The Snake

Dee slumped into her chair on the back porch. She was dog-tired. It had been a long week. The last rays of the setting sun felt very pleasant on her skin. She felt drowsy and soon, she was asleep.

A noise woke her, and she sat up with a start. She looked up into the eyes of a man who had poked his head over the side fence. He had a shaved head, a button nose, and brown eyes behind round-rimmed glasses. He waved a hand and said “Hi. Erm, sorry to bother you…”

She was busting and had to go. She struggled to her feet, cut him off and called, “Sorry, gotta go,” and bolted for the back door. She just made it.

She realised she’d been rather rude, but the need was urgent. She wondered idly what he wanted, but she had only been living there a few months and had no interest in getting friendly with the neighbours, especially a male one with no hair. She had sworn off men since her recent breakup with Simon.

She was hungry and rummaged through her freezer for a frozen meal. She enjoyed cooking as a rule, but couldn’t be bothered tonight. She pulled out a lasagna, stuck it in the microwave and poured herself a glass of red wine. It was while she was sitting at the kitchen table digging into the rather tasteless meal that she heard a noise at the front door. She rose, walked to the door and saw a folded sheet of paper on the floor. She picked it up, debated whether to open the door, and then decided to finish her meal. She read the words on the paper, eyes widening as she took in the message.

It read ‘What I was trying to tell you before was that I saw a large carpet python going under your back porch earlier today. Just thought you’d like to know.’ It was signed ‘Greg from next door.’

She shrieked involuntarily and dropped the note. She hated snakes!

What was she going to do? Meal forgotten, she shuddered when she realised she’d been sleeping on the porch above the snake for ages. By now it was dark. She walked back to the front door, snapped on the front porch light, and then turned it off again. What if light attracted it and it made its way under the house to the front porch? Trying to calm down, she thought, ‘I’ll google it’. The fact that the snake was pretty harmless from what she read, didn’t comfort her one little bit. Maybe bald Greg could help, although she had been exceedingly rude to him, but he had taken the trouble to leave her the note.

She decided she would rather face him than spend all night worrying about where the snake might pop up. She turned on the porch light again, opened the door, and peering fearfully from right to left, fairly ran down the driveway and up next door’s pathway to Greg’s front door. She stood there, heart racing and rang the bell. It opened abruptly, and a small, tousled-haired little girl, about five years old, looked up at her.

“Hello,” she said breathlessly.

“May I speak to Greg please?”

Two bright blue eyes regarded her thoughtfully, and then the little girl turned and bellowed, “Greg! It’s for you!”

Dee couldn’t believe such a loud voice could come out of such a small person. The other thought she had was, ‘She calls her father by his first name.’

Footsteps came down the hallway and Greg hove into view. He was about her height, a bit tubby, wearing a ragged shirt, baggy shorts and flip-flops.

He peered at her owlishly over glasses perched on his nose.

“I’m so sorry about earlier, but I really needed to go…”

She trailed off. He smiled at her, a rather attractive smile that empathised dimples on either side of his mouth.

“That’s ok,” he said.

“I understand.”

He looked down at the little girl.

“Did you have to yell so loud? I was only down the hall.”

She smiled sweetly at him.

“But you’re always telling me you’re getting old and deaf and you never hear me when I call you.”

He looked at Dee and shrugged helplessly.

“Come in. The place is a bit of a mess…”

“Oh no,” she protested.

“I only came to ask your advice about the snake.”

He said amusedly, “So you want to go out there again do you?”


She shuddered involuntarily.

“Come on, I’m Amy,” the little girl said, taking her by the hand. Dee allowed herself to be dragged down the hallway into a large family room, containing a shelf laden with books, two couches, a rectangular table and chairs and a huge flat screen television on one wall.

Greg gestured, “Grab a chair. Would you like a drink?”

She shook her head and said diffidently, “I should introduce myself. I’m Dee.”

She paused, and he said, “Yeah, well, you know I’m Greg and this is Amy.”

Amy regarded her silently for a moment, then said, “You’re very pretty. Would you like to marry Greg?”

The adults stared speechlessly at her, then each other.

Greg found his voice.

“Pumpkin, we don’t know each other. We’ve only just met, and you’ve just embarrassed Dee…”

Amy turned to her.

“Your not embarrassed are you Dee?” she asked.

She struggled to respond.

“Oh no, but your Dad’s right. We’ve only just met.”

“Greg’s not my Dad, silly. He’s my uncle and he’s the best uncle in the whole world. He looks after me when Mum’s at work. My Dad’s in the navy.”

The adults looked at each other. Greg looked into her grey-blue eyes. She had full red lips, a heart-shaped face and a beautiful hourglass figure. He didn’t stand a chance, he thought sadly. Girls like her didn’t go for guys who looked like him.

He smiled painfully.

“You wanted to know about the snake. I’ve got a friend who’s a snake catcher. I’ll call him if you want and he’ll come out. He’ll find it and you won’t need to worry anymore. If you like, I’ll escort you home. It’s unlikely to come into the house so you’ll be pretty safe.”

She was strangely reluctant to leave. Somehow, she already felt safe in this house, with this precocious little girl who wanted her to marry ‘the best uncle in the world.’

She had had worse offers, she reflected, and looking at Greg, said, “If it’s ok with you, I’d like to stay, and I wouldn’t mind a drink.”

Greg blinked at her, then looked into those grey-blue eyes and he knew he was gone. He had no idea where this was going to go, but he knew he would always regret it if he didn’t travel down that road to find out.

“What would you like?”


The Day Toby got stoned.

The Day Toby got stoned.

The stone crashed through the window and landed next to Toby who had dozed off in his armchair. Startled, he rolled onto the floor, landing right next to it. He blinked at it. It was small and perfectly round, and a textured grey colour. He sat up and crawled cautiously to the window, carefully avoiding shards of glass on the floor. He peered through the window. Nothing. The street was empty. All was quiet. There was no activity at the house he could see across the road. It was a puzzle. He hadn’t upset anyone lately as far as he knew. He examined the window. Fortunately, the panes were quite small and the stone had only gone through one, leaving it with a jagged hole in its middle. He got up and walked to the kitchen, retrieved a dustpan and broom and swept up the glass fragments.

As he examined the stone, he wondered if the thrower might have been one of the twins who lived across the road. He had dubbed them ‘the terrible twins,’ the terrors of the neighbourhood, always in trouble with one or other of the neighbours. The more he thought about it, the more convinced he became. But he wouldn’t condemn them out of hand. He would confront them, he decided. No time like the present. With the stone in hand, he walked resolutely across the road, opened the gate and walked up the short path to the front door. He rang the bell. He couldn’t hear it ringing, so he tried again. Still nothing. Maybe it wasn’t working. He knocked on the door. He could hear footsteps running towards it. It was flung open. A dirt grimed face peered up at him.

“ ‘Lo Mr Lester.”

It was Melody, the female half of the terrible twins.

Without preamble, he held out the stone and asked, “This was thrown through my window. Is it yours?”

She screwed up her face, looked at it, then said decisively, “Nope.”

“What about Riley? Do you think it might be his?”

She turned and bellowed, “Riley!”

Footsteps came racing down the hallway. Riley skidded to a halt, looking every bit as scruffy as his sister.

“Hello Mr Lester,” he said.

Toby showed him the stone..

“Is this yours?”

Riley looked at it, shook his head and said, “Nope,” echoing his sister.

Toby crouched down and said quietly, “Can I see your mum?”

They looked at each other, then, “She’s sleeping,” Melody said.

He said, “Oh?”

“Yes,” Riley said.

“She’s very tired. She’s been sleeping since yesterday.”

Alarmed, Toby asked, “Was she sleeping when you came home from school yesterday?”

“Yes,” they chorused.

“We couldn’t wake her. She’s very tired,” Melody repeated.

Toby stood up. Diane was a single mother. As far as he knew, there was no father he could contact if there was a problem.

“Do you mind if I go and see her?”

They looked at each other.

“You promise not to wake her?” Melody said anxiously.

“I promise,” he assured her.

She took his hand and led him down the hallway, Riley trailing behind them. She pushed open a bedroom door. The room was dark, the curtains drawn.

“Can you turn on the light for me please?” he asked.

Riley ran around behind him and turned on the lamp on a bedside table.

All Toby could see was a shape under the bedclothes. He approached the bed carefully and leaned over the figure. He could hear Diane breathing stertorously. Concerned, he touched her forehead. She did not stir. It was obvious she had a raging fever. He felt helpless. He didn’t know what to do around sick people. He lived alone. He’d never been sick in his life, so far. Not even a cold. He turned to the children who looked at him anxiously.

“I don’t think your Mum’s very well. I’m going to call an ambulance.”

“She’s not going to die is she?” Riley wailed.

“No,” he said, as reassuringly as he could.

“If they need to, they’ll take her to hospital and make her better.” He hoped.

He took out his phone and called emergency services. They assured him an ambulance would be on its way as soon as possible. The twins looked at him apprehensively, accurately reflecting his own feelings.

“Do you have someone who can look after you if Mum has to go to hospital?”

They shook their heads.

“No one at all?”

They continued shaking their heads.

“No aunties or grandmothers or your Mum’s friends?”

More head shaking.

He didn’t understand. Nobody had no one surely. Even he had a mother, even if he didn’t see her as often as he should. Had Diane cut herself off from everyone? He didn’t know. In fact, he didn’t know much about her at all. All he’d ever done is say ‘hello’ whenever they saw each other.

There was a knock on the front door. Riley raced off and opened it. Two paramedics followed him back to the bedroom. Toby quickly explained the situation, then he and the twins were ushered out of the room while they examined Diane. They sat on the couch in the untidy lounge. He had the twins on either side of him, and put his arms around them, and held them, trying to reassure them.

Shortly, one of the paramedics came in. She knelt in front of the twins, and said gently, “Mum will be okay. She doesn’t have to go to the hospital. She’s got a bit of a fever, but she needs to rest a bit more. We’ve given her some medication, and she’ll be much better very soon. She’s sleeping now.”

Her colleague came in, and said quietly to Toby, “She should be up and about in a few days. Is there someone you can contact to take care of the kids till then?”

Instinctively, Toby nodded. They left. The twins jumped up and ran to their mother’s room. Toby followed. Diane appeared to be sleeping peacefully.

“Okay kids, I think we should leave Mum to rest quietly now. Have you had anything to eat?”

They shook their heads. He suddenly realised that if their mother had been asleep since they came from school yesterday, they had been fending for themselves since then. No wonder the place was a mess and they looked so scruffy. He couldn’t possibly leave them.

“Did you guys have a shower this morning?”

Again two heads were shaken.

“Alright,” he said decisively.

“Here’s what we’re going to do if that’s ok with you. Go and find some clean clothes, then we’ll go to my house. You can both have showers and I’ll see if I can rustle up some food. We’ll come back after and maybe tidy up a bit so Mum doesn’t have a mess to wake up to. Okay?”

“Yes Mr Lester,” they chorused and raced off.

A short while later, they were splashing about in his bathroom. Surprisingly, they still showered together, but he knew nothing about childhood behaviour, so he had no idea when they became body-conscious. He merely gave them two towels and left them to it. He didn’t know what they ate, so nuked some spaghetti bolognese he had in the freezer, heated a garlic breadstick in the oven, found some orange cordial in the cupboard, and made a mix with ice cubes and set it all on the kitchen table. The twins emerged from the bathroom, both with slicked-down wet hair and dressed in clean clothes. He sat them down at the kitchen table and told them to help themselves. In very short order, everything was gone. He couldn’t believe the amount they ate. The poor kids must have been starving, he realised. Afterwards, they demolished half a tub of ice cream.

He thought a walk to the local playground might be a good idea. They agreed and ran ahead of him. He sat on a bench and looked at them playing with other kids and racing around the playground with the boundless energy only the young seemed to possess. He was exhausted just watching them. He wondered how Diane managed. Melody came over and sat next to him. After a minute, she said solemnly, “Thank you, Mr Lester, for looking after us and for looking after Mum.”

He said uncomfortably, “That’s ok.”

“And I’m sorry about your window. It was my fault. I was throwing the stone at next door’s cat. He was going to attack a little bird. I’m really sorry.”

Toby had completely forgotten about the stone and the window. He still had it in his pocket. He fingered it, and said to her, “That’s alright, love, it was an accident. But you should have told me. It’s wrong to lie.”

She said shamefaced, “I know. Mum says we should always tell the truth but I was scared you’d be angry with me.”

He ruffled her hair.

“I’m not angry, so we’ll just forget about it shall we?”


She jumped up and raced off to join her brother. Toby watched them and reflected at the turn of events. He would take them home soon but it seemed to him that his life was inextricably bound to theirs. At least for now. He had no idea what would happen once Diane recovered, but that would be resolved when the time came. All he knew was that his life would no longer be as solitary as it once was. The twins were likely to feel free to invade his space as often as they wanted, and he wouldn’t stop them. He had made them welcome in his home, and he realised he had enjoyed the experience.

As he watched them run shrieking around the playground, something moved within him. To think he once dubbed them ‘the terrible twins.’ He might still think that on occasion, but for now, all he saw were two loveable little larrikins, full of energy and the joys of life.

He pulled the stone out of his pocket and rolled it around in his hand. He grinned to himself. It wasn’t quite the same but it could be said all this happened on the day he got ‘stoned.’


Porn Concerto

Frederick took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. He felt the beginnings of a headache. He polished the lenses with the soft cloth out of the glasses’ case, sat down at the piano, then recommenced the piece he had started. It was just something he had dreamed up. He liked to think of it as his concerto, rather vain of him, comparing himself to those classical composers he admired so much, but as no one was ever going to hear it, except him, he could indulge himself. Mind you, so far, it really didn’t go anywhere, just meandered up and down the scales, a bit like his mind, right at the moment, he thought wryly.

“Hello, Grandpa.”

He looked around in surprise. His little granddaughter Molly had walked into the room, her pink backpack dangling over one shoulder.

“Hello sweetheart, I didn’t hear you come in.”

“ You were playing your music. Mom just let me in.”

‘So typical of Andrea’, he thought. Not even time to say hello. Always running late, but this time, she had even neglected to tell him he was babysitting.

“Mom didn’t tell me you were coming,” he said, getting up from the piano, stooping and giving her a hug.

“She sent you a text, Grandpa,” she informed him.

“Oh, okay.”

He hadn’t seen it, but it didn’t matter, she was here now. So much for his plans for that afternoon. Not that he had any, but it was the principle of the thing. He supposed he’d better find the phone and read the message. It took a while. Eventually, he unearthed it under the newspaper he had been reading earlier in the day. It was terse and to the point.

‘Dropping Molly off at 2. Got a work thing. Back at 6. Thanks, Dad.’

What if he did have something on? He hadn’t responded. She had just assumed he’d be there. He felt slightly affronted. There was nothing like being taken for granted. At least, he could make plans for the evening.

But he was kidding himself. He had no one with whom to make any plans. Ever since Eva left a year ago, he had hardly ventured out. She had been the social one, and his social life had gone with her. He supposed he would do something about that one day but so far, had not summoned up the energy or inclination.

Molly climbed up onto her favourite chair, opened her backpack and pulled out a tablet in a lurid pink cover. She entertained herself for hours on the thing, either watching a movie or playing games. She was never any trouble. He really did not have to do anything other than giving her something to eat or drink when she requested it. He felt vaguely disquieted by her preoccupation with the tablet, but he was unfamiliar with five-year-old girls and what made them tick. Eva used to take care of Molly, but she must not have been available. Andrea always tried her first.

“Would you like something to drink?” he asked.

“No thank you, Grandpa.”

She was an exceedingly polite little girl. Quite solemn too. Rarely smiled or giggled. He tried to tell her a joke once. It was a joke for kids he found on a children’s website. She merely looked at him. Either it wasn’t as funny as he thought, or he was really bad at telling jokes. Probably both.

She looked at him now and asked, “Grandpa, what’s pornography?”

He stared at her, open-mouthed.

“What?” he stuttered.

“What’s pornography?” she asked again.

“Where did you hear that word?”

“I heard Mum say it to uncle Paul. She said ‘You need to stop watching so much pornography.’

Paul was his son, Andrea’s younger brother.

“Did you ask your Mum?”

“No, I was in the other room. She doesn’t know I heard her. So what is it Grandpa and why should uncle Paul stop watching it?”

Frederick was stumped. How do you explain pornography to a five-year-old? It wasn’t his problem. It was Andrea’s. She was the one who said it. At the same time, with two dark eyes looking up him expectantly, he felt he had to come up with something.

“It’s when adults do things which should be private and it’s on the internet,” he struggled.

“You mean like sex?”

He gaped at her. What would a five-year-old little girl know about sex? He wasn’t about to ask. He shrugged and said, ”I guess so.”

“Okay.” She went back to her tablet.

He looked at her with relief and hoped to God she didn’t ask any more questions, at least not these kinds. And why had Andrea said that to Paul? He decided he really didn’t want to know.

He walked to the piano, sat down and started playing his original composition again. He was struck with a thought and smiled to himself. He had a name for his piece, not that he would ever tell anyone. He’d call it his Porn Concerto.



Alex slept like a baby. Which, according to his mother, Barbara, is what he was. Her baby anyway, being the youngest in the family. He was six, but a bit ‘slow,’ or so he had heard the adults say, never when Mummy was around, he noticed. He didn’t know what that meant. He was quite content, especially when playing with his LEGO pieces. He had lots and lots of them. So far, he hadn’t managed to make anything from them, but he just liked putting different pieces together to make odd shapes. When his cousins came over, they laughed at his efforts. He didn’t think it was that funny, but he laughed too anyway. That just made them laugh harder. He didn’t understand why.

Outside, a streak of light crossed the night sky. To those skywatchers endlessly searching the skies for extraterrestrial activity, it looked like a shooting star. It winked out. Definitely a shooting star. Outside Alex’s window, a small blue spherical light hovered, then slipped through the gap at the bottom. It floated for a moment as if to get its bearings, then moved to where Alex was sleeping. It hovered over his head, then settled on his forehead.

It was morning. Bright sunlight streamed through Alex’s window. Time to get up. He felt…strange. He could hear movement in the house and was aware of random thoughts running through his head. He went to the toilet, washed his hands, got dressed, then bounced down the stairs. Mummy and his much older sister Charlotte, were sitting at the breakfast bar.

“Good morning,” he said brightly.

He sensed their surprise, then, “Good morning, Alex,” they chorused.

They looked at each other in astonishment.

He paused. Didn’t he generally say ‘Good morning?’

It seemed so natural. His mother jumped off her stool and hurried over to him. She knelt down and hugged him. He hugged her back. It felt good, but he could sense her confused thoughts. He had done something he had not done before by simply saying ‘ Good morning.’ He patted her then whispered in her ear. She looked startled.

She stood up and asked, ”What do you want for breakfast, Darling?”

“Same as always, Mummy.”

She busied herself, finding his favourite bowl, filled it with fruit loops, poured milk over it and placed it on the bench. He hopped onto a stool and was soon finished. Charlotte eyed him, but so far, had said nothing. He jumped down and ran to his playroom and was soon playing with his LEGO.

Back in the kitchen, Charlotte looked at her mother.

“Mum, something’s different. Alex said ‘Good morning.’ He’s never said that before.”

“I know. I agree. I can’t explain it. Something happened to him overnight. I don’t know what, but he’s coherent, it looks like he can put sentences together. It’s wonderful.”

“What did he say to you?” Charlotte asked.

“He said, ‘I love you.’ He’s never said that before either.”

“Something’s certainly happened. We need to find out what it is.”

They both left the kitchen and walked to Alex’s playroom. They stopped at the door and gasped in amazement. Alex turned from the corner. Behind him, he had the makings of a LEGO village, complete with houses, cars and people.

“That’s not possible,” Charlotte whispered.

Her mother nodded in agreement. It wasn’t possible. Or shouldn’t have been. Alex had been diagnosed as having mild mental retardation. As yet, specialists had not been able to determine its cause. So there was no way in the world he would have been capable of putting his LEGO pieces into anything recognisable.

“Alright, Who are you and what have you done with Alex, “ Charlotte said, only half-jokingly.

Her mother mused, “The specialists don’t really know what caused his condition, maybe something triggered a correction in his brain while he was asleep last night.”

She knew she was grasping at straws.

Alex looked at them, then said, “I think perhaps I need to explain.”

They gaped at him in open-mouthed shock. He ambled over to a chair and climbed onto it. He gestured at a small couch nearby. In a daze, they sat down.

“There’s no easy way to say this, so I apologise for any upset I may cause you. I am an entity from another planet in another galaxy. I suspect I took a wrong turn somewhere and wound up on your planet. Where I am from, my species is small in size, so when I found Alex, I merged with him. I realise this is shocking for you but I assure you Alex is fine. I am merely sharing his body. I cannot function here in any other form.”

They stared at him, both speechless with shock, then Charlotte found her voice.

“You mean like E T or something?”

Alex looked perplexed.

“I am sorry. I do not know any E T.”

Barbara said, “You’ve taken over my son’s body? How could you do that? And what’s going to happen to him? I want Alex back!”

Her voice was shrill.

Charlotte grasped her by the arm.

“Mum, I don’t think he means any harm.”

“How can you know that? He’s taken over Alex’s body!”

Alex raised his hand.

“I am truly sorry. I wish no harm. If you want, I will vacate his body and be on my way. I will have to choose another body as I cannot move around your planet any other way, and I need to chart my onward journey.”

“Where are you going anyway?” Charlotte wanted to know.

“ A planet many light-years from here. We received a communication from it, and there may be remnants of our species there. I was sent to investigate. I am an archivist, not an astronaut, but they could not spare anyone else. There are not many of us left.”

Charlotte turned to her mother.

“We have to help him, Mum,” she pleaded.

“I want Alex back,” Barbara was adamant.

Charlotte turned to Alex.

“If we help you find your way to this planet, can you help Alex?”

He said thoughtfully, “I do not know your physiology but I have detected an abnormality in part of Alex’s brain. I have modified it, otherwise, I would not have been able to communicate with you.”

Charlotte turned to her mother.

“Mum, he may have fixed Alex!” she said excitedly.

“He’s not a machine,” Barbara responded, but her eyes lit up.

“Is that possible?” she asked.

“I believe so,” Alex replied.

“Yes!” Charlotte jumped up.

“Come on Alex, or whoever you are. Let’s see if we can help you on your way.”

“How do you plan to do that?” Barbara wanted to know.

“Oh Mum, get real. I’ll just google the solar system. I’m sure Alex can work it out from there.”

“Oh,” her mother said meekly.

They followed Charlotte upstairs to her room. She opened her laptop with its lurid purple cover sitting on her desk. Soon she was showing Alex images of the solar system. It didn’t take him long to chart a new course even though his destination planet was nowhere near it.

He said ruefully, “ I made a very elementary navigational error, but I think I should be able to find my way now. Thank you both. And I do regret causing you any anxiety. I am sorry I cannot thank Alex myself, but I will always be in his debt. If I may?”

He climbed onto Charlotte’s unmade bed and lay back. He looked at them both, then said, “Goodbye.”

Both moved and impulsively hugged him, then watched in amazement as a small blue spherical light emerged from his forehead. It floated briefly then moved to Charlotte’s open window, hovered for a moment, then winked out of sight.

They turned back to the bed where Alex was sitting up and looking around.

“What am I doing in your bed, Char?” he asked.

They rushed over and hugged him. He struggled free and said, “Well? Why am I in here and why are you two acting so weird?”

They looked at each other and burst into tears. Alex stared at them, then shook his head and left the room.

“Oh Mum, he’s talking normally. What are we going to tell everyone?” Charlotte said through her tears.

Barbara dabbed at her eyes.

“Not the truth, that’s for sure! Nobody would believe us. I don’t even believe it.”

She said firmly, “First thing Monday, I’m going to make an appointment with the specialist. I’m going to tell him that when Alex woke up this morning, he was like a normal six-year-old. They can run any tests they like, let them figure it out. This is going to be our secret. Agreed?”

“Are you going to tell Dad when he comes back from golf?”

“What do you think?”

“He’ll think we’re both crazy.”

“So we’re not telling him either. Like I said, it will just be our secret.”

Charlotte nodded and they both went downstairs and watched Alex busy in his playroom.

Barbara wondered if she would ever tell him that his body had once been invaded by an alien and effectively healed. Perhaps not. For now, she was content to watch a normal little boy, doing something he’d never been able to do before, happily completing a LEGO village.