#30days30stories: 59 times my cat ruled the internet

It’s been a while since I posted anything and even more so since I attempted to complete the #30days30stories challenge.

Excuses include a new job, laziness and Mad Men, however, I still maintain that if I write 30 stories over the course of 30 days, technically I’ve done what I set out to do.

And with that in mind, I give you a story about an animal, or more specifically, my cat.

To borrow a phrase from Troy McClure, you may remember Nino from such places as Twitter or Instagram. So popular is he among a select group of people that often when I am introduced to friends of friends, they tend to say, “Oh I’ve seen your cat on the internet.”

It’s true. He’s very photogenic. When he was a kitten, Facebook all but imploded.
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I mean, just look at him:

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He’s a natural in front of the camera. He downright nailed ‘whimsical’ that one time he went outside.

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And even now that he’s two-years-old, he’s still pretty darn handsome:
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But anyone who’s had the pleasure of meeting Nino knows that he’s….special:

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We’re talking really special:
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I mean, look at those eyes:

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Actually MAD:

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A direct result of which means I’ve not had an uninterrupted night’s sleep since 2013:

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Because he requires attention 24/7:

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So much so that I can’t remember the last time I peed alone:

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Or bathed:

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That myth that cats don’t like water? Not true:

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But at least I have a towel guard:

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Which is fine except for when he stares. The perv:

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I can’t even brush my teeth in peace:

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In fact, all sinks are basically off limits:

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Nothing is sacred:

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Not even the roasting tin:

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You think that’s weird?:

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You’ve seen nothing:

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Nothing:

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Convenient is his middle name:

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He never gets in the way:

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Or climbs into things he shouldn’t:

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Sure, you can tell him not to sit in the fridge:

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But does this face look like it GAF?:

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Literally, not one bit:

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I’ve never seen a cat give less of a shit:

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And if you try to make him, he will cut you:

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Occasionally he will reveal his softer side:

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For instance, he’s got a new buddy:

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And he definitely love his momma:

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But y’know what he loves more?

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Yep:

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You guessed it:

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Boxes:

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Sometimes bags:

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Occasionally the radiator:

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But mainly boxes:

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Especially the ones he can ‘hide’ in:

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On the rare occasion there are no boxes, there are rugs:

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Cupboards also work:

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And drawers:

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But boxes are where it’s at:

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When he’s not chilling in a cardboard cube, he can be found watching TV:

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He bloody loves a bit of The Good Wife:

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Unless there’s a good film on:

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Or a book to read. He’s cultured like that:

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In fact, he’s pretty good company:

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Except when I’m trying to do yoga:

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Or work:

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Cause, duh, laptops are an invitation to cuddle:

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EVEN AS I WRITE THIS POST:

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Because it’s all about him:

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He is the master:

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And I am his bitch:

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I mean, seriously:

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What a dude:

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#30days30stories: A Story About Love

Love is chronic

Love is a drag

Love is the future

Love is a hag //

Love is a blind man

Love is the clue

Love is the centre

Love is deep blue //

Love is a life force

Love is a drain

Love is forgotten

Love is a game //

Love is a construct

Love is a dream

Love is Prince Charming

Love is unseen //

Love is a heartbeat

Love is the cure

Love is indifferent

Love is a chore //

Love is a demon

Love is the same

Love is an animal

Love is to blame //

Love is an argument

Love is defeat

Love is like superglue

Love is the beat //

Love is forever

Love is for now

Love is an artwork

Love is a row //

Love is a scorpion

Love is insane

Love is a harridan

Love is a name //

Love is a pinprick

Love is like juice

Love is unthinkable

Love is a deuce //

Love is addictive

Love doesn’t care

Love is pure heartbreak

Love is unfair //

Love is a battlefield

Love is a queue

Love is a safety net

Love is mon dieu //

Love is a dance-off

Love is the heat

Love is consuming

Love is a treat //

Love is conditional

Love is a fuse

Love is for puppies

Love is like you //

#30days30stories: A Story About a Letter

An aggressive form of cancer swept through Cynthia’s 59-year-old body and tightened its death grip within weeks, leaving Elsie in the unnatural position of burying her second child. It was a disturbance in the order of things that quickly took its toll on the octogenarian, and it wasn’t long before Elsie’s health deteriorated and she followed her daughter to the grave.

This would have been shock enough to an already grieving family. But for Dan, it was a particularly painful time. He had reconciled with his mother at her death bed, finally laying to rest a long-held grudge over an argument they’d had almost a decade before. The consequences of their mutual silence would plague him for years after, a guilt magnified by the fact that when Elsie died, he owed her a small sum of money which he had never been in a position to repay.

In the weeks leading up to Elsie’s death, she had become forgetful, confusing Dan with her first husband with whom he shared an uncanny likeness. She had no idea who her great granddaughters, Alice and Claire, were and it was painful to see her unable to comprehend her relationship with them. In her mind she was 30 years younger and couldn’t possibly have great-grandchildren.

The maternal side of Dan’s family had been wiped out in just a few short months and with it the opportunity to put things right. So when Elsie’s last will and testament was read, leaving him and his daughters just £1,000 a piece, he considered it a punishment, albeit an unnecessary blow to his offspring who were innocent in the choices he’d made. It rankled with Dan that Elsie would all but cut out her great grandchildren, especially when she had so much to give.

The legend of Elsie’s wealth was the stuff of hushed family legend, spoken about in low tones at funerals and referred to as a substantial, though unquantified, fortune. It was rumoured she had around half a million pounds stashed in her little terraced house, stuffed under the mattress and in shoe boxes at the bottom of the wardrobe, in biscuit tins in plain view and a bucket under the sink. She really had no idea of its worth but was generous with it to a fault.

Elsie came from a generation that earned so little that it seemed pointless to open a bank account. Why entrust it to someone else when it could be kept safe under your own roof? What she didn’t take into account was its value. She spent virtually nothing over the course of nine decades and the meagre amount she squirreled away each month multiplied into unprecedented figures the longer it remained in her home.

Of course, Elsie’s wealth was not why Dan and his daughters visited her over the years. Her grandson had doted on his grandmother since he was a little boy, writing letters to her about the trials and tribulations of his various pets.

For Alice, her strongest memory of visiting her great grandmother was the taste of bitter lemon – the only drink resembling squash or pop available to a five-year-old as an alternative to tea. (It would be another two decades before Alice revisited the retro citrus beverage as a perfectly passable gin partner). She remembered Nana Elsie clucking around the kitchen calling, “Shall I put kettle on, duck?” and noting the peculiarity of the bathroom it adjoined, a feature Alice would, as a student, realise was common in properties of a certain age.

After a few hours, Dan and Alice -and in later years, Claire – would pop around the corner to visit Elsie’s brother. Uncle Patch lived in a near identical house to his sister, decorated in 1970s hues and filled with commemorative royal mugs. They would knock on the door and walk in, Uncle Patch installed in the armchair at the centre of the room as if he hadn’t moved since the last time they’d seen him. Alice would sit perched on his thigh – him in his old man uniform of grey polyester trousers and knitted vest, her in the black velvet dress she insisted on wearing when visiting relatives – and look puzzled when he asked if she wanted ‘five bob’. Her answer was always ‘yes’, but it was years before anyone explained to her why she went away with 50p in her pocket and not five pounds.

Back at Nana Elsie’s, the smell of fried bacon would waft through to the living room. She would hobble through in her floral housecoat and orthopaedic shoes, fussing around Dan and asking if he needed anything. She doted on him as he did her, which is why her apparent dismissal of him on her death would come to strike such a strange cord with Cynthia’s side of the family.

It was an established fact that Cynthia and her sister, Judith, did not get on and never had. Their sibling rivalry caused mild tension at family gatherings, but nothing so palpable as to cause a scene. They were very different: Judith, the elder, was bossy and had gotten away with things in the way that first born children do when they’re sent to their father for punishment. The apple of daddy’s eye seldom got a telling off and she breezed through to her 18th birthday with barely a belt scar on her back.

She married young and rich – a doctor called Dick – and produced a brood that went into similarly well-paid jobs, a lawyer here, a dentist there. They were not lacking in the financial department, and she liked to remind Cynthia of the differences in their wealth at every opportunity.

Her sister on the other hand had worked hard as a hotelier for almost 20 years, getting up at dawn to make full English breakfasts for 20 guests before stripping 10 beds before the next lot arrived. When the work became too difficult for her arthritic hands, she became a teaching assistant at a local school, reading to children in the afternoons and helping them with their sums.

Hers was not a rich life when it came to money. As a consequence, she had always counted the pennies. Her motto was ‘waste not, want not’ and she never bought anything she couldn’t pay for there and then. Cynthia did not believe in debt, prided herself on living within her means, even if that meant she went cold come December when her coat was no longer thick enough to protect her from the seafront chills. Her whole adult life she wore the same wool pea coat, repeatedly sewing up the pockets when their linings frayed and replacing the buttons that invariably came away.

It was a constant mystery to Cynthia how her son managed his finances. As far as she was concerned, she hadn’t bought him up “to be a wastrel”, as she liked to say. What she failed to appreciate in the changing times was that he was a product of 80s consumerism and when the money came in, he and his family lived well. But what followed was a dark spell that lasted far longer than any short-lived economical boom, which saw Dan fall on hard times at about the same time both his mother and grandmother died.

Dan’s father, Harry, was another casualty in the events that unfolded. He hadn’t expected to get anything by name in Elsie’s will because they had hardly seen eye-to-eye over the years. He was something of an anomaly for his time, having divorced his first wife to marry Cynthia in the 1950s, and to add to the scandal, he was a single dad. So it was to Judith’s eternal glee and Elsie’s woe that Cynthia saw fit to marry a social outcast.

But Harry had assumed that Elsie’s will would have remained unchanged from the state he had previously known it to be in: an equal division of assets between Cynthia and Judith in the event of Elsie’s death. And thus, to put it bluntly, he would see some of the money that was rightfully his wife’s by virtue of the fact that his son was next in line in to Cynthia’s inheritance. So when the will was read at the solicitor’s office in Harrogate, he knew something was amiss.

Harry didn’t care that he didn’t get any money. But he cared a great deal that his wife’s legacy was being stolen from under his family’s nose. He also knew what a scheming witch his wife’s sister was and when Dan was unceremoniously cut from the will, he knew it was Judith’s doing.

He shared his theory with Dan, who, outraged, called his aunt and confronted her. It was the last conversation they would have – a bitter exchange of words in which Judith denied convincing her senile mother to write her sister out of the will. Phones were slammed and anger bloomed. With no proof to back up their claims, Dan and Harry simmered in quiet rage for years after.

Nobody realised that young Alice had in her possession the proof of her great aunt’s treachery all along, and it would be another decade before she stumbled upon it and realised its significance.

Just before her Nana’s death, Alice had received an envelope in the post from Judith, containing a number of letters. There was little in the way of explanation in the note, other than that Judith had ‘come across’ the contents quite recently and thought Alice would like to see them. There were four letters, each written by her father when he was a child. They were addressed to Elise, each more touching in their simplicity of observation than the last.

“Dear Nan,

Hope you are very well. Sandy died a week last Friday. Alfie keeps making a lot of noise. The roses are all coming out in the garden. Daddy is painting the dining room in magnolia.

Love Dan xxxxxxxxxxx”

That’s nice, his daughter thought, and shoved the letters in a drawer for safekeeping.

It would be ten years before Alice pulled that same envelope out of a shoe box and looked at it, unable to identify the handwriting on the front. She read the sheaf of letters and the note from Judith and the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.

In the years that had passed, her father had vehemently shared his theory that his aunt had screwed him out of what was rightly his. And there it was – the postmark on the envelope the proof of her great aunt’s betrayal. The affirmation that even before her mother’s bed was cold, Judith had been sifting through her belongings like a vulture a week before Elsie died, no doubt stuffing the money she found in the folds of the pillow cases into carrier bags as she went.

A woman who kept 40-year-old letters safe would never dream of cutting her grandson out of her will.

Sadly, her greedy daughter did.

#30days30stories: A Story About Nothing

Another day at the Ferrari garage – Jess couldn’t tell you which day it was, because to her, it didn’t matter. It was just another tick on her timesheet.

The shifts given to her by the recruitment agency helped keep her head above increasingly murky financial waters. But beyond that, they meant nothing, and she intended to keep it that way.

She arranged the stapler so it lined up with the post-it notes and looked out the window. Another blow-up blonde was on her way into the showroom to spend her husband’s money on something other than pneumatic breasts.

Jess plastered a grin on her face. “Good morning!” she said cheerily.

The woman glanced in her direction with barely a nod of recognition and strode over to inspect a canary yellow vehicle parked in pride of place at the centre of the room.

Jess sat down again and resumed rearranging stationery.

One of the salesmen, Ali, slithered out of the office and sidled over to his potential customer. Jess could tell from his swagger that he was about to commence showing off.

As he reeled off his usual spiel he smoothly opened the driver’s side door and the blonde folded her unnaturally orange legs into the car.

Jess clucked and swung around on her office chair. For lack of anything better to do, she checked her email for the 13th time that morning.

Nothing. Eight job applications in two days and not a single response.

Temp work was supposed to be giving Jess the freedom to apply for full time jobs, but after four months of dead ends it was starting to look like a frighteningly permanent career.

Last week she had spent three days at a property management company which had an open door policy on the fridge. The firm would pay for a Tesco delivery to feed its staff from Monday to Friday – a perk Jess took full advantage of between Tuesday and Thursday when she took home a can of Heinz tomato soup and a packet of malted milk biscuits. She didn’t feel too bad about procuring food for consumption outside office hours because they were a largely unfriendly bunch who spent a lot of time whispering to each other.

But this week was Car Week – a two day stint at the showroom on the outskirts of town and the only job confirmed in her diary for the foreseeable future. It was the one she liked agreeing to least, having worked a few days there a month ago and exchanged testy words with that snotty bloke from the antiques programme. Jess hadn’t expected to be asked back after that but she suspected it was because Ali fancied her a bit that she was back on reception.

Her train of thought was broken by the approach of the blow-up-blonde and her boss for the day.

“Jess, can you photocopy these for me?” Ali asked, handing her a sheaf of documents.

“Yes, of course,” she said, subconsciously pulling down her cheap pencil skirt as she stood up.

As the white bar of light scanned the blow-up blonde’s driving licence, Jess wilted for a second. How was it that this woman, with no obvious assets apart from her plastic boobs, was buying a £200,000 car, while Jess, with her perfectly reasonable 2:1 from a respectable university, couldn’t afford clothes from anywhere other than Primark?

Maybe she’d be better off trawling bars for a rich boyfriend on Friday, she mused. Except she couldn’t afford the train fare into the city.

A pinging noise from her pocket alerted her to the arrival of an email.

“Dear Jess. Thank you for your application. Unfortunately you have not been successful on this occasion,” she read silently. She filed it away and put her phone back in her pocket.

It was the waiting and not knowing that sucked the hope out of Jess. This was another rejection to add to the pile she was in danger of turning into a collection, but it was a response, and that was something, she told herself.

So, she decided, it was better than nothing.

#30days30stories: A Story About Loss

18th May

An email pops up from a buyer called eleanorandreagrunday:

Hi I will give you £5 for this.

I’ve listed the jug for £9 and it’s a T. G. Green, so it’s a bargain even at that price. And also I’m not a fan of that demanding tone. This is eBay not the stock exchange; I politely decline.

Hi there, thanks for your query but I think I’ll let the auction run its course and see how much I can get for it. Many thanks!

Message from eleanorandreagrunday:

I can collect tomorrow

I’m not sure why eleanorandreagrundy thinks that’s going to make a difference but I decide the best course of action is probably just to ignore her.

19th May

A notification flashes on my phone.

New items from your saved searches have been listed. Thanks for the kindly reminder eBay robot! You are quite the temptress.

I’m scrolling through the list when a notification interrupts the feed, prompting me to either read or close it.  

New message from eleanorandreagrunday, it trills.

I’m interested in the bowl, the eggcup and the jug, I will give you £12 and can collection in the morning.

I could do with the money but her dictatorial tone and poor grammar is really starting to get on my tits. Who does she think she is?!

Hi, I reply, Sorry but I’m not available tomorrow. Thanks

Reply from eleanorandreagrunday: I can only do tomorrow

Aw that’s too bad, I want to write. Instead, I ignore her in the hope she’ll go away.

20th May

I’m excited. I’ve been looking for this record for years and there’s finally one listed and it’s ending in 14 minutes.

I am poised to swoop in at the last minute and win. I repeatedly refresh the listing to make sure I’m still the highest bidder and feel confident I’m the only person that could possibly want something this niche.

Message from eleanorandreagrunday:

Hi I will give you £6 for the jug

I bash out a reply, keenly aware that the auction has eight minutes left. I don’t have time for this woman’s relentless demands.

Sorry but I’m not selling it for less than £9. I will do a buy it now at that price but that’s my best offer.

I wonder if eleanorandreagrunday is a pensioner who’s only recently discovered eBay and doesn’t quite know the etiquette. Either way, I’m starting to dread her name appearing on my screen.    

I return to the listing and see that I’ve been outbid by 50p. There’s six minutes to go but it’s OK, I’ve got time to increase my bid. I bide my time now that there’s competition. I’ll increase it in the last 30 seconds by some random amount.

Message from eleanorandreagrunday:

I will give you £9 for the jug and the bowl. I can collect tomorrow what is your address

Two minutes to go. She can wait until I’ve won this record. I don’t want her replying so close to the end of the auction. I increase my bid by to £7.62.

Ten seconds to go.

Message from eleanorandreagrunday:

What’s your address???  

Argh! I scream, jabbing at the cancel button just in time to see the message, “You’ve been outbid”. I’ve lost – I am the victim of an auction sniper and it’s all eleanorandreafuckinggrunday’s fault.  

I hit reply.

No. You won’t pick it up tomorrow. You can pick it up when it’s convenient for me and tomorrow isn’t. And also, I would really rather appreciate it if you would stop being so aggressive!!

21st May

The jug goes for £13 at auction and I do not sell it to eleanorandreagrunday. In fact, I never hear from her again and it was a pleasure not doing business with her.

#30days30stories: A Story About A Sound

I

Jack and Frankie are spooning in bed despite the fact they’ve been having a tiff about something completely ridiculous for the last ten minutes.

Neither of them can remember how the argument actually started but that’s not the point and they both want the last word.

Frankie huffs and moves away from Jack, pulling the duvet around her shoulders.

“Oh come on,” he says.

“Don’t ‘come on’ me,” she snaps, “I’m allowed to be annoyed.”

“OK,” says Jack in that tone that says ‘actually, I think you’re being rather childish’.

Neither of them says anything for around 30 seconds then a faint jingle breaks the silence.

Frankie sits up.

“Did you hear that?”

Jack doesn’t say anything.

“Did you hear that?” Frankie repeats louder.

“Yeah…” says Jack, his eyes closed. “It’s probably something next door.”

She pauses.

“No, it came from in here.”

Jack sighs through his nose in that way that always sounds annoyed but that he claims is because he’s got big nostrils.

“It’s nothing.”

“Why are you brushing this off?” demands Frankie.

“Because it’s just a noise. It’s probably one of your old birthday cards or something.”

“Well it isn’t, because they’re all in a box downstairs,” says Frankie in her ‘I have an explanation for everything’ voice.  

“Well I dunno then.” Jack turns over.  He wants to go to sleep because his girlfriend is being mental.  

Frankie is silent for a moment.

“Is it your secret phone?” she finally asks.

Jack opens his eyes and looks at Frankie like she has completely lost the plot.

“What?”

“Have you got a secret phone,” she states.

He scoffs, “No…?”

Frankie lies back down.

“Why aren’t you bothered about where it’s coming from then?”

Jack groans and turns over.

 

II

The following weekend Frankie goes away with some friends.

She looks at her phone and sees a message from Jack:

“I just heard that weird noise again. Sounded like a kid’s toy or something playing in the upstairs wardrobe?! x”

Frankie replies:

“Is it your secret phone? LOLZ. X”

 

III

Two weeks later and Frankie is alone in the bedroom. The only sound is her fingers tapping away on the computer keyboard.

 Then – that noise again. Only this time it’s longer and sounds like the tune of a creepy nursery rhyme.

She looks nervously around the room and notices a pinprick of red light shining through the crack in the door.

Her eyes widen and she rings Jack, who is at his mate’s house.

“Did you just ring the doorbell?” she whispers.

“Why are you whispering?” Jack asks.

“Are you at the door?” she says.

“No I’m with the boys. What’s wrong?”

“That noise, the creepy jingly one we can’t find?”

“Yeah?”

“It’s the doorbell.”

“What do you mean?”

“There’s a weird little box attached to the wall on the landing, that’s what’s making the noise!”

“So, all this time we’ve been scared of a malfunctioning doorbell?”

“Yeah… I’m still scared though so can you come home?”

#30days30stories: A Story About A Meeting/Death

Part 1: A story about a meeting

“Right then, what have we got?” said Bev.

The weekly news meeting: held the day before deadline and sponsored by caffeine and panic.

Clara drew diagonal lines in the margin of her notebook as she waited for Beth, the chief reporter, to finish going through her news list. 

Her main preoccupation today was what to make for tea. If she finished her page seven lead before lunch she could go to Tesco for ingredients before the council meeting at 2pm.

The buzz of Beth’s voice continued in the background as Clara remembered she needed to pick up carpet cleaner to get rid of the sardines her flatmate had smeared into the carpet the night before. She wrote “Vanish” in the margin.

“Clara, you can go,” said Kat, interrupting her train of thought.

Clara jolted and looked up at the editor.  “Sorry,” she said, flustered, “What was…?”

Kat threw her an irritated look.

“Beth’s going to crown, so you’ll have to go knock the family of this dead kid in Greece,” said Bev.

“Oh, right…” Clara said, scrambling for a blank piece of notepaper and pretending to make notes. “Yes, sure.”

“Beth can give you the details and it’s probably going to go on front so, you know…” continued Bev, trailing off. There were times when the news editor failed to hide her lack of faith in Clara’s capabilities quite spectacularly.

“Do your best,” she said finally.

Clara nodded. “Yes… of course.”

“OK, what else?” said Kat with a businesslike manner, turning her attention to the rest of the newspaper.

Clara groaned inwardly. She’d so far managed to avoid all death knocks by virtue of the fact that Beth wrote the splash every week.   Returning to her desk and swallowing a mouthful of cold tea, she grimaced at the task at hand and wasted another 30 seconds rearranging some pieces of paper.

“Do you know where you’re going?” said Bev, pointedly.

“Yes,” Clara said irritably. She was hardly in a hurry to go and ask a bereaved mother how her pissed up son managed to fall off a balcony in Kos. 

 

Part 2: A story about death

Clara switched off the engine and took the key out of the ignition, letting her hand drop heavily to her lap. The rain pounded the windscreen at an almost horizontal angle, befitting the mood perfectly.  

She briefly looked down at her phone, her thumb hovering over the number for the newsroom. She looked back at the street with its two-up two-down terraces and wrinkled her nose.

Clara had a choice, bought to her attention by a former colleague who’d recently quit journalism for PR. She could go and have the door of the house slammed in her face with a swift “fuck off”, or, she could wait 15 minutes, call Bev and say no-one was in.

She looked back at the phone and sighed heavily. As much as she wanted to, lying was not her strong suit. 

Clara clattered down the empty street under a large floral umbrella she’d bought as a souvenir in Japan. It hadn’t survived the trip home well and tilted to the left, allowing rogue raindrops to soak through the pages of the notepad in her right hand.

“Bollocks,” she hissed, ink staining her fingers. She stuffed it in her bag and slowed as she turned the corner – yet another delaying tactic to put off the inevitably awkward conversation she was about to have.

Dithering for another few seconds outside the house, she rapped quickly on the door and stepped back, praying no one would answer.

The white PVC handle turned and a drawn face peered out of the small crack in the door.

“Hi,” Clara started, launching into the spiel she’d rehearsed in the car. “I’m so sorry to bother you I’m from the Gazette and I’m looking for Chris Taylor’s family have I got the right house?”

The woman stared at her.

“Sorry, what?” she said, hoarsely.

“Sorry,” Clara repeated nervously, “The Gazette. The local paper. I just wondered if you wanted to pay tribute to Chris.”

The woman looked bewildered and seemed to struggle for words.  

 “No… You’ve got the right house, but we don’t want to talk,” she said, closing the door even before the last words left her mouth.

“I understand, but if you change your mind…”

Clara held out a business card but the door was already shut. She pushed it through the letter box and looked up and down the street. Training told her to try a neighbour lest she return to the office empty handed. 

An elderly woman answered and seemed all too happy to invite Clara in.

“Oh he was such a nice boy,” she cooed. “He used to help me carry my shopping bags when he was little, but then he moved away to live with his father some time ago.

“I haven’t seen him in years… So sad…” She tutted. 

Perched on the edge of the sofa, Clara tried to place the smell in the living room and decided upon boiled cabbage.

“When did you last see Chris?” she asked, breathing through her mouth.

The pensioner edged over to the mantelpiece and held out a black and white picture of a young boy.

“This is my son, Peter,” she said. “He died when he was nine.” She nodded and grasped the picture in her hands.  “Chris was a bit like him actually,” she said, staring at the image.

“Right,” said Clara, with a pause. “And, uh, what was Chris like when he was a boy?”

“Oh Peter was a lovely boy… yes he was. He was just like his dad. He had such good manners, he did. Such a sweet boy.“

Clara waited politely while the woman replaced the photo and slowly stood.

 “Well, thank you so much for inviting me in, but I must be getting back to the office now. Thanks again,” she said, edging toward the door.  

“Bye,” the woman said with a watery smile.

Back out on the street, Clara hurried back to her car. Once inside she placed her forehead on the steering wheel and wondered how on earth she’d ended up chasing stories about death for a living.