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.
Dear friends, if you like a good chuckle, dim-witted heroes, and larger-than-life villains, then you'll love this fascinating series. On Wednesdays and Sundays, I’m blogging nibble-sized chunks of new ‘Life in the Clouds’ stories. You can check in regularly and read them for free, or wait to buy the entire story when published.
#3: Gamblers who Cheat ® James Field.
Alf paused on Ye Olde Inn's doorstep and drew a deep breath of fresh air. Now that he'd taken the plunge to start his roaming, he felt much easier at heart and whistled along with the birds. It was a beautiful spring day, with summer right around the corner. What more could a poor soul wish? No responsibilities for a while; life was for living in the now.
He carried no food. There was no need to fret about such minor details; he'd find something along the way. He had no need of money either, or his smartphone, or a knapsack filled with useless junk. Leaving with nothing but the fluff in his pockets gave him a vast feeling of freedom—just like in his younger days.
Yet, he couldn't fool himself. He wasn't as free as he liked to think. His friends' world was under assault from an evil foe and on the verge of collapse. From this instant, he was on a quest: to find entrance into the darkest depths of the Hotel California in search of a golden nugget. On his journey, he'd do battle with fierce bouncers and vanquish Styles' wicked witch of a sister.
He chuckled to himself and eased the fantasy from his mind. Later, after the sun had set, he'd recline under the stars, dream his dreams, and let the world and time drift along without him.
The lawyer had followed him out. As he squeezed past, he patted Alf on his back, stared up into his eyes, and said, "These are good people. Don't cause them more problems than they already have."
Alf stared back but didn't commit himself. Whatever he did during the next few days was nobody's business but his own.
With a frail salute and a vague wink, the lawyer slumped into his car and drove off. From his open window he called, "See you in three days."
Standing alone now on Ye Olde Inn's car park, Alf put the lawyer from his mind, glanced about, and noticed a small moped scooter parked next to a bicycle stand. It had small balloon tires, orange and silver trimmings, and a large luggage box in the same style behind the seat.
He strolled across to inspect it closer, swung a leg over the softly padded saddle, and noticed the keys remained in the ignition. He considered loaning it for a while and wriggled his hairless eyebrows. It was neither a sin nor a shame when the owner was most likely the fake Hell's Angel he'd met at the bar just now. A jab on the start button brought it to happily life, its exhaust making a sound like popcorn in a hot saucepan.
There were no gears, so Alf gave it full throttle and helped it on its way by pushing off with his long legs that dangled on each side. Not caring what others thought, he whooped, did a lap of the car park, and zipped off toward the main road and freedom.
The scooter wielded even less power than Alf expected, and he kept the throttle opened at full. He'd ridden many a motorcycle, his own was a massive Harley, but none of them were as puny and light as this. But what did it matter? he consoled himself. You never know how life will turn when you have no expectations.
The dirt track road that led out of The Stables was riddled with potholes, forcing him to drive slalom. A cloud of dust followed, and a young couple holding hands almost fell into the ditch as he swerved past. "Yahoo!" shouted Alf, both legs and his free arm raised as high as he could get them.
Driving along the highway proved much less fun. This time, it was he who almost fell into the ditch as lorries squeezed past to overtake. At the first opportunity, he veered into a single-lane side road, which wormed its way to a cluster of distant farmsteads.
As soon as he turned into the lane, throttle still wide open, he recognised the slim outline of a young lady ambling beside the curb, hips swaying like a pendulum. She carried a handbag over her shoulder and a plastic carrier bag in one hand. If Alf guessed right, he reckoned a bus had dropped her off on the main road and she was walking home.
One minute later, he swished past her, skidded to a halt, stopped the little machine, and bowed his head. "Hello there," he said, presenting his friendliest Pug smile. "My name is Alf. Can I give you a lift?"
In this post: Alf shakes off an acute case of melancholy…
"No thanks, I don't have far to go," said the girl, looking at him with suspicion. But Alf, enjoying himself, couldn't let her slip away so easily. "It's a beautiful day and you're a beautiful woman. Hop on behind and I'll take you for a spin, just for the fun of it."
The girl screamed, dropped her carry bag, and set off running as if the devil loomed on her heels. Alf laughed out loud, swallowed his disappointment, and considered his haggard features. Baldheaded, flat-nosed, cauliflower ears, a stubble of scruffy hair on his jaw, and enough scars to make anyone think he was a veteran battlefield casualty. Who wouldn't run off?
Before he'd started his career as a street fighter, he'd been an irresistibly handsome hunk. In those days, girls threw themselves at him, and if he still had those looks the girl would have gladly climbed on behind him and hugged him tightly. Today, he couldn't think of anyone who found him attractive.
It dawned on him then that perhaps this was the reason he sought solitude: a desire to escape the lonely sadness, a need to be alone. Being in his early forties, he was still a young man, plenty of time to find a warm companion willing to share his days. But where was she? He leant forward, elbows resting on the moped's handlebars, and stared off at nothing; one more dream he'd save for later.
Not downcast by nature, Alf set his gloom aside, stepped off the moped, and picked up the girl's carrier bag. Just as he suspected, it was full of nosh: cakes, potato crisps, and coke. With a bitter smile, he told himself off for thinking negatively. Heaven smiled on him today, and he couldn't wait to see what it had in store.
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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