The spade drove into the crumbling earth with force, throwing up small chunks of dirt. A worm, pink and glistening and now sliced neatly in two, wriggled uneasily as its head said goodbye to its tail. A lone robin, its breast a dull red, hopped closer, apparently unconcerned by the man’s presence. The sun hovered meekly in a watery blue sky. The spade drove in again removing a large section of turf. The man wiped the back of his hand across his forehead for even though it was still chilly his efforts were making him sweat. The robin skipped an inch closer, slipping into the man’s peripheral vision.
Harry Hertlasp turned fractionally so as to better observe the bird which had now cocked its head to one side as if thinking. Perhaps it was feeling confident for, with a flutter of its wings, it swooped upon the end segment of the worm. Harry watched as the bird flew away with the worm trapped neatly in its beak. Harry lifted the spade again then thrust it firmly back into the ground before collecting a large clump of soil which he tipped to one side so that it formed a small pile. He looked at the hole he had created, considering its size, then he took from his pocket a leather pouch which he placed into it. Picking up the spade again, he began filling in the hole. When the earth was back in place, he then patted it down, flattening it before he replaced the turf on top. He stood for a while studying his work. Then he smiled.
Watching him from a safe distance Agatha Nosebag wiped her nose with her open palm. She sniffed twice then wiped her nose again. As Harry moved away so Agatha walked to the recently repaired excavation, she skirted around the area but did not touch the freshly-filled cavity. She looked again at Harry’s back then followed on behind him. They continued like this until Harry reached his front door.
“Harry!” hailed Agatha.
Harry turned to see who had called out. When he saw it was Agatha his face turned sour.
“What do you want?”
Agatha looked at him as though he were something unpleasant the cat had just dragged in.
“Inside your place, now!”
Harry opened his mouth as if he were about to speak then reconsidered. He turned on his heel, opened his front door and walked in, leaving the way clear for Agatha to follow.
As Agatha and Harry stood glaring at each other in Harry’s kitchen so Jean Grimstain was repeating the same action Harry had just finished. Down on her knees, armed with a trowel, she was frantically digging a hole in her flower bed. As she dug with the trowel in her right hand she used the left to claw loose dirt out of the hollow. Finally, when enough earth had been piled to one side, she stood up, wiping her dirt-covered hands down the front of her jeans. Wiping the back of her hand over her mouth she quickly looked around. She appeared furtive, nervous and very guilty.
Wrapping her arms around her shoulders she scampered back to her cottage. Seconds later she returned with a fist full of folded letters. With the letters in her hand, she stood over the hole she had dug. Bending down, she placed each letter in one at a time; then she studied what she had done. She shook her head and put her hands to her mouth before scraping the letters back out of shallow, tiny grave. Getting up, clutching the letters to her breast, she ran back to the cottage. Minutes later, she reappeared holding the letters in one hand and a small tin box in the other.
She heard raised voices; one sounded like Harry Hertlasp, the other Agatha Nosebag. She ignored the sounds of an argument and once again bent to her knees. Laying the tin box to her left and the letters to her right she opened the tin then put the letters neatly inside. Once this was done she pushed the box into the freshly dug cavity.
Her breath came in heavy shunts like a train building up steam. Pushing herself up she turned to a tiny azalea that she had bought and planted recently. Pulling gently at the plant, she released it from the soil, patted earth back to fill the void then placed the bush over the tin box. Ensuring that bush, box and soul were all neatly back in place she stood up. Looking around again, she backed away from the scene of her endeavours then turned and walked into her cottage, closing the door firmly behind her. The sound of Agatha and Harry’s row had ceased. Now, apart from the birds gentle chirruping, there was only silence.
Martin Tickpant looked again at the message he had received. It was badly written with a shaky hand using overly large letters but he knew precisely who had composed it.
THE PRICE FOR SILENCE HAS GONE UP.
He screwed the note into a tight ball then tossed it into his waste paper bin. He was sitting at his desk in the study. He leant to the right to open a drawer then dragged a bottle of whisky from it. Unscrewing the cap he drank the liquid neat. He grimaced, wiped his hand across his mouth, and then returned the bottle to the drawer. Turning off the desk lamp, he got up from the leather bound chair then walked out of the room.
In the living room, Alice was sitting reading, she was scrunched up, leaning over a book. When he had first married Alice she had found reading difficult. With a little patience, mixed with a degree of determination, he had managed to get his wife to read simple children’s stories. He had started Alice with Janet and John at which she had been painfully slow but after a time could read. Now, following half a lifetime together, she was able to read Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” books.
He knew he had been unkind, shallow even, to have married her but the irony of the situation amazed him. He had never loved her, not in the way a man should love his wife; there had never been any passion but still, the longer they had been together, he felt a great deal of compassion and yes, even love.
He watched her now, with her head bent forward so that her nose was close to the open page. Her lips moved soundlessly as she read. When an exciting passage moved her she rocked from side to side. Sometimes she laughed out loud. She wasn’t laughing now though but was concentrating hard on the story.
Martin smiled and then asked her if she would like a cup of tea. She said she didn’t but asked for a glass of juice by which she meant orange squash. He replied, okay and then went to fetch her drink. The kitchen stood dark and empty. He looked out toward Harry Hertlasp’s cottage that lay in front of his property. Then he looked a little to the right where Tim and Tracey Trimeot lived.
In the Trimeot’s home, three people stood, dressed as poodles, which was funny in more ways than one as they all looked a little sheepish and as anyone knows dogs and sheep don’t always mix. Only three were dressed as poodles: Tracey and Tim Trimeot and Doreen Gosling. Charlie Gosling had come to the little soirée as a bowl of noodles. He looked even more sheepish than the poodles but then again perhaps he should. Doreen looked at Tracey who in turn looked at Tim. Charlie didn’t look at anyone: he still looked sheepish.
“I thought you said noodles,” said Charlie.
“Noodles? Noodles?” whispered Doreen. “Please tell me, as I think I may be missing something here, but what is so frigging erotic about frigging noodles?” Her voiced increased in volume as she completed the sentence. Charlie shuffled about a bit but stayed looking sheepish. Tim and Tracey started to giggle, their poodle ears wagging as they did.
“Well?” said Doreen, her voice getting exponentially louder.
“Er,” said Charlie.
“I said we were having a poodle party NOT a noodle party! How is Tracey meant to be shagged by a bowl of noodles for God’s sake? Your frigging bowl gets in the way.”
“I could always take it off.”
“And come as what: a raving twat, a raving nude twat who hasn’t got a bloody erotic idea in his useless body? I mean, what were you thinking? The noodles don’t even look right; they look like bits o’ string.”
Charlie’s face turned bright red. He winced once then spoke in a hushed voice.
“They are bits of string.”
“We were meant to be havin’ poodle porn, a shaggy, shag fest and you turn up as a bowl of food!”
Tracey continued to giggle but then yapped like a puppy dog.
“I want a bone,” she said, licking her lips.
Tim looked from Charlie to Tracey to Doreen.
“Come on Dor, I can give you a bone too,” said Tim, winking salaciously.
Tracey held her hand out to Doreen who took hold of it then the three friends walked away leaving Charlie looking like, well, a proper Charlie.
“What about me? Charlie plaintively cried.
“Set yerself up on the table, we’re off for our main course. We may come back later for a noodle nibble,” called out Tim over his shoulder, laughing as he did.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.