Alphonso Morales started his day beside himself with excitement. It was his eighteenth birthday and his father had presented him with vouchers for lessons with a driving school in the town. Predictably, his father had rushed out of the house before he could adequately thank him.
“Make sure you’re ready,” Alphonso’s mother said to him at breakfast, “señorita Villanueva at the school called yesterday and told us that they have made you the first pupil of the day for señor Guiterrez, their most experienced and respected instructor. He will be here by ten o’clock.”
“Ish. You should know that it is an honour to be taught by their best man. They usually save him for their most important client families. Youngsters are normally taught by more junior staff.”
“¿Why do I have this honour, Momia?”
“Your father has helped many people in this town Al, and some important men owe him favours, including the owner of the school.”
“¿Has this to do with what Malena calls her special evenings when she works hard and comes home looking extra tired?”
“You may very well think that, Fonsi. I couldn’t possibly comment.”
Alphonso smiled at his mother, rose from the table, planted a kiss on her forehead and said, “I’ll get ready, Momia. Thank you so much for my birthday gift.”
“De nada bebé,” she replied.
Scowling a little at what he saw as his mother’s continuing infantilising of him, he went to his room and changed into his going-out-in-public clothes, returning moments later and presenting himself for his mother’s inspection.
“¿Will I do, Momia?”
“You’ll have to. Señor Guiterrez is outside. Go!”
Alphonso barely heard his mother shout good luck to him as he ran to the car. The instructor scooted across to the front passenger seat and signalled to his pupil to get in the driver’s side.
“Jump in, Alphonso and listen carefully whilst I explain to you what we need to do.”
“Thank you, señor Guiterrez,” the teenager said, taking his place behind the steering wheel.
“If we are going to spend a lot of time together, my young friend, and I think we are, we can be more familiar. My given name is Bartolomeo, but you can call me Buddy.”
“Thank you, Buddy. You can call me Al.”
“¿Not Fonsi or Pancho?”
“My parents call me Fonsi, my teachers in school call me Pancho, but my friends call me Al. I prefer that.”
“Because it sounds like an American name, and everybody knows anything American is cool.”
“I may have to disagree with you on that, though I know young people think it. I have to admit, I did too when I was your age.”
“¿But you don’t now?”
“Indeed not. If you look below the surface you’ll find that no country is as good as it is claimed to be. They all have their strengths and their weaknesses. Now, let’s find yours. It’s time for you to start the engine.”
Sr Guiterrez… sorry, Buddy talked Alphonso through the rudiments of starting the engine, getting into gear and moving off. Under his direction, Alphonso set the car in motion and started driving along the residential road where he lived with his family. By the time he had mastered the clutch and gearbox, the pair were barreling along in second gear at a speed approaching fifteen kilometres per hour.
Alphonso was quick to pick things up and it wasn’t too long before they were travelling at a speed that wasn’t a massive inconvenience to other road users. Rounding a bend in the road, they came across a serious hold-up.
“Slow down, Al, and bring the car to a stop behind the grey car in front.” Al did as he was told and, remembering what his instructor had said earlier, applied the handbrake and placed the gearbox into neutral.
“Stay there, Al,” he said opening his door and stepping out of the car, “I’ll see if I can find out what’s causing the hold-up. In fact, switch the engine off. It looks like we’ll be here for a while.”
“¿But what if we start to move again? I can’t drive without you in the car beside me.”
Buddy ignored him and went to speak to other drivers, returning a couple of minutes later.
“It seems,” he said, “that there’s been an escape from the circus. The councillors and all the staff of the council chamber have had to evacuate and are blocking the road. They’re saying something about an elephant in the room.”
This was written in response to Kreative Kue 247 published on this site.
Kreative Kue 246 asked for submissions based on this photograph:
“What are you doing up there?”
“I can’t seem to find anything.”
“What is the problem.”
“I have mislaid my bouncy ball.”
“Well, I don’t think you’re going to find it u there.”
“It could have bounced onto this shelf.”
“With the ladder in the way, I hardly think so.”
“It is possible.”
“Okay, I’ll admit the possibility is there I just doubt the feasibility.”
“You have a lot of bility. How about you giving me an idea of where the ball went.”
“Let me ask. Who was the last one playing with the ball?”
“Er. That would be me.”
“Okay, where were you playing with the ball?”
“In the yard, I think.”
“So, what makes you think it is on that shelf?”
“And you decided to follow your hunch?”
“Yes, that’s it. I followed my hunch.”
“The fact that a bag of treats is on that shelf has no relevance, huh?”
“T-treats. I don’t see no stinking treats.”
“Come down from there. Let me smell your breath.”
“Open your mouth.”
“For heaven’s sake. You have a mouthful of treats.”
“What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I’m a victim.”
“A victim? What are you talking about.”
“The placement of the ladder was without regard to my natural instincts to hunt down the treats. Hello ASPCA.”
“I’ll ASPCA you. Bad dog.”
“Abusive language. I think I have PTSD.”
“Have a treat.”
“Bribery. Class D misdemeanor.”
“You’ve been watching too many cop shows. Go to your bed.”
“Solitary confinement. Against the Geneva convention.”
“So, sue me.”
“First how about a game of catch?”
“Where’s the ball?”
“In the yard where it’s been all along.”
This happy tail is from Na’ama Yehuda, who blogs at https://naamayehuda.com :
“What’s he doing?”
“What’s in there?”
She tilted her head at him, and he demurred. She was clearly occupied. She had a bone to pick and he knew that if he pushed her with one more question she’d snap his head off. Or try.
He wasn’t going to let her try.
He moved closer to his friend.
“Dobbie?” he asked the headless figure. Did she snap his head off already? No, there was a tail wag. He didn’t think Dobbie would wag his tail if he didn’t have a head. He’d be too sad. No sniff. No lick. No yum.
“What’d’ya doin’ in there?”
The tail paused, then gave a halfhearted, one-sided sway. A sign?
Hesitant then enthusiastic wag.
“How’d you get stuck there?”
There was probably no way to wag an answer to that. Not to mention that Dobbie found a way to get stuck just about anyplace. Between the legs of a chair. Under the bed. With a garbage bin over his head. …
Max sniffed. There had to have been some food up there. Dobbie never could resist anything gobbleable. Max sniffed again. Traces. It’d be all gone by the time Dobbie realized he should’ve planned a way out before he stuck his head in.
Dobbie’s tail wagged in half-regret, half-plea.
“Hold on, Dobbie! I’ll get Com’eer!”
My effort was
My humans think I’m a bit stupid. They think we all are. They must do.
Okay – how often do they pretend to throw a ball or a stick or something they want us to chase after and bring back, then laugh as we jump around looking for it? That’s what they think, anyway. They haven’t worked out that we’re onto their tricks but know that if we play along and act as though we’re searching for whatever it is, we get a fuss – and that’s what it’s all about in the end, isn’t it? That or some food.
They even believe that when they do throw it, we chase after it and bring it back because we enjoy doing that. Pah! We do it for the cuddles, don’t we? That or the food treats. Either will do.
You see – they reckon that our greatest wish is to please the human who they fancy to be our pack leader; that we will do anything, whatever it takes, to stay in favour. I say again, pah!
They’ve never cottoned on that life is about two things: cuddles and food, food and cuddles. Nothing else matters. Nothing. Literally, nothing. Okay, perhaps sleep, too.
So we develop new tricks, new ways of endearing ourselves to them, new ways of giving them what they want in order to get what we want. And what do we want? That’s right, cuddles and food.
Mercenary? What do you mean, mercenary? Is it any more mercenary than the humans going to work every day, doing a job they mostly hate, just to get enough money to feed themselves? I think not.
My human was talking recently about something he called environmental enrichment. Apparently, he was reading a book (written, no doubt, by a human who thought that people would buy it and so give him money to feed his pack) that was saying we dogs get bored easily and that leads to what he called bad behaviour. Hah! Yes, we do get bored sometimes, but how do we deal with it? That’s right, we sleep!
Anyway, this book was telling things like it’s good to hide our food so we have to look for it (as if) so it keeps us interested. Let me ask you? What would humans do if you hid their food instead of laying it out in supermarkets or stacking it in fridges? Would that enrich their lives? I think not – so why would they think that sort of malarkey adds anything to ours?
My human hasn’t gone that far yet, but he has taken to hiding what he thinks is my favourite ball – it’s actually his, but I play along with it for the food and fuss. I’ve found that the more I look for it, the longer it takes me to ‘find’ it (even though I always know exactly where he’s put it), the bigger treat I get or the more fuss. So I play along with him.
Just now, I heard him tell someone that he’d hidden it at the back of the table. “Watch this”, he said to his friend, “Let’s see what he’ll do now – you know dogs don’t know about ladders, don’t you?”
Heh heh heh…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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 fourteen, part four.
Lindy speaking to me dragged me out of my reverie. “What are you going to do, Boss?” he asked trying and failing to hold back his tears.
“I think I need to spend some time with my son and his family,” I said, “I don’t see them anything like often enough. I must phone him and let him know about Max. And Henk, too. He was very fond of her.”
“You call David, Boss,” he said, “I’ll talk to Tanja—”
“Do you still keep in touch?”
“Of course we do, Boss. We’re both regional directors on the same Board. How could we not be in touch?”
“Sorry, I wasn’t thinking. Yes, tell Tanja. That’ll get it into the rest of the Board. They all know – knew and loved Max. You’re right. I’ll talk to David.”
I called David. He was mortified. He reminded me that he’d only spoken with Max a matter of days beforehand.
“Are you ready to talk about practicalities, Dad?” he asked.
“Not really, but I’ll try. What do you have in mind?”
“Max didn’t have any family, did she?”
“No, she didn’t. That’s why I think it’s down to me to arrange things.”
“Let you what?”
“Let me arrange her funeral.”
“Not from here, Dad; here. Look. She had no family. The closest she had to family was ours. Let’s get her back here and give her a decent send-off as a member of the Knight family.”
“Here. Knight Towers. Can you think of any reason we shouldn’t lay her to rest in the Knight family crypt?”
“Only that she isn’t a Knight.”
“Maybe not, but you and she have been living almost as man and wife for a good few years.”
“There was never anything sexual between us!” I said indignantly.
“I should hope not, at your age,” he replied with a laugh, “But seriously, apart from romantic or sexual stuff, what was the difference between your arrangement and an older married couple?”
“Now you mention it, none, really. We were financially independent, though.”
“As are a lot of married couples. No, Dad, my mind is set. Because of her relationship with you, not just recently, but going back more than fifty years, I think that Max should be laid to rest in the Knight crypt next to Mum’s memorial and, eventually, though not for a long time yet, at your side, where she has been since Mum died.”
“Can I think about that and come back to you later?”
“Sure. Let me know once you have her body embalmed and in a coffin ready to transport. Even if you say no, I think she would want to be buried in England.”
“We had talked about that. We both want to end up in the old country. I’ll dig out her will and if she’s mentioned it, we’ll be able to see what her expressed wishes are.”
David rang off.
“Okay, Boss,” Lindy said, “that’s everybody told. Dear, sweet Kanene wants to perform a traditional spiritual ritual before Max is in a,” he sobbed, “closed box. All her African friends will come. Her home village loved Max so much, they practically adopted her as one of their own. Oh; and we’ve sent word to Evaristo and Gabriel, and Abel, too. He’s sure to want to come.”
“Do you know of anyone in the business who can help us with all this?”
“I have a friend who runs funeral parlour, Boss. I’m sure he’ll be able to embalm her body and do whatever else has to be done to get it ready for burial.”
“The best casket money can buy…”
“Of course. We’ll let Kanene arrange her thing with him, then we can see what Mr David wants to do afterwards.”
“I’ll leave you to arrange that, then. I need to sort out paperwork and legal stuff.”
I left Lindy with Max while I went off in search of a will.
After a little rummaging around in Max’s room, I found her will exactly where I expected it to be. Max had always been as methodical and organised as I tried to be myself – not always with as much success as she enjoyed, it has to be said. I scanned it briefly and saw that, as I had expected, she had expressed a wish to be buried in the UK and that she had named me as executor. Like mine, her will was prepared under English Law, which we both thought would make life easier.
When I got back downstairs, I found Lindy sitting in the lounge, his head in his hands.
“How are you doing, Lindy?” I asked.
“Not well, Boss,” he said, still gently sobbing, “not well at all. But I have to hold it together for Max.”
“As do we both,” I said, “and though I may not show it in the same way, it’s as hard for me as it is for you. Max and I had been friends, close friends, for more than fifty years and we’d been working closely together for thirty.”
“Poor you, Boss. Sorry, I’m so absorbed in my own problems. I should think of other people more. I know it’s a failing of mine.”
“Not a failing, just who you are. And we love you for who you are. Did I hear a phone ping just now, by the way?”
“Yes, it was mine. Roger messaged me to say that he’d set all the official government stuff in motion, so we don’t need to worry about that, and my friend from the funeral parlour will be here this afternoon to take Max away for embalming.” He started crying again.
“You’re doing well, Lindy. Thanks,” I said, “Roger’s a good man, too, isn’t he?”
“I think so,” Lindy said before breaking into a full-blown wail.
The funeral parlour Lindy had engaged made a good job of embalming and preparing Max’s body. She was placed in a fine oak coffin and she looked really, really good. Kanene carried out a ritual in accordance with her tribal traditions which was attended by practically all of her village as well as a large number of people who had been touched by Max’s presence. Lindy and I were there, too, and we were moved by the tales that so many people told during the eulogies. Invitations went out to as many of her other contacts as we could locate, and we were again moved by the number of folk who came to pay their last respects to her while she was lying in the chapel of rest at the funeral parlour.
Eventually, the time came to repatriate her body to her home country. David had managed to persuade Black and Gold to make their Falcon 7X available – the same one I’d used to fly home for Hannah’s birth. Lindy, Roger and their children came with us. I wasn’t sure about bringing the kids, but Roger said that it would be, for them, a foreign holiday. They’d be looked after while the actual service and burial took place, if they didn’t want to be there for it.
I remarked that it was a great pity that the only time Max got to fly in this gorgeous aircraft she wouldn’t be able to appreciate and enjoy it. Lindy said he was sure she’d be looking down and loving it. Although I didn’t believe in any of that sort of stuff, from time to time I felt envious those who did.
The funeral went well. The chapel was packed and a number of people made moving speeches about how she had impacted on and improved their lives. As the day went on, I became ever more thankful that I had enjoyed the presence of this remarkable woman in my life for as long as I had.
A couple of days later, her will was executed with little ceremony. She had bequeathed substantial donations to various medical research bodies and, of course, to local Tanzanian charities working for the advancement of conditions for people with albinism. Having no relations, the residue her estate, which was not insubstantial, was divided, more or less evenly, between Kanene, Lindy and myself.