Roll over Beethoven

Jeremy brought the car to a screeching halt, leapt out and ran to open the gate. If he managed to open it and cut across the field, he might get to the train station in time to board the train. It only ran once a day, and he was late. Something nudged him in the back. It was the car. He’d forgotten the handbrake didn’t work all that well and it had rolled into him. Fortunately, it was only a slight decline. He cast about, found a tree branch and stuck it under the front wheel. He pushed the gate wide, it rebounded on a rock, swung back and smacked him in the head. It was a high metal gate with horizontal bars. He went down with a thump and saw stars. He struggled to his feet, pushed the gate open, more gently this time, ran to the car, depressed the clutch pedal, jammed it into gear and took off. The engine roared, the car rocked but that was all. Damn! He’d forgotten the branch under the front wheel.

He yanked at the handbrake, praying it would hold, leapt out, and pulled at the branch. It wouldn’t budge. He swore to himself, got back into the car, put it into reverse and backed the car up a few metres. He jumped out, pulled out the branch and flung it aside, in time to see the gate swing gently back. He stopped, squeezed his eyes shut in frustration, then pushed it back, and was back in the car and through into the field. He needed to shut the gate again. This he did in record time, the car kept rolling, and he jumped back behind the wheel and sent it bouncing across the field in the direction of the other gate which opened onto the road next to the railway line. He reached it without mishap, carefully opened the gate and was through. He closed it and was soon racing along the gravel road, leaving dust and gravel in his wake.

He reached the station, locked the car and ran up onto the platform. There was no one around. This was not good. Something was wrong. Did he have the wrong day or the wrong time? He had checked and double-checked. He looked at his watch. Despite the hold-ups, as far as he could tell, he’d made it with time to spare. So where was everyone? Then it struck him. Daylight saving time. He hadn’t adjusted his watch for daylight saving which had started just this morning. The train had come and gone an hour ago. No wonder there was no one around.

He sat down disconsolately on a bench on the platform. Now, what was he going to do? He could have driven, but a landslide had cut off the only road south. They were scheduled to clear it but only in the next few days. He only wanted to get to the next town, where Lucinda said she would meet him. Of course, to compound matters, there was no phone signal, he was in a dead zone. But he only had himself to blame. He had chosen to come out here, away from the stresses of work, the city, and his fracturing relationship with Lucinda. He wanted no contact with the outside world for a bit, no phones, emails, nothing, just to get himself together. He had always liked hiking, and these were some of the best hiking trails in the state. Lucinda hated anything outdoorsy.

So why on earth had he fallen for someone so utterly unsuitable? Physical attraction probably, he had to admit. She was into social media and technology, always texting, on Facebook, or Twitter. She even FaceTimed him from another room when they were in the same house together! She refused to go walking, she preferred the gym. He didn’t get it. So he suggested this little break. He had decided on the train, even before the landslide and given her a time to meet. It didn’t look like it was going to happen.

He heard the sound of music. He wondered where it was coming from. He didn’t think there was anyone around. He got up and walked along the platform to the other end of the station, and stopped in surprise. A girl was sitting on a bench, red cowboy booted feet on her suitcase, and her phone on the seat beside her, blaring out, ‘Roll over Beethoven,’ the original Chuck Berry version. He knew it well. It was a favourite of his father. He played it all the time when Jeremy was growing up.

She looked up at him with small pale blue eyes in a rather plain freckled face, and said, “I don’t suppose you’ve come to get me?”

Her voice was soft and melodic, startling coming from such plain features.

He said, “Sorry, no. Who are you waiting for?”

“My grandma. She was supposed to meet the train. I’ve been waiting almost an hour.”

She picked up the still blaring phone, and muted it.

“I can’t ring her. No reception.”

“No,” he agreed.

“What are you doing here?”

He was captivated by her voice.

“Missed the train.”

“You’ve got a long wait for the next one.”

“I know. Forgot about daylight saving. I was supposed to meet my girlfriend at the next stop. I can’t contact her either, so she’ll be wondering where I am.”

Actually, he knew she wouldn’t. Impatient at the best of times, she would almost be home, fuming that he had made her drive all that way for nothing. The relationship, he suspected, was unlikely to survive. Now, he said, “Where does your grandma live?”

She pointed vaguely, “She owns the caravan park.”

“Oh, that’s where I’m staying. I can give you a lift.”

“Are you sure?”

He grinned.

“Sure that I’m at the caravan park, or sure I can give you a lift? Because it’s ‘yes’ to both.”

It was the only one for miles around, and, he just realised, there was a payphone. It wouldn’t do any good, but he would ring Lucinda anyway.

“That’s very kind of you.”

She got to her feet. She was almost as tall as he was and wearing an over large flannel shirt and jeans. It was hard to tell what she looked like under that, he mused, then stopped himself. Lucinda would have accused him of being typically male.

She pulled out the handle of her case, and followed him along the platform as he walked to his car.

“I’m Tammy,” she introduced herself.

“Jerry,”he responded.

They reached the car, and he placed her case on the back seat.

Soon, they were on their way. This time, he took the more conventional route, through the little town.

He waited for her to speak, loving the sound of that lilting voice, but she said nothing. Questions. He needed to ask questions that required long answers.

“Why do you think your grandma didn’t come and get you?”

She shrugged.

“She probably forgot, or she’s too busy. She knew I’d find my way. She’s done this to me before.”

“And how long are you staying?” “

“Not sure. I just quit my job. My boss was always harassing me. I got sick of it.”

With alarm, he said, “There are laws about that sort of thing. You could have reported him!”

“Her. My boss was a her. No, I was tired of the job anyway, so I left. I can help grandma for a bit until I decide what to do. What about you? What are you going to do about your girlfriend?”

“I thought I’d ring from the payphone and explain. Not that it’s going to do me any good. She’s not very tolerant at the best of times.”

“Payphone doesn’t work, or it didn’t last time I was here, but grandma will let you use the park phone anyway. How long are you staying?” “

“Another week.”

“So why isn’t your girlfriend with you?”

He said candidly, “She hates the outdoors, wouldn’t be seen dead in a caravan park. And I love hiking, so no Lucinda.”

“Sounds like a match made in heaven.”

He said with a wry smile, “Yes, it does, doesn’t it? Oh, that Chuck Berry song you were playing earlier, was my Dad’s favourite.”

“My dad’s too. What a coincidence, but I love the old fifties songs. I get them all from Spotify on my phone. Here we are.”

Jerry swung into the entrance of the caravan park and stopped outside the reception area. Tammy opened the door, jumped out, opened the back door and pulled out her case.

“Thanks for the lift. Come inside and call your girlfriend. May as well get it over with.”

He followed her inside. She indicated the phone, then said, “I’ll see where grandma’s got to.”

She disappeared into the back of the reception area.

Jerry picked up the phone and hesitantly rang Lucinda. She picked up almost immediately. He started to explain but didn’t get very far. He listened for a while, then said, “okay.”

Tammy had returned and looked at him quizzically.

.”Well, at least she didn’t do it by text,” he said.

“So no more Lucinda?”

“No,” he said.

“I can’t find grandma, but the buggy’s gone so I guess she’s around somewhere. Thanks again for the lift. If you need to talk, I’ll be around.”

“Thanks. I’m in caravan 17.”

“What, no roughing it in a tent? What would Lucinda say?”

He merely smiled and left.

It was three days later, just after lunch. Jerry lay with Tammy nestled in his arms.

He couldn’t believe how quickly it had happened.

That first day, he had gone back to his caravan, changed into hiking gear and taken a long ten-kilometre hike. He wanted to clear his thoughts, the short conversation with Lucinda still fresh in his mind. She had not even driven to the station to meet him. It was pretty pointless, she informed him. She had already decided it was over when he left for his hiking holiday. She had just not bothered to tell him. He found he was quite relieved. It was finally over. He had reached the turning point of his hike, sat and rested for a few moments, drinking from his water bottle, then started on the return journey. He was halfway back when he rounded a bend and saw a figure perched on a rock. It was Tammy. She was wearing brief shorts exposing tanned slender legs, hiking boots, and a tank top, he noted appreciatively.

She jumped up.

“Mind if I join you?”

Wordlessly, he shook his head and they trekked in companionable silence back to the caravan park.

‘Did you find your grandma?”

“Yes, I sprung her having sex with a worker in one of the empty caravans.”

“What?”

She laughed.

“She’s a randy old thing. They didn’t see me. I left them to it.”

At his caravan, she said,”I’ll come by with a bottle tonight if you like. We can celebrate or commiserate the end of your relationship.”

He just nodded, unable to speak. She gave a cheerful wave and went off. He went and had a cold shower. It didn’t help. Thoughts of Tammy’s randy grandmother kept intruding. Did she take after her grandmother? And that luscious body revealed in that brief hiking outfit, he couldn’t get the sight out of his head.

He waited in nervous anticipation. She hadn’t mentioned food, but he had bought some frozen meals, which he could microwave if needed.

It was seven when she arrived, bearing a bottle of champagne and a food basket. She was wearing a short flowered dress and sandals. He couldn’t keep his eyes off her as she set the table and laid out a chicken and avocado salad meal and bread rolls.

“I even brought champagne glasses,” she said. “You pour.”

He complied and soon their glasses were raised in a toast.

“New friendships?” he said.

“And randy grandmothers,” she added.

They both laughed. Later, after they had consumed the meal and the champagne, they sat on the small couch and she turned to him, and said slyly, “I bet you’ve been wondering if I’m as randy as my grandmother, haven’t you.”

He opened his mouth to deny it and she kissed him.

A long sensual kiss that immediately aroused him.

She drew back and whispered in his ear in that low, lilting melodic voice that so entranced him, “She taught me everything I know.”

She got up and pulled him willingly to the bed.

Now, it was three days later, three sex-filled days and nights. As they lay intertwined, he couldn’t believe it had only been such a short time that he had known this captivating woman. He supposed he would need to think soon beyond the end of the week when he was due to leave, but his mind shied away from the very thought.

“How come you don’t have red hair to go with your freckles,” he spoke into her mop of curly auburn hair.

“I dye it, stupid. Otherwise, it’s a bright fiery red, like my pubes. Haven’t you noticed? Your mind too occupied with other things?”

“Hmm,” was all he said.

She pulled herself from his embrace.

“I’m going to have a shower, then I promised grandma I’d go into town to get some supplies.”

“Like some company?”

“Sure, why not?”

Shortly after, they were bouncing into town in grandma’s old ute. Having met her when booking into the caravan park the week before, and not seen her since, Jackson found it hard to reconcile the plump, matronly woman with the image Tammy had conjured up.

When he mentioned this to her, Tammy laughed delightedly.

“Are you saying you can’t picture me having sex at grandma’s age? She’s only seventy, you know.”

He had to admit he hadn’t thought that far. Now, after they picked up the supplies at the food store, Tammy drove to the top of a lookout just on the outskirts of the little town, which gave a scenic panoramic view of the forested hills they had recently hiked. She got out and wandered over to a bench situated at the very edge of the lookout and sat down. He sat beside her and put his arm around her.

“Pretty spectacular, isn’t it,” she murmured.

He agreed.

“Not something you’d ever tire of.”

“I can see myself coming up here till I’m as old as grandma,” she said.

“Me too,” he said.

“What, with me?”

“Yes,” he said simply.

She pulled away from and looked at him.

“Oh yes, and these last sex filled days wouldn’t have something have to do with that would they?”

He thought for a moment, then said slowly, “You know, I came out here to get away from what I thought were the stress of the city, my job and my relationship with Lucinda. I found peace and I found you. I don’t want to let that go. I don’t want to let you go.”

“Are you really sure that’s not just the sex talking?”she said forthrightly.

He shook his head, then said, “I suppose that’s part of it but I just enjoy being with you. Can you think about us as a couple, at least until we get to your grandma’s age, by which time I doubt I’ll be in any state to leave you anyway.”

“What about your job?”

He shrugged.

“I’ll sort something out.”

“Ok, as a relationship proposal, it’s a bit different, but I’ll take it. But I have a rule. No sex on Sundays. It’s a day of rest.”

“But that’s tomorrow!” he protested.

“So?”

He thought for a minute, then, reluctantly, “All right.”

She clapped her hands with delight, flung her arms around his neck and kissed him. Then whispered in his ear, “I lied about Sundays,” danced out of his reach and got back in the ute. He shook his head and got in the passenger seat. Life was never going to be dull from the look of it. She turned on the ignition, started the ute and slowly drove off. They looked at each other and burst into laughter as the radio came on and ‘Roll over Beethoven.’ blared out.

©️Cesmo

Living next door to Alice

Simon walked down his driveway to collect his garbage bin. He paused and watched with vague interest as a black car pulled into Alice’s driveway which ran parallel to his. The fence prevented him from seeing who got out of the car. He heard the front door chime. As he reached the nature strip and righted the bin which had fallen over, the car came back down. As it turned into the street, he glimpsed Alice sitting in the back. She had her head bowed and appeared to be crying. There were two people in the front seat.

He wondered what it was that upset her.

He stood and watched as the car drove down the street. Alice was a pleasant, rather nondescript person. In the year he had been living there, he had only seen her a few times. He knew nothing about her. She would smile whenever their paths crossed, nod a polite hello, but they had never spoken. Which was how he liked it. A bit of a recluse, he had not seen the need to socialise with any of his neighbours.

He turned to walk up his driveway and jumped when a voice hailed him. It was Hazel who lived across the road. She had introduced herself shortly after he moved in. Apart from the occasional wave, in accordance with his self imposed reclusive existence, he had failed to see the need to have anything further to do with her. Now she gave him a cheeky grin. A buxom sixty-year-old, she was a widow, so she had informed him, unnecessarily, he thought, during their brief encounter.

“Bet you wanna know what’s going on with Alice, don’t you,” she said, as she crossed the road.

About to deny it, before he could stop himself, he replied, “Well, she did seem to be upset. She looked like she was crying. Is she alright?”

She eyed him thoughtfully, then said, “Tell you what. Come over for a cuppa and I’ll tell you what I know.”

He hesitated. This was way out of his comfort zone. She noted his hesitation and snorted, “I don’t bite you know.”

She added mischievously, “At least, not where you can see it.”

He reddened, and couldn’t think of a refusal that wouldn’t sound ungracious, so he nodded.

“Good, ” she briskly.

“Do you want to put your bin away? I’ll go put the kettle on. I’ll leave the front door open.”

She turned and walked back home.

A few moments later, he hesitantly entered her house. It was a neat little timber cottage with a well-tended front garden. He walked down a cheerily decorated hallway into a bright modern kitchen. She pointed to sliding doors which opened onto a back patio and said, “Grab a seat out there. I’ll bring the tea. How do you have it?”

“White with one please, ” he answered, walked outside and gingerly sat down at a small table. The patio was adorned with plants, and flowers. There was a tinkling little water feature in a corner. He looked around with interest. Obviously, a lady who loved her garden judging by the profusion of assorted greenery that filled the small backyard.

Hazel emerged from the kitchen bearing a tray with two mugs and a plate of biscuits. She placed it on the table and sat down.

“Help yourself, ” she said.

He reached for a mug.

“Have a biscuit. They’re cinnamon.”

He nodded and took one.

“Now. About Alice. They were probably cops and they carted her off because they think she killed her husband”.

Simon spluttered as tea and biscuit went down the wrong way. Hazel got up and pounded him on the back. He wiped his mouth with his handkerchief and looked at her.

“Are you serious?” he asked incredulously.

“As a heart attack, ” she assured him.

He sat back, she resumed her seat and sipped her tea.

“Why do you think that?”

“She told me.”

“What, that she had killed her husband?”

“Of course not, ” she said patiently.

“Just that she thinks the cops think she did.”

“Why?”

“Okay. This is the story. This all happened before you moved in. Randal, her husband had pancreatic cancer. There was nothing they could for him. He was in a lot of pain, and she told me he begged her to help him end it all. She refused. She’s very religious. Apart from the fact that assisted suicide is murder. She was very stressed and upset about the whole thing, as anyone would be. Somehow or other, he got hold of enough morphine tablets to do the job. She says she came home from shopping to find him dead. Called the doctor, he called the cops. The autopsy found he had all this morphine in him. There were a number of empty morphine bottles at his bedside. Only his fingerprints on them, but where did he get them? So she’s had this hanging over her head ever since.”

“Poor woman, ” Simon said sympathetically.

“I presume you don’t think she did it?”

“Don’t know, ” she said candidly.

“How did he get the morphine?”

“Dunno that either. He wasn’t quite bedridden, not at the start anyway. So maybe he found a way.”

They heard the sound of a car outside. They looked at each other. Both hurried to the front door and on to the porch. A taxi was drawn up in front of Alice’s house. They watched her get out and it drove away.

Hazel called out,”Alice, are you alright?”

She looked over in surprise.

“Yes, I’m fine. Hello Simon, “

He nodded in response.

“So, are you going to tell us, or leave us in suspense?”

She looked puzzled and crossed the road and stood at the front gate.

“What are you talking about?”

“The cops carting you off before.”

“What cops? That was my sister Liz and her husband. They took me down to see Mum. I told you she’s in a nursing home, she’s got Alzheimer’s. She doesn’t recognise us any more. I always get a bit upset when I go and see her. They had to go off somewhere so I got a taxi home. Now, why would you think it would be the police taking me away?”

”Because of Randal of course. We thought they’d finally arrested you for killing him.”

Simon’s eyebrows rose.

’We?’

How had he suddenly become involved in this?

Alice said, “Oh, didn’t I tell you? I don’t know how, but they found out that Randal had stockpiled the morphine. He had been a pharmaceutical rep you know.”

Hazel looked at Simon.

“No, we didn’t know.” she said slowly.

’Again, we, ’ Simon thought, then realised that he didn’t mind being included.

Alice said warmly, “It’s nice of you to be concerned about me.”

“That’s what neighbours are for, “Hazel said, giving Simon a look.

“Come on. Simon and I are having a cuppa. I made cinnamon biscuits.”

She took his arm in case he bolted and the three neighbours walked into the house.

Simon had a feeling his days of living as a recluse might be over. Living next door to Alice might be the best thing that ever happened to him.

©️Cesmo

The Club

There was an urgent knock on the bedroom door. Propped up on her pillows, reading her kindle at two in the morning, because, as usual, she couldn’t sleep, Joyce called out, “Come in.”

The door burst open. In the light from her bedside lamp, she saw her son, Justin.

He was wide eyed and dishevelled

Alarmed, she asked, “What happened to you?”

He advanced into the room and perched on the end of her bed. His mouth opened and closed as if he was struggling for breath, then he burst out, “You’re never gonna believe what happened to me!”

Joyce laid down her kindle, peered at him over the top of her glasses and said mildly, “ I just asked you that.”

Justin took a breath, tried to compose himself, then blurted, “I’ve just been abducted by aliens!”

“What?”

He repeated, “I was abducted by aliens”

“When did this happen?”

“Just now! I was coming home down that back road that goes past the old Parkinson farm. It’s pitch dark, but you know it’s a short cut I often use. Anyway, I saw this bright light, and the car suddenly stopped. Just went dead, no lights, nothing. I got out, walked towards the light, couldn’t see a thing, then I heard this voice in my head, telling me it’s alright, to keep coming. Next thing I know, I’m lying on some table and there were two indistinct figures poking at me.”

“What did you do?”

“Nothing. I was scared shitless. The voices told me they were visiting our planet and they meant me no harm, they were just checking me out. I’ve read the magazines. I told them no cutting, no sticking their probes into any orifices, and I wasn’t about to have sex with any of ‘em!”

Despite herself, Joyce was quietly amused.

“Then what?”

“Next thing, I woke up back in my car. The light was gone. I was shaking like a leaf. I started the car, it worked fine and I got the hell out of there!”

Joyce looked at him for a moment, a quizzical look on her face.

“Well?” he demanded.

“Aren’t you gonna say anything? Tell me I’m hallucinating or nuts or something?”

She gave him a slight smile, then said, “No, I was actually going to say, ‘Welcome to the club’.”

“Club? What club?”

“The alien abductees club.”

“The what club?”

“I called it the aliens abductee club. Membership just one. You see, it happened to me too, about thirty odd years ago. Never told anyone.”

Justin gaped at her.

“It happened to you as well? And you didn’t tell anyone, not even Dad?”

“Can you imagine what he’d have said? Exactly what you thought I’d say, so no, I never told a soul. I just made up this club name. For all I know, there’s heaps of us out there.

I guess if you go on the Internet, you’ll find more, but you’ll never know which are real and which are crackpots, so I never bothered. So, like I said, welcome to the club.”

She picked up her kindle, and said to a speechless Justin, “Seeing you’re up, how about making me a nice cup of tea.”

Justin found his voice.

“Okay, but I’m gonna have something a helluva lot stronger than tea!” he said with feeling, as he left the room.

©️Cesmo

Writer’s Block

Jane stared unseeingly out of the window. It was a big bay window overlooking rolling green hills tapering down into the gently washing waves of a bright blue sea. It was a breathtaking sight, one of the reasons she had rented the cottage in this off the beaten track seaside village. She had fallen in love with it on sight when she was researching for somewhere quiet and remote. She needed to get away to recharge her batteries. A hectic three months round of book tours had left her exhausted. Now, she felt suitably rested and needed inspiration for her next novel, but nothing was coming. It really was quite frustrating.

Abruptly, she decided to go for a walk. It was warm but quite breezy. She donned sneakers and a windcheater, left the house, and walked down the road to the track that descended to the shoreline. It was quite steep, she almost stumbled several times, even though she had traversed the track often during her stay. A seagull, pecking at something nearby, suddenly took off. Startled, she lost her footing, tumbled down and landed ignominiously on her face in the sand. Winded, she lay for a moment, then rolled over and levered herself up. She brushed sand from herself and looked around. There was no one in sight, as was often the case. It was why she chose this place, its isolation.

She walked along the shoreline, watching the lapping waves, detouring when they threatened to wet her sneakers. It was several kilometres long, nowhere near its ubiquitous name of ninemile beach. She wondered idly who had so badly miscalculated its distance. It was getting hot so she removed her windcheater and tied it around her waist. In the distance, she was surprised to see a figure walking towards her. It was the first time she had seen anyone at all. She felt a faint frisson of fear. There was no one else in sight. If anything were to happen, there would no help for her.

She shook the fear off as irrational, generated by years of city living. As they neared each other, she saw that it was a man, quite tall, huddled in a thick coat, despite the heat. He had a large hooked nose dominating a well-weathered face, a full grey beard and a naval cap atop a mop of long unruly grey hair. Piercing blue eyes stared unblinkingly at her. She smiled nervously and said “Hello.”

He did not respond and kept walking without acknowledging her at all. She couldn’t help herself. She stopped, turned and watched him walk steadily onwards. He passed the track she had so recently tumbled down, reached a point where the shoreline curved and disappeared from view. She stood for a while, her mind working overtime, wondering who he was, where he’d come from, why he was wearing a coat in this weather., why he had ignored her.

He was probably naval, judging from his cap, but that was an assumption. He was an enigma, a mystery. Excitedly, she realised she just might have found the inspiration for her next novel. Her imagination churning with possibilities, she hurried back to the track, eager to get to her laptop, thoughts of writers block now completely gone.

©️Cesmo.