And the next day I’d get up and maybe stay for a bit or maybe move on to some place else, depending how I felt that morning. I’d have connections everywhere, but never ties. I’d be always moving – an English Bruce Banner, without the anger issues.
But I have no voice you want to hear and no musical talent. And so I just love buskers. They are magic. They do a thing I love but could never do. If you pass one don’t be mean. Slow down, listen for a bit – and for goodness sake give them some dough.
Daddy, does God wear underpants?
Do they have carrots in Spain?
Who puts that skin on the custard?
And do clouds get dry in the rain?
When will I be a grown up?
Why’s there a stone in my peach?
You know cats have nine lives,
Is their birthday the same date for each?
Why does Gran keep her teeth in that jar?
Why do fat people want to be thinner?
What’s the orange traffic light for?
Can we have biscuits for dinner?
Why are you smiling Dad?
Is it for something I said?
It’s just that I love you, my darling.
Now hush up and get into bed.
————— © inkyjim ————-
A ragged man teeters on the top steps of Waterloo Station. Commuters rush below. Their heads are level with his feet. Chins tucked against the chill they crowd past heading for home.
The man is shivering. His clothes and face are crumpled and old. He wears a filthy woollen hat and a jacket that is too small. One hand clutches a damp grey sleeping bag, the other a paper cup.
“Any help?” He calls, “Any spare?”
His back is bent. He’s rocking slowly from one foot to the other, a worn out sailor on a sea of hasty people.
“Any help? Any spare?”
(A Rik Strand mystery)
Some cops police with their heads, and some cops are gut cops. Strand was a gut cop. He was all gut.
It was Strand’s gut that told him that was no ordinary road traffic accident. Cars don’t just fall apart like that. Not by themselves. Not in his town.
It was his gut that told him there was something off about the stiff. The guy’s face was all messed up. Whatever happened to his nose was real ugly.
And it was Strand’s gut that brought him here, to the part of town they called the Circus – and a two-bit motel called the Big Top.
The dame on the front desk wore a faded leotard and a face like a satchel. Strand flashed his badge and she jabbed towards the stairs with a half-sucked Lucky Strike.
Outside the stiff’s room Strand adjusted his belt. He rearranged his pants so his gut could hang free. Give it room. Among cops Strand was known for his gut.
He turned the key and stepped forward. As he went through the door there was a sound. Something flew at him. He yelled and struck out, his legs flexing and his arms whirling in front of his face. But there was no one there. Just tiny pieces of coloured paper showering to the floor, and a bucket flopping noisily against the door frame.
Strand called out, “Police.” But there was no answer. His gut told him the room was empty. The victim’s room.
Strand began to take it in. He’d never seen a circular bedroom before. It reminded him of a boxing ring – only round. The second thing he noticed was the paint job. Primary colours, lots of them. The room had been decorated all over with huge pictures of balloons – red, blue, yellow ballons all over the walls and ceiling.
The floor was something else. Strand’s gut told him it was significant. The texture was strange and he knelt to touch it. The scent of pine filled Strand’s nostrils. It was loose. It was sawdust. The entire floor was sawdust.
He crossed to a large dressing table. Above it a mirror floated in a halo of lightbulbs. The stiff seemed to like makeup. Disgusted, Strand picked up a jar and unscrewed the lid. There was a whistling noise and a blur of orange. A plastic snake flew across the room.
Strand’s eyes fell on the bed. It was long and yellow and looked like a banana. Strings of helium balloons floated at each corner. Beneath the bed a pair of shoes. He picked them up. They were black and narrow and maybe a yard long. The dead guy sure had big feet.
He went to a large double wardrobe and pulled it open. Wigs. A whole shelf of bright, curly wigs. And bow ties. Sparkling, shining bow ties. On the rail beneath flopped a row of polka-dot one-piece outfits with shiny straps, hooped waists and pompoms for buttons. Stacked on the floor were white paper plates and two big boxes labelled ‘custard pie mix’.
Strand picked up the telephone and dialled the station. The phone was shaped like a hotdog. The receiver was a large frankfurter. He barked into it.
“This is Strand. Get me forensics”.
Strand’s gut was talking again. It said follow the money.
If he could just figure out what the dead guy did for a living, this case would crack like an egg.
There were scary childhood fevers too, and once a weird and terrifying breathing constriction that made a then tiny girl wheeze like a dying old man.
The last time I was at this hospital was in May with my mother. That visit involved a 14 night stay on a folding cot next to her bed. It ended with a sad and lonely drive home.
I had a moment of panic when we first got here today. The receptionist wanted my daughter’s birth date. (I am a terrible, terrible man.) She is my middle child and as soon as the question was out I could feel her little body stiffen beside me, alert for any sign that I might fail. Under the glare of that attention I froze, just for a second or two, before dredging the date correctly, thank heaven, from the brackish water at the bottom of the old oil drum I use for a memory.
It’s tough to be a dad. So many chances to mess up. It’s tough to be the middle child too. I wrote her a poem once – a kind of insurance against moments like these. It’s silly, but I think she likes it:
Charlotte Louisa, Lottie Lou,
You’ve siblings either side of you.
You’re not the littlest, nor most old,
But you are special, bright and bold.
You’re super, little Lottie Lou.
Our middlest child, and we love you.
And I do. I love her to bits.
————– © inkyjim ————
Thomas’s mummy is awfully keen
On keeping little Thomas clean.
Each night before he goes to bed
She scrubs him from his toes to head.
Next morning (this is quite a pain)
She wraps him up in Cellophane.
She says that this is good hygiene
But Thomas really isn’t keen.
—– ©inkyjim ——-
we build our worlds
so love them
much more is coming…