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.
Whatever else people might say about Sibyl, that she is a witch or a sour-faced hag, nobody could deny she protected the ones she loved. There weren’t many of them in the living world: her husband, Morris; the young Cloud masters; Alf, and Bert.
When Alf told her that a giant slug had carried Morris off in his pickup, she smiled a tight smile and continued to make his breakfast. With creased brows, fingers tapping together, she watched him eat. Even though he was famous for his pranks, it wasn't always obvious when he was serious.
When Alf saw her uncertainty, he told her to come see for herself. She grabbed her broom and ran to the door.
“What are you going to do with that?” asked Alf.
“Shoo away the slug. Are you coming, or are you still off duty?”
“I’m coming all right,” said Alf, wiggling his brow where his eyebrows used to be. “I don’t want to miss this.”
“Good, because you can give me a ride on your quad buggy.”
“Broom conked out?”
Sibyl frowned and considered her broom. She couldn't fly on it, and it wasn't a weapon. “You’re right. I’m better off with this.” She leaned the broom in a corner and grabbed a heavy mace that stood by the door. “Let’s go.”
Alf hitched a trailer to his quad buggy and gave a mental command to his little robot friend, Crusher, to jump aboard and hang on tight. Sibyl climbed on behind Alf, strapped her mace to a luggage rack, and slid her chunky arms around Alf’s broad chest. A forty-minute walk took them less than ten minutes.
When Alf saw the lake, he shut off the buggy and nodded into the forest. “We have to walk from here.” He helped Sibyl step down and then led the way. “You can see the tracks,” he pointed. “It ain’t possible to steer a car like that, all zig-zaggy around the trees. I tell you, it was a giant slug that dragged him.”
Suddenly, he stopped dead. Sibyl bumped into his back, followed his astonished gaze, and felt her heart leap into her throat. There stood Morris’s pickup, with Morris trapped inside and screeching hysterically. A monstrous slug leaned over his car. Some way off, plainly not daring to go closer, Bert’s two Alsatians snarled and growled.
“Come here, Chums,” commanded Sibyl.
The dogs trotted across to her, tongues hanging out, panting.
“Sit!” They obeyed.
The animal’s fur ruffled, and they swung their heads to scowl at the slug. Angry growls bubbled deep in their throats.
“No,” whispered Sibyl. “Don’t tell me the slug has eaten him.”
To be continued…
The real world:
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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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