The Tank

It is Friday June 12th 1987. Tom and Liz have finally escaped the city and are moving to a small country village of narrow lanes and mellow stone houses and cottages just like the one they have bought. Their happiness is muted: it’s also the day after the Tories were re-elected with a majority of one hundred and two. Worse than this, Margaret Thatcher is still Prime Minister.

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The Wall

Edsel is ten years old and visiting his seventy year old grandfather, Hans, in his dilapidated apartment in Berlin. Edsel likes doing this; Hans is full of stories about when THE wall divided Berlin. It’s hard to grasp there was an East and a West and the people in the West were free and those in the East imprisoned, or at least, that’s what his parents have told him. Edsel regrets that his parents work so hard to afford what they call ‘the good things of life’; the benefit is that he spends lots of time with his Grandpa Hanspa. 

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The Speech

Cheryl’s mother, Joan, is determined to get as many of the Grimaldi family together for her daughter’s wedding as possible. Five months before the wedding she finally tracks down the oldest living member of the family, great uncle Lionel, living in Delaware, and their correspondence begins. As Cheryl’s father is dead, her brother, Richie, will ‘give her away’. But Joan has a problem: who will make the first speech at the wedding reception in lieu of her dead husband? Maybe uncle Lionel? She writes to ask and he agrees.

The wedding goes exactly to plan: the sun shines, birds sing, promises are made, books signed, confetti thrown and photographs taken.

The wedding reception begins.

Uncle Li, in black tuxedo, black trousers and frilly white shirt, stands, and the catering manager hands him a microphone.

The videographer starts recording.

Hi folks. Well, here I am back in Cardiff for the first time in seventy-one years. But hell, this ain’t about me. It’s about the bride. I’m a great judge of character, you have to be selling insurance, so I know what I’m talking about and it’s the bride …. Seldom, in one person, in one woman, does one find such a combination of beauty … intelligence … sensitivity … compassion … fun-lovingness … Godliness … humility … motherliness … and great style.

Cheryl dabs at her tears. The groom, Stu, sits open-mouthed; how will his speech go down with his new wife and her mother?

Uncle Li continues, I ain’t overcooking the eggs, hyperbolizing, or making much ado about something right special – well I am. This girl is beyond compare, someone who’d make her dead daddy real proud if he was here today, and I’m real sorry he ain’t. So, be upstanding, raise your glasses … to the bride, Cheryl! Cheryl!

Food and much drink are taken until it comes to the time for Stu’s speech.

A year passes. It’s half past four and Cheryl is at home – the salon is closed on a Wednesday afternoon. She’s watching the video of their wedding when she hears the front door slam. She pauses ‘play’ as Stu enters their front room.

Uncle Li is frozen on screen.
You’re early, love, she says.
What are you doing home?
It’s Wednesday, my half day off work.
You call doing some old bird’s nails work? You must be fucking joking.
There’s no need to swear at me. I’ve done nothing wrong.
You’re watching that fucking old shit Li again, aren’t you?
What’s wrong with you?
All that bollocks, fucking lies, all of it. Beauty? Huh. Intelligence? Really. Fun-lovingness, crap. You wouldn’t know what fun was if it hit you in the face. Motherliness, you don’t get to be a mother if you don’t fuck, Mrs Bolton.
I just don’t want to do it every night.
Fuck Uncle Li, Stu shouts as he presses ‘eject’.

Cheryl weeps as he rips the tape from the VHS cassette.
Fucking speech! You bloody laughed at mine. Bitch. Humiliated me.


I hope you enjoyed this story.  Remember, I publish a new story every Sunday.
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And remember, you can read previous stories from “Behind the Plague Door”
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© Phil Cosker 2020
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.


Runnymede

The minister’s decision to meet at Runnymede at Hew Locke’s artwork ‘The Jurors’ is perhaps from a sense of irony, or, more likely, because of her disdain for key moments in the struggle for freedom, the rule of law, equal rights and justice as represented in Locke’s twelve bronze chairs. If I have to hear another lecture about Saint Nelson bloody Mandela I’ll scream, she thinks and gives a little grunt of disgust. And as for Black Lives Matter, do me a favour; I’m a British Asian after all and I should know. Her certainty that the location will be deserted at three o’clock in the morning is the only thing that allows her to put up with Locke’s work. 

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Lave sus Manos

Hefin is driving an enormous stolen bronze convertible Cadillac de Ville going north on the ‘5’. It’s late afternoon and the surf is up. The roof is down and he’s making good time. The car is beat up and the red leather seats have a patina created by 160,000+ miles of arses rubbing up and down or, looking at the state of the back seat, something more intimate. He leaves the freeway just after Elijo Lagoon, taking Manchester Avenue towards the coast and sees the big sign ‘Cardiff by the Sea’. He laughs; his hometown was never like this. He thinks of Springsteen’s ‘My Home Town’ as he arrives at his destination, the joint in Encinitas called ‘Lave sus Manos’. 

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The Garage

Jermaine has two loves: cars and cats. He is married to Eunice that he rhymes with pumice. They are both in their mid fifties. He is tall, rangy, as he thinks of himself. She is round; he thinks of her as a wrecking ball. He is the head of Fine Art at the Art School. They are both wealthy in their own right. Jermaine is a dilettante for whom making art is not much more than a hobby, whereas Eunice has made a vocation out of baking cakes, making needlework samplers and growing roses – her hobby is to speak of her husband with utter contempt when she meets her be-hatted friends. He is only allowed one cat, Ruskin, named after the Victorian aesthete, to whom Jermaine thinks the cat bears some comparison. They sleep in separate bedrooms: Jermaine with Ruskin and Eunice with her handbag collection. They live in a large semi-detached three-storey house in an area of fading Victorian grandeur with a large rear garden, side drive and a wooden garage. She drives a 1969 green Austin Mini Countryman (with ash wood trim) that he thinks of as little more than a shoe box on wheels, aka, a piece of shit.
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Walking Rough

Roberta and Wink, short for Periwinkle, are inseparable – woman and dog as one. Both are strays: the woman fled domesticity easily; the dog fled brutality. Roberta named the dog Periwinkle, even though it’s not blue but jet-black, because word and flower remind her of innocence and childhood. The dog answers to Wink and that’s good enough for him as he walks without a lead as close to Roberta’s legs as he can manage without causing his friend to trip and fall.

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1945

President Truman says, use ‘em as you wish.

August 6th 1945.

A US B-29 Superfortress bomber, Enola Gay, named after pilot Colonel Paul Tibbets’ mother, drops the atomic bomb, Little Boy, onto Hiroshima.

Moments later, between the Red Cross Hospital and the centre of the city there is nothing that isn’t burned to a crisp. The insides of streetcars standing at Kawaya-cho and Kamiya-cho are filled with dozens of bodies, blackened beyond recognition. 

Water reservoirs are filled to the brim with dead people who look as though they have been boiled alive. In one reservoir a man, horribly burned, crouches beside another man who is dead, and drinks blood-stained water from the reservoir. 

In another reservoir there are so many dead people there isn’t enough room for them to fall over.  Continue reading

Emory

Emory stands in a clearing surrounded by an ominous opaque white cloud. There is nothing to see between him and it. He looks behind him and it’s an identical view. He stands very still, frightened to move. Looking down he’s standing on the cloud. He stamps his foot; it’s solid. Looking left and right he finds it impossible to tell distance. He shivers in the oppressive, endless whiteness.

Concentrating hard, Emory stares at the dense white cloud. It bursts apart and a small plump blonde puppy runs towards him and jumps into his open arms. The dog licks Emory’s face, as Emory tries to evade the dog’s huge rough pink tongue.

Within moments the puppy is full-grown and the size of a pony. Emory struggles to hold such an enormous creature in his arms but somehow manages to set it down. Seeing its disorderly blonde furry head he says, I seem to know you.

You should, you’re my cabinet secretary.

Why are you a dog? 

I can be anything I like. Shall we find pastures new, green hills, pretty gals, foaming pints, and all that? No need to be afraid. I’m loveable and mischievous so hold on tight. Hop up. Emory climbs onto the dog’s back. Teneat aures meas, the dog barks.

The cloud parts and they enter a broad-leaf wood where sunlight flickers through the canopy, warming the path on which they walk. This better? the dog barks.

Yes, Emory, replies. Can I get down?

No, I’m taking you for a ride. 

I want to get off.

Not yet, old son.

They canter into a sunlit clearing strewn with dead bodies.

What’s this you’ve brought me to? Emory asks. It’s horrific.

It’s unfortunate, I agree. It could have been worse though; these are mostly old folks and already past it. Bad advice.

Whose bad advice?

The dog leaps forward, its huge paws trampling and scattering the bodies as it gallops out of the clearing.

Stop! Emory shouts. I want to step down. Now!

The dog disappears. 

Emory is back inside the dense white cloud. It’s hard to breathe. Men and women push ventilators. Hancock polishes an enormous NHS badge. Hundreds carry coffins. I’m sorry, Emory shouts. Children silently weep carrying begging bowls. Williamson wanders past whispering to a tarantula. Emory shouts, I’m not to blame. Shapps shouts, Toot toot. Suddenly a choir sings, All things bright and beautiful. Jenrick scatters fifty-pound notes. Sirens scream. Gove sits on a toadstool stroking a self-portrait endlessly crooning, my Precious. A chant goes up – Black Lives Matter. Cops watch white thugs hurl rocks at peaceful protestors. Another chant starts, Grenfell! Grenfell! Stop it! Stop it! Emory shouts. Patel screams incomprehensible abuse at a woman carrying a Remember Windrush placard. Cummings, laughing, intones, Out of chaos comes a new disorder. Emory shouts, I want to step down.

Emory awakens as a hand shakes his shoulder and a kindly voice says, You were shouting in your sleep, Sir Emory. The PM and cabinet are waiting. 


I hope you enjoyed this story.  Remember, I publish a new story every Sunday.
Please feel free to pass them on to others you know who may be interested.
To do this you can either:

And remember, you can read previous stories from “Behind the Plague Door”
here >>>More

© Phil Cosker 2020
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.


Cats

For Victoria and Grace it is about who has the coolest car, the grandest house, the most fashionable interior designer, the most expensive bespoke kitchen (with under floor heating), over-the-top dinner parties and fine wines, ostentatious jewellery, servile domestic help, the number of holidays a year, and, of course shoes and, especially, handbags.

The two women’s friendship mitigates their endless competition; it’s not malicious but intense; catty, some say.

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