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.
Bert sat slumped in his little dinghy, in the middle of The Cloud Estate’s small lake, and wondered if he should simply tip over the side and drown himself. It was his fiancé, Olive’s fault. Despite his objection, she’d insisted on going to a masquerade party later that evening, and the thought of her in the arms of other men made his heart race with jealousy. He’d tarred and feathered himself so he could go to the masquerade and spy on her. Now he’d dropped himself in a right pickle, scaring his friends half to death, and ended aimlessly floating about in this stupid boat.
Just then, he heard Alf’s quad buggy and sent an indifferent glance in that direction. Alf skidded to a stop by the lake’s edge, patted Bert’s Alsatians, who greeted him wildly, and waved to Bert. “Here, catch this,” he called and tossed a rope his way. A rock weighted the rope’s end, and it sailed over Bert’s head to splash into the lake beyond him, the rope dropping over his dingy. Quick as a blink, Alf tied the other end to a tree.
“I’ve brought your boots for you, me old mate,” said Alf, chucking them onto the grass. “I reckon you need them.” He held his palms up, stopping Bert from speaking. “Pull yourself in. I’m off to the masquerade party. Guess I’ll see you there later. I’m the one dressed as Batman. We can talk then.” He vaulted back on his buggy and revved the engine. “Be careful though, Sibyl is brewing a curse to put on you.”
Back in her kitchen, Sibyl scratched her nose. A black pot bubbled on the range, filled with a stinking brew of secret ingredients. She crushed the bloodstained leaf and added it to her pot. A mucky feather had stuck to her fingertip, and when she pulled it off, it stuck to a finger on her other hand. She shook it, blew it, and eventually smeared it on the end of her wooden spoon. As she sniffed the fumes, she composed a curse:
We’ve got this bug, which acts like a thug.
To be more precise, I think it’s a slug.
A storm in the night will put it to flight,
And a bolt of lightning to set it alight.
The hair of a newt, the spit of a frog,
Pinch of cinnamon, flea from a hog.
It squeals like a pig, smells of tar,
Knee bend, arm stretch, ra ra ra.
“What else?” Seeds and pods cracked as she ground them and dropped the powder into the mixture. Satisfied that her potion was complete, she lifted a hotplate from her range and tipped a ladleful of the gunge in.
“Watch out slug, twist and twinge,
A storm is brewing and you will singe.”
The potion ignited with a whoosh that rattled the hotplates and forced soot and ash to puff from every joint in the range. High above the mansion, from a lofty chimney, belched a plume of acrid black smoke that twirled upwards to merge with the clouds.
To be continued…
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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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