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simon collis

musings of an omnivorous biped

“Can you tell me the way to the castle?”

The man behind the bar scratched at his moustache and looked at the customer doubtfully.

“Why do you want to go there?” the bartender asked. “He’s a crazy old man.”

“I’m a journalist,” the man said. “Paul Rossi. I’ve been asked to interview him.”

The bartender laughed.

“Another,” Rossi sighed, pushing over his empty glass.

“I’m sorry,” the barman replied, putting the glass under the pump and filling it with cold beer. “It’s just I can’t imagine that man agreeing to anything.”

He handed the beer to Rossi, who sipped. It was just as cold and delightful as the first. It was strong, too. He could feel the effects already.

“He’s already said yes,” Rossi explained, putting down the glass.

The barman raised an eyebrow. Read more

Marooned

Posted by Simon Collis on 2018/07/07
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“Where’s the transport, Captain?”

“What?” the captain looked up from the viewfinder of her camera and looked over. Puzzled, she said “It’s not there.”

“I didn’t hear it, did you?”

“No, Private, I didn’t.”

They looked at each other for a moment.

“So… what do we do now?” Read more

Zero Nine

Posted by Simon Collis on 2018/06/30
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The clouds lifted a little, and the sun peeped out. Henry and Harriet, snuggling together on the sofa, didn’t notice. Moira continued her knitting. Graeme put down his book and looked up.

“It seems to have finally got sunny out there,” he said. “Shall we take those dogs of yours out now?”

“All right,” Moira said. She came to the end of the row, then folded the knitting safely away. The dogs, realising what was about to happen, got off the sofa and began dancing around, tails wagging.

“How’s that new girlfriend of yours?” Moira asked.

Graeme winced a little. “I wouldn’t really call her that,” he replied. “She’s a colleague, at least, at present, is all.”

“Mmm-hm,” Moira put a lead on Henry’s collar and passed the end of it to Graeme. She took Harriet’s lead for herself. Read more

Michael put the knife and fork down on his plate and looked over the table. Sally was already on her phone, texting.

“Is she coming?” he asked.

“Yep,” she replied. “Going to be late, though.”

“Well, so long as you know where you’re going to meet her.”

He stood up, took the plates and placed them in the dishwasher.

“Udo not around?” she asked, looking up from the phone.

“Don’t know where he’s got to recently,” Michael shook his head. “Not really speaking to him much.”

“Oh dear.”

“Yep,” he nodded. “Thinking I may need to find another flatmate. He owes me three months of his half of the rent already.” Read more

Xenon

Posted by Simon Collis on 2018/06/16
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XENON

“You put our money into what?”

“Xenon,” John replied, grinning, wiping his hand on his paint stained overalls.

“What, exactly is xenon? Don’t they make photocopiers?”

“It’s a gas,” John said. “Not a photocopier maker.”

Shannon sighed, turned round and took off her coat. It was enough to deal with having to try to make ends meet with John working only now and then as it was, but this was absurd.

“How much?” she asked, hanging her coat on the back of the door.

“Not too much,” he said. “Just a bit.” Read more

“It’s hot today,” Megan said.

“Hmm,” Eric managed to say, the melting ice cream occupying most of his attention. “It’s quite nice, really.”

“You only like hot weather,” she replied. “I’m sure you were a lizard in a former life.”

He took his attention away from the ice cream and flicked his tongue at Megan, who giggled.

“Besides,” she said. “You’ve got a sun hat.”

“You could have had one too,” he countered. “They weren’t expensive.”

“They were too small, though,” she replied, stretching an arm over the back of the bench. “It would have blown away by now.”

Eric crunched down the last pyramid point of the ice-cream cone and nodded.

“How about a boat ride?” he asked, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket and wiping his hands. Read more

Veronica

Posted by Simon Collis on 2018/06/02
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Mitch first saw her at the hotel bar. She was a little shorter than him, maybe early twenties, short bobbed dyed blond hair, miniskirt, black high heels and legs that brought out the animal in him.

Hello, he thought, the wife’s away, and when the cat’s away, the mice will play, right?

He summoned the waiter over, pointed to the girl at the bar, and then made a drinking motion. The waiter nodded, and went up to the her. He talked to the woman, who ordered something – he didn’t see what – and they whispered conspiratorially. She clearly asked where it came from; the waiter pointed in Mitch’s direction. He raised his whisky glass and smiled and she grinned back and waved.

Half-way there already Mitch, he thought. This delicious little piece is going to be so nice. Read more

Max’s watch pinged, and the screen of his phone lit up. He groggily reached over and held up the phone to look at the screen.

MAIL: 1m ago

Government Social Media Team

Dear Max,

It is our sad duty to report that this month your grade has dropped one level to grade D. This is because…

“Oh man,” Max blearily brushed the hair out of his eyes, and opened the phone to read the email.

“Tweets contrary to government policy…” he muttered to himself. “Criticism of a foreign government… Sheesh. They’ll be busting me next.” Read more

“The trees are looking at me again,” Kyra said, playing with her hair. “They do that, mummy, when they think you’re not looking.”

“Don’t be silly,” her mother said. “If I hear you say that again, I’ll have to be cross with you. Now go and play with your dolls.”

“I can’t,” she sighed, still looking out of the window at the rain. “They’re not speaking to me.” Read more

She And Him

Posted by Simon Collis on 2018/05/12
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I looked down at the chopping board. There was a cucumber half sliced, and I was holding the knife in my hand. Not that it looked like my hand. I think.

“Shaun?” someone behind me said. “Are you all right? Did you get an electric shock off that?”

I turned round. She was a middle-aged, red haired woman, who was looking at me with some concern.

“Who’s Shaun?” I asked, confused.

She frowned at me, put a hand on my shoulder, and led me to a chair.

“Sit here,” she pointed at the chair. I nodded, and sat down.

“What happened?” I asked.

“You were cutting cucumbers,” she said. “You touched the counter, there was a flash, and you squealed. Then you just stopped, and stood there, looking around.”

“Oh,” I replied. I wasn’t sure what else to say.

She walked off, and I looked around me. I was in a small cafe, with seven or eight tables, and a large counter behind the glass front of which were displayed various cakes and sandwiches.

“Where am I?” I asked, of nobody in particular, idly picking up a menu from between the salt and pepper shakers.

In the background, I could hear her dialing on the telephone, three digits.

Daisy Bell’s – Vegan sandwiches and corporate catering the menu read.

“Who’s Daisy Bell?” I asked, looking across to the kitchen area.

“My granny? Don’t you remember she gave us the money to start – oh, hello, ambulance please.”

“Ambulance?” I shouted to her. “I don’t need an ambulance. I’m fine.”

She ignored me, and I carried on reading the menu. It was interesting, but clearly geared for volume purchases. Without looking through the main books and calculating the food unit cost, I couldn’t be sure about the margins, but no doubt a few minutes work talking to the suppliers would see some reductions in the overall invoices. After all, regular customers are regular income, and keeping them sweet is always good business. A small redesign on the menu wouldn’t hurt, especially if there was good data on what sold well and what didn’t – highlighting good sellers and the ones that made good profits would no doubt be a good start.

I decided it would be best to make some notes and looked around for my briefcase.

Briefcase?

“Where’s my briefcase?” I shouted.

“Sorry hold on,” she said to the phone. “Briefcase? You don’t have a briefcase.”

I turned around to see her looking askance at me.

“I just wanted some paper and a pen,” I said. “I think there’s improvements that can be made to the business model here.”

Her look clouded over.

“Yes, that’s right, number forty-two,” she replied to a question I didn’t hear. “He’s talking… well, like someone else, really, is the best way I can describe it.”

“I’m not someone else,” I replied. “This is just what I do, is all.”

I started at the menu in my hand.

“This is what I do?” I asked myself. “What do I do?”

I sat down again.

I didn’t feel right, that was all. Surely I just needed to de-stress myself. Yes, that was it – it must be. Stress. I was getting stressed. After all, the Stross project was going a bit…

“What time is it?” I asked, suddenly panicked.

I checked my wrist. My watch was gone – my good one, replaced by… nothing. There was nothing there.

“Oh my god,” I shouted. “Where’s my watch? My watch! My husband gave me that for my anniversary!”

The woman came over and looked at me.

“Shaun, stop it,” she said. “If this is a joke it isn’t funny.”

I shook my head. “I don’t know what you mean,” I replied.

“Look,” she took a deep breath and cocked her head over to one side. “Whatever’s going on, you’ve had your fun. I get it, you’ve had a bit of a shock and you need a bit of a break. Fine. But this is just being silly.”

“No,” I said, “I’m serious. He gave me that on our fifth anniversary -”

“I’m your wife!” she shouted, cutting me off. “Stop it.”

I blinked in disbelief. “I’ve got to be in a meeting at three with Stross,” I said. “I can work on the train. I need to have made some progress on the…”

I couldn’t remember.

“The what?”

“I forgot,” I said. “I forgot again.”

She let out a scream of frustration, and threw her hands in the air.

“I’m going to start calling people about lunch,” she said. “This is going to cost us a lot, Shaun, I hope you know that.”

“I can phone them,” I said. “Trust me, I can do that.”

I stood up.

“What are you prepared to lose?” I asked. “Money wise?”

“You what?” she looked at me, nonplussed.

“Trust me,” I said. “This is what I do.”

She looked at me, blinked, and then started for a moment. “Have you gone mad?” she asked.

“Possibly,” I replied. “Give me the hardest client, get the worst over first.”

She ran a hand through her curly red hair, and looked at me.

“Oh and what’s your name?” I asked.

“What?”

“Your name?” I repeated. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t remember? You honestly, really, don’t remember my name?”

I shook my head.

“Esther,” she said, resignedly. “It’s Esther.”

“And I’m Shaun, right?”

“Yes.”

“OK,” I said. “Let’s do this.”

I put both hands together and cracked my knuckles.

“You never do that,” she said.

I shrugged.

“Or that.”

She opened a notebook book and pointed to a name and address.

“Derek Chapel,” she said. “Good luck.”

I tapped the number into the wall phone (who has a wall mounted phone these days?) and waited.

“Derek Chapel,” someone said.

“Hello Mr Chapel,” I said. “It’s Shaun here from Daisy Bell’s. I’m very sorry to say we’re having a few technical issues here and we’re not going to be able to fulfil your order today.”

“You’re what?” the voice on the other end went from calm to almost shrieking within the space of two words. “Now you listen to me -”

“My reaction as well,” I cut in. “I can totally understand and believe you me I’d be exactly the same. And if I could have fixed the problem myself, I would. I won’t bore you with it, I’ve got a few other calls to make and there’s an ambulance on the way.”

“An ambulance?” he snorted. “What happened, your wife have some kind of sudden aversion to hard work? I don’t think they can treat that in hospital you know.”

Esther narrowed her eyes and looked at me.

“Well, electric shock actually,” I said, omitting the part that (apparently) the shock was mine.

“What?”

“Yes… could be serious,” I replied. “We don’t quite know yet.”

He coughed. “Ah… well I’m sorry I said that, you know, about…”

“Quite all right,” I said, jovially. “We all say things sometimes, don’t we? Anyway, we’ll make sure we don’t charge for today and we’ll look at a discount tomorrow, we should be back tomorrow, if I can get hold of that woman from the agency again.”

“Oh don’t bloody start me on agencies,” he snarled.

I grinned. Got him. Esther, listening in, raised an eyebrow.

“I know,” I said. “I could tell you some horror stories, the people we’ve had over the years, I can tell you.”

“Bloody useless,” he continued. “The lot of them.”

“Anyway, I’ll have to go,” I said. “Lots of calls to make and, as I say, there’s an ambulance on the way.”

“Yeah,” Chapel said. “Sorry about that. Anyway… give my best to Esther, won’t you? And.. er… don’t worry, I won’t expect anything until you call me, just let me know when you’re ready, OK?”

“That’s very good of you Mr Chapel,” I said. “I’ll be sure to do that.”

He hung up.

Esther stared at me.

“How did you manage that?” she asked.

“Easy,” I said. “First off, I tried to create empathy by –”

She shook her head. “I don’t mean how, exactly, I mean, how did you know –”

There was a knock at the door.

“Ambulance?” someone said.

Esther went over and opened the door and two uniformed ambulancemen walked in. She explained briefly what was happening, and I waited. When she’d finished, they walked me over to the ambulance.

They started asking me questions. They asked me about my medical history, which I had no idea about. Esther filled them in. Apparently I was a vegan, which was news to me as by now I was craving a bacon sandwich.

I sat in the waiting room, next to Esther, waiting. We sat in silence for a long time.

“So I guess this is real, then, is it?” she finally asked.

I nodded. “Sorry.”

She sighed.

The waiting room doors opened, and I recognised myself. Of course, I wasn’t myself. But I remembered putting on that skirt this morning. And those were my shoes. And that looked like me wearing them, although it was a surprise to see myself walking through the doors.

“Esther!” she shouted. Or I shouted, I suppose.

She – well, I – turned to me – him.

“And you must be – me?” she asked.

“Christine Bouwhuis,” I said. “At your service.”

She sighed.

“Electric shock?” I asked.

She nodded.

“So she’s you?” Esther asked, looking from one to the other. “And you’re him?”

We both nodded.

She – or rather Shaun, in my body – sat down opposite us.

We were all silent again.

“So…” I asked “What do we do now?”

The post “She And Him” first appeared on simoncollis.com and is Copyright © Simon Collis 2018. All rights reserved.