‘…well not exactly sore, my tongue is sort of tingling… and when I took my temperature this morning it was 36.9 and then thirty minutes later it was 37…’
‘Okay Harry, it sounds as if there is nothing to worry about, just let us know if…’
‘…and I didn’t go this morning do you think I should take the laxative?’
Harry the hypochondriac had never been so happy since being diagnosed with cancer; after forty years at last somebody believed he was ill. He was no longer worried he might have cancer now he actually had it. Now he had started chemotherapy he even had his own hot line to call anytime, twenty four hours a day, if he had any symptoms. That was lucky because he had a lot of symptoms.
At the group chat for chemo beginners he had been the star pupil, it was rather like being back at school only with tea and cake. The nurse praised him for asking plenty of questions, though his classmates kept looking at their watches. She emphasised they must ring the hot line, even if they did not think their symptoms were important.
At home Harry checked his home made charts. He had a good collection of lateral flow tests which he did daily, one could not be too careful with Covid. He took his temperature every hour after the nice chap on the hot line said there was no need to take it every thirty minutes. But he was still worried when he thought of all those white blood cells that had been destroyed. When he had told Pam across the road all about his diagnosis, treatable and curable, she had patted his arm…
‘That’s what they said about my John, but his immunity was shot to pieces and it was the pneumonia that carried him off.’
He liked Pam, she understood his worries.
‘Now Harry, you be careful that district nurse gives you the right injection, our Julie went into that anaphallic shock…’
The district nurse came every day to give Harry an injection to boost his white blood cells. They were very nice and listened sympathetically when he updated them on all his symptoms, though he seemed to get a different nurse each time, so he would have to tell the story of his diagnosis right from the beginning… If they were not there by one o’clock he would ring to check they had not forgotten.
He was quite sad when the seven day course was complete, but at least he would see them again after his next chemo session. He kept the yellow plastic ‘sharps’ tub on the mantlepiece so visitors would appreciate the seriousness of his condition.
Harry began to worry again… supposing they had got his diagnosis wrong. Surely they should have operated first, those scanners might have missed something, perhaps he had another tumour of a different sort…
Tina looked out at the wide expanse of empty ocean and sighed.
‘I never want to see the sea again.’
‘If I had a pound for every time you have uttered those words,’ said Ben ‘I could pay our ransom.’
‘We don’t even know if they have asked for one, I mean they don’t seem very good at being pirates.’
Ben didn’t answer, his thoughts hung in the hot still air unspoken. Did the fact that the motley crew seemed to be first time pirates act in his and Tina’s favour or not? They didn’t appear to understand English and he and Tina had no idea what language they were speaking. Perhaps the old couple with all their missionary experience might have guessed, if he hadn’t dropped dead with a heart attack on the beach. The new widow had been reluctantly rescued by a tiny fishing boat and Ben and Tina had happily waved them off assuming they would alert another boat or the authorities.
Night had not brought darkness as the fire raged behind them. They took cover from the swirling hot ashes in the shallows. Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink. The wretched lines had gone round and round in Ben’s head as he licked his parched lips.
Strangely, just before dawn came, it finally became dark; the flames died down with nothing left on the island to consume. The morning sun revealed the stark ruins of the hotel against the blackened hills.
Ben walked round the deck of the small boat again as if the view might have changed. At least they weren’t tied up in the hold, there was no need, no chance of escape. When they were rescued, wading then swimming out to the boat and being hauled aboard, they had been pitifully grateful; the proffered tin mugs of tepid liquid tasted as sweet as bottled spring water.
That had been four weeks ago, though they couldn’t be sure, it was timeless out on the seas. But they could no longer hope they were being rescued. It was not kidnap for robbery as they had nothing to take. The diet of fish and rice was monotonous, but they had not died in the fire or drowned, they were still alive.
‘Never heard of the place or its people, can’t we just ignore the messages?’
‘No Madam, they have two British Nationals who were reported missing eighteen days ago. The photos taken by the pirates appear to match the couple’s work ID photos and pictures put in the media by the family. We can’t put off informing their families any longer.’
‘Certainly not, their demands are outrageous. The British Government never pays ransoms, it would set a dangerous precedent and if the media get hold of this story… Negotiation is still the key. Have we found out any more about their wretched island?’
‘Their nascent tourist industry, in fact the whole island, was destroyed by the wild fire, that’s why they want us to give them a new island.’
‘Oh it’s just that I, we were wondering… we haven’t been able to contact him.’
‘Why do you need to contact him?’
‘We don’t, we just wondered why none of us had heard from him and they missed the quiz evening again.’
‘I didn’t know my brother was so popular.’
‘Perhaps I could ring your mother?’
‘I hardly think so as she’s been dead for eight months.’
‘Oh er I am so sorry, she looked fine at the wedding.’
‘She was fine at the wedding, anyway, I must cut you off, conference call coming up…’
‘Louise, Tina’s sister, chief bridesmaid, top table?’
‘Louise, of course, sorry I didn’t get back in tou… answer your messages.’
‘That’s not why I’m calling. Have you seen Ben?’
‘No. I’ve been ringing round everyone, no one’s seen or heard from him, phone’s dead.’
‘Oh Ali, I’m really worried now, same with Tina, she hasn’t been on Facebook for weeks.’
‘You were right to call me, but don’t panic; what about your parents?’
‘They’re worried, I mean we’re not one of those families who call all the time, but she’s not answering in our WhatsApp group or anything.’
‘Has anyone been round their flat?’
‘No, Mum and Dad are isolating and I’m on a Scottish island.’
‘Oh so you did get that croft? What about her work?’
‘Now don’t worry, I’ll get in contact with Ben’s company, even if he’s still working from home they would know if he’s on leave. ’
‘Tina would have said if they were going on holiday, she was always talking about going on a proper holiday again.’
‘TG Services, how can I help?’
‘Can I speak to Ben Chambers please?’
‘Chambers, chambers… ben? Chaos here, everyone working from home, except me… I don’t know the name, what department?’
‘Actually I’m afraid I have no idea, can’t you look him up on the computer records?’
‘No, confidential records cannot be shared with members of the public…’
‘Tom, it’s Ali, have you had any luck? No, nor have I, not a trace of either of them. Have you been round their flat? No of course not, you would have popped round last week if you weren’t in Belfast. I’m a hundred miles away so who’s nearest… Gemma’s in hospital, what happened to her? Call the police? I don’t think it’s that serious yet, I mean they could have gone on holiday, stuck isolating goodness knows where and we’re panicking for nothing. Okay, okay, I’ll drive down tomorrow morning make a day out of it. Have you got their new address? No, nor have I, have to message Louise, no I didn’t see her again and now she’s on some bloody Scottish island.’
‘Louise? It’s Ali again. I’m in their road, the neighbours are already regarding me with suspicion. I couldn’t even get in the building let alone find their flat, yes used to be the old asylum, very smart. I have been lurking to catch anyone going in or out, no luck so far, nobody seems to know them, so not likely to find a friendly neighbour with a spare key, not that you can just go waltzing into someone else’s home uninvited… and what did the police website say? Surely the only option is to have them break in and … no I’m sure they are fine, but there could be a clue where they have gone on holiday, somewhere warm knowing them. Not that warm, no, I’m sure they didn’t end up on a Mediterranean island with a wildfire raging. You call the police then, more likely to take notice of a relative, and you will have to give permission for a search… ’
The back door flew open to reveal my husband dressed in his bright holiday shorts and business shirt and tie.
‘Where did you think I was, I told you we were going to fill up the paddling pool.’
‘Nice to be some…’ said Tom.
‘Come and join us later, surely you’re allowed a break?’
‘Depends how long the conference call goes on for, I just came to tell you we’re out of coffee.’
Covid had a lot to answer for, especially the idea of working from home.
‘Can’t you get it, I can’t leave the little ones with the water. Why don’t you have a cup of tea or a smoothie for now?’
Tom spluttered in disgust.
‘A green broccoli smoothie is not going to get me through that conference call… anyway you know what we always get.’
‘Okay, you stay out here and keep an eye on the hose and the children… and put your phone away.’ I dropped my voice and mouthed ‘it only takes a minute for a child to D.. R.. O..W.. N.’ then raised it ‘Oscaar… hose in the paddling pool not on Daddy.’
‘Don’t be long’ pleaded Tom.
‘Do you want the variety box, latte, expresso, americano…?
‘Yes, yes the biggest box they do.’
I went upstairs, pausing on the landing to look out the window and make sure Tom had not forgotten he was in charge. The hose was now snaking out of control across the lawn. In my so called office I logged in to Coffee Zone, repeat order, multi pack, check delivery times… Yes, coffee would be here in time for his bloody conference call. What did they actually do on conference calls? Probably played X Box like my forty year young brother. I had no idea what Tom actually did at work when he went to the office every day and now he worked from home I was still none the wiser. Whatever he did he had been head hunted a couple of times and with the amount he got paid I didn’t mind spoiling him. My on line upcycling craft business hardly brought in enough to feed the dog and the cat.
I looked at my watch, twenty minutes to get ready for the coffee. I dashed back into the garden.
‘Tom, where’s the dog?’
‘You only told me to look after the children.’
I waved a packet of dog treats and Zeus bounded out of the herbaceous border, he was soon locked in the laundry. The children would be harder to get under control.
‘Ten minutes then indoors.’
‘But we haven’t done paddling yet.’
‘Why don’t you come in and watch Octonauts and have some parsnip crisps while the sun is warming the water. Then you can come back out after the coffee has arrived.’
With the children safely indoors I still had to find the cat, but there was no time to look. Hearing Zeus’ frantic barking I rushed back in and locked the door, the dog always heard it before me. Keeping watch through the patio door I saw a glint over the trees. 10.45am, exactly on time. The Coffee Zone Drone circled, I hoped it’s aim would be better this time. My stomach lurched as, too late, I saw a familiar black and white shape slink across the lawn then freeze as the warning siren started. The drone was higher than usual when its undercarriage opened, the large bright orange box dropped down onto the lawn, narrowly missing the paddling pool. I dashed out, but as I got close my mouth went dry. Sticking out from under the hefty box was a black tail. I knew from previous deliveries the box was too heavy to lift on my own and I was thankful to hear Tom’s voice. I turned to see him holding the cat and laughing.
‘He’s a quivering wreck, he doesn’t like drones does he?’
My relief was short lived, had we killed the neighbour’s cat?
‘Quick, lift the box.’
I closed my eyes. When I opened them Tom was holding up the squashed body of the shabby toy cat the children had insisted on buying from the charity shop.
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There was a word that made Mary shudder; she seemed to hear it everywhere she went. It was a four letter word beginning with F… FALL. In conversations it was usually preceded with phrases such as;
Did you hear Mrs. Burton had a nasty…
Of course she was never the same after her…
He had just got off the bus when…
The Waitrose staff were very good when she had her…
Most infuriating of all was her own daughter’s loud voice as they negotiated National Trust Gardens.
Mind you don’t…
Like death, falls were something that happened to other people, usually The Elderly and Mary did not include herself in that category. Why, she was the same age as The Queen and David Attenborough, Her Majesty wasn’t elderly and Sir David certainly wasn’t. There were other terms and words that Mary avoided; stairlifts, wheelchairs, mobility aids and that condition Mary couldn’t even utter to herself, frequently referred to in advertisements during daytime television.
As Mary briskly walked down the high street, she noticed with distaste that Betty was cheerfully pushing a shiny red three wheeled contraption.
‘My son bought it for me last week, after my fall’ explained Betty proudly.
But however sprightly Mary felt, she found herself being very careful, not wanting to end up like that woman on Tuesday.
There had been a circle of concerned people outside Somerfield’s and a young man with a mobile phone had taken charge. Sprawled in the middle of the pavement was an old lady, her skirt up past her knees in a most undignified manner. Mary had scurried by, making a mental note to always wear slacks when she went out.
At the door to the ‘Cosy Teapot’ she took the two steps up carefully to make a dignified entrance. Her daughter Catherine was already there.
‘I thought we’d sit downstairs mother, you don’t want to have a fall on those rickety stairs.’
Mary ignored that remark.
‘You’re looking very tired this morning Catherine, perhaps it’s the menopause’ she said, as the young waiter came to their table.
‘Well,’ said the younger woman, obviously keen to relate a drama ‘we were fast asleep last night when the phone suddenly rang; I looked at the clock, it was three thirty a.m. my heart was thumping, I thought it must be bad news from Australia or you taken ill.’
‘Why would you think I might be ill?’ Mary interrupted.
Catherine carried on regardless. ‘To my relief it was only Careline; Miss Brown next door had fallen out of bed and couldn’t get up. We had to go round with the spare keys to let the ambulance people in. Next time we’ll take a torch; it took us ages to find the light switches… and Miss Brown, she was wedged on the other side of the bed. When the ambulance men finally came they asked if she was my mother! I’m sure they thought it was our fault her house is such a mess. But they were quite jolly, checked her blood pressure, got her back into bed, filled in lots of forms and declared she was fine. By that time it was five a.m.’
‘That old woman should have gone in a home years ago’ said Mary unsympathetically.
‘She’s younger than you Mother… hmm you could have one of those Careline buttons, just in case.’
‘Certainly not.’ Mary cringed at the idea of neighbours and medics tramping round her bedroom in the middle of the night and changed the subject. ‘Rita had her own drama the other day, when it was so hot; her daughter took her shopping and they were outside Asda when her daughter suddenly fainted. After much kafuffle, they were both sat on chairs inside Asda and the manager came rushing over and patted Rita’s hand, asking if she was alright. She told him indignantly she was fine, it was her daughter. We had a good laugh over that.’
The two women tucked into their cake.
‘…anyway, what have you been doing this week Mum?’
‘The old people’s lunch club started back yesterday and we had a new volunteer. You’ll never believe what she said to me “Here’s a spare seat dear.” I told her in no uncertain terms. “I’m serving not eating.”
She wondered what Catherine found so funny.
That afternoon Mary was pottering in her garden, glad she didn’t require a gardener. Her grandson mowed the lawn, put her hanging baskets up and did some of the heavier jobs; he enjoyed doing it. The garden was one of the many reasons why she refused to be shoe horned into some pokey flat
Mary was a compulsive dead header and was tidying her favourite basket which hung from the shed wall. One dead bloom eluded her, but if she just stretched a little… suddenly her foot slipped off the edge of the path.
She couldn’t believe she was lying on the ground, but was greatly relieved no one had seen. This wasn’t a fall, just a slip and she was sure she could get up; with the help of the wall and the trellis she pulled herself triumphantly to her feet. Not a fall, not a drama, but perhaps it was time she went indoors to have a nice cup of tea and watch Countdown; she could rinse that spot of blood off her hands while the kettle was boiling.
As she moved cautiously up the path to the back door she heard sirens screeching. This used to be such a quiet street she mused, someone must be causing trouble. Loud rustling noises caused her to turn round; a policeman was climbing over her wall, he must be chasing a burglar.
‘Wrong garden’ she tried to call, but he rushed over to her.
‘Are you alright madam?’ he asked, before replying to his radio. ‘PC476, re. report of elderly lady collapsed in garden, I’m dealing, ambulance in attendance.’ He turned to Mary. ‘Lucky for you an old man over the back saw you out of his bedroom window, knew he couldn’t help, so he dialled 999. Now, we’ll get you into the house and open the front door for the paramedics.’
The opening of the front door revealed two men in green and several concerned neighbours. She tried to protest.
‘I’m fine, there’s been a terrible mistake.’
To her horror she heard the ambulance man say to her neighbour ‘Does she often get confused or have falls?’
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So this was it, what I had always dreaded; this was what it felt like to be paralysed, trapped in a useless body completely at the mercy of others. I wanted to say ‘Well I’ll be off then‘, but I was going nowhere. I could move my head and arms, I could speak, but I was flat on my back and the rest of my body felt like a trussed oven-ready chicken. No amount of concentration could make my leg move or my body lean over. How dreadful for those left totally paralysed or struck down by a stroke; unable to speak, left to listen fully aware while doctors discuss whether you are a vegetable, alive or dead. I tried to cast these dark thoughts from my mind and concentrate on my own predicament. I had such plans for this year, only this morning I had been strolling in the sunshine, but after tonight my life would never be the same.
I breathed slowly, taking it all in; bright lights, murmuring voices, figures in green moving calmly around, equipment with buttons and red numbers. Perhaps I was experiencing the ultimate human nightmare; the figures all wore masks, everything felt unreal – I could be on an alien spaceship. Had I lost minutes, hours, days of my life?
One of the figures was talking to me. ‘Can you feel that?’
‘Feel what?’ I replied, relieved that he sounded human.
He turned to speak to another figure. ‘No sensation in lower body, blood pressure okay.’ He turned back to me. ‘This is Doctor Campbell, we’re ready to proceed, how are you feeling?’
My surroundings closed in on me. A screen went up, there was only my head which the masked face was talking to, my arms which he was poking things into and a machine above me with its bleeping and flashing numbers. I tried to make intelligent replies, hoping to be seen as an individual not a lump of meat strapped to the table.
The murmurs beyond the screen were getting louder and more excited. Another masked face spoke to me ‘Nearly there now.’
There was a general sigh of relief and satisfaction. ‘Here we are, it’s a Boy!’
Read more flash fiction and longer stories of all sorts in SOMEONE SOMEWHERE essential for your coffee break reading, on Kindle or in paperback.
When Ada set out to buy a birthday present for her friend’s daughter she was surprised to see a bizarre crowd outside the large toy shop. Mostly women, a handful of men, people of all shapes and sizes, some in wheelchairs or with guide dogs. Heads turned as she tried to pass through to the shop entrance, but Ada was used to her statuesque figure turning heads.
Ada had been named after Ada Lovelace, abandoned daughter of Lord Byron, who became a brilliant mathematician and the world’s first computer expert. She had lived up to her parents’ ambition, but few people noticed her for her brains and degree in molecular science, they just saw a dumb blonde.
Ada’s mother was short and cuddly, her father was short and dark. By the time Ada was twelve she was taller than her parents and her short older brother called her ‘giraffe legs’. She wondered if she was adopted, but her parents assured her she wasn’t. Ada could hardly ask her mother if she was the result of an illicit affair and her father claimed she merely took after his Scandinavian tall blonde ancestors.
As Ada squeezed past the crowd she took in the words on the banners and boards held aloft.
We Want Real Dolls
Mattel, please portray Real Women.
Ada sighed; everyone said traditional Barbie dolls did not look like real women, but Ada looked just like a Barbie Doll, everyone at high school called her Barbie and even her mother said they would have called her Barbara if they had known how she would turn out. It was not her fault she had legs that went on forever and breasts that were not large, but looked voluptuous on her slim figure. She was just as real as any of the women in the crowd, though often she didn’t feel real. Boys and young men had always been daunted by her appearance. What she needed was a real life vey tall Ken look alike, a Ken look alike who had brains to match hers. She wondered if she should step up to defend Barbie, but all she wanted to do was get in the shop, buy a present and get home. Ada hated shopping and knew nothing about toy shops.
The shop was empty; no one else had braved the crowd and Ada assumed the staff must be hiding in the stock room.
Her friend Wanda had said ‘Don’t get her a Barbie’. When Ada had asked what she would like, Wanda laughed and said ‘A Barbie… but No dolls, No pink, get something creative, educational…’
As Ada wandered down the aisles in frustration she found herself in a pink froth of Barbie shelves, but above the pink froth was a small sign Diversity Barbie. On the top shelf, way out of children’s sight and the reach of most parents, were the diversity dolls. Glamourous Barbie perched in a wheelchair, looking ready to leap out at any moment, brown Barbies, curvaceous Barbie and then she spotted her. A smiling black Barbie with an Afro hair style and best of all, a prosthetic leg. Perfect, the doll did look uncannily like the exotic Wanda. Her friend had lost her leg in a nasty car accident as a teenager; when her daughter was tiny she thought all mothers only had one leg.
Back outside the shop the crowd had grown, Ada tried to tell them about Diverse Barbie, but they thought she had been sent out by the toy shop. As they threw insults she had an idea, it would be safer to join in. After all, there were not many dolls on the diverse shelf and few that looked like this crowd. It was easy to keep their attention as she stood head and shoulders above most of them.
The crowd cheered her on then added more suggestions, not all of them politically correct… Ada tried to think of more diverse variations, she was enjoying her first ever protest. Then she noticed a couple of police cars arriving.
‘Conjoined Twins Barbies’ she called out as she made a hasty retreat.
That afternoon she went round to Wanda’s house, she wanted to give the child her present and get out before the little guests started arriving for the party. The reaction wasn’t quite what she expected. Wanda frowned as the wrapping paper was torn off, then burst out laughing when her daughter ripped the box open.
‘Well Ada,now you’re not the only one who’s a Barbie!’
Alas, her little daughter burst into floods of tears.
I first heard it on the radio, I wasn’t listening properly, I’m so bored with the news, but when I heard blogging, bloggers, scams, algorithms, WordPress, computers, victims, personas… I paid close attention. We know all about other people being scammed on line, paying out money, falling in love with a person who does not exist… losing all your money on a business scam. Of course it couldn’t happen to me or my fellow bloggers, we’re far too intelligent for that; we know some bloggers are not what they say they are, but we just ignore them and certainly don’t follow them. I was just about to write today’s blog when there was a knock at the door, a man and a woman stood on the doorstep holding out their ID. Her Majesty’s Cybercrime Home Security Force. I was amused, they wanted to interview little me, well that would make a good topic for my blog. They took it in turns to ask questions.
‘Do you possess a computer, do you use the internet… ‘ until finally we got to the crux of the matter ‘would you call yourself a blogger?’
‘Of course, I don’t call myself a blogger, I am a Blogger, Scribbletide and it’s not against the law, so why am I being subjected to this interrogation.’
‘We’re sorry to have to tell you Miss, Mrs… er Ms Scribbletide, but you have been scammed; the bloggers you associate with are not real.’
‘That’s okay, I know some are not, no problem, no harm to me.’
‘None of them are real, it’s a huge scam affecting national and international security and mental health.’ ‘Is this a joke, are you filming me for that television programme?’ ‘Please listen carefully, we are obliged to take you in for debriefing and health checks.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous I’m fine and I am not going anywhere.’
‘We know this must come as a great shock, none of the three thousand bloggers you follow are real; all set up by computer programmers as an experiment; there is no such thing as WordPress.’
‘I don’t understand, you mean all those Jills, Sues, Carols and Petes, Jims and Mikes are not real?’
‘Precisely and if it’s any comfort, you are alone…’
As the ground shook violently tiny fungal filaments sent out warnings and pleas for help. Mighty roots that had lain undisturbed for centuries trembled. Then there was a silent scream as she felt herself cleaved in three from the highest twig down, down, down to her deepest roots.
‘Giles, I pleaded with you not to do this, how could you, that tree was planted by your ancestor.’
‘He planted loads of trees, that’s why we have woodland; one less tree on the edge won’t make any difference. What will make a difference is the fortune that rich idiot is paying us for digging up an old oak tree. Enough to keep the estate going for another year.’
‘What if it doesn’t work, how can it work, transplanting a huge ancient tree into his back garden in London.’
‘That’s his problem, we’ve got the money, no refund.’
The residents of Oak Avenue had thought they had seen everything in the past year. Despite their many objections the new neighbour had demolished the pleasant square of sheltered bungalows for the elderly and built his dream house. Noise, dust and the very real fear their own homes would collapse in a man made earthquake had created a nightmare. As peace settled they gazed upon the geometric glass edifice of jumbled storeys, rumoured to have a split level basement with a kitchen, cinema, offices, snooker room or swimming pool, depending on who you talked to. Some rather liked the building and imagined it would be elegant inside with the central atrium apparently bringing light to all the rooms and the basement. But they had not been invited in to look so it was not welcome in their avenue. Now at nine am on Tuesday morning local social media had alerted them to the closure of all surrounding roads, to facilitate an oversized delivery to the new house. Amid jokes about huge Amazon parcels everyone was out to watch, especially when a television filming unit was spotted round the corner.
Never had she been horizontal; survivor of many storms, now she was fallen, brutally felled. Once tall and stout, one being, now she was three. But as she found herselves raised up again she realised they were a sacred number, a holy trinity with a new power. Her roots trembled for a different reason now, she must gain a hold and use her strength.
Harry smiled at his scowling neighbours as the cameras focused on him and the reporter asked the questions everyone wanted answers to; why, how, where?
‘The only way to uproot and transport such a huge tree was to slice it in three vertically and put it on three over length loaders. Now London has a bit more greenery and I have improved the neighbourhood. ….yes we dug down so deep to accommodate the basement there is a good tree sized hole, just like buying a shrub from the garden centre, but on a bigger scale. It will work, the bark will join up again.’
Harry’s wife looked out at the designer garden. The ancient tree just off centre enough to look natural. Harry was clever, she hoped he hadn’t been too clever this time, but her new home was fantastic, just a pity the neighbours weren’t very friendly. As they enjoyed their morning swim and clambered out to sit in the jacuzzi she noticed the pool level seemed lower, Harry promised to check the pumps. Back in her office with the skylight view of the tree she thought she saw a crack in the wall. She went up to the kitchen to make coffee and wondered if that was a hairline crack in the window. In the garden she felt better as she nursed her coffee. Two weeks and the tree was showing tiny acorn buds and the leaves were green. She touched the healed bark and felt happy.
The next morning the pool was lower and she noticed something strange at the bottom of the pool. Harry said it was just twigs fallen off the poolside plants, but she insisted on diving down the six foot depth. She tugged and tugged, but had to come up for air.
‘Harry, I think that is a tree root pushing up through the tiles.’ ’Don’t be ridiculous, I’ll go down and look.’ When he didn’t come up again she wondered if he had had a heart attack and as she slipped into the water in panic she heard an almighty shattering.
Oak Avenue was a scene of devastation. The neighbours’ first thoughts as they heard the horrendous crash of glass was that the tree had fallen on the house, but it was still standing, surrounded by the debris of concrete and glass. The fire brigade and police assumed a gas explosion or bomb, but the building seemed to have imploded rather than exploded and it would not be easy to search for survivors.
I had never heard of the charity Therapups, nor had Google, but one of my late aunt’s dog loving friends sent me the postal address. Aunty had requested no flowers for her funeral, just a donation to her favourite charity. I sent a small cheque and a brief letter with my address included, requesting the next copy of their newsletter, which was apparently going to feature a tribute to my aunt.
A week later I received a hefty envelope, almost a parcel, with a gushing letter thanking me for my generosity. The newsletter was to follow shortly, but in the meantime they were pleased to send me a Therapups key ring with dog whistle attached and one hundred biodegradable poop bags in a designer carry case; all in the distinctive charity colours puce pink and sunflower yellow. I don’t own a dog, but they weren’t to know that. Also included was a colourful booklet explaining the charity’s work; it seems they provided therapy and assistance dogs not covered by other better known charities.