Alison Alexandra seems destined to edge me even further.
In There Was A Time, Oh Pilgrim, When The Stones Were Not So Smooth, I currently find myself writing about a wedding ceremony where the bride is dressed in a tuxedo, as are all her attendants. She is a fashion designer, and has created a line of female tuxedos. She is unveiling them at her own wedding.
An excerpt from: The Bonner Prediction – a NATO thriler, for International Dog Day. Louie is a Cane Corso, adept at both defence and attack. In this scene, he has earned (trust me) a little down time.
05:14:31 ZULU Time
“I’ll sweep the house.” Bonner puts the keys on the dining room table.
“That’s fastidious.” Bess looks at her watch. “It’s a quarter past one in the morning. Who’s going to visit?”
Bonner gives her a closer than usual look to make sure she is kidding. She winks and sets out to find dishes. He stops her with a hand on her arm.
“Are you familiar with NATO safe houses?”
“Nope – never been in one.”
“Don’t try to use the back door.” Bonner points through the kitchen. “It’s wired with explosives.”
“You call this a ‘safe’ house?’
“Makes it safer for us.” He removes his hand. “It will explode if someone aggressively attempts to break it down.” He smiles. “We can also detonate if from here, if necessary,”
“But this wasn’t your idea?”
“No – alas.” He starts away with his handheld. “But I approve.”
The house is conventional in its layout, ready for a family. She wonders if there are families any more. If these buildings have been relegated as guest accommodations, she doubts either diplomats or military travel with a family.
She removes the food from the containers and places it on dishes. As she puts them in the microwave, Bonner passes with his electronic handheld. She thought he might give only a cursory search (no one can possibly know they are staying here) but – no.
The walls, the light fixtures, the electrical outlets, the appliances, the taps, the windows, the doors are all given a sweep for tell tale signs of transmission. The doors are closed and their locks are tested. As with any place of sanctuary, every room can become a ‘safe’ room. If this dwelling is like others she has experienced, the windows can even withstand an RPG.
When Bonner is finished, he goes to the cupboards and removes napkins. On his way past the fridge he takes out a bottle of wine. He shakes his head disapprovingly.
“Screw top.” Bonner carries the wine and napkins to the table. “Not the usual standards of NATO.”
“I was planning on Sprite.” She looks toward the kitchen as the microwave beeps. “NATO lives it up while we Swiss live in parsimony.”
“If NATO inclined towards having us live it up, they would have put us in more graceful accommodations.” Bonner twists off the cap. “At least it’s white.”
“Where’s the dog food?”
“They’re a tidy group. I bet food will be in the kitchen.”
As Bess takes the food from the microwave and hunts for plates, Bonner searches for dog food. Not only does he find a bag in the corner, together with a foil pack of dog treats, but there are two shiny, new, metal dog bowls – one for food, one for water. Bonner guesses that a member of the supply personnel is a dog lover and raided the stores of the guard dogs.
“Two scoops.” Bess is putting the salad into a bowl.
“What about treats?”
“After.” She looks at him. “I bet you don’t have kids, either.”
“Nope.” Bonner puts two generous handfuls of food into the dish. “I’d make a lousy father.” He runs water from the tap then fills the other bowl. “There’s time.”
“Not that much time.” Bess takes their food to the dining table.
“Ouch.” Bonner has little interest pursuing this thread. He opens a cupboard and takes out two wine glasses. “Louie is fed and watered.” He carries the glasses to the table. “And now, soon to be us.”
Bess looks over to Louie. He is attentive to her, but also has side glances to the kitchen. She waits until he is only looking at her, and then makes a hand gesture.
Louie is out of the room before Bonner can pick up the wine bottle. His claws clatter across the kitchen floor, quickly followed by crunching and the scrape of the dog bowl on wood.
“He’s not going to savour, is he?”
“Nope.” Bess takes her wine glass. She is about to take a drink but stops. She extends the glass toward Bonner. “It’s been a night.”
“But our wee family is safe to home.” Bonner clinks her glass. “Though Louie’s table manners could be more refined.”
The Titanic was recently in the news. The first drive to the sunken ship in fourteen years reveals that it is deteriorating at a rapid rate. It is literally falling apart.
Not long ago I visited the dead from the Titanic, buried in graveyards in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I went to the Mount Olivet Cemetery, where nineteen of the dead are buried. Mount Olivet is A Roman Catholic cemetery, and the bodies had identification, or at least clues, that they belonged to that Faith.
Four of the bodies are unidentified. The listing of the others include designations from first (1) to third class (8); waiters (3); pastry chef (1); fireman(1); bass violinist (1).
The violinist, John F. P. Clarke, was one of the ship’s band. The band of the Titanic entered the land of fame and lore for their exploits during the hours of the actual sinking. They played on deck, amid the turmoil of frantic passengers, the lowering of the too few lifeboats, and the outright fear and panic surrounding them, as the Titanic inched closer and closer to its destruction.
I leave him for the last because of what I found at his grave site. Beside his individual burial marker, someone had placed a small red box, that could fit in the palm of your hand.
Inside the box was: “SPECIAL Double Bass Resin FOR Cold Weather” By the Hidersine Co. Ltd – made In England.”
It had not been used.
~ Was it in vain?
~ That you took My name.
~ They crucify me like there’s no tomorrow.
~ There is no tomorrow.
~That’s OK for You to say.
~ I know.
~ But, down here, I don’t get a break.
~ Don’t you think there’s a reason for that?
~ You mean because they don’t understand me?
~ Perhaps more because they do.
~ Hey, I’m looking after Your country.
~ You have other sheep to tend to.
~ But I’m King of the World.
~ You have a big fall in front of you.
~ Oh, I’m protected. I have (haha) more money than God.
~ The eye of the needle is narrow indeed.
~ I’m no fool. I’ll get off and walk.
~ There is no one other to walk in your shoes.
~ You know, we even look alike.
The first claw was so faint upon the door he barely raised an eye from the page. It could have been the wind – it sounded almost like the wind. Wind at other times and in other places might blow such a sound – but not this night. As his thoughts returned to what lay before him, the tiny scrabble, hesitant at floor level, moved slightly to the right, aligning itself more closely to the doorknob.
The noise skittered up the wood, almost a metallic sound. His head swivelled toward the door, and the first thought he had was for the paint. Then he could sense, by the sound alone, that the movement was groping in the dark, that it was unsure of where it was. He closed the book on his lap, still keeping his place with a finger. His eyes remained fixed on the door, and he thought he saw the light of his lamp glint off something through the keyhole.
The doorknob twitched, a slight movement counter clockwise, and then a brief turn clockwise. He let the book slide down the side of his chair as he put his hand into a pocket. He felt the key between his fingers, and held it tightly. There was more fumbling with the knob, muffled sounds as if a grip was hard to get. The knob turned once more, and then the pressure on the outside was released. He could hear some shuffling against the wood, and then saw, through the keyhole, light reflecting off a muddy iris.
He stared back through the keyhole, only to see the eye blink and move slowly away. He started to rise from his chair, but was stopped by a thump near the floor, as if a clumsy foot had bumped the wood by mistake. He realized that all the sounds which he heard seemed fuddled and uncoordinated. The doorknob was once again twisted, but the motion seemed to lack the ability to grasp.
He was wondering whether to turn out the lamp or not, when a hesitant, hollow knock came on the door.
“This is one of my favourite ‘empty larder’ recipes that requires little preparation and is quick to cook. Simple.”- Kevin Dundon
This recipe comes courtesy of The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub by Kevin Dundon and Neil Cubley. Click here to purchase your own copy.
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 Pounds ripe plum tomatoes, halved
- 2 Ounces gin
- 3 Cups vegetable stock or water
- 1 pinch light muscovado sugar, optional
- 1 Cup cream
- salt and pepper
- 1 Tablespoon herb oil, to garnish
Heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until golden. Add the tomatoes and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes or so until well heated through and just beginning to break down. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour the gin into the pan and allow to reduce by half, stirring occasionally. Stir in the vegetable stock or water and allow to reduce by half again. Blitz with a hand blender to a smooth purée. Season to taste and add the sugar if you think the soup needs it.
To serve, add the cream to the soup and allow to warm through. Season to taste and ladle into warmed serving bowls. Garnish each bowl with a drizzle of herb oil.
I doubt that Kafka would ever turn over in his grave about anything – considering the accuracy he had in observing the world. Also, he wrote some very – peculiar – stories which puts normal reality to shame.
But this – I think – would give him pause.
He has had a race horse named after him.
I don’t think there are any reports, or diary entries, or letters, about him going to the races. It seems his interest in sports was minimal, except for those that one does on their own. He liked swimming, and long walks, and rowing around and about on the river. But that seems to be it. Plus, he was never much of a gambler – except in life.
So, I think that at best, he would be bemused about Franz Kafka, the Race Horse.
- Age3 (Foaled 28th February 2016)
- TrainerJ H M Gosden
- OwnerHH Sheikha Al Jalila Racing
|14/08/19||6/8||87||FLAT||Kempton, 7f, Standard / Slow, C4||4/1|
|28/05/19||1/5||86||FLAT||Brighton, 7f 211y, Good to Firm (Watered), C5||8/15|
|07/05/19||3/11||86||FLAT||Wetherby, 7f, Good to Soft, C5||1/2|
|18/04/19||2/14||82||FLAT||Newmarket, 7f, Good to Firm (Good in Places), C4||13/8|
|31/03/19||2/10||–||FLAT||Doncaster, 7f 6y, Good to Firm (Good in places), C5||11/4|
|26/10/18||6/15||–||FLAT||Newbury, 1m, Good to Soft (Soft in Places), C4||8/11|
|06/10/18||3/12||–||FLAT||Newmarket, 1m, Good, C4||33/1|
“That is a peculiar-looking ship.”
“It is,” agrees Alison Alexandra.
She agrees because it is a peculiar-looking ship. She is studying it through her military-grade binoculars as she stands near the edge of her cliff, leaning against a waist-high barrier she had constructed just for this purpose.
Three sturdy posts painted blue.
There is a wooden knob atop each post, painted red. Four broad boards, painted white, are securely nailed to the posts, with slight gaps between them. There is room for five people to stand side-by-side.
Alison Alexandra has never had more than one person at a time accompany her on this venture. A slight problem at the moment is that this is not one of those times. She is standing alone, binoculars to eyes, looking out to the ship in the harbour. The peculiar-looking ship.
“In fact, it is not just peculiar-looking, it is actually peculiar.”
It is,” agrees Alison Alexandra, who does not lower her binoculars. “Though that is not the only peculiar thing at the moment.”
“It is not?”
“It is not,” says Alison Alexandra. “One other peculiar thing is that I am standing here by myself.”
“I don’t,” says Alison Alexandra.
“I’m out of your vision.” The voice does not falter. “I’m R/Jane-the-Ghost.”
“R/Jane-the-Ghost?” asks Alison Alexandra.
“Yes,” confirms R/Jane-the-Ghost.” Yes.”
“A for real ghost?” asks Alison Alexandra. “Not a figment produced by an undigested piece of potato?”
“I like that idea,” says R/Jane-the-Ghost. “Being a Dickensian ghost. I liked reading Dickens.”
“As do I,” says Alison Alexandra.
“But – no – no Dickensian ghost am I. I bring no warnings.”
“”No festive cheer?”
“Nary a candle.” Says R/Jane-the-Ghost. “No bony finger have I, pointing at anything.”
“You did – in your way – point out the peculiar ship.”
“In my way.”
“Point taken,” says Alison Alexandra.
There is a low chuckle, bordering on hearty, close beside her right ear. She does lower her binoculars at that, and moves her head to look. Her view is unobstructed all the way down her cliff. The water sparkles.