Month: Jul 2019

Elmer and Louise by Meredith Schumann, Part 4

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Elmer had assumed he was dead but, as occurs regularly in the cliffhangers of psychological thrillers, the ‘death’ he experienced proved to be an enormous exaggeration of his symptoms.

He was hurting, bleeding a little, and had bumped his head and almost every one of his body’s protrusions on the van and on the pavement’s kerbstone… but he was a strong and sturdy guy, and despite his injuries was in far better condition than he deserved to be after being hit by the large, white plumber’s van.

Following Elmer’s self-ejection from the stolen car, Dulcie and Louise had done exactly what he’d expected. The car had stalled right next to Elmer’s fallen form, but his girlfriend and sister had chosen not to scoop him up, return his forcibly to their stolen car, and take him with them on their journey.

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They’d driven off, without even a backwards glance, leaving Elmer crumpled in the gutter and with nobody but the driver of the white van to offer assistance. The plumber, at least, showed some empathy, squealing his vehicle to a halt and practically falling out of the van door in his eagerness to get to the crumpled shape.

‘Oh my God, you alright, mate…? Mate…? You just fell out of the car and my van hit you and then you rolled to the edge. It’s lucky there were no cars coming.’

Elmer shuffled slightly on the kerb and grimaced. ‘You can go. I’ll be alright.’

‘I can’t leave you here like this.’ The plumber’s forehead dripped with perspiration.

Elmer wiped his eyebrow with his forearm and was less concerned than he should have been when the blood seeping from his skull coloured the skin a deep crimson.

‘Here, get in. I’ll take you to the hospital. It’s only a few minutes away. It’s the least I can do.’

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Elmer nodded and allowed himself to be helped to his feet and guided towards the van. His right shoulder, hip, ankle and knee hurt like mad from the impact, and he struggled pathetically onto the front seat.

‘I’m Simon.’ The plumber offered a hand to shake.

‘Elmer.’ He shook his head. ‘No handshake. My wrist is killing me.’

‘I’m not surprised… You hit the ground pretty hard. And Elmer’s a pretty weird name.’

‘Yeah. Even worse when you try living with it. My sister’s called Louise. She was in that stolen car. That’s why I got out.’

‘What do you mean?’ He started up the van and the tinny rumble seemed to trigger cognition.

 ‘Hell! Elmer and Louise! No way! Your parents named you after a film?!’

‘Yeah. They had a terrible sense of humour. And look where it led us. Lou’s on her very own criminal road trip. I’m surprised it took her this long to come up with the idea, to be honest. I’m the straight one. She’s always been a wild card.’

Simon put on his seatbelt and took a toke of his e-cig before replacing it into his overall’s pocket. Elmer’s nose crinkled.

‘God, that smells like my grandma’s mouldy pot pourri. What’s it supposed to be?’

‘Can’t remember. Cinnamon biscuit? Strawberry and lime cheesecake? These things are a pile of crap, really. All they ever taste of is charcoal briquettes and ethanol… Strapped in?’

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‘Strapped in?’

‘Seatbelt. Get your seatbelt on.’

‘Oh. Yeah. I’ve done it. Thanks.’

‘Guess that means your arm isn’t broken. Still need to go to the hospital though.’

Elmer shrugged, then nodded in resignation, closed his eyes, leaned his congealing scalp against the van’s head rest, and began to sob.  

Darkness.Chill.Silence.Bliss

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Summer isn’t ice-cream and beaches. Not to me.

The summer forces windows wide, admitting birdsong, creaking gates, the whirring of mowers, the madness of hedge trimmers, and the rhythmic cawing of noisy birds.

Neighbourhood children add to this with shouts, as do their mothers, while the grinding, grating power tools amplify their white noise backing track.

The skies are bland and blue, adorned with swathes of dove-grey clouds.

We wake early and retire late, and doze through the heat of the day, to be wakened by the ‘Greensleeves’ of the ice cream van.

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Houses remain empty while gardens fill with barbecue smoke and the snuffles of meat-obsessed canines.

But, to me, summer’s not ice-cream and beaches.

Neither are the darker months merely times pre- and post- the manic expectancy of Christmas; the craziness of shops, the worries of the poor and the extravagance of the rich.

It’s more than that.

Winter brings its own silent, deafening beauty and the comforting sounds of rain and wind.

Summer’s muggy blankness is a barrier of brightness.  

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Yet I’m drawn into winter skies; as tangibly solid and grey as my bed sheet. Winter rises late and snuggles down early in duvets that wrap us in their womblike comfort, while streets echo with cloistered emptiness.

I celebrate the differences of our seasonal extremes, but winter’s majesty, winter’s peace and winter’s rest are the introvert’s perfect backdrop.

Winter’s chill factor warms and energises my soul.

And autumn is a welcome transition.

Only five months more…

#lesleyatherton, #summer, #winter, #scottmartinproductions

Read This Book: NO MATTER WHAT! ***** FIVE STARS

Read this book ‘No Matter What‘ by Lesley Atherton

Review by Guest Blogger, Lauren O’Neill

No Matter What‘ is a short tale told from the point of view of Jayne Smith, a ghost writer who loves her job. She enjoyed the challenge of trying to write a book, autobiography or memoir in a way that it would seem her clients had written the books themselves. That is, until a certain supermodel named Hawk was sent her way, bringing not only stress and trouble along with him but also a past that Jayne had long since left behind.

Image: Pngtree

Lesley Atherton does a really good job of drawing you in and keeping you there and interested until the very end. Usually for me, short stories are just something to read to pass the time but with ‘No Matter What‘, I found myself enthralled with every word.

Even for a short story, each chapter flowed easily from one to another, I never found it difficult to get to the next page, never got stuck on a paragraph and never struggled to find the motivation to continue.

Jayne Smith, the protagonist of the story, is a woman who doesn’t find the need to impress or be a different person just to appease her peers and clients. Throughout ‘No Matter What’, I noticed how I didn’t agree with everything she believed but I still wanted her to come out victorious, be it ignoring the “supermodel version of Christopher Ecclestone” that was Hawk or being able to one day get the recognition she truly deserved for her hard work.

Without giving too much away, I saw myself mentally making note of every word she wrote, putting it away for later. This may just be a short fiction story but within it, you’ll find many things you could put to use in your life. As I started reading, I had somewhat of an idea in my head on what ‘No Matter What‘ was going to be about. Boy was I wrong!

For a 64 page story, there were so many twists and turns that kept me guessing and I have to admit, I never would have predicted what was going to happen and I think that’s quite a feat.

Illustration – quick sketch by a young Morrigan Atherton-Forshaw

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘No Matter What’: the story was interesting, gripping and even quite helpful in some places. It kept me intrigued and excited to keep on reading to find out what happened to Jayne and if Hawk had caused any more trouble for the poor woman.

I would definitely recommend ‘No Matter What‘ to you if you enjoy a quick little fix of humour, excitement, mysterious supermodels and a ghost writer with more to her than she lets on, if you enjoy all that, then this is the story for you.

See also ‘Conflict Management’ by Meredith Schumann, Lesley Atherton’s new author name.

5/5 stars

#lesleyfridayreads, #lesleyatherton, #scottmartinproductions, #laurenoneill, #nomatterwhat, #shortnovel

Elmer and Louise, Part 3

Elmer’s girlfriend, Dulcie, tapped her acrylics on the passenger side of the car’s dashboard.

‘So,’ Elmer urged, glaring at her. ‘What’s with the car?’

His sister, Louise, was still struggling to remove her disguise and make-up, but piped up from the back seat. ‘Well…’ Elmer turned to offer his encouragement and noticed Louise’s eyes flickered sparkly and bright.

‘We kind of took it.’

‘Took it? From whom?’

‘Erm, I wasn’t introduced to the actual owner. We found it in the Asda car park.’

Elmer stopped the car and grabbed his girlfriend’s arm.

‘What?! There’s CCTV all over that car park. They’ll have seen you.’

‘They’ll have seen two mad old ladies. Not us. Even you didn’t recognise us.’

‘But what about fingerprints? Oh my God, my fingerprints are all over a stolen car!’

Dulcie sighed and continued tapping.

‘Well, yes. But so are ours.’

‘But why would you steal a car? Louise? Dulcie? What the hell’s going on? Why have you done this? Why have you got me involved? I didn’t need this. I have a management meeting tomorrow morning.’

Elmer held his hand over his frantically beating heart. ‘Come on, you two. I have a life. I’m next in line for a big promotion too. I can’t get involved in crime. Not even as an observer. There’s no way.’

‘Calm down, Mr Asthma Attack,’ Louise teased as Elmer’s face reddened.

He glared. ‘I haven’t had asthma since I was a kid, Louise, and believe me, I’m not going to capitulate on this one like I always used to. Mum and dad are going to be told about what you’ve done. You’ll be disowned by all of us. I’m going to tell Paul too. You’ll be a jailbird divorcee by the time you’re forty. And you, Dulcie, why would you jeopardise your new acting career my doing something so stupid?’

Suddenly realising that he was still holding the steering wheel, Elmer let go and with the end of his tie began to wipe as many of the car’s surfaces he could reach.

‘And shut up with those fingernails, Dulce!’

The tapping didn’t stop, but otherwise the two women held their silence as he continued wiping, and that was when, in utter frustration, Elmer threw himself out of the stolen car, and straight into the path of a large, white workman’s van. He crumpled under the tyres as the van screeched to a halt.

Did Elmer survive?

What happened to his sister and girlfriend?

And was there any reasoning behind any of the day’s events?

Well, obviously, yes. There’s always a reason. Or should I say that there’s always an explanation, though such explanations may be devoid of all reason.

That’s what Elmer thought as he emerged from under the white delivery van, and noticed the symbol on the side. It was in the shape of a stylised toilet, and underneath was the text: ‘Trust Us With Your Plumbing’.

He wasn’t going to trust anyone again in a hurry. He’d trusted two mad old ladies with his life, and look where he was just twenty minutes later: broken and bruised, with resentment and fury in his soul.

After all, he had things to do, places to go, work to finish and hair to preen.

Review of Bolton: The Positives, by Meredith Schumann

David Holding takes a wander through Victorian Bolton in his book ‘The Dark Figure: Crime in Victorian Bolton’ so I thought I’d stroll through the 21st Century version, for good and for bad.

Second, some goods.

  • Skaters yell to each other. Despite the heat and brightness of the day, they wear long sleeves and beanies and there isn’t a single t-shirt or pair of sunglasses to be seen. We watch as they zoom about, but we’re mainly looking at their facial expressions – pride, cool, nonchalance… The joys of being young.
  • We park in the multi storey where weekend parking is free, and we manage to find a spot on the first floor.  It’s never happened before.   
  • Thirsty, we flop into a café for a much-needed drink. I can’t place the accent of the man who takes our order, but he’s so friendly and recognises us from our previous visits. He asks about the family and gives us each a toasted teacake on the house.
  • We spend two hours rummaging round X-Records and emerge with music, DVDs and a pretty funky Led Zepp-inspired shirt. I absolutely love the friendly organised chaos of this place.
  • We decide to eat at the Cherry Moon café, just up the road. It is a place for gamers of all types, for comic book fans, and for diners who like good food. We certainly go mad for their halloumi fries, and my crushed avocado on sourdough toast is superb. Yep, this has to be the coolest and friendliest place ever. Oh, happy days.
  • A community police officer smiles at us and comments ‘Isn’t it a beautiful day?’ If he’d been wearing a bowler hat or flat cap I’m sure he would have raised it for me. ‘It’s certainly warm, I reply. ‘I think the lions are happy’. I gesture over to the distinctive town hall step statues, and note the affection for the town’s people in the officer’s eyes. †††† ‘Good job. We don’t want hungry lions rampaging round Bolton. We have enough problems.’
  • We do our fish and vegetable shopping in the covered market. The place is clean and bustling and the choice is fantastic. We purchase Caribbean curry to accompany the fish, and I suspect the man dishing out the chickpeas is the cheeriest person in the whole town. We leave, arms clutching food bags and faces glowing with anticipation of our evening meal. It feels like Christmas.
  • We take a trip round the museum and gallery and discuss the photographic exhibition and Egyptian displays. Another two hours happily spent. We don’t call in at the aquarium this time, as we need to get home.
  • The roads are busy, but I’m astonished when a pedestrian stranger leads us from the car park and onto the road. He holds up the traffic with a grin, and waves as we drive away.

#lesleyfridayreads

Elmer and Louise, Part 2

Image: Pngtree

The cure for depression is to purchase and use something expensive and new. That’s what Elmer’s mum had always told him, hence the suit and his manicure. He knew from experience that it didn’t always work. And when this was the case, doing good deeds was the only way to go.

†Elmer leaned against the door, and looked again at the nun who immediately began apologising for the dog-hair covered tartan blanket, but Elmer liked its digestive biscuits and dog paws smell.

‘How did you get here if you can’t drive?’

‘She can. She started, anyway. But then we stopped at traffic lights and this man went mad at us and she got out to tell him off. That was when he went at her with his fists and started saying she was a (swear word) god-botherer.’

‘Can she walk?’

‘She can’t see and her leg is all bloody. Don’t think so.’

‘I’ll drive her to the hospital. Then you can get help.’

‘How long will that take?’

‘Thirty seconds.’

‘Can she wait that long?’

‘She’ll have to. And the longer we wait here, the worse she’s going to be.’

‘Thank you, angel,’ came the whispered voice as I got into the driver’s seat and started it up.

‘Seat belt, seat belt,’ said the loony, throwing herself into the car next to Elmer while he plugged himself in.

That was when he heard the click of the car’s central locking.

That was when he heard the loony nun’s cackle.

‘Straight on, mate, and no funny business or this’ll go straight through your brain. ’

She brandished a tiny pistol that had been pulled from her coat’s inner pocket.

‘What’s going on? The hospital is next right.’

‘That might be the case,’ said the now very much recovered back seat passenger, ‘but that’s not where we’re going.’

‘That’s true, Mr Elmer Bartholomew Cross.’ The front seat loony had by that point removed her angling wellies and coat, and was beginning to look remarkably familiar.

‘I gave you enough clues, Elmer, Didn’t you guess it was me when you saw Scamp’s dog blankey?’

She clearly was not a nun. Not A sister. HIS sister. And the loony next to him was peeling off her facial prosthesis. He should have known it. His sister Louise, and his girlfriend, Dulcie. The drama school graduate. As she peeled off the final piece she grinned and removed her fake upper teeth. ‘That’s better.’

She sighed happily. ‘Remember telling me that there was no point in my going or that audition? Because I’ve never been much of an actress? Remember, Elmer? Well, I got the job. First proper one I’ve been to. It’s telly, and a long series, so will be good money too. So I guess your girlfriend really CAN act. What do you say to that?’

Elmer nodded his head and continued the driving.

‘Well done, you two,’ he said. ‘Good jape. But where’s the car come from?’

That was likely a different story.

Elmer steeled himself to hear it.