Ah, memories…

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On a trip into the country with Jean’s dad, Jean and Jean’s car started making some expensive noises and broke down.

Perhaps I should explain at the outset that English rose Jean Hartley met, fell in love with and married struggling French writer Jean Dubois. Jean is spelt the same as Jean, but it is pronounced differently which, admittedly, doesn’t come across in the written word. I have no doubt though, dear reader (yes, you know who you are), that you’ll be able to sort it out and will have no difficulty following the flow of the narrative. Anyway, together with her father, John, the couple were undertaking a motoring tour of the part of France from where Jean hailed (and occasionally rained, snowed and probably any other form of atmospheric precipitation you may deem appropriate).

“Don’t say I didn’t tell you two, Jean,” Jean’s dad said.

“Anything in particular, Dad?”

“I told you not to buy an Astra. Nothing but trouble. And you’ll not get it fixed in France, that’s for sure.”

“Why not?” Jean asked, walking away from the car.

“English, isn’t it? Stands to reason, French mechanics only repair French cars: Citroëns, Peugeots, Renaults—”

“Opel?”

“Maybe. They’re German, but the Frenchies might know how to fix them, living next door and all.”

“Opel and Vauxhall are the same, John,” Jean said, his voice tinged with exasperation.

“Only on the outside, young man. Only on the outside. See – the Germans don’t make cars like the English.”

“What’s the difference?”

“They build ’em to last.”

“Dad, we’ve had this car for nearly twenty years and it’s the first time it’s broken down,” Jean said.

“I told you it would happen eventually, though, didn’t I? What do you think the Air Force motto means?”

“What? Per ardua ad astra?”

“That’s it. Life’s hard with an Astra. And if it’s good enough for the Air Force, it’s good enough for me.”

“But you were in the army, Dad,” Jean reminded him for what felt like the three thousandth time.

“Looked up to the fly-boys though, we did. Clever bunch. Got all the prettiest girls, too – it’s the stories about flying and shooting down the enemy planes that did it. Much more glamorous than crawling around in the trenches,” Jean rolled her eyes at the repetition of made-up ‘facts’ that were about as credible as this story, “And before you say anything, yes – your mother was pretty, very pretty as it happens. How d’you think we made a stunner like you?”

Jean blushed.

“I think you’ll find per ardua ad astra means something completely different,” Jean said.

“Not to me, it doesn’t. Anyway, you’re supposed to be clever, why can’t you get the bloody thing going again?”

“I’ve reached the end of what I can do. It’s beyond me now. How’s your automotive knowledge?”

“I’ve probably forgotten more about fixing motor cars than you’ll ever learn!”

“Okay, old man. Instead of just standing there with your arms folded and a face like thunder, why not roll your sleeves up, get your hands a bit dirty for once and help?”

“Were you listening to what I said?”

“Of course, oh wise one. I always listen attentively to every word of wisdom that you grace us with. What in particular should I have taken on board this time?”

“That I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever learn.”

“Yeah? That’s just an expression.”

“Not in my case, Son. Not in my case.”

“You mean you won’t help because…”

“That’s right. I can’t remember how to do it.”


This was written in response to Kreative Kue 251 published on this site.

Kreative Kue 251

Kreative Kue 250 asked for submissions based on this photograph:

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John W Howell is the author of the John Cannon trilogy of My GRL, His Revenge, Our Justice and Circumstances of Childhood, co-author of The Contract, and blogs at Fiction Favorites.

Deep Yogurt by John W. Howell © 2020

“Can you hear me?”

“Muffelluff eff.”

“What?”

“Merfing merp merp.”

“I can’t understand you. Is something blocking your mouth?”

“Ah, moggle mit merf. Is this better? The snow was in the way.”

“My goodness, yes. How are you doing?”

“Just fine. Unfortunately, I fell in this deep hole.”

“I know. I have been sent to rescue you.”

“Who are you?”

“My name is Arty.”

“Arty?”

“Yup. Short for Arctic Rescue Canine.”

“Do you have a rope?”

“No. Just my paws. I will have you out in no time.”

“You are going to dig down here?”

“Yup. That’s right.”

“Then what?”

“Then, we walk out of the hole together.”

“Excuse me if I seem dubious, but I don’t know how that’s going to happen.”

“The walking part?”

“No the digging part. You’ve got about ten feet to dig to reach me.”

“Piece of cake.”

“How can you be so sure.”

“I used to be able to dig out of my yard in ten seconds flat, and that was dirt. This is snow. What chance does it stand?”

“Well, you sound convincing.”

“What do you have to lose?”

“Nothing, I guess. One more thing.”

“Yes.”

“I’m a cat.”

“You’re kidding?”

“No. Arctic Bob is my name.”

“Tell me the name ‘Bob’ is not part of the term bobcat.”

“It is.”

“You know I think I hear my owner. You can do this Bob. See ya.”

“Darn. Thought I had one.”


This from Na’ama Yehuda, who blogs at https://naamayehuda.com :

Digging to China by Na’ama Yehuda

“Winter is the best for digging!”

Icicles hung from Snout’s whiskers, and his tail wagged excitement. The cookies-n-cream dog had two settings: asleep and overexcited.

It was exhausting.

Dumbo yawned. She stood under the dubious cover of a naked tree, and tried to make the least contact between her paw-pads and the frozen ground. Soon enough their human would stop staring into the hypnotizing rectangle, realize that he can do the same thing indoors, and “Cum’eer” them home. All she could do in the meanwhile was endure.

A bird took flight from a branch above her head and a pelt of snow plonked right onto Dumbo’s back. A shudder traveled from the tip of her nose to the end of her tail, shedding snow as it went. Now she was wet as well as cold. Stupid bird didn’t even have the decency to pick a different tree limb to launch itself from.

Dumbo hated winter.

She hated rain. And ice. And snow. And hail. And wind. And any type of weather that didn’t come with a built-in dry spot to sun herself in, preferably without any flying insects or pull-on-your-ears baby-humans or a housemate that believes the only kind of recreation befitting a dog is one that involves digging smelly things out of the ground.

She should’ve been born a cat.

Cats don’t have to go out in all weathers just to relieve themselves, and no one expects them to sniff others’ butts or follow orders or look happy about it. It was beneath a dog to be envious of a feline, but there it was.

“Come dig!” Snout barked enthusiastically.

“No thanks,” she muttered.

“You’re wet already, might as well have fun!” the smaller dog almost disappeared into the white mounds, paws tunneling in double speed into the frozen substance on the ground.

The human looked up, smiled, and pointed the hypnotizing rectangle at Snout’s behind, before checking the contraption, and raising it again in Snout’s direction.

Great. Mini-dog images. It meant they’d be stuck outside for another era. Who cares if the tip of Dumbo’s tail was ready to fall off from the cold.

“Come dig!” Snout yipped. “There’s stuff underneath here. Who knows what we’ll find!”

Dumbo yawned again and licked her chops in irritation. Go dig yourself to China, she thought, and stay there, too … see if I mind


My effort was

Dogged determination

It’s at times like this that I begin to understand why mountain dogs are the size they are. You know, the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, the Bernese and the Barnyard – sorry, I meant Saint Bernard. I mean, they can stand in it and not get lost every other foot.

I know that I buried a bone somewhere around here last week and now I want it. Do you think I can find it? Not a chance. I remember exactly where it is; it’s right next to the little rockery. Question is, where is the rockery?

I’d be alright if it was a mouse and not the bone. Why? Mice move, don’t they? I saw a thing where a big bird, some sort of owl, could hear a mouse moving under more than a foot of snow and catch it. And if a stoopid bird can do that with a face full of feathers and no proper ears as far as I can see, well; it’d be easy for me. I have terrific hearing and ears that I can kind of direct and focus to where the sound is. If it’s easy for the owl, it’d be a breeze for me. Everybody knows how good a dog’s hearing is. I just need something to move.

Birds can’t sniff things out like we dogs can, either. No nose, see? Just a couple of holes at the top of their beak, and what use is that?

So there we have it. Better hearing, better sniffing, and don’t get me started on intelligence. Sure, I know everybody talks about the wise old owl, but they’re not, are they? Wise, I mean. They’re more like cats. Thick. Driven by instinct. How often do you see cats thinking through things? I’ll tell you, you don’t. That’s because cats are hunters, not scavengers. All you have to do to be a hunter is to be faster and stronger than your prey. It’s much harder when you have to look for feeding opportunities and work things out. Cats and owls can’t do that, not the way dogs and vultures have to. I know what you’re thinking; I get food regularly from my humans. But the abilities and instincts are still there.

But that’s not getting me my bone, is it? Keep watching, though, and I’ll show you what I mean by intelligence. I’m going to sniff and snuffle around here. I’ll keep an eye out for either of my humans and when they look my way, I’ll start whining. I think a frustrated one will work better than a cold one, especially if I yap a bit and occasionally look at them.

Here comes one now. Watch what happens when I whine and yap…

“Oh, poor baby. Are you looking for something?”

[whine, yap yap]

“What is it? You want me to help you?”

[yap yap whine, yap yap]

“Let me get a shovel to move some of this snow away. Will that help you find it?”

[yap yap]

“Okay. Hang on, I’ll be back soon.”

Result!


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On to this week’s challenge: Using this photo as inspiration, write a short story, flash fiction, scene, poem; anything, really; even just a caption for the photograph. Either put it (or a link to it) in a comment or email it to me at keithchanning@gmail.com before 6pm next Sunday (if you aren’t sure what the time is where I live, this link will tell you). If you post it on your own blog or site, a link to this page would be appreciated, but please do also mention it in a comment here.

Go on. You know you want to. Let your creativity and imagination soar. I shall display the entries next Monday.

Sunday serialisation – Knight after Knight, 16.1

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In Knight & Deigh, Hannice Knight suffered a back injury that left him without the use of his legs. Sophie Deigh, physiotherapist and recent widow, devoted herself to supporting him.

As Hannice’s body recovered, he became ever closer to Sophie, and soon they found themselves in a relationship they had neither anticipated nor intended and for which neither was fully prepared.

A bump in the Knight followed Hannice as he juggled business, hedonism, marriage and ultimately parenthood.

Knight after Knight is the third and final part of the Hannice Knight story. Starting after the marriage of Hannice and Sophie’s only son, David to Jess, the only child of Jason and Noelani Reeves of Hawaii, it traces the Knight family’s progression through the generations.


Knight after Knight. Chapter sixteen, part one.

KOP’s first job was an extended familiarisation exercise. Backed by the rest of the Board, David had insisted that, as we had both been away from the inner circle of Knight Global Trading for a few years, our first task should be to update ourselves on the state of the business. This was achieved by means of what I thought of as a super-induction, wherein each director gave us a couple of days during which they took us in detail through their department’s current and planned activities. This was followed by visits to Amsterdam, Dar-es-Salaam, Canberra, Singapore, Kochi, Baltimore, Honolulu and Brazilia to make sure we were as current on the regions as we had become on Head Office departments.
Because we weren’t working full-time, we restricted ourselves to one department or visit per week. As a result, the induction process took more than three months. However, by the time we’d been around five central departments and eight regional and subsidiary offices, we probably knew the business better than either of us had when we were fully active.

During the course of our visits, both Ray Ang, who was now running the Singapore office, and KK Chandrasekharan in Kochi, had expressed concerns over the management of the new north India office. We had talked through the issues in detail in both locations, but the two men felt that the situation could only be resolved by a visit in person to the New Delhi office. I set up a video conference call with Ray and Chandran.

“What developments since we last talked?” I asked.

“It seems,” Chandran replied, “that Delhi is proposing contracts with some questionable characters within the ruling party.”

“Government people?” Henk asked.

“Yes, Mr Henk. Government people by name, but they are working only in their own interests as far as we can see.”

“Can you be more specific?” I asked, “Are you worried about the products, the contract terms or the financial side?”

“Mostly the financial side. We haven’t actually seen any of the documents, but the way their people are talking, it looks to me as if what they are doing in money-laundering, pure and simple.”

“Hmm. I don’t like the sound of that one bit. Thanks, Chandran,” I said, then “Ray, do you have any more?”

“No, I don’t. I’ve asked them, through Chandran, to supply me with a full set of accounts, but all I’ve had so far is the summary stuff they put in for their declaration to the Finance Ministry.”

“What about your accountants, Chandran,” Henk said, “can’t you have them visit New Delhi and look into it?”

“I’d love them to and I have asked, but the Delhi people say they won’t accept the authority of south Indians. They said it’s a cultural thing. I think they’re just fishing around for excuses.”

“Your people, Ray?” I asked.

“I don’t have anyone qualified, Boss. Otherwise, I’d love to. I’d quite like to go up myself, and maybe do a tour of the Golden Triangle, but I’d be no use on the actual job.”

I looked at Henk and raised my eyebrows. He picked up a pen and wrote the word forensic on the notepad and looked back at me. I nodded.

“Okay, Ray, Chandran,” I said, “we’ll get back to you when we’re ready to set something up. Okay?”

“Don’t leave it too long, Boss,” Ray said, “If it is what we think it is, the longer it goes on the harder it will be to unravel.”

“Point taken. We’ll be back as soon as we can.” I closed the call.

“What are you thinking?” I asked Henk.

“It confirms what you said to David,” he replied, “that these jobs often call for a forensic accountant. This certainly seems to. How are we with the secondments?”

“Agreed in principle, but nothing firmed up yet. I know David is unavailable today, but I’ll talk to him this evening; over dinner if need be.”

I raised the issue with David and Jess over dinner. David suggested that we take Susie Weston with us. Susie is a recent graduate from the latest forensic accountancy programme run under the umbrella of the Institute. She passed with a high mark, the top in her group, but she was light on experience. When pressed, David admitted that she hadn’t actually used her training in earnest since completing it. Jess said that the reports she had seen, both from the programme leaders and from her managers, suggested strongly that she’d be able to make a good job of it. I agreed to take Susie, subject to no objection from Henk.

A little voice came from the other end of the table. “Dad,” Hannah said, using the tone that young girls do to their fathers; the one that’s guaranteed to have the poor fellow wrapped tightly around their pinkie finger. “Daddy, you know you love me?”

“Yeees,” David drawled hesitantly.

“And you know you said that Grandpa could help me with my business studies?”

“Yes, and I meant that, but—”

“Oh please, Daddy, please, please, please say I can go to India with Grandpa and Uncle Henk. Please. I really, really want to go there, and Grandpa and Uncle Henk will look after me and keep me safe and… I was listening to what you were talking about and I just know I can learn an awful lot from this… and this Susie lady… well, she’s a woman, and she can be like my chaperone and keep an eye on me and everything. Oh please say yes, Daddy. Please; can I?”

“Hannah Knight!” Jess admonished her, “Don’t harass your father like that, and don’t beg, it’s most unbecoming.”

“Daddy?”

“What do you think, Dad?” David asked me.

“Do you really need to ask me if I’d be happy to have my favourite grandchild with me on this trip?”

“Am I really your favourite, Grandpa?” Hannah asked.

“You’re his only grandchild,” Jess responded.

“I’m fine with it. I’d love to have Hannah with us—”

“Oh, thank you, Grandpa,” Hannah said, rushing around to give me one of her special hugs.

“Not so fast,” I said, “I’m fine with it, but I have to consider whether my partner will be – it’s not just me, it’s Henk, too—”

“Oh, Uncle Henk won’t mind. He’s as much a sweetie as you are,” she said.

“And I have to have the okay from your parents, too. Both of them.”

Hannah stood, her face transforming from joy to pleading. “Daddy?”

“What do you think, Jess?” David asked, “She’ll be with Dad and Henk, and Susie’s a sensible young woman. I think Hannah will be fine, but you need to be happy with it, too. You know I’ll never make a big decision about Hannah alone.”

“I know, David, and neither will I,” Jess replied, “however, with Dad, you and Hannah lined up against me, who am I to refuse?”

“We’re not lined up against you, Jess. We’re just asking for your input.”

“And if I say no, I’ll be the bad guy.”

“No you won’t, Mum,” Hannah said, “If you say no, I’ll just keep badgering you until you cave.”

“That’s what I feared. Okay. If your father’s happy with it, and if Henk is happy with it, we’ll pay for you to go to India with your grandfather.”

“Oh, thank you, Mummy, thank you, Daddy.”

“Now I’d better call Henk to make sure he’s on board, and someone should check with Susie Weston. If she’s being co-opted as a chaperone, she really should be offered the chance to say no.”

I called Henk. Not that I needed to; I knew that he adored Hannah as much as I did. Never having married, he had no grandchildren of his own and, having spent as much time with my family as he had over the years, looked at Hannah almost as if she were his own. But I did ask him, and he jumped at the idea. As I had, he held a slight concern that an attractive young woman travelling with two elderly gentlemen (okay, he said old men, but I wanted to make it sound a bit better) could raise eyebrows. However, when I said we’d have a forensic accountant with us; a woman at that, he was more at ease. Until, that is, I told him who the female accountant was to be.

“So it’s to be two attractive young women travelling with two old men. Is that better?”

“Heaps,” I said.

“Okay, I’m in.”

“Pushover.”

“Hannice, you know me too well.”

I relayed the conversation to the family, much to their amusement. Interestingly, when Jess spoke with Susie, the response she had was almost the same, except she wondered how two distinguished men of advanced years would keep up with two energetic young women.

“How do you reckon you’ll cope?” Jess asked.

“Oh, I expect we’ll manage somehow,” I said, “although, when the day’s work is done, I think we’re more likely to end up looking around some of the area’s ancient monuments and artefacts than we are to go clubbing.”

“What do you mean, looking at ancient artefacts?” Hannah asked, playfully punching my upper arm, “you and Uncle Henk will be the ancient artefacts!”

“Don’t be so rude to your grandfather,” David said, “apologise, this instant.”

“Sorry, Grandpa,” she said, “you know I was just joking, don’t you?”

“All you have to bear in mind, my love, when you’re picking on older people, is that your turn will come. And, let me assure you, it will come a darned site quicker than you might expect. So what’s the moral?”

“Enjoy being young while you can, and be nice to people who were once young, but aren’t any longer.”

“That daughter of yours has a wise head on her shoulders,” I said.