The possibility of shorts

This February has started out exceptionally mild. Continuing the overall theme of a mild winter, here in Norfolk at least.

I am not fooled of course. We still have the rest of the month to go, and March yet to come. However, I cannot argue about the recent temperatures. Two or three days of bright sunshine, with a high of 16 C (61 F) yesterday, and a warm walk with Ollie. Sadly, it is not enough heat to dry out the lingering mud, but for once, I am not complaining.

The TV weather forecasters are getting very excited. The high temperatures are set to continue throughout this week, due to an unusual ‘bend’ in the Gulf Stream, drawing warm air from as far away as North Africa. Last night, one weather presenter was predicting a new record high for Britain in February, which should arrive by next Friday or Saturday. 18 C (64.5 F) is unknown in this country during February. If we achieve that somewhere, it will break all previous records for this month.

But more importantly, it will mean that I can start wearing my shorts again, at least one month early.
(Like the ones on the left. Not those retro things on the right. 🙂 )

The Old Remington: Part Seventeen

This is the seventeenth part of a fiction serial, in 1120 words.

When his eyes opened, Martin looked to his right. The naked form of Vanessa was stretched out on top of the duvet, and she was snoring quietly. He felt like he had just endured a workout at the gym. She had been insatiable, and he certainly couldn’t complain about what they had been doing for most of the day. But something would have to be done. He couldn’t allow this current life to carry on. Being married to Pam was one thing, but being blackmailed and tempted by his next door neighbour was always going to end in disaster. He eased himself off the bed, and grabbed his clothes and shoes from the floor. Slipping quietly out of the bedroom, he dressed downstairs, and walked next door into his own house.

His own house, that felt weird to even call it that in his mind.

Before he could even think about searching the place for clues, Martin got into the shower. After a good scrub, he had a shave, smiling at how all the necessary stuff was there. His mark on this life. His large toothbrush, can of shaving foam, razor, and deodorant spray. He didn’t want Pam and Daisy to come home and see him still unwashed from the morning. Daisy! The thought hit him like a hard slap on the head. Pulling on some clean clothes in the bedroom, he checked his watch. He was going to be so late to collect her. He checked his phone as he rushed to the van. No calls. Hopefully, it would be OK.

There was no sign of Daisy on the deserted school entrance, so he drove the van into the car park, and ran across to the doors. He buzzed the entry system, and a flat voice answered. “Yes”. Trying to sound harassed, which wasn’t difficult, he almost shouted into the speaker. “It’s Martin Harwood, to collect Daisy. Sorry, I got held up”. The girl was sitting inside, by a reception desk manned by a woman who looked too old to still be working. The grumpy-looking thin woman shook her head at him as he approached. “You really should call us if you are going to be late, you know. Five more minutes, and I would have called your wife”. He managed a sheepish grin. “Sorry. Thanks. Won’t happen again”. He knew it wouldn’t, as he had no intention of being in Basildon tomorrow.

Daisy didn’t seem concerned. She wanted to play the Satnav game again on the way back, and as soon as they got back to the house, she took off her blazer and shoes, before running upstairs to her room. Forgetting about searching the house for clues, Martin decided to look for the Remington instead. There was no trace in the two downstairs rooms, so he went outside to the garage. It was almost empty, save for an old child’s bike, and a folded-flat Wendy house. No doubt Pam had a car, and actually kept it in there. He went back inside and started to look around upstairs. The small third bedroom was decked out like a study. Desk, laptop, printer, and some shelves containing box files. It was all very neat and tidy, and it was easy to establish that the typewriter was nowhere to be seen. The main bedroom required a more careful examination. But it wasn’t that big, and almost everything was in its place in the fitted wardrobes surrounding the bed. That left two options; Daisy’s room, or the loft. He suddenly wondered if there might be a shed in the garden. If it wasn’t in the house, then maybe the Remington was stored out there.

He walked down the stairs, to check outside, but was only halfway down when he heard the unmistakable sound of clattering typewriter keys. The sound was coming from behind the closed door of Daisy’s room. Rushing in, he surprised the girl, and she scowled at him. “Daddy, you didn’t knock. We said you would knock now that I am eleven. I’m not a baby anymore”. He smiled at her serious expression. “Sorry honey, I completely forgot. I will go out and come in again, OK?” He had spotted the typewriter between her legs on the bed, still in it’s case. Biting back the frustration, he closed the door, then knocked carefully. “Daisy, it’s Daddy. Can I come in?” She had obviously decided to play with him. “Just a moment, I’m not ready”. He tapped his foot impatiently as he waited for what seemed like ages. “OK. Come in, Daddy”. She was sitting at the small dressing table, taking her hair out of the bunches. As he walked in she turned and smiled, continuing her charade. “Hello Daddy, what did you want?”

Martin kept it going, not wanting to cause any fuss. “Oh I was wondering if I could use that typewriter, the one on your bed here?” She waved a hand in a royal gesture. “Yes you can have it back. I don’t know how to use it, and I was just typing because I like the noise it makes”. He smiled, and picked it up. “Why thank you, young lady”. In the small study room, he looked at the sheet of paper in the roller. It was half-covered in all sorts of nonsense.
‘Daisy Harwood. DAISY HARWOOD. MISS DAISY HARWOOD. Basildon XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX ###~~~ }]{{ 11111 qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnujmik,ol.p’

He wondered when she had typed all that, and hoped it was just now, when he had heard her. Then he pulled the paper out, and inserted a clean sheet from a stack next to the printer. If he was quick, he would have it done before Pam got home. But he had to be careful, he knew that by now. The thought came to him, and he acted on it immediately.

‘Martin Harwood was one of the most successful traders in the City of London. When he started out, big firms had tried to poach him, even the powerful Harris-Coyle. But he kept his integrity, knowing they were involved with insider trading. He decided to start up his own company, playing by the rules. That earned him a reputation throughout the money markets, and despite the financial problems affecting Europe, he saw steady growth, and was left with a solid and respected company.’

He sat back and re-read the paragraph. Back to the beginning. No dodgy dealings. No Harris-Coyle, no Chloe, and no Pam.

One night to get through, playing the devoted husband and father. being nice to Pam and Daisy, and listening to Pam tell him about her new job. Eat the Chinese food, drink some wine, and get an early night.

Tomorrow, it would all start again.

The Old Remington: Part Sixteen

This is the sixteenth part of a fiction serial, in 1475 words.

As he pulled up on the driveway back at the house, Martin’s phone started to ring again. The screen showed the name, PAM. He answered with an upbeat tone. “Hello, love. How did it go?”
She squealed in reply, her voice raised and excited. “I got it. I got it!. They were really nice. It’s more than just filing and typing too. I will be the personal assistant to the chief executive. Can you believe that, love? This could be a great move for me”. He paused, and then tried to sound casual. “Remind me again, who is it you will be working for? You know me, I forgot”. She didn’t seem to be bothered by his forgetfulness. It’s that city firm I mentioned. You know, stocks and shares. Brokers, finances, all that stuff. It is called Harris-Coyle, and I will be working for Chloe Harris, the woman in charge”.

Martin felt a chill creep down his back, and said nothing. Pam continued, still excited. “Anyway, I am going to pop over to the shops in the West End, and get some new things to wear. They want me to start next week, an induction period. I will want to look my best. So I won’t be back in time to get Daisy from school. Don’t forget to pick her up, you will have to finish work early. I will order us a Chinese takeaway tonight, to celebrate. See you later, love”. She hung up without waiting for a reply. Martin sat quietly in the van. It seemed that the spiral was continuing. Whatever he wrote, however things changed, everything else remained interwoven in the new life. And now the past was interfering on a daily basis too. His real past, the one he had actually lived, and remembered. Or had he? It was getting too much for his mind to take in.

Climbing out of the van, he was still intending to search this house for any clues about his current life. There would be the usual papers to look for. Mortgage, Marriage, Bank statements, Utility bills. He would try to piece together the life of a married man in Basildon. Someone who was married to an office worker, and father to a schoolgirl. Someone who worked in his own business as a plasterer. He smiled grimly. A plasterer, for Christ’s sake. How did that ever happen? As he fished for the right key, he didn’t notice the woman standing on a step ladder against the front windows of the house next door, washing the glass with a soapy cloth. But her voice jolted him, and he slowly turned to look at her. “Hi, Martin. Home early today, or just skipping work? I promise I won’t tell Pam”.

He watched as she stepped down from the small platform, shaking soapy suds from the pair of yellow rubber gloves she was wearing. Her smile was warm, her face attractive, and her figure curvy. And that all confirmed what he had known when he heard her voice. It was Vanessa.

Despite not having a tan, she looked like her old self. At least the old self he remembered from the bank, and those first few days in Spain. He decided not to act surprised, and let her do the talking. It wasn’t easy to wait for her to start. “You OK, Martin love? You don’t look well. Like you’ve seen a ghost or something. Why don’t you pop in for a cup of tea? There is something I wanted to talk to you about, so now’s as good a time as any”. He nodded, eager to get it over with. Whatever ‘it’ was going to be. She left the step-ladder and bucket outside, and he followed her in through the open door. The house was lived-in. Not tidy, not messy. A pair of court shoes stood by the door, and an outdoor coat hung on a hook. It would appear she lived there alone.

“Go through, and I will bring your tea. Still two sugars, not much milk?” Martin nodded, and walked into the living room. The house was a mirror of the one next door, the one he apparently lived in with Pamela. He moved a colourful throw that was crumpled on an armchair, and sat down. She was soon back, placing the mug next to him on a side table. He played dumb. “So what did you want to talk to me about?” She leaned forward from her perch on the sofa opposite, close enough for him to smell her perfume. “Well, it’s about my son. You know, Pablo”. He picked up the tea, It was too hot to drink, but he held it close to his mouth, and waited. “He’s been getting fed up living with his Dad, and working as a waiter doesn’t suit him at all. He would much prefer to come and live here, with me. I thought you could take him on. Just try him out, train him up in your trade. Plasterers can make good money, and he’s bright enough. He will learn fast, I’m sure. Pam tells me you have plenty of work on, and you wouldn’t have to pay him too much. What do you think, love?”

Martin sipped the tea, even though it felt as if it was scalding his lips. He needed time to think, and he stalled Vanessa by appearing to be thinking over her proposition. Not only was he married to his ex office girl. Not only was he working as a plasterer, living in suburban Essex. Not only did he have a daughter who had just started her first year of secondary school. But now this. His former lover and one-time fiance was his next-door neighbour. And the waiter from the Tapas Bar and the fancy restaurant in the quiet street was her son. That presumably meant that the older Spanish guy who greeted them had been or was still her husband. All the different aspects of his life written up on the Remington were coming together, merging. And not in a good way. He no longer knew what was real or imaginary. But then it was all real, wasn’t it? The tea was hot, Vanessa looked amazing, and he had just spoken to Pam on the phone.

She was impatient for him to reply. “Well? What do you say, love. Can I give Pablo a call. Maybe start next month?” Martin swallowed more of the tea. He hadn’t realised how thirsty he was, and the hot sweet drink had made him feel much better. He gave her an affable grin. “I’m not sure. I mean, working with your friend’s son. Next-door neighbours and all that. If something went wrong, I would hate for us to fall out over it. Him working for me, well, he might not like that. It’s not like I even know him, after all”. He could tell she hadn’t got the answer she was expecting, as her tone changed completely. “I don’t see any of that as a problem. He speaks good English, he’s keen to learn, and I can vouch for him. He’s my flesh and blood, Martin. And living next door is ideal. You can pick him up every morning, and he will never be late for work”. She stopped there, as if the discussion was over.

He looked back at her over the rim of the mug. As always, she was confident, familiar. Relaxed in his company. “I don’t know. Neighbours, that’s one thing. It’s good to be friendly, but taking it further, I don’t know”. She put her mug down on the floor, still full of tea. “Well you didn’t think that last August, did you? At my barbecue, when everyone had gone, and Pam took Daisy in to put her to bed. Remember? Well I remember. Once up against the back wall of the garage, then in here on the carpet”. She pointed to the space on the floor between them, as Martin felt his face flush. Her expression was triumphant.

“I don’t recall you worrying about taking things further with a neighbour that night, love. In fact, it was me that said you had better get back next door, before Pam wondered where you were”. Of course, he didn’t remember. But he instinctively knew she was telling the truth. At least in her life, if not in his.

Vanessa stood up, her face softening, and a sly smile on her lips. She reached forward and took the mug out of his hands, placing it back on the table. Holding out a hand, she spoke like a purring cat. “Why don’t we go upstairs now, and I will convince you to give Pablo a chance?”

Despite everything, he knew he would follow her up those stairs.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Books, and reading.

As I have started to read again, after a long break, and because I was reading a book in bed before I went to sleep last night, it is understandable that I woke up today thinking about that subject.

I am not getting on that well with electronic reading. On the plus side, it is great to be able to read an ‘illuminated page’, with no need for additional lighting. And I can store a lot of books on something the size of an A4 sheet of paper. The downside for me is that the page-turning feature can be over-sensitive, frequently flipping back to previously read pages without warning. It also freezes up more that I am happy with, leaving me having to restart, to return to the last page I was reading.

So many of you report no issues with this, I am beginning to wonder if I have a faulty Kindle Fire. But it may also have something to do with me, and my unfamiliarity with using Tablets.

When it comes to the books, I have now read five of them in one month. Considering I only finished one book during the whole of the previous year, then that is progress indeed, and definitely a result of having the new way of reading, as well as not having to further clutter diminishing space with large paperbacks or hardback copies. I have enjoyed the books written by other bloggers, and have been pleasantly surprised by the high quality, readability, and refreshing subjects and themes.

That has not been the case with the mainstream books though. Despite great reviews, and large sales on Amazon and elsewhere, I was disappointed to find that familiar ‘formula’ writing very much in evidence. Characters conceived so that they can be featured in sequels, or living in stylised, unrealistic situations that are hard to identify with. Many years ago, I regularly read at least one book a week. I used to follow authors, including Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and some more serious writers. When they had a new book out, I would buy it immediately, believing I would be sure to like it.

But then they started to feel ‘familiar’. The names were changed, but the plots similar. Things happened in those books as I had come to expect them to, and I became convinced that we were all reading much the same story, with just the locations and characters altered slightly. That was one of the main reasons I stopped reading novels, and switched to non-fiction instead. After almost twenty years, I have returned to fiction, in the hope that things had changed. In many respects they have, but in some cases, I can see it is just the same old story. Literally.

So I am not sure about reading again. I feel a little cheated by some writers, but refreshed and inspired by others. Maybe that has always been the case? Not sure.

I am still thinking about it.

Just been watching…(94)

Anthropoid (2016)

In 1942, the Nazi SS ruler of Czechoslovakia, Reynard Heydrich, was killed in Prague, after an assassination by Czech soldiers who had been trained in Britain, and dropped back into the country by parachute. The outcome is a matter of historical record, so no spoilers apply here.

This is not the first film made about that event, (there have already been seven made) and I doubt it will be the last.

Heydrich had been in charge of the occupied country for some time, and his ruthless actions had earned him the name ‘The Butcher of Prague’. He had all but wiped out any resistance to German occupation by 1941, and the government in Britain was concerned that this potential ally would be removed from the equation. They came up with the plan to have him assassinated, hoping that the event, and the expected reprisals that followed, would turn the Czechs against Germany once and for all. They named the plan ‘Operation Anthropoid’, and dropped teams of soldiers close to Prague, with orders to contact the Resistance, and work out a plan to kill Heydrich.

This film is not only written and produced by Sean Ellis, but also filmed and directed by him too. So his mark is over the complete film, in every way. Added to that, the locations are completely authentic, not only shot in Prague, but also in the actual streets and corners where every incident actually took place. This gives the film an undeniably convincing feel, with period details complementing this too. That extends to the cast members, costume, and all the vehicles and street furniture.

The story plays out in real time on screen, with no need for flashbacks. (Or flash-forwards) Starting from the time the men parachute out of the plane, we follow them through tense encounters with collaborators, and fraught meetings with reluctant members of the Czech Resistance. They are aided and sheltered by sympathisers, two of whom provide some love interest for the leading male stars. Everyone looks and feels right, from the main protagonists, to the numerous German soldiers encountered throughout the film. The build up to the assassination is covered in satisfying detail, and the day of the event is incredibly tense, and handled with total realism.

Cast members include the ever reliable Cillian Murphy, and the solid Jamie Dornan. Toby Jones is as good as ever, as a weary resistance leader, and many of the other roles are wisely cast to be played by Czech actors. The German soldiers and Gestapo officers are suitably ruthless and brutal, and even crowd scenes and those in bars and cafes are well done, without the need to ‘over-stuff’ the screen. My one gripe might be that the Irish and British actors playing Czechs adopt a strange accent, but that was presumably necessary to fit in with the actors who had real ones. The Germans speak German, and where necessary, use a translator. That was a nice touch.

The film builds to the well-known climax as the team of agents are trapped inside a large church. And although I already knew what happened, it managed to keep the tension wound until those final moments. A good-looking, WW2-set film, that is much better than most of the other seven versions.

The Old Remington: Part Fifteen

This is the fifteenth part of a fiction serial, in 1570 words.

Later that night, Martin sat in the study staring at the blank sheet of paper in the typewriter. The previous attempt to change things had backfired. Vanessa hadn’t remembered anything, and he had chosen not to remind her. By physically changing Melanie, he had apparently created a mother who was also like that, and he had no idea why or how that happened. Other than the physical changes, there were few differences. The Fiat 500 had gone, as Melanie could no longer drive. Vanessa was very much the same, as he had found out when she had led him off to the bedroom for her required siesta session. Although her physical changes might normally have repulsed him, he was very surprised just how much he had enjoyed it. Perhaps the constant alteration of events was also affecting his outlook, and innate prejudices? Could it be that he was managing to write himself into being a better person?

With both the women sleeping soundly, he thought long and hard before hitting a single key on the machine. He still had the money. The house and lifestyle were no less enviable, and so what if Vanessa was twice the size? Trying to change her back was likely to set something unexpected in motion once again, something he was gradually losing control of. Maybe leave well enough alone, and try to make a life for himself as it was. There was a great deal to be said for having a loving partner, lots of money, and a beautiful house in the sun. He leaned forward, beginning to type, knowing exactly what to write.

“Martin was finally settled. He had a woman who loved him, and a daughter who looked on him as a father figure.
Life was very comfortable indeed, and no man could really have asked for more”.

He was happy with that, at least for now. Just confirming his thoughts, and hopefully sealing his life in Spain as it was. Leaving the page in the roller, he went into the chilly bedroom and climbed in next to the gently snoring Vanessa. He wrapped his arms around her new cuddly figure, and drifted off to sleep with a smile on his face.

It was something bouncing on the bed that woke him. The mattress was leaping under his body, and he just knew he wouldn’t sleep through that disturbance. When he opened his eyes, he saw a young girl jumping up and down, using the bed like a trampoline. Her hair was in bunches to the sides, and she was wearing what looked like a school uniform. She gave him a toothy grin, and stopped bouncing. “Daddy, get up. You have to take me to school”. He stared at her, trying to find some recognition in his brain. The room was cold, outside of the warm duvet, and the light coming through a window to his left was dull, the sky a battleship grey. Another voice came from the doorway. “No shoes on the bed, Daisy. How many times do I have to tell you?” He looked in the direction of the voice, and a woman walked into the room. She stopped and leaned against the door frame, holding a shoe in her hand that she slipped onto her left foot.

She was smartly dressed in a business suit, a shoulder bag dangling precariously as she leaned forward. Her hair was cut in a short bob, with attractive streaks in several colours. He was still staring at her when she spoke again, her voice sounding stressed. “Come on, Martin love. I told you I have that interview this morning. You have to take Daisy to school in your van before you go to work. You can’t have forgotten. Please get up, it’s getting late”. He knew her immediately, as if he had only just see her recently. But of course he had. It was Pamela Murray, and the girl was Daisy, the one she had shown him in the photograph, claiming that he was the father. Daisy started jumping again. “Get up Daddy. Get up, get up”. Pamela turned, talking as she walked. “I have to go. Wish me luck, I will see you tonight love”.

If only to stop Daisy’s jumping and shouting, Martin rolled out of bed. He opened a fitted wardrobe, and found some folded jeans and t-shirts on a shelf. He pulled on one of each, and some thick socks. No time to even think about washing, or more importantly, orientating himself to yet another day one. Daisy was off, running down the stairs shouting, “Come on Daddy. Come on!” By the front door, he spotted trainers in his size, and shoved his feet into them. Daisy pushed a padded coat into his hands, and he found some keys and a mobile phone in the right-hand pocket. On the short driveway outside the small house, a new-looking van was parked. It was sign-written, and he took in the words all along the side.
M. Harwood Plasterer
Mouldings Cornices Detail Work
07703 222 6677

In the front of the van, Daisy pulled her seat-belt across, and tapped the back of her shoes against the seat frame. “We’re going to be late, Daddy. Turn the van on”. As he turned the ignition key, he looked around at her and smiled. “Tell you what, Daisy. Let’s play a game. Pretend I don’t know where your school is, and you tell me exactly how to get there from here. How does that sound?” She grinned, liking the idea. “What, like a Satnav?” He nodded. “Exactly, just like a Satnav”. She thought for a second, and asked, “Shall I do a funny voice then?” He took off the handbrake, and slipped the van into first gear. “You do that, any voice you like honey”. She tried to sound like a robot as she spoke again. “Turn right, at the end of your driveway”. They both laughed as Martin turned the wheel.

After dropping the girl at the school, Martin drove into the car park of a big supermarket at the end of the road. He found a quiet place right at the far end, away from the shop. In an inside pocket of the warm coat, he found a wallet. It contained a driving licence with his name and photograph on it. Two bank cards still from his old bank, and a credit card in the name of the business painted on the van. There were numerous paper business cards, and a photo of him with Pamela and Daisy in front of a huge model dinosaur. In the note section, he saw just eighty pounds. Three twenties, and two tens. In the coat pocket was a handful of change, and a packet of mints. Taking the keys out, he walked around to the back, and opened the large doors.

Bags of plaster in different grades were piled on the floor. Various tools were scattered around, some hanging from racks bolted to the sides. A collapsible telescopic platform was neatly folded against the bulkhead, and a petrol-driven stirrer sat in its mounting next to that. The thing that amazed him most was that he knew what everything was for, and how to use them. In his mind, he saw himself repairing ceiling roses, and skimming fresh plaster over the newly-built walls in flat conversions. But as far as he knew, he had never mixed plaster in his life. He closed up the back, and returned to sit in the driving seat. A thought struck him, and he leaned across to see his reflection in the wing mirror. Much the same as before. The same age, same hair, and same lines on his face. But no suntan. That had changed to the pasty white of an English winter. There were no cigarettes anywhere, and he felt no desire to smoke. On the ring finger of his left hand was a wide gold ring. Nothing fancy, just a band.

He was married to Pamela, and bringing up their daughter, that was obvious. According to the sign outside Daisy’s school, he was living in Basildon, in Essex. He had heard of the town of course, but had never been there before. He smiled, thinking about the line he had typed the night before, in the house in Spain. ‘Martin was finally settled. ‘He had a woman who loved him, and a daughter who looked on him as a father figure’. Well, that had come true, but not at all in the way that he had expected.

After staring out through the window for what seemed like a long time, the musical note of his mobile phone made him jump. He answered the call with a simple “Hello”. The voice at the other end was raised, and tetchy. “You were supposed to be here by nine, you said. I have other tradesmen waiting for you to do your bit, and we need to get on. How long will you be?” The man obviously knew him, and had presumably employed him to do a plastering job. Martin was short in his reply. “Sorry, something came up with my little girl. I won’t be able to make it today after all”. As the man started shouting, Martin hung up.

He turned the engine on, and drove out of the car park.

He had to get back to the house, and do some digging around, before Pamela got home.

The Old Remington: Part Fourteen

This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, in 1615 words.

That night, Martin did his best to placate Ness. She was royally fed up about his treatment of her daughter, and acting miffed. He shut the typewriter away in one of the drawers in what he had been told was ‘the study’. Then he went back out onto the terrace to smooth things over with his fiance. After some nice smooching, and a few passionate kisses, Ness calmed down. But she hadn’t let it go completely. “What is it with that old portable, Martin? Why the hell is it such a big deal, when you can afford to get the latest and best computer money can buy? I just don’t get it. You never mentioned it before”.

He poured her another glass of red wine, and smiled to himself. Tell her the truth. She will never believe it, and it might make her laugh. Once they are laughing, the worst is over. “The thing is, Ness, and you will think I am crazy, but that typewriter changes my future. Whatever I type on it one day, comes true the next. Once I have gone to bed, and woken up again. How do you think I got all this money?” As expected, she laughed. “Yeah, right. Pull the other one, Martin. A magic typewriter? Do you think I am some sort of impressionable kid?” Martin took his time. He told her the whole story. Pablo, Chloe, changing his life on a daily basis, and how he had been a famous novelist. For a while.

She listened, drinking her wine, and shaking her head. She had laughed, but the worst wasn’t over. “Honestly, Martin. I thought you gave me more credit. You tell me a fairy story, and expect me to believe it. I am very disappointed in you. I thought we had trust. I thought we had something special, I really did”. She grabbed the bottle, and filled her glass to the brim. He could see she was past tipsy, and feared that it would all turn nasty. “I will prove it you, honey”. We will type something on the machine tonight, and it will come true tomorrow. Whatever you want. You can tell me. Dictate it, if you want”. She waved a dismissive hand at him, and continued to swallow the wine. They sat like that for some time, both smoking heavily, and staring at the starry sky.

It was getting late when she finally slammed down her empty glass, and turned with a spiteful look on her face. “Right. Let’s go into the study, type something on that bloody thing, and we will see if that happens tomorrow. And when it doesn’t, I will have some choice things to say to you, believe me. I absolutely hate being treated as if I’m stupid. I had enough of that with Richard. You know that already”. He followed her into the room that was close to the size of his old flat. She marched over to the desk, and yelled, “I’m waiting!” He retrieved the Remington from the drawer, unzipped the case, and carefully inserted a piece of paper, taken from the printer next the the desk lamp. He turned to her. “What shall I type? You say”. She shrugged, suddenly less confident. “Something stupid. Something that could never happen. Surprise me”.

Martin hesitated for a moment, and a vision of Melanie came into his mind. He typed the sentence quickly, then slid the machine sideways, so that Ness could read what he had written.

‘Vanessa decided to go to Spain, and to live with Martin. Not long after that, her daughter Melanie abandoned her university degree, and left home to join them. She was nothing like her mother. Her fair hair was lank and greasy, she was very spotty, and considerably overweight. Martin estimated she must tip the scales at close to three hundred and fifty pounds. which for a woman of her height made her seriously obese. She cared little about her appearance, had no ambition, and had not even bothered to learn how to drive. Living in the sunshine of Spain was torture for her, as she was too shy to swim in the pool or the sea, and was too self-conscious to ever wear anything other than jeans, and an over-sized t-shirt’.

Ness read the paragraph, and looked over to Martin. “So you have written about my daughter being the total opposite of what she is, and you’re telling me that when we wake up tomorrow, that’s what she will be like?” He nodded. “But if you want, I can write something else. I could write that you are a natural blonde, or that Consuelo is only twenty-five, or that you have a Rolls-Royce limousine. It’s up to you, Ness”. Her eyes flickered. A moment of alarm, overwhelmed by disbelief. Martin kept her gaze, his mind turning over the fact that he had finally revealed his secret to someone else, and wondering if that was going to affect the outcome. Ness sat back, and folded her arms. “No, leave that in. Because that is never going to happen, not in a million years”.

Before they went to sleep that night, the atmosphere in the bedroom was strained. Ness was going through everything in her head, and firing random questions at him. “So you typed about winning the lottery, and it just happened? He nodded. “Yes, I never even bought a ticket”. After she let that sink in, something else occurred to her. “Did you type me into it too, into your bed, and being in love with you?” He reached for her hand, but she pulled it away. “I promise you I didn’t. I only met you that one time in the bank, but when I typed about the money and moving abroad, I woke up the next morning with you in bed next to me. I didn’t even know I was in Spain, did I?”

It was too much for her to take in, he knew that. She turned over, showing her back to him. As she reached to turn out the light, she spoke again, and her voice sounded different. “Honestly, Martin, I think you must either be going insane, or thinking you can treat me like a complete idiot. To come up with all that crap just to explain why that bloody typewriter is so important, instead of just telling me the truth. I have to tell you I am disappointed in you. Really.” As the light went out, he spoke softly to her. “You will see. Wait until tomorrow love”.

He woke up feeling extremely cold. He was alone in the bed, and it was almost nine. He checked the control for the air-conditioning, and saw it was on its lowest temperature setting. The room was like a fridge. Martin put some shorts on, and walked through to the terrace. The morning heat took the chill off his body immediately, and he continued in the direction of the pool. Ness was nowhere to be seen, but as he drew level with the dining room, movement inside attracted his attention.

A large woman was sitting at the table, eating pancakes and syrup from a plate in front of her. Another plate loaded with the same things stood next to her elbow, waiting to be consumed. He opened the door, and walked in. She looked up at him, swallowed the mouthful, and smiled. “Morning, Martin. Do you want some pancakes? There are more on the way, when Mum’s finished doing them”. Behind the swollen cheeks, and a double chin that looked like a medical collar, Melanie’s voice was still recognisable. “No that’s alright, Mel. I’m not hungry”. She shrugged, and continued to eat, slopping syrup down the front of the massive t-shirt, that was displaying the logo of ZZ Top, of all things.

Martin headed straight for the kitchen, keen to hear what Ness had to say about her daughter’s transformation. He guessed she would be angry, but she had to be convinced now. He would calm her down, and write Melanie back to her old self later. She was standing at the cooker, and smiled warmly as he came in. “Morning love. Do you want some pancakes? I’m just doing some extra for Melanie. She’s hungry, poor thing. Plenty for us too, if you fancy some”. Martin didn’t reply, and he felt his mouth drop open. Leaning on the counter for support, he looked her up and down.

Her hair was unwashed, and tied back in a pony tail that hung over one shoulder. She wore no make-up, and her huge arms wobbled as she flipped the pancakes around in the pan. She was wearing an unsuitable bikini. Unsuitable for a woman of her size, anyway. Between the two halves of the garment, rolls of fat cascaded down, like lava flowing from a volcano. Hips and thighs merged, hanging out to the sides like overstuffed weekend bags. Her swollen feet were jammed into some flip flops that were almost invisible under the painfully tight skin. She looked away from the hob, raising her eyebrows. “Did you hear me love? Want some of these or not?”

Pulling himself together, Martin gave her a weak smile. “No thanks, Ness. I’m not feeling hungry this morning”. She flapped her eyelids at him. “Well I’m feeling hungry for you, lovely man. Wait until I have had these pancakes, then I’m having you”. She mouthed a pouting kiss at him. Without replying, he turned to head for the study. He had to get to the Remington, and fast.

As he walked away, she called after him. “And what’s with the Ness’? You know I hate anyone shortening my name”.