That Place, Part 12

“This is absurd!” claimed Margery.

Ms, Cuttlebuck, a smartly dressed women with short dark hair and grey eyes, smiled and replied, “Your opinion aside, the residents of Gateway House have the legal right to hold their event.”

Martin Shrubsbury, not nearly as smartly dressed with a receding hairline, cleared his throat and said, “Perhaps there’s some sort of compromise that can be reached.”

Ms. Cuttlebuck smiled, it was not a warm or comforting smile. It was the smile of someone who knows more than the person being smiled at.

“Mr. Shrubsbury, a compromise would imply there is something that you have that I desire, you do not,” said Ms, Cuttlebuck.

“We will see you in-“ began Margery.

“Please,” said Ms. Cuttlebuck, “Let’s get down to brass tacks. While you have the right to challenge this in court, it will not come before a judge for years. And I believe that your solicitor will tell you that this will ultimately be thrown out as frivolous. You will also be, as they say, on the hook for my fees. Let me assure you, this will bankrupt you.”

Margery looked at Shrubsbury who sighed and nodded.

Turning to Ms. Cuttlebuck, Margery shot her the most withering glare. This always worked. However, Ms. Cuttlebuck stared back with look that might be used on a child having a tantrum to show that no amount of screaming or crying were going to make the slightest difference.

“If that’s all, please excuse me, I have real work to attend to,” said Ms. Cuttlebuck.

“Thank you for your time,” said Shrubsbury.

Margery said nothing but they both left the office. Once outside, she turned on
Shrubsbury.

“What good are you?” she hissed.

“Legally speaking, we haven’t a leg to stand on,” replied Shrubsbury, who was expecting this response.

“So, you’ve just given up? Well let me tell you, I have not!”

He in fact had given up, and was hoping to get a little shopping in as he didn’t get down to London as much as he’d like to. But knowing this was not the time for personal confessions he gave this advice.
“As your solicitor, I suggest that you just let the people out at “That Place” do whatever they are planning and just…”

Shrubsbury paused.

“What exactly are they doing?” he asked.

“Some sort of gathering,” she spat.

“I’m not sure why this is a problem.”

The real problem was Margery was unaccustomed to being thwarted. She knew that saying that out loud was childish and petulant, so instead she just said.

“They are up to something… unwholesome.”

“I’m not sure that’s a crime. And even if it were, given that there is no evidence, it’s virtually impossible to prove.”

With that, Margery smirked.

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Posted in Short Stories

That Place, Part 11

Godfrey was not entirely correct. Things were not so much about to be busy as were currently busy. An inordinate amount of tourists had arrived at Druwick. Tourists might be a misleading term though, they did not come to see the sights, such as they were.

Druwick was not a prominent historical site. No important battles were fought here, no one famous was born here with the exception of Edith Goodsberry, who wrote a book of poetry, “The Call of the Thrush,” which detailed the joys of pastoral life.

Sadly, it was so dull, it prompted many a dewy eye youth to move to the big city, which was not Edith’s intent. You can still find copies at several shops in Druwick and in donation bins for charities all over the country.

However, the merchants of Druwick were enjoying a brisk trade due to all the visitors and consequently made more money than the total sales of “The Call of the Thrush.”

If there was one common factor to all these visitors was that there were no common factors. Some were shabby and others chic, old and young, short and tall, stout and lean, ugly and beautiful. I could go on but I think I’ve made my point, they were all very different, except they seem to know each other. Margery would’ve found the whole thing very suspicious.

Suspicious or not, they spent money freely and that buys quite a bit of good will. In fact, they cleaned out most of the food in town, not just from meals eaten but buying bundles of meats, cheeses, breads, veg, desserts and beer and wine. Shopkeepers and their staffs worked very hard but they smiled as they did.

The other thing was no one stayed in town, at least not very long. This might have irritated Lucy, proprietress of the inn, but the pub was busy so it took the sting out.

Everyone in Druwick was doing well except Barty Wooodsmith, husband to Margery and father to Judy. He was worried, which was not an uncommon state for him but the reasons were. He drove into town center and went to speak with Constable Clive, who offered him a cup of tea.

“What’s the problem Barty? Too much free time with the missus out of town?” chucked Clive, who felt safe from Margery’s wrath due to distance.

“Oh no! Ha. Good one then,” replied Barty who took a sip of tea.

“Is it the neighbors? I told you that there’s nothing I can do-“

“No, not that Clive. It’s Judy.”

“Has she gotten into s spot of trouble then?”

Clive held his teacup in both hands and said, “The thing is, she’s gone missing.”
“Are you sure she’s not just at a friends house?”

“I’ve called them all, nobody’s seen her, since the night before Margery went down to London.”

“Tell me everything,” said Clive taking out his notebook.

Posted in Short Stories

Time to speak

I’m taking this week off from “That Place”, but the story will continue next week.

As everybody knows, tomorrow are the midterm elections, which are vitally important. Two years ago I urged everyone to vote, whatever they believed in but this time I’m writing to say that if you believe that everybody deserves the same rights and respect, both under the law and in everyday life, get out this Tuesday and make your voice heard. This is not a time to be silent.

However, if you think that certain people are less than and should enjoy less protection, shut the hell up. You cannot be tolerant of intolerance, that’s some loophole bullshit that Nazis, racists, and other hate mongers like to throw around to hide their abhorrent beliefs. We’re on to you, time to reevaluate your baseless fears.

I like to think those who read what I write share my values. Of course, I could be wrong, it won’t the first time or the last. But this is what I believe. If you don’t, then you’ll have to live with your choices.

So get out and vote and vote Blue, it has never mattered more. Also, don’t protest vote, it’s self indulgent and only done by those who feel they have nothing to lose. Guess what, you have everything to lose, they just haven’t gotten to people like you yet. But they will.

So vote and bring some friends, we must stand together.

Posted in Thoughts

That Place, Part 10

Margery left early the next morning with the local solicitor, Martin Shrubsbury, to speak with, or more likely to, Cuttlebuck & Dee. Since she was very focused on legal matters, the absence of her daughter was overlooked. You might think that she was a bad mother but to be fair, checking to see if your offspring was abducted by an enchanted pony doesn’t come up very often, if at all.

Later, that morning, Constable Clive was biking out by “That Place” as per the orders of the town council, just to check on things. He didn’t enjoy it. But his desire to not be called on the carpet by Mrs. Woodsmith outweighed his fear of “That Place,” just barely.

Today however, his fear was replaced by confusion. About five meters from the road side, a tent had been erected. Not a grubby little pup-tent like he had as a child. This was a splendid tent. It was made of striped, green and gold fabric and was as large as a cottage. In fact, a small stream of smoke emanated from a hole in the top.

Sitting on a chair before this tent was small man. He was dressed in long coat, boots and what Clive thought at first glance was armor but at second glance appeared to be rugged, outdoors style clothing.

Clive got off his bike and approached the man.

“Mornin,” said Clive.

“Who goes there!” bellowed the man, who had leapt to his feet.

Clive held up his hands, to show he meant no harm and said, “I’m Clive Barrowman, as you can see, I’m a constable.”

The man produced a device, it looked like a mix between a sextant and a kaleidoscope, and inspected Clive from head to toes. With a satisfied “hmmm”, he put it away.

“Please accept my apology,” the man said with a formal bow, “but I cannot shirk my vow, given what is to come.”

“Right, of course,” replied Clive who was more confused than before.

“Allow me to introduce myself, I am Godfrey, Keeper of the Gate.”

“Nice to meet you sir.”

Godfrey looked at him expectantly.

“And what can I do for the Shire Reeve this fine morning?” asked the Keeper of the Gate.

Clive paused, it took him a beat to realize that that he was the Shire Reeve.

“Well sir, it’s just that there’s been a bit of controversy about…This area.”

Godfrey nodded.

“And I just wanted to check and see if…”

Clive realized that he had no solid orders as to what to do if a large tent, like you might see in a historical drama was erected on the side of the road.

“All was well,” finished Clive.

“Indeed it is!” said Godfrey, “And I thank you for checking in on your side of the veil.”

The question of what exactly his side of the “veil” was tabled as the car pulled up to them. It was a sleek German roadster with a dark red paint job and the driver-side window lowered with the sound of tiny motors whirring.

In that window was a breathtakingly beautiful woman with silver hair, bright green eyes and a sly smile on her perfect face. She extended her perfectly manicured hand to present an envelope to Godfrey.

“Lady,” the Keeper of the Gate said as he bowed and took the envelope.

Clive also bowed. He was not naturally a bower, but this seemed to be the proper thing to do.

Godfrey opened the envelope and scanned the contents.

“You are expected, Lady,” said Godfrey.

She laughed and it sounded like rain on the leaves. With that, the window whirred closed and the car sped off towards “That Place.”

Godfrey turned to Clive and said, “If you’ll please excuse me, things are about to get busy.”

Posted in Short Stories

That Place, Part 9

Roger Lumkin and Judy Woodsmith were young and in love. You can add frustrated to that short list. Since things had become fearful in town, slipping away for some fun became downright impossible. A curfew had been established, all underaged persons were to be at home, specifically their parent’s home, before sundown.

This led to a larger than average volume of familial arguments, in both meanings of the word. Lines were drawn, feet put down and the desire to hear another word on the subject was nil.

Judy, who was Margery’s daughter in more ways than merely biological, had a plan. Her mother had insisted that she strictly adhere to the curfew, after all, it wouldn’t do for the leader of the town council’s daughter to be caught breaking curfew. No, that wouldn’t do at all. What would people think?

While her mother was obsessed with propriety, Judy was more interested in spending time with Roger. It’s understandable that as a teenager, love seems like the most potent thing in the world and no one could possibly understand what they were feeling! Of course everyone feels that way but it takes some perspective, which will come with time.

As I said, Judy had a plan. After arguing with her mum and losing, she broke down, shed a few tears and told her that she loved her and that she understood. Margery, who was keen eyed in spotting the weakness in others, had a blind spot for her daughter, who she assumed was just like her. She was, but instead of bullying people to get her way, and lets make no bones about it, Margery was a bully, Judy just told people what they wanted to hear and did what she wanted.

And so, after her mother left to make sure everyone else was obeying the curfew, and after telling her father that she was feeling ill, due to woman’s issues, which always resulted in no questions and a wide berth, Judy slipped out into the night.

Roger had needed little convincing to sneak out. He was sixteen and had what most teenagers have, a deep belief in their own immortality and a healthy libido. So the two young lovers met and snuck into the woods for a little private time.

There was an old stone building, one story with the roof long rotted away. It was perfect for two things, a restoration by historical academics or a hideaway for teenagers to drink and fool around. If it were not as close to “That Place,” it might have been used for the former, as it was, it was rarely used for the former.

While more adults seemed afraid of “That Place” than children, it didn’t mean that they were unaffected by it. Dares to approach it were taken and then lied about. Since everyone did the same thing, no one was ever called out for it.

The mood in the abandoned stone building was downright spooky. It might be chalked up to the fact that the darkness of the woods at night is perfectly terrifying. If you live in a city or a town, you might think you know what darkness is. Really. I’m not joking around.

Judy who was not about to let stygian darkness interfere with her romantic time had brought a dozen or so electrical tea lights to enhance the mood. Roger, who was less ambiance aware enjoyed them in so much as he got to see what they were up to. A blanket was spread and shenanigans were gotten up to. Things were heating up when a noise was heard.

“Hold on,” said Judy.

Roger, whose focus was understandably not outwards raised his head and looked around.

“Am I doin’ it-“ he began.

“Quiet baby,” she cooed, even as her eyes scanned the darkness.

They both waited for something, but the only sounds were the faint breeze and their own heartbeats. Judy took a deep breath and started up again.

Once again, a noise was heard, this time by both teens. Roger, who was actually quite brave, if not though fully pulled up his jeans and stood up.

“All right!” shouted Roger, “If you think you’re being funny, you ain’t! You’re the opposite of funny! You are totally serious!”

As an intimidation, this was perhaps not that effective but his heart was in the right place, for the moment. He looked out into the darkness with his most “don’t mess with me mate!” expression. The darkness was unaffected.

Judy knew that it was just bluster but it was done for her so it seemed so cute.

“I think you scared them off,” she purred.

“Damn right it did,” Roger replied with the smile that had first caught her attention.

“Come on then,” Judy beckoned.

Things were starting up again when the noise started up again. This time there was something accompanying the sound. Standing at the edge of the electrical tea lights was a… pony.

Judy could not help herself, she uttered, “Awwwww!”

You should not judge her too harshly, this was the most adorable creature she ever laid eyes on. That includes Roger. She crept up slowly and extended her hand. The pony nuzzled it gently.

Roger, who suddenly found himself the third wheel on his own date said, “Where in he-“

“Hush!” said Judy, “You’ll spook him.”

“But this-“ he tried to speak again but Judy, channeling her mother, shot him a glare that made it very clear he had best be silent and pretty.

Judy then turned to the pony. This creature was enchanting, his coat smooth and shiny, the mane as silky as the hair of a shampoo commercial and his eyes were big and soulful, giving the impression that he would understand anything said to him. Judy was entirely enchanted.

“I would so love to ride you,” she murmured.

At that, the pony looked deep into her eyes and Judy understood that he wanted to bear her. And with that look, she leapt onto his back.

“Wait! Where are you going?” shouted Roger.

“Just for a ride…” said Judy as they galloped off into the darkness.

As stated previously, Roger was brave. He followed as best as he could but he lost them almost immediately. Undaunted, he stumbled through the forest, getting lost. Finally, he sat down with his back to a tree and contemplated what he should do. Other than find Judy and get them both home before anyone knew they were out, he was stumped.

Soon, it began to get lighter and he knew dawn was approaching. Since he was on his own, it seemed prudent, though he would not have used that word, to just get home and hope that the pony got her home safely. It was a thin hope at best, but it was better than nothing.

By the time he snuck back into his own bedroom, he had almost forgot how the pony grinned and winked at him as it and Judy rode off into the dark. Almost.

Posted in Short Stories

That Place, Part 8

The garden was odd. This didn’t come as a surprise to Margery, the land around “That Place” might be charitably described as untamed, though she would call it wild. She did not, as previously explained, care for wild or any thing like it.

To get to the center you had to follow a stone pathway. She followed the large woman who led her to the middle. It felt as though it was a particularly circuitous route, but it would be undignified to just step over the tall rows of wild flowers that were planted along the path and that was not Margery’s style at all.

Finally, afterwinding their way through the maze, they arrived at the center, where a Rachael stood by a stone table with wooden chairs.

“She just showed up,” grumbled Georgie, who nodded her head towards Margery.

“That’s all right, “ said Rachael as she extended her hand, “I’m Rachael Pegg, Please have a seat.”

Margery shook her hand and said, “Margery Woodsmith, as the leader of the Druwick town council, let me welcome you to the neighborhood! Please accept this gift hamper as gesture of a friendship!”

“Thank you! How very kind! Please, lets sit. Would you care for some tea?”

Margery, who thought the prospect of tea doubtful, given the labyrinth she had to navigate to get to the center of this odd garden, said, “That would be lovely.”

As soon as the words had left her mouth, Georgie placed a tea service on the table. They must have had it waiting, there was no way that giant woman could’ve dashed back to the house, prepared tea and returned in the blink of an eye. The tea would naturally, be cold.

It was not. It was the perfect temperature. Margery was slightly put off, she had hoped to have an opportunity to be kind about cold tea to make Rachael feel bad about herself. Now she resented this excellent tea, which was vexing given that she was truly enjoying it.

“Please,” said Rachael, “shall we share these excellent looking biscuits?”

“That would be lovely,” sneered Margery.

While Rachael placed the biscuits on a plate, the councilwoman watched her. This young woman didn’t seem odd. She seemed quite ordinary in fact. Which to Margery’s way of thinking made her even odder.

“So, what can I do for you?” asked Rachael.

“Well, as you can well imagine, you are the talk of the town,” said Margery.

“Really?”

“Oh my yes!”

“I can’t imagine why.”

So that’s how she’s going to play it, thought Margery.

“As I’m sure you know, no one has lived here for quite some time. In a village like Druwick, that will get some tongues wagging,” said Margery.

“I suppose so.”

A lull sauntered through the conversation.

“So, what are your plans?” asked Margery.

“Plans?”

“For your property and of course for yourself.”

Rachael knew this moment was imminent, she had hoped to push it back a bit further, but better be done with it.

“Well, I’m to host an event, here,” Rachael said in casual manner.

Margery pursed her lips, something she had mastered.

“An event?”

“Yes.”

“If I might inquire, what sort of event are you to host?”

“A gathering of friends and family.”

Margery, who smelled blood in the water, smirked again.

“Will it be a large gathering?

“It will, but it will be confined to-“

“I’m frightfully sorry,” Margery lied, “but that’s quite out of the question.”

“Excuse me?”

“The fact is, it’s illegal to host a large gathering on private property in Druwick. We take every effort to make this a clean, happy little community. So there are laws on the books to keep it that way,” said Margery who was delighted to have concluded this matter so rapidly.

“I’m afraid it isn’t,” said Rachael.

The councilwoman pursed her lips once more.

“I’m very sure that I know the rules and regulations of the village I was born and raised in better than an outsider, if you’ll forgive me!”

“I have no doubt that’s true, but we have a special dispensation-“ began Rachael.

“From whom?”

“-the Crown,” finished Rachael.

Margery blinked. The mention of royal dispensation threw her off her game. She was an avid royalist. As far as she knew, no member of the royal family had ever visited Druwik, though there was a rumor that Princess Anne had been driven through but that was never substantiated.

“That,” Margery said, “is quite absurd!”

“Being absurd, doesn’t make something untrue.”

“Our queen would NEVER make such a mistake!”

Rachael smiled and said, “It wasn’t made by the current queen. It was issued in 1563.”

“I came out here to welcome you, not to be mocked!” sputtered Margery who was extremely upset that she had not only lost the upper hand, but perhaps had never had it to begin with.

“I’m quite confident there is a copy of the edict in your town hall or perhaps it’s being held by a historical society,” said Rachael.

“Preposterous!”

“If you have any further queries, you can contact our solicitors,” added Rachael who handed her a card that read, Cuttlebuck & Dee, 17G Crutched Friars, London EC3N 2AE. It also bore the crest indicating a Royal Warrant of appointment.

Margery stood and said, “Good day miss! I will see myself out.”

“Georgie, please show Mrs. Woodsmith out. You wouldn’t want you to get lost in the garden.”

It sounded a bit sinister but that’s because it was.

Posted in Short Stories

That Place, Part 7

Margery, who was quite confident of her ability to get her own way, had agreed to the welcome the new neighbor, much to everyone’s relief. The day after the council meeting, with a basket of local jams, baked good, and other assorted treats, she drove out to “That Place.”

She was, perhaps the only person in town who appeared to be unafraid of “That Place.” When people mentioned it, usually in hushed tones, she would make a noise, which was cocktail of contempt and disappointment. In reality, it made her as uneasy as everyone else, but she’d be damned if she’d admit it.

So she focused herself and drove down that dark path towards the gates. It felt as though the trees resented her presence and that there were things watching, with ill intent. But her pride kept her from turning around, which anyone who ever read a myth or fairy tale, knows ends badly.

Arriving at the gates, she stopped and got out of the car with the basket. There appeared to be no buzzer, but there was a rope attached to a large, tarnished bell. Margery hadn’t seen it when she drove up, but there it was.

Making sure she had hand sanitizer in her purse, she pulled the rope. The bell rang loudly, much more so than she’d expected. Beyond the gate, she saw a figure approach. It grew larger as it got closer, as it should, but it got too large, in her opinion, as it arrived.

Looming over her, Georgie said, “Whatta want?”

Ignoring, but not forgetting, this rudeness, the councilwoman replied, “I’m Margery Woodsmith, and as the leader of the Druwick town council, I’m here to welcome you to the neighborhood!”

“Are ya now?”
“Indeed!” she replied with a smile dressed as a smirk.

There was a pause as Georgie regarded her.

“Well then, please come in.”

And with that, the gates opened.

Posted in Short Stories