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.
Alf plunked his arm around Morris’s shoulder and caressed the top of his skull with his knuckles. “Bert’s suffered enough. Leave him alone.”
After wrenching himself free, and rubbing his head, Morris grumbled, “You were in on that prank too, weren’t you?”
“Work it out for yourself, smart-arse.”
Morris rose on tiptoes and tried to put his face into Alf’s, but the top of his head still didn’t reach up to Alf’s chin. Olive slid between them and pressed them apart. “No fighting, boys. Bert needs a drink. Let’s go inside and forget all this macho stuff.”
“I ain’t going in there,” said Bert, flakes of dry tar crumbling from his face. “I saw you and Robin Hood. You’ve been cheating on me again.”
“Oh, Bert, have you been spying on me? What a wicked boy you are!” She kissed her fingertip and placed it on Bert’s lips. “But I like you. When Robin Hood took his mask off, and I saw he was that Wittree boy, full of teenage spots and yellow teeth, I told him to take a running jump. It’s all harmless fun, Bert. Nothing else.”
“Wittree boy?” said Morris, suddenly losing interest in Alf and Bert. “What’s the Wittree boy doing here?”
“It’s a masquerade party,” said Olive. “Anybody can come. His Robin Hood disguise was rather good. Tricked me all right. Funny though, he kept asking about you, Morris. Wanted to know if you had noticed any slugs in your garden.”
Morris gave a little snort and wrinkled his nose. “The little creep was pumping you for information about my prize pumpkin.” He slid a hand from his pocket and rubbed the back of his neck. “Did the creep say his father had slugs in his garden?”
“Oh yes, it’s all he went on about. Said his dad was fuming because the slugs had attacked his prize pumpkin and ruined it.”
Morris held his palms to his eyes. When he took them away, a slow smile crept over his face. “What else did he say?”
“He said his dad thinks you put them there because he saw the shadow of a person on his surveillance camera. Says he can’t be sure it was you though because the shadow was monstrous and wore a disguise: pointed ears and a cloak...”
“Batman!” shouted Morris, staring at Alf’s costume. “Once a crook, always a crook.”
Alf tore the batman mask from his head and tapped a finger against the side of his flat nose. “I’m not saying it was me, and I’m not saying it wasn’t me. All I’m saying, Morris, is that you talk a lot in your sleep.”
All trace of hostility drained from Morris’s face. “So that’s what happened to my jar of slugs. Alf, I owe you an apology. It seems my pumpkin will win this year’s horticultural competition, after all.” He chuckled and then turned serious. “Just stop all these juvenile pranks.”
Soft music wafted from Ye Olde Inn and they could see through the window that people were dancing again. “The beers are on me,” said Morris, leaning his bayoneted rifle against the wall. “We’re all thirsty, I reckon. Can you make it inside, Bert?”
Olive slipped her arm through Bert’s and tugged on him. “Come on, pet. A couple of beers will do you good and then I’ll take you home for a bath.” She rested her head on his shoulder and giggled. “I’ll scrub your back for you, lover slug.”
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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.
Image by Alexander Lesnitsky from Pixabay
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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