisable ditty. He stopped every so often to glimpse at the blue sky through the screen of trees. In those rare places, he tipped his head back to smile at the morning sun’s warmth. Squirrels cautiously watched him from the trees, and a small bird on a branch stared at him, too stunned to move.
Then Bert called to mind Alf’s phone call: something about a giant slug carrying Morris in his pickup into the forest. Anyone would think it was me, chuckled Bert, the way I look now. “Come on, Chums,” he said to his Alsatians, who still growled at him. “We need to find Morris and see if we can help him.”
The Cloud Estate’s modest lake was on the mansion’s opposite side to where Bert now strolled. After twenty minutes, he emerged from the trees and followed a cinder road that circled the mansion and its broad lawns. With the mansion behind him, he plunged into the forest again, this time on a tractor path cut through an equally tight forest. The path headed down a slope, sometimes over pine needles, sometimes over gnarled roots and sharp stones that tore at Bert’s bare feet, and then up into a thicket.
It wasn’t hard for Bert to find where Morris’s pickup had left the path. It had torn away clumps of moss and lush green grass. Thin branches dangled, snapped and bent at unnatural angles, pointing the direction. A faint peaty smell rose from the newly exposed turf.
As he zigzagged his way in and out of the undergrowth, Bert kept taking sidelong glances into the foliage. Strong indeed, whatever had drawn the heavy pickup through the tangle of thicket. A slug, Alf had said, a man-eating monster. More likely, thought Bert, pursing his lips, this is one of Alf’s pranks.
When Bert reached Morris’s trapped pickup, he held back, just in case, and scanned the dense forest for signs of the slug. Thin rays of sunshine danced across the forest floor and a squirrel sat alertly on the pickup’s roof, cracking a husk between its teeth. “Seems safe,” muttered Bert, and hobbled the last few steps.
After walking for almost an hour, blood seeped from the soles of his feet. Normally, he would have ridden on his ATV, but not while a thick layer of tacky tar and feathers threatened to muck it up. Once here, he had hoped to hitch a lift in the back of Morris's pickup, but it was stuck so firmly between trees he didn't see how it ever got there, or how they could ever get it out.
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.
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