Cacophony 21

“I hate you!” Taylah burst out, glaring at her father.

“Do you?” Dan responded mildly.

“Yes! All my friends are going. I’m the only one not allowed!”

“I somehow doubt that,” he said drily.

She stared at him mutinously.

“I feel like running away!”

“Okay, but I should tell you, your friend Kylie kept doing that, her mum couldn’t cope, and she’s now a ward of the state.”

She was silent, then, “Why won’t you let me go? Mum would have let me.”

“I’m not your Mum, you’re with me this month, and last time they had a concert, a riot broke out, several people got hurt,” he pointed out.

“Dad, they’ve had lots of concerts. That was the only one where there was trouble.”

“Mm, still, you’re very precious to me, I don’t want to take the chance…”

“Dad, you can’t protect me from something random. I could get hit by a bus going to school.”

“I suppose. Tell you what. How about I go with you?”

“What? You’re joking!”

“So, you’d rather miss out on seeing Cacophony whatever it is because you’re ashamed to be seen with your Dad?”

“Yes. No!”

He was amused.

“So which is it?”

She was silent, then, “Can you really get tickets, do you think?”

“I can try.”


“Which okay is that? You want me to try and get tickets for the two of us?”

Reluctantly, “Yes.”

“Alright then. I’ll see what I can do.”

Taylah got up, and left without another word. He watched her go with a wry smile. He would buy some very good earplugs. He thought it a good compromise. His mate Brad had contacts in the music scene. Maybe he could get him some tickets.

“Are you kidding me?” Brad asked incredulously when he rang him later in the day.

“You wanna go to a Cacophony 21 concert?”

“Well, not by choice, but yes.”

“Mate, even I think it’s just electronic noise, and I’m much tolerant than you when it comes to what passes for music in the twenty-first century.”

“Yeah, but I don’t want Taylah to go by herself, or worse, with her friends. This is a compromise. I’m going to get the best noise-cancelling earplugs money can buy.”

“Alright. I’ll see what I can do.”

Two days later, Brad rang him back.

“I’ve just emailed you two tickets. You owe me big time.”

“Thanks, Brad. I do.”

“Maybe you’d better wait till after the concert before you thank me!”

He was gone. Taylah was still at school. He would surprise her when she came home. He worked from home as a graphic artist and had finished a project for a client.

She arrived just after four and wandered into the kitchen where she dumped her bag on the floor. He was just making a coffee and sat down at the bench.

“Hello. Guess what,” he said.


“Got those tickets you wanted.”

“Oh,” she said unenthusiastically.

“You changed your mind about going? Or is it because I’m going too?”

“I told Laura, she told her mother, and now she’s decided it’s a good idea, so she’s going instead of Adam. So Laura’s pissed at me.”

“Who’s Laura and who’s Adam?”

“Don’t you remember anything? I told you once before. Laura’s my best friend. Adam’s sort of her boyfriend.”


“Yes. Oh. So, no, I really don’t know if I want to go anymore.”

Dan had had enough.

“Fine. I’ll sell the tickets. I may even make a profit from them.”

“You can’t!”

“Why not?”

“It’s illegal! It’s called scalping.”

“Why do you care? You don’t want to go.”

“Well, maybe I do.”

“I wish you’d make up your mind.”

“Alright. We can go.”

“Well, I don’t want you to inconvenience yourself,” her father said sarcastically.

“Just one thing,” she said. “Can we go in separately?”

Dan took a deep breath, then decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. So he said, “Sure.”

“Thanks, Dad!” she said, picked up her bag, and went off to her room.

The concert was on the following Saturday night. That morning, Taylah got a call from Laura, who had gotten over her totally unjustified peeve, and now wanted a favour. Laura walked into Dan’s home office, where he was busy working on a project for a new client.

“Dad?” she asked hesitantly, “Is it ok if you pick Laura and her mum up on the way? She’s a bit worried about parking at the venue.”

“Sure,” he said absently.

“Great! Hear that Laura? We’ll pick you up. I’ll ring you later with the time. See you then. Bye.”

She put her phone in her pocket and said, “Thanks, Dad.”

He nodded, concentrating on the job in front of him. It was later that afternoon. He had done as much work as he could for his client. Earlier in the week, he’d bought some top quality noise-cancelling earplugs. Taylah reminded him they had to leave earlier to detour to pick up the others.

As an afterthought, he asked why Laura’s father couldn’t have taken them. She relayed Laura’s explicit response to any queries about her father.

“If he was around, which he isn’t, I wouldn’t ask him for anything even if he was the last man on earth.”

It sounded rather definite to him. He didn’t ask any more questions.

He ordered a pizza for an early dinner, then they set off. Taylah had sent Laura a message indicating what time they would pick them up. They lived only a few kilometres away. It was a modern home in a newly developed suburb.

Taylah went inside and came out with a short blonde girl. But it was her mother who caused Dan to draw a sharp breath of appreciation. She too was blonde, but tall, very attractive in tight jeans, mauve top and black jacket. The two girls immediately got into the back. Dan hopped out and went around and opened the passenger door.

“Hi,” he said, extending his hand.

“I’m Dan.”

She smiled, and said,” Hello. I’m Catherine. It’s very kind of you to give us a lift.”

“No problem,” he said, as she sat down. He closed the door, walked back around the car and got in. As they drove off, he caught a whiff of her perfume. It wasn’t anything Marion had ever worn that he could remember.

“Looking forward to the concert?” he asked with a smile.

“Of course. Aren’t you?”

He nodded and patted his pocket.

“I’ve got the best noise-cancelling earplugs money can buy.”

She laughed delightedly, and exclaimed, “Me too!”

“What a waste,” Taylah said in a disgusted tone.

“You should have given the tickets to people who would have appreciated and enjoyed the music.”

Dan and Catherine exchanged amused looks, then he said, “Tell you what. Why don’t we swap one ticket each? You two can sit together. Catherine and I will sit separately from you where we won’t embarrass you.”

“Yes!” the two girls whooped together.

So they did. The tickets Brad had secured were up the front, Catherine’s near the back. The girls, beside themselves, naturally took the front, and, were given strict instructions to contact their parents in the event of anything happening, and to meet at the end of the concert. They rushed off without a backward glance.

“So much for your idea about keeping an eye on them,” Catherine remarked.

“Yes,” Dan agreed, “But I think they should be ok. Lots of security around.”

As they made their way to their seats, she said with a mischievous smile, “I don’t suppose you had other, maybe ulterior motives for swapping seats, did you?”

He looked at her with mock surprise.

“How could you even think that? I was looking forward to spending quality time with my daughter, earplugs notwithstanding.”

“And so why aren’t you?”

“Umm, I think I may have got a bit distracted.”

As they were shown to their seats and sat down, she looked at him thoughtfully, and said, “I’ve been called lots of things. I’m not sure distraction has been one of them.”

He looked into her eyes, and said, “I can think of lots of things to call you too, but I might leave them for a more appropriate time.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” she replied.

The noise around them rose to a crescendo as some members of the band appeared on stage. Surreptitiously, both pulled out their earplugs and inserted them, earning wondering looks from the young people around them. But they were soon forgotten as the band began to play. The music, if that was what it was and the screaming that accompanied it, was hideously and horrendously loud. But for two people, not too much of it registered. Occasionally, their hands touched, their fingers interlaced, and they were cocooned in a world of their own.

In the years that followed, they were often to recall, with amusement, their first meeting at a concert where a band called Cacophony 21 performed, a band nobody remembered and they didn’t hear.


Benny and the cockroach.

Benny got the box of cornflakes out of the cupboard and poured the last of its contents into his cereal bowl. He stared stupefied as a large cockroach dropped out as well. He shrieked involuntarily in a most unmanly high pitched voice. He hated cockroaches! Thoughts ran riot through his head. The box was now empty. He had been eating cockroach-infested cornflakes for God knows how long! What had that done to his insides? Totally irrational, he thought vaguely, but it didn’t change anything. He almost gagged as he looked at it sitting placidly in the bowl. What was he going to do now? Kill it of course, but how? He didn’t have a sprayer powerful enough, just a generic brand flying insect one. He needed to make sure it didn’t escape. He scrabbled in the crockery cupboard, found a saucer and placed it carefully on top of the cereal bowl. He checked all around the bowl. It was secure. There was no way the damned thing could get out.

Now, however, what was he going to have for breakfast? He was a creature of habit. He liked his cornflakes. He needed to go get some more. Well, Cockie the cockroach wasn’t going anywhere. He had plenty of time to go out and get some. And maybe a cockroach sprayer. That would fix him. And he’d gotten over the whole ‘what’s it done to my insides’ thing. His stomach acid would have taken care of that, he told himself.

A short while later, after a shower, he was backing his car out of the garage and heading for the nearby supermarket. He was quite chuffed to find his favourite brand of cornflakes was on special, so he bought three packets. Then he went hunting for a cockroach sprayer. They were a damn sight more expensive than ordinary sprayers. Not worth it, he decided. I’ll just work out how to kill this one. Maybe flush it down the toilet, or something, cornflakes and all. He bought some milk as well and headed home.

As he pulled into his garage and got out of his car, he saw a large glass jar he’d put on a shelf. It had contained coffee. He’d bought it when it had been cheap a year ago and kept the jar in case it came in handy. A thought struck him. Cockroaches were the hardiest creatures in the world, he’d read somewhere. He’d put It and the cornflakes in the jar, put holes in the top, because presumably it needed to breathe, and see how long it lived. He picked up the jar, took it inside and placed it on the kitchen bench, next to the cereal bowl.

He slowly removed the saucer. The cockroach was still there. He picked up the bowl and carefully emptied its contents into the jar. He watched as the cockroach fell in, scrabbled around for a minute, then burrowed into the cornflakes. He punctured holes in the lid with a fork, screwed it back on. He found a black marker and scrawled the date on the label on the front, then placed the jar on top of the fridge. He put the cereal bowl in the sink and ran hot water into it. Then he got another one out of the cupboard, opened one of his newly bought boxes of cornflakes, and was soon enjoying his usual breakfast. A ritual that would continue, only now, in the company of Cockie the cockroach.


Barney and the Bear

Barney’s old four-wheel-drive Jeep bumped along the uneven track that led down to the shore of the lake. It was his favourite fishing spot. He’d been coming here for longer than he could remember. The road off the highway had led through densely wooded forests, that he had seen grow thicker over the years. A fire that swept through more than ten years ago had just regenerated it to almost twice the number of trees that had been there before. He stopped in his usual spot, pulled out his gear and set himself up. He unfolded a camp chair that he’d picked up at a garage sale. It was an expensive, top of the range one, and he was inordinately pleased he’d got it for a song. It was a deceased estate sale. He didn’t care. He was quite happy to sit in a dead guy’s chair. He baited the hook on his fishing rod, cast it, set it in its holder, and sat down. In the old days, he used to read a book. Now he had an iPad. He settled his hat on his head and recommenced reading a story he’d started the previous night.

Several hours went by. He hadn’t had a single nibble. but he was engrossed and it didn’t matter much. So, he almost fell off the chair when a deep gravelly voice asked, ”Caught anything yet?”

He straightened up and looked around. He gave an involuntary yelp, then fell over backward. Standing behind him, was a big brown bear. It was looking at him with a quizzical look on its face. He scrambled up, but there was nowhere to run except into the lake. That wouldn’t help. Bears can swim, but amidst the terror and fear, he was aware of two things that should have been impossible. One, bears were not native to the country, and two, worse than that, it spoke to him. English at that. Bears can’t speak, or shouldn’t be able to. This bear obviously didn’t know that. As he stood there petrified, the bear spoke again.

“So, have you caught anything yet?”

“No,” he stuttered.

“Pity,” it said.

“You can talk,” Barney stammered.


“How come?”

“I dunno. Can’t all bears?”

“No,” Barney replied, and continued, “And you shouldn’t be here. Bears aren’t native to this country. Have you escaped from a zoo or circus or something?”

“Don’t know what either of those things are,” the bear said.

“You don’t?”


“So where’d you come from?”

“Back there.”

The bear gestured at the forest behind him,

By now, Barney had overcome his fear. The bear didn’t appear to want to harm him. Not yet anyway.

“So where’d you come from before that?”

Comically, the bear scratched its head with one huge paw. Then it settled down on its haunches.

“Not sure.”

Barney picked up his chair, turned it around to face the bear and sat down. He adjusted his fishing rod but didn’t check it. The bait was probably long gone by now.

“So what do you remember?” he asked.

In the back of his mind, it registered how absurd the whole thing was. He was having a conversation with a bear!

“I remember a bright light, floating in the air, seeing beings who didn’t look like you around me, poking things into me.”

Barney was fascinated. Had the bear been picked up by aliens?

“They stuck something in my head,” the bear continued.

“I don’t remember much more, till I woke up here in this forest. You’re the first human I’ve encountered.”

“Wow,” Barney exclaimed.

“You were abducted by aliens. They gave you the ability to communicate. But I think they put you back in the wrong country.”

“I don’t know what any of that means,” the bear said, “ But whoever they were, they’re coming back for me.”

“How do you know that?”

“It’s in my head.”

“And when are they doing that?”

“Don’t know,” the bear answered.

“I’d stay in the middle of the forest out of sight if I were you,” Barney advised.


“Some humans have a tendency to regard anything they don’t understand as a threat,” Barney told him.

“They’ll try and capture you, or shoot you.”

“I see,” the bear said thoughtfully.

“Thanks for the warning.”

The line on Barney’s fishing rod suddenly tightened. He turned around, jumped up and grabbed it out of its holder. Gradually, with effort, he reeled it in.

“It’s a big one,” he said.

As he pulled the flapping fish closer, there was a splashing sound. The bear had entered the water. He grabbed the fish with both paws.

“I’m hungry,” he said.

“Do you mind?”

Bemused, Barney shook his head. The bear pulled the fish off the hook and swallowed it in one bite. Barney hadn’t even seen what kind of fish it was.

“Thanks,” the bear said.

“I’d better get off. I sense they’re coming soon.”

He lumbered off. Barney watched him go. He slowly re-baited the hook and swore when it pierced his finger. His mind was definitely not on what he was doing. Understandably so perhaps. He cast the line, set the rod in its holder and sat down again. Had the last few minutes actually happened? It seemed unreal. Perhaps he’d been dreaming. He picked up his iPad but found he couldn’t concentrate. He sat there restlessly for a while, then decided to pack up. He’d more or less convinced himself he’d been dreaming. There could be no other explanation. He stowed all his gear in the back of the Jeep, shut the tailgate and walked round to the driver’s side door.

He stopped dead. In the sand nearby, were huge paw tracks. He looked around, then hastily got in the car and took off. The bear had said he was hungry. Just because he could talk, didn’t mean he wouldn’t be above taking a bite out of him, if he came back. He drove as quickly as he dared up the track. Once he reached the road, he floored it. The old Jeep still had a bit of go in her. He almost freaked when he caught a glimpse of brown on his right, but it was just leaves from the diseased branch of a dead tree.

When he left the forest behind, he slowed, then pulled to the side of the road, got out and looked back. There was nothing to see. The sun was now quite low in the sky, and there had been no other traffic. He wondered where the bear was. He stood there for a while, just running over the conversation he had with it. It was crazy. A bear was abducted by aliens and then given the ability to speak. And English at that. Maybe they got him in Canada. He could just as easily have been able to speak French then. He wouldn’t have understood him if he had, And to cap it off, they dumped him back in the wrong country. The thought amused him somewhat. The aliens weren’t as smart as they thought. The whole thing was just nuts, he decided.

He turned and got into the car. As he drove off, he caught a flash of light in his driver’s side mirror. He screeched to a halt and jumped out. In the distance, just above the tree line, he saw a pulsating blue light. He watched in fascination as it hovered, then disappeared. Scant seconds later, it reappeared, hovered again, shot straight up then winked out of sight.

Belatedly, he realised he could have captured the whole thing on his phone. Too late now. He slowly got back in his car and sat for a while before driving off. Nobody would believe him if he told them what had happened. A brown bear abducted by aliens, given the ability to speak English, dumped in the wrong country, then taken back again. They’d tell him he’d been hallucinating, dreaming, on drugs, or drank too much.

But he knew the truth. What was the point of it all, he wondered. He guessed he’d never find out. He hoped they put the bear back where they found him.

His fishing spot would forever hold a different kind of memory for him now, he thought, as he drove into the gathering dusk. The place where he had a conversation with a talking bear.


My Birthday

Well, the sun’s just come up and it’s my birthday

And a chance later, for my so-called friends to say

Happy Birthday you decrepit old so and so

Yes, some of them certainly do sink that low

But then looking back over the long long years

Given my state of health and despite all my fears

Perhaps I’m luckier than most to have lived this long

For these two deaf ears to hear that birthday song

So many others have shuffled off this mortal coil

Passed away, kicked the bucket, gone off the boil

But lucky? Maybe not a word I’d use to describe my state

Bad heart, bad hip, can’t move too well, that’s my fate

And I hate that the mind’s not what it used to be

Though I’m not sure why I should let that bother me

It’s expected isn’t it, that old people do forget stuff

My brain’s full, I reckoned I’ve remembered enough

I actually can’t quite recall what happened last week

But they tell me that some part of me sprang a leak

I think it may have been a vein in my arm

They fixed it, it didn’t do too much harm.

Of course that’s not all that’s happened to me

It’s quite an extensive list, a whole long litany

But who wants to hear an old man whinge

It goes and on, it’ll just make you cringe

I never wanted to be someone who’d moan

To everyone around me, who’d simply just groan

Sadly, afflictions and ailments are what we all share

But don’t tell me about yours, I really don’t care

I’ve got enough of my own, thanks all the same

Talk about something else, like last night’s game

I expect they’ll get me a cake and one big candle

Blowing out a heap would be more than I can handle

I hope it’s caramel, that’s what I really like the best

Though I suppose that I should have put in a request

I don’t expect to get a visit from my one and only son

He found me this home, and when it’s all said and done

He did his duty, he’s done his bit,

I can’t complain, because here I sit

In my comfortable room, a room with a view

There aren’t too many of them, just a few

And I can see the sun as it rises in the morning

As the poets say, watching a new day dawning

Well, they’ve been and brought me some tea

And now wheeled me out for everyone to see

Mike’s at the piano, playing the birthday song

All the other geriatrics are all singing along

I smile with thanks and gratitude

And don’t give anyone any attitude

It’s my special day and I’m happy to be above ground

Until I slide to the floor without even making a sound

And the last words I’ll ever hear as I slowly fade away?

“Oh my god, the old bugger’s carked it on his birthday!”


Yes, it is Cesmo’s birthday today

The Invisibility Factor

Ernie hadn’t always been invisible. Well, not really actually invisible. He had just felt that way, most of the time. Possibly, the fact that he was of average height, and had what could best be described as unremarkable features had something to do with it. He had pale blue eyes, sandy hair, and was of average build, apart from a noticeable potbelly. Pretty much an average bloke that nobody would notice in a crowd. Which happened most often when he was trying to get served in a pub or shop. It depressed him no end.

He once found a forum online that some other ‘invisible’ person had put up,

It suggested he had options. He could embrace his perceived invisibility, find positives in being unseen or unnoticed, just blend into the background, and become an observer of humanity at large. That sounded very much like voyeurism or stalking to Ernie. Or he could easily become more visible by adopting a change of attire, wearing loud garish colours, for example, sport an unusual shaped or coloured moustache or beard, or dye his hair some bright shade, or even wear an eyepatch. None of that appealed to Ernie who thought it was all a load of crap.

Then came the morning when he woke up and found he actually had become invisible. For real. Just like the HG Wells character in that book he’d written all those years ago.

When he put his feet out of the bed, he couldn’t see them. Or his legs that were supposed to protrude from his sleep shorts. To say he was rather bemused by the sight, or lack thereof, was an understatement. He was freaked out.

He cautiously lowered his invisible feet to the carpet, until he felt it, then got up. He couldn’t see his arms either, so made a beeline for the bathroom. He badly needed to pee as well, but first, the mirror. He goggled at what he saw or rather didn’t see. No body, just a tee shirt bulging over an invisible paunch and sleep shorts, standing upright. Nothing else.

He almost wet himself and hastened to the toilet bowl. The seat was up, luckily for him, as he had trouble undoing his fly with his invisible hands, but he made it. He watched in fascination as a stream came out of his invisible penis and landed in the bowl. He closed his eyes. It was just a bit too much. When the stream ceased, he didn’t feel anywhere near as relieved as he normally would have. Still, with his eyes closed, he tapped, then clumsily did up his fly. He stood for a moment, letting the enormity of it all sink in.

Waking up completely invisible was certainly one helluva shock. Ernie didn’t think it was going to be much fun. For one thing, if he was going to go anywhere, he’d have to walk around naked. That presented all sorts of problems. Ernie was averse to showing off his paunchy, pasty white body. Admittedly, no one would see it, but that didn’t change the way he felt about being exposed in that way. In this day of modern technology, sensors, infrared cameras and the like would certainly pick up movements and create serious problems with invisibility too, you’d have thought. If he was out and about, his invisible body would inevitably collect grime and dirt, and dust that would present an interesting sight for anyone who encountered it. Also, he would have to walk barefoot, which had no appeal. He’d be bound to walk on something disgusting or sharp objects that would cut into his feet.

And he was a sensitive soul. He felt the heat and he felt the cold. If he was out in the sun, presumably, he would still get sunburnt. He’d have to put on sunscreen, and what would that look like. And there’s no way he’d be venturing out in the cold without a cap or a coat. That wouldn’t do much for the invisibility factor either. What would happen when he ate or drank? You’d see everything going around inside his body until it got digested. Might be interesting for a while, but he’d soon get sick of it. Watching himself pee was bad enough, what would it look like when he had to do number two? It was a disturbing thought.

No, whichever you looked at it, the whole invisibility thing sucked big time. Then a thought hit. If you were truly invisible, you wouldn’t be able to see. Your pupils and irises would be invisible too! Bet HG didn’t think of that!

That meant he was dreaming. He wasn’t really invisible. Thank God for that.

Ernie got back into bed and closed his eyes. Soon, he’d wake up, for real, and go back to his usual much more preferable invisible existence. He hoped.


Gemma’s Cat

Gemma’s cat launched himself from the window ledge where he had been lying in the sun and landed on Cameron’s stomach. He was lying on his back on the couch. He went “oof!” rolled over and fell on the floor. The cat yowled, and scrabbled to get out from under him. He scratched him for good measure, and took off. Cameron lay there for a moment, winded. Luckily the carpet had cushioned his fall.

He hated that cat although he had wisely never told Gemma. The feeling was mutual. He examined the scratch. It bled just a little. He loved Gemma, but the cat really had to go. Trouble was, she loved it as much as she loved him, so she said. What to do. The cat, inappropriately named Cuddles, was back on the ledge, glaring balefully at him. He clambered to his feet, and went to the bathroom where he dabbed antiseptic on the scratch. When he returned, Cuddles was gone. He wondered where the little monster had gone.

He plopped down on the couch. There was a squelching sound, then the vilest smell assailed his nostrils.

He shot up. Cuddles had left him a present. The back of his shorts was covered, the smell overwhelming. The couch hadn’t fared any better. Gemma would be so pissed. She loved that couch. The upside, the cat had done it, maybe she’d get rid of it now.

‘Highly unlikely’, he thought dismally.

He gingerly removed his shorts, carried it to the washing machine in the laundry and emptied almost an entire bottle of disinfectant over it. He knew it was overkill but the smell was unbearable. And what about the couch. He used the remaining disinfectant on it, found a can of air freshener and sprayed it at the stain and all around. That was all he could think of to do. And where had the damned cat gotten to? Cuddles was nowhere to be seen.

He debated whether to ring Gemma and tell her, but she was having lunch with her girlfriends, and would definitely not appreciate that kind of news. He thought cats only did their business in their litter trays. In fact, there was one in the bathroom which Cuddles normally used. This was targeted at him, for sure. The cat resented him moving in with Gemma, and was not happy his territory had been encroached upon. Maybe he would just go to the pub for a bit and leave the place to him. Decision made, he donned a new pair of shorts, grabbed his keys and headed out the door. He got into his car and backed down the driveway. He glanced back at the house and saw Cuddles. He was on the roof.

Gemma’s home was a two-storey unit. He must have gotten out of the upstairs bedroom window. He was about to drive off when he saw him slide down the slope of the roof until stopped by the protruding gutter to which he clung. Cameron watched, waiting in anticipation for the cat to fall. He didn’t, clinging on for dear life. He swore, then drove back up the driveway. If Cuddles fell, nine lives notwithstanding, he’d be killed, or at least seriously injured. He would be blamed. Gemma was irrational where the cat was concerned.

He sighed, got out of the car and went upstairs. He pushed open the window Cuddles had exited, it was just big enough for him to climb through, but then what. He’d probably slide down as well and end up splattered on the concrete below, alongside the damned cat.

Wait a minute, he had a tow rope in the car. He could lower himself down, get Cuddles that way. He retrieved the rope, secured one end to the post of the bed in the room, and climbed out. As he anticipated, the bed moved, but only as far as the wall beneath the window. Satisfied it was safe, he continued down until he reached Cuddles, who gave him a look as if to say, ‘What kept you?’ He grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and pulled him up with difficulty as he still clung ferociously to the gutter. Once free, Cuddles wriggled, then dug his claws into Cameron’s body. He let him go. The cat clawed his way up his body, up the rope and through the window without a backward look.

Cameron hauled himself up painfully, sure he must be bleeding from the cat’s scratches. Ungrateful bitch. He didn’t care if it was the wrong sex or animal. Once inside, he secured his gear, pushed back the bed, and found, surprisingly, that there was no blood, the scratches were only superficial. Back in the lounge room, he subsided into his recliner chair that he had brought over, with Gemma’s reluctant agreement.

“It doesn’t match the rest of the furniture,” she pointed out. Good thing Cuddles hadn’t left his present there. He would definitely have killed him, consequences be damned. He stretched out and was soon asleep.

It was there that Gemma found them, her two loved ones. Cameron, she noted with surprise had Cuddles curled up on his lap. One snoring, the other purring, although she did wonder at the strange smell in the room.

It was Sunday afternoon. Cameron and Gemma were sitting in the lounge room. The couch, at her insistence, had been professionally cleaned and deodorised. He thought it a bit of overkill. Once it dried, there had been no smell and hardly any stain, but she had been adamant. Now she sat on her nice clean couch frowning at her iPad, while he sat on his recliner reading the Sunday paper. Cuddles strolled into the room, tail held high.

Gemma’s face lit up. She put down the iPad, held out her arms.

“Cuddles, come to Mommy,” she called.

Cameron squirmed. He hated when she did that as if the cat was a child. Cuddles ignored her, stalked over to him, turned around a few times, then hopped up on to his lap, forcing him to lift up his newspaper. He looked at Gemma. Her face was like thunder. She was not at all pleased. He didn’t know what to say. She was bad-tempered at the best of times, this was going to be his fault, he just knew it.

She folded her arms.

‘Here it comes,’ he thought.

Through gritted teeth, she said, “You are aware, are you not, that Cuddles is my cat?”

“Of course.”

“Then why do you insist on monopolising him?”

He was aghast.

“But I’m not,” he protested.

“He chose me. I didn’t ask him to jump on my lap. I don’t even like him much.”

“You don’t like him?” Her voice rose.

She got up and started pacing up and down.

“I rescued him from the animal shelter. I gave him a home, I nursed him when he had cat flu, I loved him! And he goes to you and you don’t even like him!”

She was getting hysterical. Was she talking to him or the cat? He wasn’t sure.

He scooped Cuddles up, struggled out of his chair, dropped his newspaper and held him out to her.

“Here, take him.”

“I don’t want him if he doesn’t want me!” she almost yelled at him. She turned and stormed out of the room. He stared after her, still holding Cuddles who was purring contentedly, oblivious of the fury he had just unleashed. What the hell was he supposed to do now.

“I should have let you fall off the roof,” he told the cat. Disconsolately, he sat down again, absently smoothing his fur. He purred even louder. If this happened over a cat, what would happen if, further along in their relationship, the question of children came up. A long way off for sure, but would he want this apparently unstable woman to be the mother of his children? And children would figure in his future, he was sure of that. Maybe she was just stressed over something else.

He decided to go and talk to her.

He stood up, put Cuddles on the floor, and walked into the bedroom where Gemma was sitting on the edge of the bed. She raised her hand.

“Before you say anything, I’ve made a decision. I’m sorry but I’ve come to realise that I can’t trust you. If you can steal the affections of my cat from me, heaven only knows what will happen whenever I leave you alone with any of my girlfriends. I’m breaking up with you.”

He stared at her, stunned. This was a huge leap. He opened his mouth, then shut it. What could he say? She had obviously made up her mind. In view of his previous thoughts, he didn’t know whether he was sad or relieved.

Cuddles came in and rubbed against his legs.

“Go, and take that treacherous bitch with you!” she yelled.

“And I would appreciate it if you could remove that hideous chair as soon as possible,” she added.

‘He’s a cat, not a dog, not even female,’ he thought silently but held his tongue. He returned to the lounge room, retrieved his newspaper, picked up his car keys, and exited the front door. He’d go and stay with his mother, who’d never quite taken to Gemma. He still had his bedroom and some clothes there. He would pick up his stuff including the chair some other time. Hopefully when Gemma had calmed down a bit. He had no intention of taking the cat. Cuddles stood at the front door and watched him open the car door, then came bounding over and jumped in after him. He gaped in amazement. Cats didn’t do that, did they? This one did. Maybe it did think it was a dog.

He drove off. Cuddles squirmed over and settled in his lap. Well, he’d just lost a girlfriend and gained a cat. Not quite the way he ever figured this Sunday would end. But as he rubbed the cat’s furry back and his purr radiated through his body, maybe he’d gotten the better end of the deal. He hoped his next girlfriend liked cats.


The Funeral Food Sampler

The strains of the last hymn of the service faded away. In the silence that followed, there was a general rustling as people slowly moved from their seats into the centre aisle as the coffin was slowly wheeled out of the church, attendant pallbearers holding on to the handles. Enid, standing in one of the back rows, watched with interest and joined the mourners as they exited the door. The coffin was loaded into the hearse, its door closed and it slowly drove away. It was going to be a private cremation. Family members only. That suited her fine. She joined the rest of the congregation as they walked to the hall next to the church where the food and drinks were laid out. She didn’t want to be the first, so she waited, and soon enough, a portly lady marched up, took a plate and walked around the tables, filling it up. In no time, others followed, Enid discreetly doing the same. After pouring herself a cup of tea, she found a seat nearby, left her cup on the table to avoid doing a balancing act between her plate and the tea, and sampled her selection.

She nodded approvingly. Not bad. The family had not stinted, unlike some. Actually, it was quite a delicious assortment. She sipped her tea. Good quality tasting tea as well. She had done well.

“And how did you know Donald?”

The voice came from her left. She was prepared. She always did her homework.

She turned to her enquirer. It was the portly lady. Donald had worked in banking. He had dropped dead right on his fifty-seventh birthday, poor bugger.

She smiled sadly at the woman and said, “I used to go to the bank where he worked. I was a long time customer. He was always very friendly and courteous.”

Portly lady nodded.

“Me too. Always asked for him. He seemed to care. The others don’t give a damn,” she said.

“Don’t know who I’ll go to now.”

Enid nodded sympathetically. Portly lady got up. Her plate was empty.

“Gonna get some more before the freeloaders get it all,” she announced and marched off.

Enid watched her go, amused. She finished her tea. She might get a second cup too and follow portly lady’s example and get some more goodies.

This was her second funeral for the day. The other had finished at eleven and done nicely for lunch. The food had not been anywhere near as good. Whether old Margaret’s family couldn’t afford much or were simply stingy, she still got enough to satisfy her. They had carted her off to be buried next to her husband who had died twenty years earlier. According to the obituary, she died at ninety-three. At any rate, not everyone had gone to the graveside. The remaining mourners had wandered into the hall and helped themselves, though they were supposed to wait till the others returned. She had secured enough to satisfy her lunchtime appetite, then nicked off home for a nap and be refreshed in time for this one. She hadn’t even changed her clothes. No need to. Different church, different funeral company. No chance anyone would have recognised her, not that it would have mattered anyway. What was anyone going to do? Denounce her? Have her escorted from the premises? Nobody would want to cause a scene, not at a funeral anyway.

Though there had been an altercation at one she had snuck into just a month ago. But this was between relatives. She had found it highly amusing. A scruffy looking young man had come rushing into the church just at the end of the service and demanded to know why nobody had told him his mother had died. Just because he was the black sheep of the family, didn’t mean he didn’t have the right to know. All this proclaimed at the top of his voice as the coffin was being carried out. He flung himself on top of it and pallbearers scattered and fell everywhere. Enid found it hard to contain herself.

Eventually, calm was restored, the black sheep was taken off somewhere and the funeral resumed. The coffin was loaded into the hearse and off it went. The conversation around the food tables was a lot more animated than usual that time. The food was not too bad either.

It was time to go. She had had enough. No need for dinner tonight. Again. As she drove home, she reflected on how this had started for her. She didn’t need the food, she had enough money to buy her own. But she was bored. She wanted something diverting in her life. She was totally uninterested in what so many of her friends were doing to keep themselves occupied. She wanted something different. She thought about shoplifting. Too extreme. There were serious consequences if you got caught

Going to the funeral of a friend gave her the idea. Well, he wasn’t that much of a friend really. A bit of an arsehole in fact. Rude, boorish, sexist. He ticked all the boxes. He groped her once, at a rare dinner party she attended. His wife was there! She wondered how the poor woman put up with him. She’d only gone to the funeral to satisfy herself that he was really dead. Irrational and stupid, but she knew that. And she had nothing else to do that day. With satisfaction, she had watched the coffin being loaded into the hearse and driven off to the crematorium.

Afterwards, she conveyed her commiserations to Sarah, his widow, who told her in no uncertain terms how happy she was that Brian was dead. She followed other mourners, if you could describe them as such, as many seemed to share Sarah’s sentiments, into the hall where Sarah had laid out a very fine spread. Spending Brian’s money on people whom he loathed, she told anyone who would listen, and who probably returned the feelings. It was certainly a very odd funeral but the food was delicious. Enid was urged to take home as much as she wanted. She had enough for two days. It was certainly better than anything she could have concocted. And that’s where she got the idea. She could go to funerals and sample the food.

So she scoured the obituary columns of her local paper. She picked one close to home the first time. She was quite nervous. She dressed in nondescript clothes and seated herself in one of the rear pews of the church. It was packed, and she felt very self-conscious, but no one paid her any attention. The service was interminable. It seemed to go on forever. According to the brochure she picked up at the door, the deceased had been prominent in the local community, so due deference had to be given for his years of service.

Eventually, when she got to the food, she found the selection stodgy, unimaginative and bland. Hardly worth the time endured in church. But she persevered and next time, arrived just before the end of the service, reading the funeral notice more carefully and working out the timing.

Now, six months down the track, she had it down to a fine art. With her car, she could roam far and wide. She had attended funerals all over the place. None of her friends knew what she did. She had a feeling they might not understand. She really didn’t think of herself as a freeloader or a funeral crasher.

No, she was a funeral food sampler.


Hail Caesar!

The murmur among the assembled multitude stilled as Aurelius strode out onto the raised dais and raised his arms.

“Hail Caesar!” he proclaimed.

“Hail Caesar!” the crowd roared in response.

In the silence that followed, a voice asked plaintively, “Why bothereth?”

There was a shocked murmur from the crowd.

“Who doth speak thus?” Aurelius demanded to know.

“I doth,” came the droll response.

“Step forward. Reveal thyself!”

Aurelius was incensed.

The crowd parted. A figure wearing a monk’s garb and a cowl stepped forward.

He pushed back the cowl. It was a man, tall, dark skinned, with a full black beard and completely bald.

“Who are you and how dare you speak thus of Caesar?”

“My name is unimportant. And the reason I speak thus is that Caesar will die in the senate in a very short time. So the hail thing, not much point.”

“Unimportant, what is this of which you speak?”

Caesar himself emerged and came to stand next to Aurelius.

“Hey Jules,” the man said cheerfully.

“I’m a seer. I can see the future. And you are not in it after tomorrow.”

“How is it possible for you to know this?”

“Told you, I’m a seer. See your friends Decimus, Cassius and Brutus? They are going to betray you and stab you in the rotunda. It’s probably going to hurt a bit. Then others will join in. Twenty three stab wounds in all. I think that’s what will finish you off. In front of all the senators too. Today’s the ides of March, isn’t it? Well, today’s the day.”

Caesar stared at him. He was used to intrigue, betrayal and murder. But Decimus? His friend and ally? No way.

“Yes, way,” the seer said, reading his thoughts.

“Mind you,” he added, ”Mark Anthony will give a great speech at your funeral. He will say things like,‘ Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar not to praise him.’ And stuff like that. It will be very moving.”

Caesar pointed a hand at him.

“Centurions, seize him! Take him away! Such brazen lies shall not go unpunished.”

As they dragged him away, the seer called out, “Hey Jules, if you don’t believe me, it’ll definitely be your funeral!”

Caesar turned to Decimus and Brutus who were standing behind him.

“Our loyalty to you is absolute, Mighty Caesar. The man is possessed,” Decimus assured him.

Caesar nodded.

“I believe you. I will see you anon in the senate.”

The rest is history, which does not record what happened to the seer.

And that’s also how Mark Antony wound up with a sack full of ears.


The Imperfection

“Will you stop fidgeting?” Blayne said in exasperation.

“I got an itch,” Gloria complained.

“I’m not paying you to have an itch. I’m paying you to pose while I paint. Is that too much to ask?”

“I can’t help it,” she wailed. “Please?”

He sighed.


She sat up, lifted her left buttock, and scratched, face screwed up in concentration.

“That’s exceedingly inelegant,” he observed.

“I don’t care. It feels so much better. Thank you.”

“Can you get back to the pose now please?”

“Why do you need me anyway? You’re an abstract artist.”

“You didn’t ask any questions when I first asked you to pose,” he said.

“I need the money,” she said frankly.

“Well, I use real objects as inspiration, typically the human or animal form, trees, buildings and so on. Preferably, something that has some kind of imperfection.”

“Imperfection? What kind of Imperfection do I have?”

He shrugged and said, “Your left breast is slightly lower than your right.”


She flew up and looked around frantically.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m looking for a mirror.”


“I want to see for myself. Nobody’s told me that before.”

He sighed.

“There’s one in the bathroom. Hurry up. The light I need is going.”

She ran out of the room. He waited. After five minutes, he went to look for her. She was sitting on the toilet seat, arms curled around herself, sobbing.

“What the hell’s the matter with you?” he asked in an irritated tone.

“My left boob is lower than my right,” she wailed. “And I never noticed!”

“I just told you that. What’s the big deal?”

“It’s not a big deal to you, it’s not your boob!” she sobbed.

“Gloria,” he said, understanding slowly starting to dawn.

“It doesn’t matter. Nobody else would even notice. You didn’t,” he pointed out.

“Look, these are things I look for as inspiration for my painting.”

She looked up at him with tear filled eyes, then,”You never said anything when we used to go out.”

“I didn’t notice. It wasn’t important then, it’s not that important now either. Come on, let’s go.”

He pulled her up off the toilet seat. She clung to him.

“You really didn’t notice?”

He suppressed his exasperation.

“No I didn’t. I was too preoccupied with other things.”

She giggled.

“We were good together, weren’t we.”

“Yes we were. That’s way in the past now.”

“You had to go and decide you were gay.”

“Decide isn’t the right word, but it’ll do. Now can we please get back to the studio? There’s not much natural light left, thanks to you.”

They walked back to the other room and she resumed the pose. Then her face contorted. Back behind his easel, he sighed.

“What is it now?”

She held her hand to her mouth and he realised she was laughing.

“What?” he said impatiently.

“I just remembered. You, my friend have one ball hanging lower than the other.”

He looked at her uncomprehendingly.


“Just thought you’d like to know,” she said, almost smugly.

“I get why you’re telling me, and I don’t actually give a shit.

So now, please just shut up and pose!”



Nellie sat in her car and watched the rain teeming down. Typical. A shitty end to a shitty week. Of course, this is what she expected. How else was this week supposed to end? And her umbrella was inside the flat. Naturally. She drummed her fingers on the steering wheel. Feelings of impotent rage, anger and despair coursed through her as her mind ran through the events of the week.
Top of the list would have to be when Dylan, her gorgeous, handsome and unattainable boss, with whom she had been besotted since she started work with the company two years ago, had yelled at her. Well, he didn’t exactly yell, it just felt like it. He had called her into his office and they had sat side by side in front of his desk. That was his thing, he never addressed anyone from the other side of the desk. He had shown her a document he had given her to vet earlier in the day. It was a contract for an important client and contained at least two errors. Had said client signed it, the company would have been up shit creek had anything gone pear-shaped. She felt like dissolving into a mortified puddle under her chair. He assured her anyone could have made these mistakes. He had noticed that she seemed off colour lately, and was she feeling alright? She would have preferred yelling. Firstly, he actually noticed? Secondly, how could she tell him she had slept with his partner, who happened to be his younger brother, in a moment of drunken madness two months ago, of course, in her mind, imagining it was him.
And now, she had missed her period. Nathan was overseas and would be for a while.
She shook her head and told him she was fine, apologised profusely for her mistakes, thanked him for his forbearance, and rushed out of his office, straight to the bathroom where she threw up.
That set the tone for the rest of the week. In her mind, everything that could go wrong did. The copier jammed when she was copying the last page of an important document. The heel broke off one of her favourite shoes. At work. Fortunately, she had a pair of flats in her desk, but still. She spilled coffee on her laptop reaching for a tissue because her nose started running. Her stapler ran out of staples, such a minor thing but she felt like hurling it against the wall.
It was entropy, that’s what it was. It popped up in one of her crosswords. It described perfectly what was happening to her.
Now, she sat in the carport of her flat, waiting for the rain to ease. It didn’t. She needed to pee. Reluctantly, she opened the car door and ran. She got soaked. She made it to the toilet, barely in time, not that it would have made any difference, she was drenched anyway. She stripped off her wet clothes threw them into the bath and donned sweatpants and tee shirt. She padded into the living room. Ben stood in the corner, leering at her. It was the last straw. She punched him viciously. He bounced back and hit her in the chest. She flailed backwards, arms windmilling and fell flat on her back as her wet feet slipped out from under her. The back of her head hit the tiled floor and she saw stars as she looked up at the ceiling.
‘Serve you right, you stupid bitch,’ she told herself. Hitting a punchbag in wet feet on a tiled floor? What a stupid idea. She had called it Ben, after a cheating ex-boyfriend. Wouldn’t he piss himself if he saw her? She decided to just lie there. After all, she might have a concussion.

And that’s where Clementine, her flatmate found her about thirty minutes later. She had been interstate for a week, visiting her parents. She wasn’t wet, so it had stopped raining. Of course.
“Hi Nell,” she said cheerfully.
“What are you doing lying on the floor?”
“Ben hit me,” she said succinctly.
Clem, which is what everyone called her, burst out laughing.
“It’s not funny, “ Nellie said crossly.
“I might have a concussion.”
“You have to have a brain to get a concussion,” Clem told her.
“Here, I’ll help you up.”
Soon, they were both curled up on the couch. Clem had opened a bottle of wine and it was already half empty. Nellie had told her about her hellish week. Her friend looked at her sympathetically, then said, “We need food. I’m going to order pizza.” They had finished the rest of the wine when the doorbell chimed. Clem uncurled herself from the couch, and went to the door. It was Alan, their regular pizza deliverer. She invited him in while she went searching for her purse. He put the pizza on the kitchen bench.
“Hi Nellie,” he called out.
She waved desultorily from the couch.
He knew the girls well. Pizza was a staple in their diet. Clem came back and paid him. He thanked her and hesitated.
“What is it?” she asked him as she rummaged in the fridge for another bottle.
“He wants to ask you out,” Nellie slurred. Her tongue felt thick. Two glasses of wine, no food and probable concussion. She felt good.
Alan reddened with embarrassment. Clem looked at him.
“But you’re a pizza delivery boy, sorry, man.”
“God, Clem, you’re so shallow,” Nellie called out.
“No, she’s right. I am a pizza deliverer, but I’m also studying marine biology. This is my last term. I graduate at the end of the year.”
“You mean you study dolphins and whales and fish and stuff,” Nellie asked.
Alan smiled slightly.
“Something like that.”
He looked questioningly at Clem.
“I’m sorry, Alan, I’ve got a boyfriend,” she told him.
“Bullshit!” Nellie ejaculated.
“If you mean Jason, he only pops in, literally, when it’s convenient. He’s not a real boyfriend!”
Alan said quickly, “ It’s okay, I’ll get going.”
“Get outa the way!” Nellie struggled to her feet.
“I gotta go!”
She lurched off to the bathroom.
“Is she alright?” Alan asked.
Clem shrugged.
“She’s had a rough week.”
There was a noise from the bathroom.
“Yes! Yes!”

They looked at each other questioningly. A few moments later, Nellie emerged from the bathroom, grabbed Clem and said excitedly, “ I got my period!”
Alan edged past them and headed for the front door. Perhaps dating Clem wasn’t such a good idea. These girls were seriously weird.
Clem opened the second bottle, picked up the pizza box, and the girls headed back to the couch. Clem took a bite of her pizza, raised her glass and said, “Here’s to you getting your period. But really, Nell, unprotected sex with Nathan?”
Nellie swallowed a bit of her pizza.
“We were drunk, it just happened!”
Clem took another bite of hers.
“You really should do something about Dylan. You’ve been lusting after him for years.”
“I’ve only been there for two,” Nellie protested.
“But you’re right. I should move in or move on. But you gotta do something about Alan too. I like him. I reckon he’d be better for you than pop in pop out Jason.”
“You’re probably right,” Clem said, then giggled.
“You know we won’t remember this conversation in the morning. We’re both pissed.”
“Oh, I’ll remember. It’ll be the night I got rid of the entropy in my life.”
“What? What’s entropy?”
But there was no answer, only a snore as Nellie lay slumped in her corner of the couch, empty glass dangling from her hand, and a pizza crust on her chest.
© Cesmo