Short Stories Series 4

Guitar Heroes 04/04/16

Jim looked at the electric green guitar that Matt had sitting on his lap and beamed.
‘How long ago did you get it then?’ Matt continued to polish it with a cloth, turning his head on the side to inspect the space under the strings.
‘Last year for my birthday.’ Jim whistled.
‘You take excellent care of it then! I should get you to show me how to look after mine better.’
Roy came and sat beside them, already wearing his fluoro yellow guitar on its shoulder strap.
‘So what kind of stuff do you play then? Let’s see what common ground we have.’ Jim laughed.
‘I think you’ll be very surprised by what I do. It’s not exactly conventional electric guitar stuff.’ He broke straight into the fastest hornpipe he could manage. The other guys stared. He waited for them to make fun of the traditional tune, but instead Matt said
‘Holy crap! That would make the coolest rock riff ever! Don’t you reckon Roy?’ And Roy nodded enthusiastically.

From then on, Jim went to meet his guitar family every night after the market closed, and they played with merging their styles. Soon they had a completely unique repertoire of things that sounded like rock anthems but borrowed from the traditional tunes Jim played to produce intricate riffs and solos. Everyone was very excited. There was even talk of recording. On the third week, Roy brought in something to show Jim.
‘This is me grandad’s – I thought it might interest you, seeing as how such a lot of your influences sound Irish.’ He pulled from a special case an instrument similar to a set of bagpipes, but without a mouthpiece. Jim went silent, looking closely at the instrument. Then he said,
‘They’re uilean pipes! I remember something! I remember these!’ Roy handed the pipes over to Jim and after some turning over he held them correctly and played the first few bars of an air, a little shakily, but as though he had known how to play a little once.
‘Maybe you’re from Ireland!’ Said Roy, impressed. ‘It would make sense, you knowing what to do with these.’

For the next week Jim spent his spare time on the internet, reading about uilean pipers. Eventually he recognised the name of one, and in a flash, he knew he was on a wild goose chase. That night he trailed into guitar practice looking forlorn, and Roy came over straight away.
‘What’s the matter Jim mate?’ He asked.
‘I remembered why I know about uilean pipes. It was just a touring piper, and I had a couple of brief lessons while he was there. That thing I started playing the other week, it was just the first thing he taught people – an exercise. It wasn’t in Ireland. I’m not Irish.’ He looked terribly disappointed. Roy patted him on the back.
‘Ah well, I’ve never been to Ireland myself either ya know, and I still count. I’d say knowing all those tunes you’re as Irish as I am. Anyhow, band members are family regardless. You’re welcome in my family anytime.’ Jim smiled and unzipped his guitar backpack. He might not know where he came from, but he knew where he belonged now.

Rodger Goes Up 05/04/16

Rodger and the girl, whose name was Kaeli, sat by the fire and drank tea until long after dark, talking of animals and medicine, and Rodger shared the bacon. Hooter woke up a bit with the sun set and started to comment here and there in their conversation with a disdainful ‘hoot’. He was much displeased at the sharing of the bacon and actually flew over and took some of Kaeli’s.
‘’Ooter! That’s not polite! You’ll still get the rind!’ Exclaimed Rodger, but Hooter returned to sit on the top of Rodger’s head with a little bit of Kaeli’s bacon still in his beak, and ate it slowly and pointedly, to the extent that a bird can eat anything slowly, which is to say he took several gulps to swallow it instead of just one. Kaeli just laughed and gave Hooter a look.
‘Well Hooter, since we’ve shared our food we must be friends.’ She said sharply. ‘Perhaps we can go for a fly together after dinner.’ Rodger looked at his feet.
‘Do ya ‘ave a broom then?’ He asked. Kaeli snorted.
‘No! Uncomfortable things. I meant as a bird of course.’ She narrowed her eyes playfully at him. ‘Unless of course you’re scared.’ Rodger pulled a face.
‘My ol’ Mum says shape-shifting is gross. I’ve never tried.’ Kaeli laughed disbelievingly at this.
‘Really? Never? You’re missing out. It’s the best.’ She looked at Hooter. ‘Do you see what Hooter sees when he’s flying?’ Rodger snorted.
‘Yeah but he doesn’t exactly enjoy exercise if you get my drift.’ Hooter made an offended ‘hoot.’ Kaeli gave a small mischievous grin and looked at the bird.
‘Well then. Probably time you stretched your abilities huh?’ She threw her travelling cloak to the ground. Rodger turned his face away.
‘Oh no! No changing round the fire!’ He objected, but Kaeli was fast, and she was already spreading her wings. Not wanting to look the unfit fool, Hooter ruffled himself up a bit and fluttered up into a tree for an easier take-off.

Kaeli was a white owl and she was agile. As soon as Hooter appeared in the air she swooped around him tauntingly and dared him to follow as she worked to gain height and then dived repeatedly down towards the treetops, pulling up at the last moment. Tentatively, Rodger laid back against his tree and closed his eyes, letting his mind join with Hooter’s. Hooter was struggling to keep up, but he plummeted exhilaratingly on the dives. Eventually he turned back and landed on a branch near Rodger, who opened his eyes.
‘Lazy bird!’ He scoffed, and stood up, looking into Hooter’s amber eyes.
Kaeli knew the difference when Rodger joined her in the air, although he looked just like Hooter; he lagged behind less and tried to race her, though he couldn’t catch her either; he had too little practice using wings to draw on from Hooter, and he was clumsy. Rodger sucked in the night air and charged after Kaeli as best he could. This was the life. She was right, it wasn’t gross at all, it was the best thing he’d ever done.
‘DAMN UNNATURAL SHAPESHIFTERS! I CAN FEEL THEM! GET OUT THERE AND GIVE CHASE YOU LAZY CAT!’ Rodger heard his ol’ Mum’s voice as clearly as if she were yelling right in his ear. He let out a squawk and plummeted to the earth, half man half bird, his wings no longer wing enough to keep him airborne.

Kaeli had to search through the scrub for some time before she spotted Rodger sitting up against a new tree. Hooter had found him already and was looking disgruntled that Rodger wouldn’t let him sit on his head, because he had a scratch where Hooter wanted to put his feet. Rodger was a sorry sight full of splinters, but nothing too serious. Kaeli swung her medicine kit from her shoulder as she approached.
‘Stay away from us you creepy shapeshifter!’ Yelled Rodger, spotting her among the trees. Kaeli shrugged.
‘Oh. Okay. Whatever then.’ She turned on her heel and stalked off into the trees, fluidly dropping to all fours and disappearing amongst the undergrowth as a fox. Rodger glared at Hooter as though it was all his fault.
‘Good riddance.’ He muttered. ‘Bad influence, that girl is.’

One Lonely Sock 06/04/16

There’s always one. Isn’t there. You know the one. That sock, that ends up on its own, no matter how carefully you pair them all. But where does the pair go? Rosie got to wondering about this one night. How did the second sock become separated from the first? Perhaps it was when the owner of the socks, thinking they could carry everything, bundled their dirty washing, or their clean washing for that matter, into a pile to carry in their arms. Socks, being slippery fellows, liked to fall out, unnoticed. All the socks would be trying their best to get free. But the carrier, wanting to get everyone safely to their destination, would grab and catch as best they could the truant socks. A pair of socks would try to make their escape together, but the carrier might notice one of them, and not the other, and the socks would not have time to realise their mistake. Down to the floor that pair-sock would go. One lonely sock, sliding over the floor’s cool surface, kicked under the furniture, tumbled in with rubbish. Many months might pass, while the lonely sock left behind travelled through wash after wash, never being worn, because the wearer needed two socks, and that one lonely sock wouldn’t do. Surely, if they just kept putting it back in the wash, it would eventually come out with the missing pair. Yet it never would. For the pair was somewhere swallowed up by the nooks and spaces in a home that no one ever noticed existed. It could even make an adventurous trip out with the rubbish or unnoticed inside a bag or box the owner took with them, perhaps to return to the same house as its pair, or perhaps to be left somewhere else. That one lonely sock, left in the drawer, might never meet its partner again. Meanwhile, the pair could be anywhere, perhaps at another person’s house or dropped outdoors. There it would experience the sounds and smells of another home, where all the socks were of a different style and it didn’t belong, or the cold loneliness of rain on the pavement after everyone had gone indoors for the night. Why did the socks try to escape, knowing this could happen? Rosie thought that perhaps socks lacked understanding of consequences. With these strange thoughts in her mind, she went to the lounge room and lay down flat on her stomach, head turned to the side, to peer under the book shelf. And there, sure enough, surrounded by balls of dust and hair, kept company by dead bugs, far to the back of the space that no one would imagine anything could get into, was a sock. Rosie stretched out her arm as far as she could, and snagged the sock with a finger, tweaking her shoulder muscles uncomfortably. Trying not to cover herself in the dust and other undesirable things, she dragged the sock out. It was a sorry sight. She could scarcely tell which missing pair it was for the layer of dust on it. But Rosie, sobered by her imagination, took the sock to the bathroom and gave it a wash in the sink. Then she dried it with her hair dryer. And at long last she rifled through her sock drawer, taking everything out until there, at the very back, she found that one lonely sock, the pair for this long-lost partner, and lovingly reunited them.


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